WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson, the first gay wrestling superstar, dies at 79

WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson died Wednesday. He was 79.

Patterson’s career with WWE spanned multiple decades. He made his WWE debut in 1979, and remained with the company in a backstage role until his death. In the ring, Patterson developed feuds with Ted DiBiase, Bob Backlund and Sgt. Slaughter. In 1979, Patterson became the first wrestler to hold the Intercontinental title.

In a statement, WWE said Patterson “left an indelible mark on the industry in the ring, on the microphone and behind the scenes.”

WWE legend Pat Patterson holds his book.
Pat Patterson came out as gay during a segment on WWE Legends' House in 2014. (George Napolitano/MediaPunch /IPX)

After retiring in 1984, Patterson took a backstage role, where he worked closely with Vince McMahon. Patterson continued to wrestle occasionally, but also served as a referee and commentator. Patterson is credited with coming up with the idea for the Royal Rumble.

In 1990, Patterson resigned from WWE after being accused of sexual harassment by former announcer Murray Hodgson. Those charges were dropped, and Patterson rejoined the company.

Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996. Bret Hart inducted Patterson into the Hall of Fame.

In 2014, Patterson came out as gay during a segment on WWE Legends’ House.

Patterson wrote a book about his experience in 2016 titled “Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE.”

WWE stars react to Pat Patterson’s death

Following Patterson’s death, a number of WWE stars paid tribute to Patterson on social media.

More from Yahoo Sports: