The Patriot Death – Heart Attack
1961-2021 (Age 59)
Del Wilkes, best known to wrestling fans as “The Patriot” has died after suffering a heart attack. He was 59.
Growing up in South Carolina, Wilkes would go on to play college football for the South Carolina Gamecocks. Wilkes became one of only four consensus All-American football players in SCU history, setting various records along the way.
By the late 80s, Wilkes had stepped away from the gridiron and turned to the squared circle.
Del Wilkes’ Wrestling Career
Del Wilkes’ wrestling career began in 1988 with the AWA, but it wasn’t until his early 90s run with the Global Wrestling Federation that he was first given “The Patriot” moniker.
Perhaps his most recognized role was with the WWE, then WWF, in 1997. Wilkes had a short run with the company during the wrestling boom of the late 90s, feuding with The Hart Foundation in the Summer and early Fall of 1997.
Despite Wilkes short run with the WWE, it’s notable that he was placed in high profile matches.
Sadly, a torn triceps injury in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series ’97 put Wilkes out of action. He was released by the company in early 1998, barely 6 months passing since his debut.
According to a 2004 article from USA Today, Wilkes said his bosses gave him an ultimatum: “perform with a torn arm muscle or be replaced.” WWE denied Wilkes’ claim, stating that “chronic injuries” were the reason his contract was not renewed.
Drug Use and Arrests
Many wrestlers have been candid over the years about rampant drug use in professional wrestling, especially in the 80s and 90s.
In 2004, Wilkes candidly told USA Today that at his lowest point he had developed a 150 pill-per-day habit. Wilkes was using cocaine in the morning as a pick me up. He was taking 30 bodybuilding tablets, pain pills and muscle relaxants to get through the day, followed by sleeping pills at night.
Wilkes went on to talk about how he would befriend doctors while traveling on the road in order to get prescriptions, or would simply write his own prescriptions. This would eventually catch up to him. Wilkes was arrested a total of 20 times in South Carolina from 1997 to 2002 on charges of using fake prescriptions.
Del Wilkes would go on to say that serving a nine-year prison sentence is what ultimately helped him kick the bad habits.
Del Wilkes Death
Del Wilkes, known to wrestling fans as “The Patriot” died on July 1st, 2021 after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 59.
Wilkes was living in South Carolina at the time of his death. He had worked as a car salesman in Columbia since 2004.
Our condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Wilkes.