In a statement, the WWE described Patterson as "A true trailblazer of the industry," who "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."
Patterson started his wrestling career in 1958, came out in the early 1970s, and continued his wrestling career with World Wrestling Entertainment until 1984 when he retired from the ring. His most famous bout was the 1981 Bootcamp match in Madison Square Garden against Sgt. Slaughter.
Aside from his career in the ring, Patterson also worked as a commentator and personality for the WWE and eventually became a creative consultant and producer. He's credited as the creator of the first Royal Rumble in 1998, which would grow to become one of wrestling's signature events.
In 1996, Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of fame by wrestler Bret Hart.
While he was out for much of his life, Patterson officially came out professionally in 2014 in the season finale of the reality show WWE Legends' House.
Patterson had a partner of 40 years, Louie Dondero, who passed away from a heart attack in 1998. In 2016, he wrote an autobiography, Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE.
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