“In his 25-plus years in WWE, Patterson was synonymous with making history,” WWE wrote in the announcement of his death. “From the Intercontinental Title to the Royal Rumble Match and beyond, his name will forever be revered in WWE lore…WWE extends its condolences to Patterson’s family and friends.”
Throughout his trailblazing career in sports and entertainment, Patterson pioneered the creation of the Royal Rumble Match in 1988 and reigned as the first-ever Intercontinental champion in 1979. His career in WWE went beyond the ring, as he became a color commentator and contributed to the industry behind the scenes.
Patterson began his career in 1958 in his native Canada before solidifying himself as a prominent wrestler in the Bay Area for nearly 20 years. After winning the AWA Tag Team Championship in 1978, he transitioned to WWE, where he trained under wrestling icon Ernie Roth, also known as The Grand Wizard. Under his tutelage, Patterson soared to greater heights, forming a legendary rivalry with Sgt. Slaughter through fights at Boot Camp Matches and the Alley Fight at Madison Square Garden. Patterson retired from the ring in 1984.
He returned to wrestling during the WWE’s Attitude Era, which began in 1997, and created many memorable moments as one of WWE CEO Vince McMahon’s “Stooges” and as Hardcore champion following his fight with the late Crash Holly. In 1996, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
The wrestler’s legacy was captured in his 2016 autobiography, “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE,” a chronicle about his life inside and out of the ring.