Note: this interview was scheduled for Independence Day before the untimely news of Del Wilkes' passing, and left it unedited following that
The Patriot's WWF run was just a few months long, but is still remembered in the midst of an unreal Canada vs. USA storyline.
Before he even got there, The Patriot knew his career wouldn't last long. A conversation with Bret "The Hitman" Hart early on accelerated that, as he told Fightful.
"Well, I knew eventually it was gonna come to an end. I didn’t know how long it would last. Bret [Hart] stooged me off. I knew I was gonna be married up with Bret with this angle we were doing and I just told him. I said 'There’s a couple of things I probably am not gonna be able to do, Bret, in the ring.' Of course, the next thing I know, I’m talking to Vince [McMahon] and Vince wants to know why I’m limited and why I think I can’t do this and that. But, I knew that I was. But, I was going to go as long as I could, and I did. As long as I could physically perform, but man, I ripped my tricep up. I couldn’t even work out any more. I couldn’t do any type of bench pressing, [climb press], overhead press. So, my body was also starting to change a bit. I wasn’t as big and thick and bulky as I once was just because I was limited in I could do in a weight room, in a ring. It just affected me all around," The Patriot, real name Del Wilkes, said in an exclusive interview.
The Patriot's impression was immediate on WWF fans, as he pinned the rarely beaten Hart in just his second televised match with the company. Wilkes said that he wondered if there would be any issue with Hart doing the honors.
"I thought about that when I was told about what was going to happen that night at TV," Wilkes admitted. "I was told the week before what was going to happen with Bret and I in Pittsburgh. I made sure to go over and talk to Bret, “Listen, we’re both professionals here. Let’s talk about this.” He was good with it. He was perfectly fine with it. Bret was a pro, he was a pro’s pro. He was good with it. Working with him was very familiar to me even though I’d never worked with him before. But, Bret worked snug. Which, I was accustomed to in All Japan. It wasn’t stiff, but it was snug. He wanted to look believable. He was very methodic. I liked the way he worked. We just meshed well together. We got along well together. We had a lot of long conversations in locker rooms and over the telephone about what we were going to try to do with this thing and where we were going to try to take it, and trying to set up different matches and things like that. He was great to work with."
The Patriot would be done with WWE just three months later following mounting injuries.
You can see our full interview with "The Patriot" Del Wilkes above. Wilkes passed away at the age of 59 last week. We send our condolences to his friends, family and fans.