At the age of 17, Pat Patterson, born Pierre Clermont, was thrown out of his house after telling his parents that he was in love with a man. Following his departure from his home in Canada, he immigrated to the United States, becoming involved in the world of pro wrestling.
Two decades later, Patterson overcame those early challenges and became the first Intercontinental Champion for the WWE, starting a legacy that lives on.
Patterson died of cancer in a hospital in Miami on December 2 at the age of 79. He had been battling the disease for many years. Patterson had been retired from wrestling since 1984, but had made sporadic appearances for the WWE since then. In the 1990s, he was one of Vince McMahon’s "stooges", working as a comedy heel, a villain in the wrestling world, as part of The Corporation, a villainous stable in the WWF against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Throughout his life, Paterson was known as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and a pioneer in the world of wrestling. His most notable contribution was coming up with the original idea for the Royal Rumble, a main event of WWE to this day. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
His death sparked strong responses in the world of professional wrestling.
Dwayne Johnson, mostly known by his wrestling persona, the Rock, commented on his Instagram that Patterson was "A WWE hall of famer, true trailblazer and one of the most brilliantly creative wrestling minds the industry has ever known."
John Cena, another notable WWE superstar, wrote on Twitter that, "Pat Patterson lived life as it should be lived with passion, love and purpose."
His impact – as an openly gay man in the macho world of professional wrestling – was all the more powerful. Patterson had a strong influence on many of the people who were involved in the world of wrestling, including several LGBTQ wrestlers who are currently in the business.
Jake Atlas, a current WWE NXT wrestler, commented on his Instagram that "You silently paved the way for people like me & I hope to make you proud".
Fred Rosser, known as Darren Young in WWE, was the first WWE superstar to come out while still tenured with the company in 2013. He released a video tribute on his Youtube Channel to Pat Patterson, stating "professional wrestling is in a better place now because of Pat."
Patterson has been openly gay since the early 1970s, but it wasn’t recognized publicly until 2014, when Patterson came out on an episode of WWE Legends’ House, a reality show that featured former WWE wrestlers living in a house together. He elaborated more on his life as a homosexual in the wrestling world, including being kicked out of his home, in his biography, "Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE."
Patterson was known as a transcendent personality in WWE, leaving an impression on every wrestler that came through the doors of the company. He was one of the greatest minds to work for WWE, and helped them to create an empire which brings in almost a billion dollars each year in revenue, has three weekly televised wrestling shows and their own streaming service, the WWE Network. He will be truly missed by the entire wrestling world for his accomplishments.