"WWE is saddened to learn that Pat Patterson has passed away at age 79," the company wrote in a statement on Wednesday. "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."
Fellow WWE legend Mick Foley, best known as Mankind, shared his condolences on Twitter. "I just heard the terrible news about the passing of Pat Patterson," he wrote. "I loved the man. I could listen to his stories for hours. One of the all-time great wrestlers, one of the best minds in the business, and a dear friend."
Patterson's wrestling career began in the '50s, but he joined the WWE—then the WWF— in the '70s. He became the WWE's first Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion in 1979, and transitioned to a career outside the ring in the '80s, acting as Vince McMahon's right-hand man as an executive at the company. He only came out as gay in 2014, opening up to fellow wreslters Roddy Piper and Jimmy Hart. Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
Triple H and John Cena also shared their condolences. "Loss is incredibly difficult," Cena tweeted. "Those we love are only truly gone if we stop caring. Pat Patterson lived life as it should be lived with passion, love and purpose. He helped so many and always entertained with a story or joke. He will live on in my life always. Love you Patrick."
Rest in peace.