Earlier today, the professional wrestling world learned that Del Wilkes, also known as The Patriot, passed away. Allen Wright Adkins took to Facebook to announce the unfortunate news. “At the request of his family, it’s with a devastated heart that I let you know Heaven gained one of the most special men I’ve ever had the honor to know today,” said Allen. The cause of death, at the time of this writing, is unknown.
Prior to becoming a professional wrestler, Del Wilkes played football in high school and college. Most notably, he played for the South Carolina Gamecocks, becoming one of only four football consensus All-Americans in South Carolina. In 1984, he was selected as an All-American starter for various organizations, including the American Football Coaches Association. Despite seeing success in football during his youth, Wilkes would eventually make his way into the world of professional wrestling.
From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, Wilkes would work for such organizations as the American Wrestling Association and the Global Wrestling Federation. It was in the GWF that he adopted the moniker of The Patriot, donning a star-spangled mask; this character would become synonymous with his professional wrestling career moving forward. Wilkes was incredibly successful in the GWF, winning the North American Heavyweight Championship twice and becoming the first-ever Television Champion.
In the mid-1990s, Del Wilkes worked for World Championship Wrestling, forming Stars and Stripes alongside Marcus Bagwell, the latter of whom would become more well-known as Buff Bagwell. Stars and Stripes won the WCW World Tag Team Championship on two occasions, working with Paul Roma and Paul Orndorff, in addition to Harlem Heat. Wilkes wrestled in All Japan Pro Wrestling as well, working alongside “The Eagle,” Jackie Fulton. Together they became All Asia Tag Team Champions, defeating Tsuyoshi Kikuchi and Kenta Kobashi.
In the summer of 1997, under the guise of The Patriot, Wilkes made his debut for the World Wrestling Federation. By this time, the anti-American Hart Foundation was a prominent fixture in the company; this made the inclusion of The Patriot all the more apropos. During his time in the WWF, Wilkes picked up victories over such names as The British Bulldog and Bret Hart. Wilkes would even challenge Hart for the WWF Championship at Ground Zero: In Your House, which was his most high-profile match in the company.
The Patriot character remained on TV until late 1997, continuing to feud with The Hart Foundation and even forging alliances with Vader, Goldust, and other babyface stars at the time. Wilkes’s final WWF match took place on an episode of Shotgun Saturday Night, which ended with Jim Neidhart winning by disqualification. Wilkes was originally set to compete at Survivor Series later that year, as part of Team USA against Team Canada. However, due to a torn triceps, he was replaced by Steve Blackman. By 1998, Wilkes would be gone from the company.
LWOPW sends its condolences to the family, friends, peers, and fans of Del Wilkes around the world.
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