Pat Patterson, WWF’s first intercontinental champion and a longtime backstage employee of WWE, has died at age 79.
Patterson had been battling cancer, according to Tony Mariano of TSN 690 in Montreal.
Patterson came out as gay in a 2014 episode of the WWE reality show Legends’ House, though his sexuality had been widely known throughout the industry for 50 years. His partner of 40 years, Louie Dondero, died of a heart attack in 1998, the same night the Undertaker threw Mick Foley from the top of the Hell in a Cell cage. Patterson recalled in his 2016 memoir, Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE, that Foley consoled him “while his tooth still hung by his nose.”
Born Pierre Clermont in Montreal, Patterson moved to the United States in 1962 to pursue a career in wrestling. He enjoyed success in a variety of promotions (primarily San Francisco-based Big Time Wrestling) before making his WWF debut in 1979. In June of that year, he defeated Ted DiBiase for the North American championship and in September became WWF’s first intercontinental champion when the company announced that he had won a tournament in Rio De Janeiro to unify his title with the South American championship. (The tournament and the South American title were apocryphal.)
After retiring as a wrestler in 1984, Patterson held a variety of positions in WWE, including as a referee, on-screen authority figure, match booker and in talent relations. He was the one who came up with the idea for the Royal Rumble, which has since become one of WWE’s signature events.