Professional wrestling lost one of its most creative people on Wednesday as Pat Patterson, a WWE Hall of Famer and “Royal Rumble” founder, died at age 79.
No cause of death was given by WWE, which made the announcement on Wednesday morning. Information on funeral arrangements is pending.
Patterson, who later in life came out as gay, found success in the ring, starting in his native Canada then moving to the United States. He was a star in the San Francisco Bay area, teaming up with Ray Stevens to capture the AWA (American Wrestling Association) World Tag Team Championship in 1978.
After that run, Patterson moved on over to the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). He became the company’s first Intercontinental Champion in 1979 before retiring from active in-ring competition in 1984.
Later, Patterson became a WWE commentator and continued to work in the ring and the booth. Most notably, he was the in-ring official for the main event of the first “WrestleMania,” pitting Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.
He then became a WWE executive. In 1999, he pitched the idea for the “Royal Rumble.”
In Pat Patterson’s book, “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE,” Patterson gives readers insight into how the Rumble was created.
“The first Royal Rumble was on January 24, 1988, in Hamilton, Ontario,” he writes. “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 — not all at the same time at the beginning of the match. I wanted to create something special.”
In 2014, Patterson famously came out as gay during an episode of “WWE Legends House.”
Vince McMahon Honors Pat Patterson’s Memory
His affect on those in the professional wrestling business can be seen in the outpouring of tributes on social media.
WWE President and Chairman of the Board Vince McMahon shared his thoughts on Twitter as did many current and former WWE wrestlers or, as the company calls them, “Superstars,” and others too.
The Rock Shares His Thoughts On Patterson’s Life
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who initially found fame and fortune within the WWF/WWE, sent his condolences on Instagram. He also mentions it was Patterson who, in his role as an agent, saw Johnson’s in-ring ability and tipped off McMahon to it.
“Rest in love, Pat. You’ll be missed 💔,” Johnson says.
“Rough phone calls to get this morning to tell me, our dear family member, Pat Patterson who was my pro wrestling mentor and father figure has passed away.
“A @wwe hall of famer, TRUE trailblazer and one of the most brilliantly creative wrestling minds the industry has ever known.
“He was also responsible for calling Vince McMahon when I was training to become a pro wrestler (my $7 bucks days) and said, ‘Vince you gotta see this kid work in the ring.’
“Vince flew me to RAW a few weeks later and I had my first match EVER in Corpus Christie, Texas.
“The rest is history and years later, here I am writing this post.
“* cue Sinatra’s MY WAY (Pat’s favorite to sing)
“…I’ve lived a life that’s full,
I traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way…
“Love you, Pat.
“And THANK YOU.
“I’ll see you down the road 🥃🖤”
Hulk Hogan Fondly Remembers Patterson’s Work, Life
Legendary pro wrestler Hulk Hogan, who was the star of the fist “WrestleMania” held in the 1980s, offered his own condolences to Patterson.
On Twitter, Hogan said, “Tough morning hearing the news about Pat, shocked, RIP my brother, Pat and Buddy Colt let me ride with them when I had my first match, the ribbing started that day and went on until now, love you my brother, tabernac HH.”