Legendary wrestler Pat Patterson has died at the age of 79, World Wrestling Entertainment confirmed in a statement on Wednesday.
The Montreal native, whose birth name was Pierre Clermont, had been battling cancer.
Patterson’s wrestling career spanned from 1958 to 1984. After making his debut on regional fight cards in Quebec, he moved to the U.S. in the early 1960s. In 1979, he became WWE’s first Intercontinental champion.
After announcing his in-ring retirement in 1984, he worked as a colour analyst and in various roles behind the scenes with the head of the company, Vince McMahon. The promotion was then called the World Wrestling Federation.
In 2016, Patterson published his autobiography, Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE, in collaboration with author Bertrand Hébert. Patterson’s sexual orientation was widely known in wrestling circles, but he announced it publicly in 2014.
Known as “le Rêve du Québec” for his exploits in the ring, he also became known for thinking of creative ways of ending wrestling matches. He came up with the concept of the Royal Rumble, an elimination match that traditionally features 30 wrestlers and has gone on to become one of WWE’s most popular events.
In WWE’s statement, Patterson’s career is described as being ”synonymous with making history.”
“From the Intercontinental Title to the Royal Rumble Match and beyond, his name will forever be revered in WWE lore,” read the statement.
Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.