Photo credit: WWE.com
Former WWE Superstar Del Wilkes died at the age of 59, the company announced Thursday.
Wilkes’ most famous run came as The Patriot in the WWF in 1997. He wrestled for a number of promotions including the AWA and WCW prior to that success.
The Columbia, South Carolina, native is also one of four players in South Carolina Gamecocks history to be a consensus All-American in football, joining George Rogers, Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney.
Wilkes began his wrestling career in 1988. The Post and Courier‘s Mike Mooneyham wrote that Wilkes quickly built a following outside the United States, “where fans marked out for his sculpted physique and colorful mask.”
He eventually worked his way to WCW in 1994 and formed Stars and Stripes with Marcus Alexander Bagwell. Together, they won the tag team championship on two occasions, beating the tandem of Paul Orndorff and Paul Roma both times.
As Bret Hart became persona non grata in the United States throughout 1997, Wilkes became a natural foil due to his patriotic gimmick. He eventually challenged Hart for the WWF Championship at In Your House: Ground Zero in September 1997.
His last televised match was on an October 1997 taping of WWF’s Shotgun Saturday Night.