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Pat Patterson, wrestling’s first gay star, dies at 79

Pat Patterson, the visionary professional wrestling pioneer and the industry’s first gay superstar, has died at age 79.

The WWE confirmed the news without revealing details about his death. Rodger Brulotte, a former baseball announcer in Patterson’s native Montreal, told local sports radio host Tony Marinaro that the wrestling legend passed away in a Miami hospital on Wednesday morning. Marinaro wrote on Twitter that Patterson had cancer prior to his death.

DailyMail.com contacted the WWE to confirm Patterson’s cause of death, but a spokesperson instead responded by sharing the company’s statement, which makes no mention of it.

‘A true trailblazer of the industry, Patterson was linked to many ‘firsts’ in sports-entertainment throughout his storied career,’ read the WWE statement.

Pat Patterson, the visionary professional wrestling pioneer and the industry’s first gay superstar, has died at age 79. Patterson was the WWE’s first Intercontinental Champion 

Patterson came up wrestling in the early 1960s before eventually making his way to the WWE

Patterson came up wrestling in the early 1960s before eventually making his way to the WWE

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson (right) credited Patterson (left) with helping launch his career

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (right) credited Patterson (left) with helping launch his career

Patterson (right) pictured with his longtime partner, Louie Dondero (left). The couple was together for 40 years before Dondero died of a heart attack in 1998, according to Patterson

Patterson (right) pictured with his longtime partner, Louie Dondero (left). The couple was together for 40 years before Dondero died of a heart attack in 1998, according to Patterson 

Pat Patterson seen putting a sleeper hold on an opponent during the 1970s

Pat Patterson seen putting a sleeper hold on an opponent during the 1970s 

Wrestling legend Triple H remembered Patterson as one of the industry's great storytellers

Wrestling legend Triple H remembered Patterson as one of the industry’s great storytellers

Born Pierre Clermont in 1941, Patterson went on to many accomplishments both in the ring, as a wrestler, and out of it, as a WWE executive.

The circuit formerly known as the WWF crowned Patterson as its first Intercontinental Champion in 1979. 

Later, following his retirement from the ring in 1984, Patterson was credited with conceiving the Royal Rumble, a battle royal featuring many of the circuit’s biggest names fighting simultaneously.

Although he never came out publicly until 2014, Pat Patterson considered himself the sport's first gay superstar. His autobiography was titled 'Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed the WWE'

Although he never came out publicly until 2014, Pat Patterson considered himself the sport’s first gay superstar. His autobiography was titled ‘Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed the WWE’

Although there were rumors about Patterson’s sexuality for years, he never openly discussed the subject until 2014, when he tearfully acknowledged that he was gay during a reality television show, WWE Legends’ House.

‘Sitting here tonight, I’m going to say something I would never want to say,’ Patterson said, as quoted by UPI.com. ‘For once in my life I’m going to be me. I survived all this being gay.’

Patterson later revealed that his partner of 40 years, Louie Dondero, died of a heart attack in 1998. The two had met while working for Tony Santos’s Big Time Wrestling promotion in Boston in the early 1960s, according to Patterson’s book, ‘Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE.’

‘Louie has been gone or more than fifteen years now and I am still close with his brothers and his sister, as well as our nieces and nephews,’ Patterson wrote in 2016. ‘They are my family.’

In 1992, both Patterson and another former wrestler, Terry Garvin, were accused of sexual harassment. Both men would go on to resign from the WWF, although the allegations were never proven and Patterson returned to the circuit, which defended him against the claims. 

Patterson is also credited with helping to launch the wrestling career of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.   

Pat Patterson (right) pictured with longtime business associate, WWE CEO Vince McMahon

Pat Patterson (right) pictured with longtime business associate, WWE CEO Vince McMahon

Wrestler John Cena posted a picture of McMahon broadcasting with Patterson in the 1980s

Wrestler John Cena posted a picture of McMahon broadcasting with Patterson in the 1980s

Kurt Von Hess gets a little of his own medicine outside the ring as Pat Patterson applies the squeeze in this match

Patterson seen wrestling Sergeant Slaughter in 1981

Patterson pictured wrestling Kurt Von Hess (left) and Sergeant Slaughter (right)

Rodger Brulotte, a former baseball announcer in Patterson's native Montreal, told local sports radio host Tony Marinaro that the wrestling legend passed away in a Miami hospital on Wednesday morning. Marinaro wrote on Twitter that Patterson had cancer prior to his death. DailyMail.com contacted the WWE to confirm Patterson's cause of death, but a spokesperson instead responded by sharing the company's statement, which makes no mention of it

Rodger Brulotte, a former baseball announcer in Patterson’s native Montreal, told local sports radio host Tony Marinaro that the wrestling legend passed away in a Miami hospital on Wednesday morning. Marinaro wrote on Twitter that Patterson had cancer prior to his death. DailyMail.com contacted the WWE to confirm Patterson’s cause of death, but a spokesperson instead responded by sharing the company’s statement, which makes no mention of it

Following his retirement from the ring in 1984, Patterson was credited with conceiving the Royal Rumble, a battle royal featuring many of the circuit's biggest names fighting simultaneously. (Pictured) The 1988 Royal Rymble at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island

Following his retirement from the ring in 1984, Patterson was credited with conceiving the Royal Rumble, a battle royal featuring many of the circuit’s biggest names fighting simultaneously. (Pictured) The 1988 Royal Rymble at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island 

‘RIP Pat,’ Johnson wrote on Instagram. ‘You’ll be missed.

‘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.

‘Love you, Pat,’ he concluded. ‘And THANK YOU.’ 

Many of Patterson’s colleagues reacted to the news on social media.

‘No words can describe what he gave to us,’ read a tweet from wrestling legend Triple H. ‘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.’

Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of WWE CEO Vince, wrote: ‘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.’

Her brother Shane added: ‘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, the longtime wrestling announcer called Patterson a ‘true legend’ and a ‘wonderful mentor who taught me so much.’

Legendar wrestling announcer Jim Ross remembers Patterson as a 'wonderful mentor'

Legendar wrestling announcer Jim Ross remembers Patterson as a ‘wonderful mentor’


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