World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer Pat Patterson has died at age 79. The icon, who is the first pro-wrestler to come out as gay, had reportedly been battling cancer, Newsweek revealed. WWE confirmed the news of his death on Wednesday.
"WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson has passed away," the organization wrote in a tweet.
Born in Ville-Marie, Montreal, in 1974, Patterson moved to the U.S. to pursue wrestling in 1962, according to Sports Illustrated. His big break came six years later, when he won the AWA World Tag Team Championship with Ray Stevens. In 1979, Patterson made his World Wrestling Federation debut, went on to become the company's first intercontinental champion, and then won the South American championship. He also created the Royal Rumble match, which is one of the WWE's signature events.
Patterson retired from the ring in 1984 but continued to be involved behind the scenes in various roles. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 and in 2014 revealed he was gay on the WWE reality show "WWE Legends' House."
Tributes have been flooding social media since news of Patterson's death. Among those mourning the loss was WWE executive and part-time wrestler 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," he tweeted.
"No words can describe what he gave to us," added wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque. "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."
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