Pat Patterson, a pro wrestling legend who is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, has died. He was 79 years old. It was reported by sports radio host Tony Marinaro that Patterson had cancer and died at a Miami hospital. WWE made the announcement Tuesday morning, calling Patterson a "true trailblazer of the industry." He was WWE's first Intercontinental Champion and also credited for creating the Royal Rumble match.
"In his 25-plus years in WWE, Patterson was synonymous with making history," WWE said in a statement. "From the Intercontinental Title to the Royal Rumble Match and beyond, his name will forever be revered in WWE lore. This amazing legacy was captured in Patterson's 2016 autobiography, Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE, a moving chronicle about his life both inside and out of the ring."
Patterson started his career in 1958 in his native Canada before moving to the Bay Area. He joined WWE in 1979 and became the Intercontinental Champion in September of that year. He would have a rivalry with former WWE Champion Sgt. Slaughter which featured Boot Camp matches and an Alley Fight at Madison Square Garden. The Alley Fight was such a memorable match, Wrestling Observer Newsletter named it Match of the Year in 1981. Along with winning the Intercontinental title, Patterson won the North American Heavyweight Championship, the Hardcore Championship and the 24/7 Championship. He's the second person in WWE history to win the Hardcore and 24/7 titles and became the oldest person in WWE history to win a championship (78 years old.)
"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," WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon wrote on Twitter. "Thank you for teaching me how to not take it all so seriously. Abooze." Shane McMahon, WWE producer and minority owner, also paid tribute to Patterson on social media.
"I can not 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." Patterson retired from in-ring action in 1984 but has worked for WWE until his death. He worked as a color commentator with Vince McMahon, he was a producer and an in-ring character during WWE's "Attitude Era" in the late 1990s.