World Wrestling Entertainment announced Pat Patterson’s death on Wednesday. He was 79 years old and had been diagnosed with cancer.
Born Pierre Clermont, Patterson was the first Intercontinental Champion of the World Wrestling Federation and one of the best known and openly gay artists in the industry.
A native of Montreal, Patterson burst into wrestling in the late 1950s and first rose to prominence after moving to the United States in the early 1960s. After early success in promoting Pacific Northwest of Don Owen, Patterson teamed up with Ray Stevens as Blond Bombers in Big Time Wrestling San Francisco, winning the National Wrestling Alliance Tag Team Championship twice. He would hold these titles 11 times in total with the likes of “Superstar” Billy Graham, “High Chief” Peter Maivia and fellow Canadian Rocky Johnson, the latter two being the grandfather and father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson respectively.
After stints with Vern Gagné’s American Wrestling Association and New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Patterson joined WWF in 1979 and quickly became the North American Champion of the Class, beating Ted DiBiase. That fall, Patterson became the company’s first Intercontinental Champion – WWF’s new secondary singles title – by winning a tournament in Rio de Janeiro. In reality, there was no tournament and Patterson simply received the title without a match, later arguing with the Wild Samoans and Ken Patera, who beat Patterson for the IC title.
Patterson began working color commentary for WWF programming in 1980 alongside Gorilla Monsoon and Vince McMahon with his in-ring career ending in 1984. After his retirement, Patterson became McMahon’s right-hand man working in various roles behind the scenes, on the creative team and as an agent, helping to set up matches. Patterson is credited with inventing the concept of the Royal Rumble match, the company’s annual battle royale held each January.
He returned to an on-screen role in the late ’90s alongside Gerald Brisco as “The Stooges,” the goofy sidekicks of the hated character of McMahon, a role Patterson would continue until 2000.
His last on-camera appearance for WWE came during a July 2019 edition of Monday Night RAW in which Patterson became the WWE 24/7 Champion, a comedy title, pinning Drake Maverick.
With the news of Patterson’s death early Wednesday morning, tributes started pouring in the industry.
I can’t express how crushed I feel right now about the loss of Pat Patterson. A true member of my family, mentor and dear friend.
I love you Pat.
Speed of God. pic.twitter.com/FdaAFnsw8m
– Shane McMahon (@shanemcmahon) December 2, 2020
“I can’t express how crushed I feel right now with the loss of Pat Patterson,” Shane McMahon wrote. “A true member of my family, mentor and dear friend. I love you, Pat. Godspeed. ”
Sad to hear the news from Pat Patterson. Coming to WWE in 2002 was a “unique” situation. Pat was one of the first to go out of his way and really make me feel at home. We shared many hours, stories, and yes a cocktail or 2. RIP Pat. You did it your way.
– Éric Bischoff (@EBischoff) December 2, 2020
“Coming to WWE in 2002 was a ‘unique’ situation,” Eric Bischoff wrote. “Pat was one of the first to go out of his way and really make me feel at home. We shared many hours, stories and yes, a cocktail or 2. RIP Pat. You have made your way. ”
Pat Patterson knew @WWE was his home away from home, a place where he felt completely accepted and truly loved. Someone like Pat made all the difference because he wasn’t afraid to be himself and he didn’t apologize for it. Pat did it his way. Stay in power, Pat ♥ ️ pic.twitter.com/3hRYmaCb5W
– NattieByNature (@NatbyNature) December 2, 2020
“Pat Patterson knew WWE was his home away from home, a place where he felt completely accepted and truly loved,” Nattie Neidhart wrote. “Someone like Pat made all the difference because he wasn’t afraid to be himself and he didn’t apologize for it. ”