On Wednesday morning, the wrestling world mourned the loss of all-time great Pat Patterson. He was 79 years old. The tributes immediately began to pour in, as the WWE Hall of Famer had personally affected so many people. Everybody from Triple H to Kevin Owens to Jim Ross to Ric Flair to Stephanie/Shane McMahon to JBL to the entire industry, they all shared their thoughts and sent their condolences.
For those of you unaware WHY Pat Patterson meant so much, here is a quick rundown:
Let’s start with the most talked about part of his wrestling career: Pat was the first ever Intercontinental Champion back in 1979. While the tournament and just how he won the title may have been exaggerated over the years, the fact remains: Mr. Patterson was in the history books. He was forever embedded with the championship belt and whenever its past would be discussed, Pat Patterson was always right there. A key part to bridge the gap between old school and new school.
Speaking of, it can not be overstated just how much reality and fiction was blurred. On screen, he would often play the role of a Vince McMahon stooge, his right hand man just there to take a beating or get the brunt of a screaming by the boss. Here is the thing though: Pat Patterson was indeed Vince’s right hand man for so many epic moments and highly successful periods of time. You are only as successful as those surrounding you. WWE went from a million dollar company to a multi-billion dollar company. Vinny Mac may be the ultimate final say, but don’t discount those around him for all of those years. There is a reason why so many are coming out online today to thank Pat and give him proper credit.
On that same note, I do give pause today to think about how Vince McMahon is affected. He is now pushing 75 years old himself. Not too many people have grown close to him over the years, as he has been SO ingrained in the WWE bubble. Pat Patterson was one of those men sitting right next to him during all the decades of ups and downs. He was right there in the trenches with him. Another close, dear friend passing at an elderly age has to at least somewhat be getting to Vince McMahon. As the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated, and we all saw Mr. McMahon at Survivor Series two weeks ago. It is just something to note today.
Continuing on with Pat Patterson, a lot of publications will mention the fact that he is gay. Truth be told, it didn’t matter. Even if it was taboo or not spoken about often, yes, that is a ground breaking thing and wonderful. However, it does not define the man whatsoever. Heck, I debated even making note of it in this column. I didn’t find out how this fact until many years later…it just didn’t matter. Nobody cared. They respected Pat for the brilliant performer and excellent mind.
As his success carried on, he transitioned into the role of a ‘comedy old man’ during the Attitude Era. During the most watched era of professional wrestling ever, guess who was in a prominent role on cable television every week? Yep, Pat Patterson. Even in his 50’s, the guy could play his character perfectly and knew how to adapt with the times. In ring, it was definitely over. Outside of the ring, he was just beginning, along with Gerald Brisco, his stooge persona next to Vince McMahon was legendary with many, many, many highlights and moments to behold. Vince knew how valuable he was to the product, even behind the scenes. That is why he kept on popping up in projects over the years and never full retired. The Legends House is still on the WWE Network as we speak to enjoy. Always a joy to watch.
That is why his greatest gift to the professional wrestling world may be his contributions off camera. You know the Royal Rumble gimmick? The most anticipated match of the year in January? Yeah, you can all thank Pat Patterson for that. I assume he will be honored in some way next month before the pay-per-view event. The Rumble may be the Pat Patterson Memorial Royal Rumble this January for all I know. It would be well deserved. He came up with this wild idea, and it was because of him that fans all over the globe countdown the ten second clock every January. The Road to WrestleMania would not exist today without Patterson.
Then there is all the talent. He was The Rock’s go to guy. Over the years, Dwayne Johnson has made it very clear that Pat Patterson was his guy when it came to matches. Rocky would not have had the success he did without him. Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels made note that Pat was the one who helped with their amazing WrestleMania 21. At that point in time, it was my favorite match of all-time until it was barely topped four years later. The list is endless of guys and gals who absolutely adored Pat Patterson and would receive his help from pertaining to matches and/or finishes. He is often called the best finish guy in the business. He knew how crowds would react and when to perfectly hit that closing note…
…and on that closing note, I have a personal story to tell. I was live at Taboo Tuesday 2004, sitting second row. The closest I ever sat at a show, wrestling, concert, whatever. On that night, Pat Patterson was officially wrapped up his 46 years with the company. He was resigning, and this was his last night. I say “officially” because as noted, he never truly left. The man was constantly backstage and/or lending a helping hand. As the event closed and fans began to file out of the Bradley Center that evening in Milwaukee, the show was not over. No, it had only just begun as Pat Patterson came out to say some parting words. Then a song, something he had been known. What did he choose? His favorite: I Did It My Way!
Very fitting. He did it his way, and we loved him for it.