Note: this interview was scheduled for Independence Day before the untimely news of Del Wilkes' passing, and left it unedited following that
The Patriot is still wrestling on the indies, but that's not the Patriot you saw in WCW, AJPW or WWF -- though you did see the guy behind the mask in WWF?
Make sense? Probably not.
For about two decades, Tom Brandi, formerly known as Salvatore Sincere in WWF, has been portraying "The Patriot." According to Del Wilkes, who originated the gimmick and famously portrayed it, he never gave his blessing or permission for this to happen, as Brandi claims.
"It’s a lie. I mean, there’s not one ounce of truth to that," Wilkes told Fightful. "You know the last time I saw Tom Brandi? I didn’t know this. I went back, and thank God for YouTube, when I was first in the WWE I won some big battle royal that was on one of the Saturday night shows. I didn’t even realize it until a couple of years ago when I was watching this, it was the first time I’d watched it since it had happened that night. Tom was in the ring with me. I didn’t realize that. I thought the last time I saw Tom was in Japan when he came over for one tour with All Japan. So, I’ve not talked to Tom in decades. He’s not approached me about anything. So, yeah, that’s a lie."
There have been alterations to gimmicks in the past that ended up working out -- some say that Demolition was a mock of the Road Warriors, but they didn't outright take the name, intellectual property and imagery of the group.
"If wanted to use some variation of that character, okay. Go ahead and do it. But, just to call yourself the Patriot and here’s the extra thing that really, really just curled my stomach up in knots and wanted to knock his teeth down his throat, is I’ve had people reach out to me, fans, who have gotten autographs signed by him, and they’ve showed me pictures of it. Or my action figure. This guy never had an action figure. I had a couple of ‘em. They’ve asked him, “Are you Del Wilkes?” and with the mask on he replies, “Yes, I am. I’m the guy that worked in the WWF.” So, yeah he’s scum. He’s a guy that never had a career trying to pretend to be a guy that did have a good career," Wilkes stated.
Wilkes hasn't wrestled since leaving WWF in 1997, but he still makes the occasional appearance and signing. He said that Brandi's portrayal of his established character has led to mass confusion for promoters and fans alike.
"As a matter of fact, just this past weekend, I was in New York City. I had two appearances there," Wilkes noted. "The second one, I had a guy come up to me and it was me, Val Venis, and then Greg Valentine and Kevin Sullivan. The four of us were there. So, this guy, the promoter, says, “Do you want a picture with the Patriot?” ‘Cause the guy was trying to decide who he wanted to have his picture with. He said, “No, man, I already got one. I got a picture with you last year in Maryland.” I said, “No, you didn’t, dude. You haven’t got a picture with me.” He said, “Well, the guy said he was the Patriot.” So, yeah, I’ve had a lot of people, “Oh, yeah, I’ve gotten your picture, your autographs, you signed the action figure for me when I was in so-and-so.” I can tell just by the timeline and the locations they give me that I wasn’t there at that event and it wasn’t me. So, yeah, there’s been a lot of confusion with that from promoters and fans."
You can see our full interview with "The Patriot" Del Wilkes above. Wilkes passed away this past week at the age of 59.