WWE is saddened to learn that Pat Patterson has passed away at age 79.
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. 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 began his career in 1958 in his native Canada before becoming a fixture in the Bay Area for nearly two decades. After winning the AWA Tag Team Championship with Ray Stevens in 1978, Patterson moved on to WWE. Under the tutelage of The Grand Wizard, Patterson made an immediate impact and became the first Intercontinental Champion in September 1979. Patterson’s most legendary WWE rivalry was undoubtedly his war with Sgt. Slaughter, which captivated the WWE Universe with Boot Camp Matches and a brutal Alley Fight at Madison Square Garden.
Shortly before his in-ring retirement in 1984, Patterson joined Mr. McMahon as a colour commentator. Even after hanging up his boots, Patterson was far from finished reimagining the possibilities of the sports-entertainment industry. In 1988, Patterson brought one of the ring’s most groundbreaking ideas to life by creating the original format for the Royal Rumble Match.
Patterson returned to the ring during WWE’s electric “Attitude Era,” creating many memorable moments alongside Gerald Brisco as one of Mr. McMahon’s hilarious “Stooges.” Patterson even pinned Crash Holly to claim the Hardcore Title. For all his efforts, Pat Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 by Bret Hart.
In his 25-plus years in WWE, Patterson was synonymous with making history. From the Intercontinental Title to the Royal Rumble Match and beyond, his name will forever be revered in WWE lore. This amazing legacy was captured in Patterson’s 2016 autobiography, “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE,” a moving chronicle about his life both inside and out of the ring.
WWE extends its condolences to Patterson’s family and friends.
Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer described Pat Patterson as “Vince McMahon’s right-hand man” and “one of the chief architects of the WWE, playing an integral role in helping it become a global phenomenon.” After a successful career in the ring all around the world, Patterson became essential behind the curtains. He created the Royal Rumble match concept. He had helped generations of talents for more than thirty years. His legacy and knowledge as a wrestler made of him one of the greatest minds in the business. Today, the WWE family lost one of its most important members. Pat Patterson lost his battle against cancer at 79.
French-Canadian Pierre Clermont started to train at 14 and made his debut in 1958 in Montreal as “Killer” Pat Patterson. He wasn’t speaking a word of English at that time but emigrated in the USA in 1962. Patterson initially worked for Tony Santos’s Big Time Wrestling promotion in Boston, Massachusetts. While living and working in Boston, Patterson met his long-term partner, Louie Dondero. In 1962, Patterson was recruited by Mad Dog Vachon for Don Owen’s Portland, Oregon-based Pacific Northwest Wrestling promotion. He developed there the character of “Pretty Boy” Pat Patterson, an effeminate wrestler who wore lipstick and sunglasses.
In January 1965, Patterson was hired by Roy Shire for his San Francisco, California-based Big Time Wrestling promotion. At Shire’s request, Patterson dyed his hair blond to form a tag team with Ray Stevens, The Blond Bombers. He would work there for more than twelve years, becoming a two-time NWA World Tag Team Champion. From 1977 to 1983, he would wrestle for Championship Wrestling from Florida, Verne Gagne’s AWA, NJPW and Lutte International in Quebec.
He signed with the then-WWF in 1979. He first worked as a heel, under the tutelage of manager The Grand Wizard. As a villain, Patterson’s primary feuds were with then WWF North American Champion Ted DiBiase and WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund. During a television taping on June 19 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Patterson defeated DiBiase for the WWF North American Championship by using a pair of brass knuckles to knock out DiBiase. Patterson was unsuccessful, however, in winning the WWF Heavyweight Championship from Backlund.
In September 1979, the WWF would introduce the WWE Intercontinental Championship, a secondary championship for its mid-card wrestlers. Patterson was crowned the company’s first Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion after an alleged tournament held in Rio de Janeiro. While Patterson’s tournament “victory” is widely listed in wrestling title and match histories, the tournament itself never actually took place. The fictional tournament was also later profiled as an April Fool’s joke.
It was during Patterson’s reign as champion that he turned face, after a botched attempt by the Grand Wizard to “sell” Patterson’s contract to “Captain” Lou Albano for $100,000, Albano’s protégés, the Wild Samoans, attacked Patterson after he cut a promo insulting Albano. Patterson held the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship until April 21, 1980, when he was defeated by Ken Patera in New York City, New York. He would later feud with Sgt. Slaughter, their Bootcamp match in Madison Square Garden was voted Match of the Year by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Patterson began doing colour commentary in 1980 with Vince McMahon, calling WWF Championship Wrestling from 1980 to 1984. While Patterson was a face commentator when partnered with Gorilla Monsoon and Vince McMahon, he hosted a heel interview segment for French WWF broadcasts known as “Le brunch de Pat”, where he would politely ask questions in English but furtively mock his face guests in French.
Patterson retired from wrestling in 1984. Although retired, Patterson continued to occasionally wrestle until 1987. He began working backstage as a road agent. In the late 1990s, he also worked in the talent-relations department. Patterson also worked as a WWF referee. He was selected as the in-ring referee for the main event at the first-ever WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden on March 31, 1985, a well as the main event of WrestleMania XI.
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1997, Patterson, along with Gerald Brisco, became comedy heels as the on-screen stooges of Vince McMahon, assisting their boss in his rivalries with Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind and The Rock. Later in 1999, the two became entangled with the McMahon-Helmsley Faction. In October 2004, Patterson retired from World Wrestling Entertainment as a producer for WWE but still acted as a creative consultant in a limited capacity.
Patterson was openly gay. He first came out in the early 1970s, but although Jim Ross made several jokes about it on commentary, his sexuality was not acknowledged publicly or in WWE storylines until the season finale of WWE Legends’ House, which aired June 12, 2014. Patterson stated that Dondero and he were together for 40 years.
A lot more could be said about Pat Patterson but his career speaks for itself. He was devoted to this business, in and out of the ring. If he had won a lot of gold in his career, the influence, kindness and help he had provided to generations of WWE Superstars will be truly missed, like his legendary and full of “joie de vivre” smile.
All pics and videos courtesy of WWE and Pro Wrestling Illustrated