"The Patriot" Del Wilkes Has Passed Away At The Age Of 59

We have some sad news as tonight we have learned that Del Wilkes, known to wrestling fans as his masked all-American character The Patriot has passed away at the age of 59 years old.  The news of his passing was shared on Wilkes's personal website and on WWE.com, while The Post and Courier of Wilkes's home state of South Carolina has a full story about his passing and says he died as a result of a "massive heart attack".

"The Patriot" Del Wilkes Has Passed Away At The Age Of 59
"The Patriot" Del Wilkes has passed away today, courtesy of WWE.

Before getting into the wrestling business, Del Wilkes was already an accomplished athlete.  As a football player at the University of South Carolina, he was one of only four consensus All-American football players in the school's history.  He tried to break into the NFL, but after that never came to fruition, he gave professional wrestling a go in 1988 and made a nine-year career out of it, wrestling as both The Patriot and The Trooper in the WWF, WCW, AWA, GWF, and All-Japan Pro Wrestling.

Throughout his career, Wilkes won the WCW Tag Team Championship twice as a member of "Stars and Stripes" with Buff Bagwell, the AJPW All Asia Tag Team Championship with The Eagle, the AWA World Tag Team Championship with D.J. Peterson, and in GFW he won the Television Championship and the North American Heavyweight Championship twice.

Del Wilkes is probably most well-known for his run in the WWF during the summer of 1997, where he led the charge in defending America with "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin against Bret "The Hit Man" Hart and The Hart Foundation in their pro-Canada/anti-America heel run.  As The Patriot, Wilkes used the gimmick to feud with Hart and even headline the pay-per-view event, Ground Zero: In Your House, where he challenged "The Excellence of Execution" for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

Also of note in his WWF run in 1997 is The Patriot originally had the theme music that would become iconic for Kurt Angle two years later.

Del Wilkes suffered a torn triceps in November of 1997 and that would ultimately end his wrestling career a short time after.  After leaving wrestling, Wilkes worked as a car salesman in Columbia, SC until his death today.

Many in the wrestling industry have tweeted about his passing today:

We send our thoughts and condolences to the family of Del Wilkes.

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Ryan FassettAbout Ryan Fassett

As a lifelong fan of movies, comics, wrestling, and collectibles, Ryan is excited to share his thoughts on all of it with you. He is also an active filmmaker and published comic book writer, along with being a connoisseur of soda.
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