"The Patriot" Del Wilkes Passes Away
The world-traveled star was 59
Del Wilkes, best known during his wrestling career as the masked Patriot, passed away Thursday from what is reported to be a heart attack.
Wilkes was 59 years old.
Following a distinguished career as an offensive lineman at the University of South Carolina in the early eighties (for which he earned All-American honors in 1984), Wilkes entered the world of professional wrestling in 1988. Early on, Wilkes wrestled as The Trooper, doing a babyface police officer gimmick, in Verne Gagne's AWA.
In 1991, upon joining the upstart Global Wrestling Federation, Wilkes was given the character of The Patriot, a pro-Americana masked superhero. He became the organization's first ever North American champion by way of winning a tournament later that summer.
Post-GWF, The Patriot moved on to All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he enjoyed two different stays between 1992 and 1997. In 1993, The Patriot teamed with The Eagle (Jackie Fulton) to win the All-Asia Tag Team titles.
In between All Japan stints, The Patriot briefly wrestled for WCW. There, he had a short run with Marcus Alexander (Buff) Bagwell as Stars and Stripes, and they held the promotion's Tag Team championships.
Come 1997, The Patriot signed with the WWF, where he was an understandable foil to Bret Hart's pro-Canadian Hart Foundation. He lost to Hart in a WWF title match at the Ground Zero pay-per-view that September.
Shortly after, Wilkes retired from the ring, owed to numerous injuries. In retirement, Wilkes continued to make numerous wrestling-related convention appearances, and was subject of the documentary Behind the Mask.
Cultaholic extends its condolences to Mr. Wilkes' family and friends.