Wrestling trailblazer Pat Patterson has died at 79

Legendary wrestler Pat Patterson has died, World Wrestling Entertainment announced Wednesday.

“WWE is saddened to learn that Pat Patterson has passed away at the age of 79,” WWE said in a statement. “WWE extends its condolences to Patterson’s family and friends.”

Patterson began his career in 1958 and was a trailblazer in the world of wrestling as the first openly gay wrestling star — something he spoke about in his autobiography “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE.”

Patterson will also be remembered for his battles with Sgt. Slaughter. He also had a number of firsts, which included the first Intercontinental Championship, WWE said.

Former wrestler turned movie star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson paid tribute to Patterson in an Instagram post.

“RIP Pat. You’ll be missed,” Johnson wrote. “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.

“Love you, Pat. And thank you. I’ll see you down the road.”

Patterson continued to work for WWE after retiring from the ring, working as a color commentator before retiring from the booth in 1984, according to WWE.

Patterson’s legacy will be felt for generations to come, as he is credited by WWE for creating the format for the first Royal Rumble in 1988. WWE’s Royal Rumble is one of its signature events in which participants enter at timed intervals in a battle royal.

Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 by fellow wrestler Bret Hart.

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