WWE star The Patriot dies aged 59 as ‘devastated’ pal pays tribute to legend

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Tributes are flooding in after former WWE star Del Wilkes aka 'The Patriot' has died aged 59.

Pal Allen Wright Adkins made the shock announcement on social media on Thursday night.

He wrote on Facebook: "At the request of his family, it's with a devastated heart that I let you know Heaven gained one of the most special men I've ever had the honor to know today.

"Del Wilkes, I've loved you for 40 years and always will. Rest in peace, my dear friend…you'll be missed more than you could ever know."

Wilkes made his debut in wrestling back in 1988, according to Fightful.

He was a key part of putting promotions WCW, AWA and AJPW on the map.

He joined the WWE in 1997 as 'The Patriot' before his famous feud with Bret Hart and the Hart Foundation stable.

The feud revolved around Hart – with his 'anti-American' foundation – and the Patriot, who was a man who stood up for the US. He wore a mask with the American stars and striped and carried the American flag.

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Patriot was scheduled to team with Vader, Marc Mero, and Goldust as part of Team USA the same year in the Survivor Series, but unfortunately suffered a torn tricep weeks before.

He was then replaced by Steve Blackman and released from the World Wrestling Federation in 1998.

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However, he became a fan favourite and spectators loved seeing him wherever he went.

Wilkes last wrestled in October 1997 on Shotgun Saturday Night.

The star was a former two-time WCW World Tag Team Champion, as well as a former AWA World Tag Team Champion.

Fans have been left devastated by the news and tributes have poured in from the wrestling community.

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One fan wrote: "Noooooooo, RIP Del Wilkes. I saw he was still working the independents until recently."

A second penned: "Sad to read. He had a belter with Bret Hart at Ground Zero."

Another said: "His feud with Bret Hart was great. R.I.P."

After wrestling, he had worked as a car salesman in Columbia, South Carolina for 16 years.

Wilkes also hosted the 'Unmasking the Truth' podcast on the WWAB Podcast Network.

Andy McDaniel, who hosted the podcast with the star, called Wilkes his friend and an 'inspiration'.

McDaniel told The Post & Courier: "Del Wilkes would become a name that those in college football knew quite well.

"He would make his name familiar in the world of pro wrestling as well. However, regardless of the accolades or fame he may have achieved, to me, he was best known as a friend.

"Del overcame his struggles in this life and became an inspiration to many. Our loss is Heaven’s gain."

It's not yet clear what caused the wrestling legend's death.

Wilkes leaves behind a wife of 40+ years, Cathy.

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