WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson has died aged 79 following a long battle with cancer.
Starting his professional wrestling career in 1958, Patterson eventually joined what was known as the WWF at the time, in 1978. He became the first-ever titleholder of the Intercontinental belt and was the key figure behind the creation of the infamous Royal Rumble Match.
Patterson was also famously known for being the first openly gay performer in the wrestling industry when he came out during the early 1970s.
Just before retiring from in-ring duties in 1984, Patterson became a colour commentator for the company alongside Gorilla Monsoon and WWE CEO Vince McMahon. In 1996, Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
“WWE is saddened to learn that Pat Patterson has passed away at the age of 79,” the wrestling organisation said in a statement.
“A true trailblazer of the industry, Patterson was linked to many ‘firsts’ in sports entertainment throughout his storied career, including the first-ever Intercontinental Title reign and the creation of the Royal Rumble Match.”
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson led an outpouring of tributes from past and current WWE superstars, describing the wrestling great as a “father figure” and “mentor”.
“Rough phone calls to get this morning to tell me, our dear family member Pat Patterson who was also a father figure and my pro wrestling mentor has passed away,” he wrote on Facebook.
“A WWE hall of famer, true trailblazer and one of the most brilliantly creative wrestling minds the industry has ever known.”