Pat Patterson: First openly gay professional wrestler dies aged 79

·3-min read

The first openly gay professional wrestling star, Pat Patterson, has died aged 79.

Tributes have been paid to the Canadian brawler by the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment company), Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and John Cena, among others.

Hollywood actor Johnson, who is a former professional wrestler, described Patterson as a "father figure", while the WWE called him a "true trailblazer of the industry" and said "his name will forever be revered".

It said: "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.

"In a career spanning six decades, the renaissance man left an indelible mark on the industry in the ring, on the microphone and behind the scenes."

Patterson started wrestling in 1958, and by 1978 was appearing in the ring for the WWE.

His most famous storyline was his rivalry with Sgt Slaughter, which saw the pair go head to head several times.

By 1984, Patterson had retired from the ring and had moved to the commentary booth.

In 1988, the Royal Rumble - his brainchild - made its first appearance, going on to become one of the most recognisable events in world wrestling.

He was inducted into the WWE hall of fame in 1996.

In a post to his Instagram page, Johnson said: "Rest in love, Pat. You'll be missed.

"Rough phone calls to get this morning to tell me, our dear family member, Pat Patterson who was my pro wrestling mentor and father figure has passed away."

In another tribute, wrestler Chris Jericho, using a Star Wars analogy, called Patterson the "Yoda to my Luke".

"He taught me 90% of what I know about putting together a wrestling match."

Fellow wrestling star John Cena tweeted: "Loss is incredibly difficult. Those we love are only truly gone if we stop caring. Pat Patterson lived life as it should be lived with passion, love and purpose.

"He helped so many and always entertained with a story or joke. He will live on in my life always. Love you Patrick.."

Paul Michael Levesque, known as Triple H in the industry, tweeted: "No words can describe what he gave to us. 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"

A tribute from the WWE added: "Whether in the ring, on the microphone or behind the scenes, Pat Patterson was one of sports-entertainment's most successful and well-known superstars for five decades.

"In addition, Patterson was linked to many 'firsts' in the industry, as his voice and his mind helped him continue his career well after his in-ring days were over."

It added: "In his 25-plus years in WWE, Patterson was synonymous with making history.

"His name will forever be revered in WWE lore."