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WWE Legend Pat Patterson I'm Gay

6/13/2014 6:56 AM PDT

Pat Patterson Gay -- WWE Legend Comes Out of the Closet At 73 [VIDEO]

WWE legend Pat Patterson just revealed that he's been living in the closet for the past 50 years -- and has finally decided to go public about that fact he's a gay man.  

The 73-year-old dropped the news on the finale of WWE Network's "Legends' House" ... saying, "For once in my life I'm going to be me now."

Patterson -- who's a WWE exec -- explained that he's been keeping the secret out of the public eye for 5 decades ... and had a partner for roughly 40 years, but he passed away after suffering a heart attack. 

Patterson has been Vince McMahon's right hand man for decades ... he also was the company's first Intercontinental champion and helped create the "Royal Rumble."

The whole thing was incredibly emotional ... and the reaction from Pat's fellow wrestling legends was touching -- with the guys telling him, "We love you Pat ... we always love you." Watch TMZ Sports on FS1 Get the new TMZ Sports app!


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