Del Wilkes, better known to wrestling fans as The Patriot, passed away yesterday at the age of 59. Wilkes suffered a heart attack which was the cause of death.
The South Carolina native was trained by Verne Gagne and The Fabulous Moolah and made his pro wrestling debut in 1988 with the AWA. It was in 1991 when he moved to Global Wrestling Federation that he changed his name to The Patriot, a name he would later use again in a WWE run.
Between 1992 and 1994 he wrestled for All Japan Pro Wrestling before heading to WCW for a year in 1994 where he teamed up with Marcus Bagwell to form the Stars and Stripes tag team. In 1997 he landed in WWE and used the theme song that later became famous as Kurt Angle’s theme.
Wilkes feuded with Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation, even receiving a WWE title shot at an In Your House pay-per-view. His run in WWE did not last long and in November of that year he had his final match and was released in the beginning of 1998.
Following his retirement from professional wrestling, he worked as a car salesman for Dick Smith Nissan in Columbia, South Carolina. His personal life took a downward spiral for a bit after he admitted using steroids and cocaine throughout his career, even as a football player, and in 2002 he was sentenced to prison for forging a prescription, spending nine months locked up.
During his career, Wilkes won titles in AJPW, AWA, GFW, and WCW, but never won a title in WWE.