Wrestling News

The Patriot Shoots On His Feud With Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart

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Del ‘The Patriot’ Wilkes has lifted the mask on his 1997 feud with Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and what it was like working with ‘The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be.’

Following a short stint in the World Wrestling Federation between 1991-1992 where he was used as The Trooper in Dark Matches and live events, as well as a brief stint in World Championship Wrestling in the mid-nineties where he teamed with Marcus Alexander Bagwell under the name Stars and Stripes, The Patriot found his way back home in 1997.

Arriving back in the WWF in summer of 1997, The Patriot was immediately pushed into the main event against WWF Champion Bret Hart and used as the foil for the anti-American star who was bashing the country with every promo.

Standing up for his homeland, The Patriot challenged Hart and shocked the world when he pinned the champion in a non-title bout on the July 28. This afforded the masked powerhouse a shot at the coveted prize which he received at Ground Zero: In Your House just over one month later.

Though he was unsuccessful and forced to submit to the legendary Sharpshooter, Wilkes received a third crack at ‘The Hitman’ at Badd Blood: In Your House in a tag team match. Again the result was the same. The Patriot and Vader lost to Bret Hart and The British Bulldog.

Now, the man behind the mask has sat down with Dr. Chris Featherstone on Sportskeeda’s UnSKripted to discuss his time in the main event, working with Bret Hart and if the company ever seriously considered him for WWF Champion.

Quizzed about working with ‘The Excellence of Execution’ on pay-per-view, Wilkes had nothing but praise for arguably the greatest technician this industry will ever see:

“It was great. You know, when I got there initially, that wasn’t the plan for that to happen. But you know, Bret had made that heel turn and was putting the boots to everything America and along comes a guy that’s basically draped himself in the flag. And Vince saw the kind of response I was getting night after night, and then he came to me with the idea of working with Bret. And it was really like [a] hand in [a] glove. It was a great fit.

Bret worked a style that I was really accustomed to. It was sort of that All Japan style, you know, I worked for [Giant] Baba in All Japan. It was a rather snug style, a tight style which I was perfectly fine with, perfectly comfortable with, and that was the way Bret worked. And we worked well together.”

As he stated, The Patriot was a known and respected name in All Japan Pro Wrestling, capturing the All Asia Tag Team Championship with The Eagle on June 2, 1993, when they rolled over Tsuyoshi Kikuchi and Kenta Kobashi in Koyama, Japan.

However, Wilkes never managed to attain gold in the WWF and as he omitted, even though there were talks of him winning the WWF Championship from Hart at Ground Zero, he was damaged goods by the time he returned:

“There had been conversations about that, but unfortunately when I got to the WWF, as it was called back then, I was already damaged goods. When I signed a three-year deal with them earlier in ’97, I knew I was on borrowed time. I was hoping and praying I could make it through the three years, but I had sustained a couple of injuries in All Japan. It was, like I mentioned, a very physical style of work that literally ended my career. And I had a conference call one day with Vince and JR and my orthopedic surgeon at the time, and it was just determined that I couldn’t continue, and the injuries had taken a toll on me. My body had failed me and I was unable to continue going.”

Following his program with ‘The Pink and Black Attack’, The Patriot faded into obscurity and was forced to settle for a minor role in the company. Scheduled to be a part of Team USA at the 1997 Survivor Series against Team Canada, the star suffered a torn triceps weeks prior and was removed from the bout.

In 1998, while still recovering from his injury, The Patriot was released from the WWF and retired from professional altogether.

The Patriot gimmick is kept alive on the indies to this very day by Tom Brandi – formerly WWF’s Salvatore Sincere – though it is said he does so without the permission of Wilkes.

Credit for the interview: UnSKripted

h/t for the transcription: WrestleZone