World Wrestling Entertainment legend and creator of the Royal Rumble, Pat Patterson, has died at age 79; the organization confirms.
“WWE extends its condolences to Patterson’s family and friends,” the company said on Wednesday in a statement; TMZ reports.
Patterson who considered himself as wrestling’s ‘first gay superstar’ was a key part of WWE for decades and he was widely known as Vince McMahon’s right-hand man.
He began wrestling career in the 1950s before he finally joined WWE in the late ’70s, where he famously engaged in a series of awesome matches with Sgt. Slaughter.
Patterson became the company’s first Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion in 1979.
He later became a colour commentator for WWE and continued to work in the ring and the booth until he retired in 1984.
At that point, Patterson joined McMahon as a WWE executive and in 1988, he pitched the idea for the Royal Rumble.
In his book, “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE,” Patterson explained how the Rumble came to be.
He wrote, “The first Royal Rumble was on January 24, 1988, in Hamilton, Ontario. The difference between WWE’s Royal Rumble and a traditional ‘over-the-top-rope battle’ royal is that the participants come into the match at two-minute intervals and not all at the same time at the beginning of the match. I wanted to create something special.”
Patterson famously came out as gay during a 2014 episode of “WWE Legends House” opening up in front of guys like Roddy Piper and Jimmy Hart. It was a powerful moment.
The late wrestling legend was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
However, tributes are already pouring in from stakeholders in the sector.
Triple H wrote, “No words can describe what he gave to us. 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.”
Shane McMahon said, “I can not express how crushed I feel right now with the loss of Pat Patterson. A true member of my family, mentor and dear friend. I love you PA trueGod speed.”
Also, Jim Ross said, “Just heard of the passing this morning of the great, Pat Patterson. True legend of the pro wrestling business. A wonderful mentor who taught me so much. RIP old friend.”
While Stephanie McMahon wrote, “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. Thank you for teaching me how to not take it all so seriously. Abooze.”