WWE legend Pat Patterson — the man who created the “Royal Rumble” — has died, the organization confirmed. He was 79.
“WWE extends its condolences to Patterson’s family and friends,” the company said Wednesday in a statement.
Patterson — who considered himself wrestling’s “first gay superstar” — was a key part of WWE for decades, widely known as Vince McMahon‘s right-hand man.
He began wrestling in the 1950s — and finally joined up with WWE in the late ’70s, where he famously engaged in a series of awesome matches with Sgt. Slaughter. Pat became the company’s first Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion in 1979.
Patterson later became a color commentator for WWE — and continued to work in the ring and in the booth until he retired in 1984.
At that point, Patterson joined McMahon as a WWE exec — and in 1988, he pitched the idea for the Royal Rumble.
In his book — “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE” — Patterson explained how the Rumble came to be.
“The first Royal Rumble was on January 24, 1988, in Hamilton, Ontario. 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.“
Pat famously came out as gay during a 2014 episode of “WWE Legends House” … opening up in front of guys like Roddy Piper and Jimmy Hart. It was a powerful moment.
Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
The tributes are already pouring in …
Triple H — “No words can describe what he gave to us. His body as an in-ring performer, his mind as a storyteller, and his spirit as a beloved member of our large WWE family. I will miss him for so many reasons … it’s never goodbye, it’s see ya down the road. Love you, Pat. Abooze.”
Shane McMahon — “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.”
Jim Ross — Just heard of the passing this morning if the great, Pat Patterson. True legend of the pro wrestling business. A wonderful mentor who taught me so much. RIP old friend.”
Stephanie McMahon — “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. Abooze.”