Pat Patterson, a WWE and WWF legend and the first openly gay pro-wrestling superstar, has died. He was 79.
Patterson, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 by Bret “Hitman” Hart, was the first-ever Intercontinental Champion. Later, Patterson created the popular Royal Rumble Match.
“WWE is saddened to learn that Pat Patterson has passed away at the age of 79,” the organization said in a statement. “WWE extends its condolences to Patterson’s family and friends.”
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Patterson, born Pierre Clermont in 1941, published a memoir in 2016 titled “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE.” And boy did he change WWE.
After effectively retiring from actually wrestling, Patterson provided commentary for the WWE/WWF and produced matches for other wrestlers. Patterson could often be found manning the all-important “Gorilla Position” backstage. “Gorilla,” named after WWF legend Gorilla Monsoon, is where key members of WWE production sit directly behind the curtain separating backstage from the arena. It is where last-minute match decisions are made, and where accolades or advice is dispersed following a match.
Patterson was considered WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s right-hand man for much of the company’s growth.
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Patterson began his wrestling career in 1958 in his native Canada. He would go on to win the AWA Tag Team Championship with Ray Stevens in 1978.
Patterson’s most memorable in-ring rivalry was vs. Sgt. Slaughter in what was then the WWF. The two had heated Boot Camp Matches as well as an iconic Alley Fight at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, which is considered the Mecca of professional wrestling.
Louie Dondero, Patterson’s partner, died in 1998.
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Patterson was beloved by many — though perhaps no one more than the first family of WWE, The McMahons.
“I can not express how crushed I feel right now with the loss of Pat Patterson,” WWE executive and part-time wrestler Shane McMahon wrote on Twitter. “A true member of my family, mentor and dear friend. I love you Pat. God speed.”
“I’m deeply grateful to have grown up with @WWE Hall of Famer, the first-ever Intercontinental Champion, the father of the #RoyalRumble and the first openly gay wrestler of his generation,” Shane’s sister Stephanie McMahon, the chief brand officer of WWE, penned. “Thank you for teaching me how to not take it all so seriously. Abooze.”
“No words can describe what he gave to us,” her husband Paul “Triple H” Levesque, a former in-ring great and the person currently in charge of NXT, wrote. “His body as an in-ring performer, his mind as a storyteller, and his spirit as a beloved member of our large @WWE family. I will miss him for so many reasons… it’s never goodbye, it’s see ya down the road. Love you, Pat. Abooze.”
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