The WWE icon Pat Patterson—the guy who invented the “Royal Rumble”—has died, the organization confirmed. He was 79 years old.
“WWE extends its condolences to Patterson’s family and friends,” the corporation said in a statement on Wednesday.
Patterson who regarded himself as the first gay superstar” in wrestling—has been a central member of WWE for decades, commonly regarded as Vince McMahon’s right-hand man.
He started competing in the 1950s—and eventually entered WWE in the late 70s, where he was notably involved in a series of awesome battles with Sgt. Slaughter. Pat became the first Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion of the organization in 1979.
Patterson later became a color commentator for WWE — and continued to work in the ring and in the booth until he retired in 1984.
At that point, Patterson joined McMahon as a WWE exec — and in 1988, he pitched the idea for the Royal Rumble.
In his book — “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE” — Patterson explained how the Rumble came to be.
“The first Royal Rumble was on January 24, 1988, in Hamilton, Ontario. The difference between WWE’s Royal Rumble and a traditional over-the-top rope battle royal is that the participants come into the match at two-minute intervals — not all at the same time at the beginning of the match. I wanted to create something special.”