One of the great figures of Canadian pro wrestling is gone.
World Wrestling Entertainment announced the death of Pat Patterson on Wednesday. He was 79 and had been diagnosed with cancer.
Born Pierre Clermont, Patterson was the inaugural World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Champion and one of the most prominent and first openly gay performers in the industry.
A native of Montreal, Patterson broke into wrestling in the late 1950s and first achieved fame upon relocating to the United States in the early 1960s. After early success in Don Owen's Pacific Northwest Promotion, Patterson teamed up with Ray Stevens as the Blond Bombers in San Francisco's Big Time Wrestling, winning the National Wrestling Alliance Tag Team Championship on two occasions. He would hold those titles 11 times in total with the likes of "Superstar" Billy Graham, "High Chief" Peter Maivia and fellow Canadian Rocky Johnson, the latter two being the grandfather and father, respectively, of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
Following stints in Vern Gagne's American Wrestling Association and New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Patterson joined the WWF in 1979 and quickly became the promotion's North American Champion, defeating Ted DiBiase. That fall, Patterson became the company's first Intercontinental Champion - the WWF's new secondary singles title - by winning a tournament in Rio de Janeiro. In reality, there was no tournament and Patterson was simply given the title without a match, later feuding with the likes of the Wild Samoans and Ken Patera, who defeated Patterson for the IC title.
Patterson began working colour commentary for WWF programming in 1980 alongside Gorilla Monsoon and Vince McMahon with his in-ring career winding down by 1984. After his retirement, Patterson became McMahon's right-hand man working in various backstage roles, on the creative team and as an agent, helping to put together matches. Patterson is credited for coming up with the concept of the Royal Rumble match, the company's annual battle royal held every January.
He returned to an on-screen role in the late-'90s alongside Gerald Brisco as "The Stooges," the bumbling sidekicks to McMahon's hated heel character, a role Patterson would continue into 2000.
His last on-camera appearance for the WWE came on a July 2019 edition of Monday Night RAW in which Patterson became the WWE 24/7 Champion, a comedy title, by pinning Drake Maverick.
With news of Patterson's death coming early on Wednesday morning, tributes began pouring in across the industry.
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.— Shane McMahon (@shanemcmahon) December 2, 2020
I love you Pat.
God speed. pic.twitter.com/FdaAFnsw8m
"I cannot express how crushed I feel right now with the loss of Pat Patterson," wrote Shane McMahon. "A true member of my family, mentor and dear friend. I love you, Pat. Godspeed."
Saddened to hear the news about Pat Patterson. Coming to WWE in 2002 was a “unique” situation. Pat was one of the first to go out of his way and genuinely make me feel at home. We shared many hours, stories, and yes a cocktail or 2. RIP Pat. You did it your way.— Eric Bischoff (@EBischoff) December 2, 2020
"Coming to WWE in 2002 was a 'unique' situation," wrote Eric Bischoff. "Pat was one of the first to go out of his way and genuinely make me feel at home. We shared many hours, stories and yes, a cocktail or 2. RIP Pat. You did your way."
Pat Patterson knew @WWE was his home away from home, a place where he felt completely accepted and truly loved. Someone like Pat made all the difference because he wasn’t afraid to be himself and he made no apologies for it. Pat did it his way. Rest in power, Pat♥️ pic.twitter.com/3hRYmaCb5W— NattieByNature (@NatbyNature) December 2, 2020
"Pat Patterson knew WWE was his home away from home, a place where he felt completely accepted and truly loved," wrote Nattie Neidhart. "Someone like Pat made all the difference because he wasn't afraid to be himself and he made no apologies for it."