WWE legend Pat Patterson, who became wrestling’s ‘first gay superstar’ after 50 years hiding his truth, has died

Pat Patterson

Tributes are pouring in for Pat Patterson, the WWE legend and wrestling’s “first gay superstar”, after he died aged 79.

It was confirmed by WWE Wednesday (2 December) that Patterson had passed away after a battle with cancer.

“In his 25-plus years in WWE, Patterson was synonymous with making history,” read a statement.

“From the Intercontinental Title to the Royal Rumble Match and beyond, his name will forever be revered in WWE lore.”

“WWE extends its condolences to Patterson’s family and friends.”

Patterson became the first person to hold the Intercontinental Champion title in 1979 and is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Born Pierre Clermont, he started wrestling in the 1960s. In his 50-year career, he became the six-time United States Champion before joining the then-WWWF.

He debuted in Montreal, Canada in 1958 as “Pretty Boy” Pat Patterson, wearing a beret, red lipstick and sunglasses. But it wasn’t until 2014 that he came out as gay in 2014, after over 50 years in the closet.

Pat Patterson came out as gay after losing his partner of 40 years.

Appearing on the WWE reality show Legends’ House, Patterson opened up about his sexuality and losing his partner, Louie Dondero, who he was with for 40 years before Dondero died of a heart attack in 1998.

“From where I come from, I had nothing, no family, no money, and I ended up [working] with Vince [McMahon, WWE CEO]… to me, that was the biggest achievement of my life,” he said.

“But there’s more to that. Sitting here tonight, I’m going to say something I would never want to say.

“For once in my life I’m going to be me. I survived all this being gay.

“I lived with that for 50-some years. I had a friend with me for 40 years, and I lost him because he had a heart attack, and I ended up alone. But I survived. It’s tough guys, it was tough.

“I gave my life to the business, I don’t regret nothing, and for the rest of my life I want to be happy.”

WWE stars pay tribute to Pat Patterson.

Triple H said: “No words can describe what he gave to us. His body as an in-ring performer, his mind as a storyteller, and his spirit as a beloved member of our large WWE family.

“I will miss him for so many reasons… it’s never goodbye, it’s see ya down the road. Love you, Pat.”

Stephanie McMahon wrote: “I’m deeply grateful to have grown up with WWE Hall of Famer, the first-ever Intercontinental Champion, the father of the #RoyalRumble and the first openly gay wrestler oh his generation.

“Thank you for teaching me how to not take it all so seriously.”

Shane McMahon added: “I can not express how crushed I feel right now with the loss of Pat Patterson. A true member of my family, mentor and dear friend.”