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Who was Pat Patterson? Wrestling's first gay star dies at 79, WWE colleagues say he's an 'absolute legend'

'Legendary wrestler Pat Patterson of @WWE passed away earlier this morning in a Miami hospital. Patterson had cancer. He was 79,' tweeted sports radio host Tony Marinaro
Pat Patterson  (Getty Images)
Pat Patterson (Getty Images)

Pat Patterson, a visionary professional pioneer and the wrestling industry's gay superstar is now dead. The WWE Network confirmed the news without revealing details about his death.

Former baseball announcer Rodger Brulotte told the local sports radio host, Tony Marinaro, that Patterson passed away in a Miami hospital on Wednesday, December 2. Marinaro took the news to Twitter and wrote, "Just got a text from my buddy Rodger Brulotte letting me know that legendary wrestler Pat Patterson of @WWE passed away earlier this morning in a Miami hospital. Patterson had cancer. He was 79. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. RIP. #WWE."


Patterson, a Montreal native, started his pro wrestling career in 1958 in Canada before making his name in the Bay Area and then further moving on to WWE, back then known as WWF. He became the company's first Intercontinental Champion in 1979. In 1984, he retired but had a long career as an announcer and WWE executive and was also credited with the invention of the Royal Rumble.

In 2014, he publicly came out as gay and revealed he had a 40-year relationship with Louie Dondero, who died in 1998 due to a heart attack.

As soon as the news dropped, social media went abuzz. One Internet user said, "So sad to hear the announcement, we have lost the creative genius behind the Royal Rumble and the first-ever Intercontinental champion." Another remembered, "The Brunch segment where he would interview babyface guys in English and translate to French in the most derogatory fashion, is still my favorite bit ever. RIP Pat, you made us Montrealers proud."



The CEO of WWE, Vince McMahon, said, "Pat Patterson was more than the first Intercontinental Champion & father of the Royal Rumble Match. He helped lay the foundation for WWE as we know it. His mentorship shaped careers, his creativity sparked innovation and his friendship lifted spirits. Love you, Pat. We miss you."

Wrestler Sami Zayn said, "When I won the NXT Title, Pat was so proud & so happy, he HAD to be there to celebrate with me. If you watch it now it’s so funny, all the NXT kids...and Pat Patterson. He’s the happiest one there. They told him 'Pat you can’t go out there' and he said, 'TRY AND F**KING STOP ME'."



WWE Champion Kane wrote, "RIP, Pat Patterson. Like so many others, I greatly benefited from Pat's knowledge and passion for the sport. He is an absolute legend." Kurt Angle wrote, "Very saddened to hear about the passing of one of my best friends..Pat Patterson. He had an infectious personality where you always wanted to be around him. This photo of Pat, @ShawnMichaels and me was from Wrestlemania 21. Pat helped us create an incredible Story. #RIPHOFer"