The professional wrestling world has lost a trailblazer and icon. Pat Patterson, a WWE Hall of Famer who is considered the first openly gay wrestler in the industry’s ranks, died at the age of 79, the WWE said Wednesday.
Born Pierre Clermont in Montreal Patterson emigrated to the United States and got his start by wrestling through the Pacific Northwest and in San Francisco during the 1960s and 1970s.
He is widely credited as the first WWE Intercontinental Champion, although the occurrence of the tournament that crowned him champ never actually took place. He transitioned in a role away from the ring to eventually become Vince McMahon’s de facto right-hand man — serving as an announcer, road agent, and even as the in-ring referee at the first WrestleMania main event in 1985.
Patterson invented the Royal Rumble Match, which debuted in 1988. As the industry exploded in the 1990s, Patterson returned to the rings as one of McMahon’s “Stooges.” He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
While Patterson’s sexuality had been public knowledge for decades, WWE never incorporated that into its storylines until 2014. He chronicled his life in wrestling through his 2016 autobiography “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE.”