AceShowbiz - Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has paid a heartfelt tribute to his "wrestling mentor and father figure" Pat Patterson following his death at the age of 79.
The WWE legend and pioneer, who 'came out' to his colleagues in the 1970s and became the league's first gay superstar, passed away on Tuesday (02Dec20).
In a statement, WWE officials confirmed, "WWE is saddened to learn that Pat Patterson has passed away at the age of 79... WWE extends its condolences to Patterson's family and friends."
The late star's illustrious in-ring career saw him become the company's first ever Intercontinental Champion in 1979, while he was a big influence behind the scenes when his grappling days ended, acting as a road agent and working with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon as his right-hand man.
Patterson was also responsible for giving the WWE Universe the iconic Royal Rumble match, which remains one of the highlights of the wrestling calendar.
Honouring Patterson's memory on Instagram, Johnson shared a photo of the pair during the Hollywood star's wrestling heyday, and captioned it, "RIP Pat. You'll be missed."
"Rough phone calls to get this morning to tell me, our dear family member, Pat Patterson who was my pro wrestling mentor and father figure has passed away," he continued.
"A @wwe hall of famer, TRUE trailblazer and one of the most brilliantly creative wrestling minds the industry has ever known."
Johnson went on to recall how Patterson initially convinced McMahon to give the young fighter a chance in the ring, which led to his first ever WWE match in Corpus Christi, Texas just weeks later.
"The rest is history and years later, here I am writing this post...," he shared.
"Love you, Pat. And THANK YOU. I'll see you down the road."
Also paying tribute was WWE executive and fellow ring icon Paul 'Triple H' Levesque, who described Patterson as a "beloved member" of the company's family.
He wrote, "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..."