The wrestling community is mourning the passing of WWE superstar Del Wilkes, aka The Patriot, who died of a heart attack on June 30th at the age of 59.
Prior to joining the world of sports entertainment, Wilkes played college football for the University of South Carolina. Though Wilkes didn’t manage to join the National Football League, he eventually found himself in the field of professional wrestling.
Wilkes started his career as a professional wrestler as a member of the American Wrestling Association in 1988 under the alias The Trooper. He then joined the WWE in 1991, assuming his star-spangled alter ego The Patriot for the first time.
Following his initial two-year tenure in the WWE, Wilkes joined the All Japan Pro Wrestling from 1992 to 1994, then subsequently becoming a member of the World Championship Wrestling from 1994 to 1995.
He returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling from 1995 to 2007, before rejoining the WWE in 1997. In his last WWE battle, Wilkes faced off against Jim Neidhart, aka The Anvil.
Wilkes retired due to torn triceps. After leaving the WWE, Wilkes admitted that he had used anabolic steroids, and cocaine during his career, starting with his college football days. Wilkes eventually quit drugs and resided in Columbia, South Carolina, where he worked at Dick Smith Nissan as a car salesman.
“WWE is saddened to learn that Del Wilkes, known to WWE fans as The Patriot, has passed away at the age of 59,” the WWE said in a statement. “A Superstar quickly on the rise, The Patriot proudly donned the red, white and blue of America in the midst of a rivalry with The Hart Foundation, leading to a memorable match against Bret Hart for the WWE Championship at In Your House: Ground Zero just two months after his WWE debut. WWE extends its condolences to Wilkes’ family and friends.”
Andy McDonald, a friend and podcast co-host of Wilkes, said of the latter’s passing: “Regardless of the accolades or fame he may have achieved, to me, he was best known as a friend. Del overcame his struggles in this life and became an inspiration to many. Our loss is Heaven’s gain.”