Pat Patterson, legendary WWE wrestler, dies at 79

Pat Patterson
(Image credit: WWE)

Legendary WWE star Pat Patterson has died at 79.

Patterson's death was reported on Wednesday by TMZ and confirmed by WWE, which honored him as a "trailblazer of the industry."

After getting his start in wrestling in 1958, Patterson during his time with WWE became the first Intercontinental Champion in 1979, and he also in 1988 created the format for the Royal Rumble match, which has since become a staple, the company notes in its obituary. Additionally, Patterson was "one of the first openly gay performers in the wrestling industry," ESPN writes. Bret Hart inducted him into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.

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Patterson wrote a 2016 autobiography, Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE, and in a quote for the book's cover, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson praised him as "one of the greatest mentors I've ever had in the world of sports-entertainment."

"In his 25-plus years in WWE, Patterson was synonymous with making history," WWE said on Wednesday. "From the Intercontinental Title to the Royal Rumble Match and beyond, his name will forever be revered in WWE lore."

WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon was among those who paid tribute to Patterson on Wednesday, tweeting, "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."

Retired wrestler Mick Foley also remembered Patterson as "one of the all-time great wrestlers," while WWE's Shane McMahon wrote, "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 Pat. God speed."

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