The pioneering professional wrestler Pat Patterson, who was Vince McMahon’s right hand man for nearly 20 years, died at the age of 79 after recently fighting cancer.
He was born Pierre Clermont in Quebec, Canada, and took the name Patterson at his wrestling debut in 1958. Despite the anglicised name, he never lost his natural accent, and his francophone pronunciation was often imitated by wrestling fans and performers themselves.
In 1979 he joined the then World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) and became the first intercontinental champion of the federation. The title was awarded to him after a (fictitious) kayfabe tournament in Rio De Janeiro.
The choice of venue was a joke backstage – Patterson was an open homosexual at a time when wrestling was considered a traditional, conservative form of entertainment.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the WWE paid tribute to the late wrestling star and said it was “sad to learn that the WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson has passed away”.
The WWE is sad to learn that the WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson has passed away. https://t.co/SDMTR6skZn
– WWE (@WWE) December 2, 2020
In a feud with people like Sergeant Slaughter, Patterson won the Match of the Year at the 1981 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards. After leaving the ring in 1984, he began working as a commentator for WWF’s French language broadcasts before switching to a backstage role where he was arguably the most influential producer in wrestling history.
He was the referee for the first WrestleMania main event, where Hulk Hogan and Mr. T came together, and he was both the creator and the creative mind behind the most popular gimmick match in Royal Rumble wrestling.
His work as an agent was highly regarded, with his creation of the Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior match on WrestleMania VI often seen as an example of how he could book main events between two limited cast members.
In his later years, he continued to perform on screen as one of McMahon’s “henchmen” in the Attitude era, and last year he even became the oldest male champion in WWE history, winning the 24/7 title in a backstage skit.
In 1992 Patterson was released by the WWF after being accused of sexual harassment by former announcer Murray Hodgson. However, he was quickly reinstated after a short break after the charges against him were dropped.
More than a decade later, in 2004, Patterson resigned from the WWE again, only to return less than a year later as he continued to work for the company, albeit in limited capacity.
In July last year, at the age of 78, Patterson became the oldest person ever to win a title in WWE history when he won the WWE 24/7 championship by nailing Drake Maverick backstage.
The title also marked Patterson’s first title reign in nearly two decades.