WWE SmackDown Opens With 10 Bell Salute To Pat Patterson

WWE started off Friday night's SmackDown broadcast with a tribute to the legendary Pat Patterson, who passed away at the age of 79 on Wednesday. SmackDown was the first main roster WWE show to air since his passing, though the company did air a touching tribute to Patterson during NXT on Wednesday night. This time, we saw the SmackDown roster on the entrance ramp as the show opened and a graphic to Patterson appeared on the big screen above them.

Notably alongside the wrestlers themselves were Vince McMahon and Gerald Brisco. Brisco, a legendary performer in his own right, teamed up with Patterson in the late 1990s and early 2000s on television often as one of Mr. McMahon's stooges. He hasn't been seen on WWE television in quite some time.

As the performers stood on the stage, a 10 bell salute rang out through the Amway Center WWE ThunderDome. After it was over, they piped in a "Thank You Pat" chant as the camera panned the audience screens.

Patterson was known as the first-ever Intercontinental Champion in the WWF (now WWE). He was WWF North American Heavyweight Champion at the time and became the inaugural champion on September 1, 1979. It was said he had unified his title with the South American Heavyweight Championship, in a tournament in Rio de Janeiro, although both the tournament and South American Championship were entirely fictional.

Patterson was also known as one of Vince McMahon’s most trusted advisors, the Vice President of Talent Relations, and was instrumental in building the WWF and later WWE. He was also one of the most-trusted men in the locker room when it comes to putting matches together. Patterson famously created the Royal Rumble concept, inspired by his days working for Roy Shire who had a Cow Palace Battle Royale in California.

In addition to being the inaugural IC Champion, Patterson was a legendary wrestler in northern California. The top singles star in the territory between 1972 and 1977, he also famously tagged with Ray Stevens as the Blond Bombers and was one of the best tag team wrestlers of all time. That team originally achieved stardom in the mid 1960s in San Francisco, and they also were major attractions in Hawaii. Patterson and Stevens tagged together off and on, right up until holding the AWA Tag Titles in the late 70s.

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When Patterson moved to the WWF, he had a memorable feud with Bob Backlund that included four straight sell-outs at MSG, and he and Sgt. Slaughter had an incredible Alley Fight in 1981 that was Match of the Year. He later refereed the main event of the first WrestleMania, featuring Hulk Hogan and Mr. T taking on Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorf with Muhammad Ali on the outside. Patterson became the special ref after Ali was advertised due to Ali’s physical limitations.

Patterson left a mark on the wrestling industry that few will ever surpass. To hear more about his legendary career, check out the latest episode my wrestling podcast, Top Rope Nation, as we recounted Patterson's legendary career.