Del Wilkes, better known to fans as ‘The Patriot’, and ‘The Trooper’ has passed away at the age of 59.
The sad news was shared on Facebook by Allen Wright Adkins, saying:
“At the request of his family, it’s with a devasted heart that I let you know Heaven gained one of the most special men I’ve ever had the honor to know today. Del Wilkes, I’ve loved you for 40 years and always will. Rest in peace, my dear friend…you’ll be missed more than you could ever know.”
The larger-than-life talent was known to fans around the world due to an impressive run during the 1990s. Debuting in 1988, Del Wilkes wrestled for the American Wrestling Association, Global Wrestling Federation, the World Wrestling Federation, All Japan Pro Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling.
Immortalised in the history books of many promotions, Wilkes was one half of the final AWA World Tag Team Champions with D.J. Peterson. Despite his singles success, tag-team wrestling was where the patriotic hero earned most of his gold. Outside of his AWA success, ‘The Patriot’ also won All Japan’s All Asia Tag Team Championship on one occasion with ‘The Eagle’ (Jackie Fulton). As part of Stars and Stripes, Wilkes also won the WCW World Tag Team Championship twice with partner Marcus Bagwell.
Across his two stints in AJPW, Del Wilkes – as ‘The Patriot’ – teamed with the likes of Kenta Kobashi and Johnny Ace, entering various iterations of the World’s Strongest Tag Determination League. He achieved a 3rd place finish in the 1996 as he teamed with Kobashi, pinning the legendary Toshiaki Kawada as his team fell just short of a tournament victory.
Many fans will remember him for his 1997-98 run in the WWF. Entering the company as ‘The Patriot’, he immediately entered into a feud with Bret Hart, who had recently started the anti-American incarnation of The Hart Foundation. Despite his time in the company tragically being cut short by a torn triceps, ‘The Patriot’ made a strong impression.
After picking up victories against the likes of Bret Hart and The British Bulldog, Wilkes earned a WWF Championship match against Hart at Ground Zero: In Your House. Though his challenge was an almost 20-minute affair, ‘The Patriot’ ultimately submitted to The Sharpshooter. Prior to his ultimately career-ending injury, ‘The Patriot’ was originally scheduled to take part in the Team Canada vs. Team USA Survivor Series match of 1997.
Inside The Ropes extends its heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Del Wilkes.