The Pancakes and Powerslams show had its Three-Year Anniversary Show on Tuesday and had the pleasure of having "The Patriot" Del Wilkes as the guest host. In this extensive interview, he had much to share about his career, as well as his upcoming DVD release, titled Behind The Mask: The Story of Del "The Patriot" Wilkes.
Here are some highlights of the exclusive interview:
Chris Featherstone: What made you choose the pro wrestling route?
Del Wilkes: I grew up a big wrestling fan. The Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday nights and watched pro wrestling. Jack and Jerry Brisco...guys like that. I knew that one day, whenever football ended, that I was going to pursue a career in pro wrestling. And I had a very brief NFL career in 1985 and '86. The Falcons released me prior to the start of the '86 season.
So I came back home to Columbia, and late '86 or either early '87, I decided that I would go through a wrestling school. That at the time existed here in Columbia, and it was owned and operated by the Fabulous Moolah, Lillian Ellison. So that's how my career started. Once football was over I transitioned into pro wrestling.
CF: What wrestlers did you want to emulate?
Wilkes: Growing up as a kid, I was a Jack Brisco mark. I mean, Jack Brisco was it, brother. As much as I loved football, Jack Brisco was the baddest thing on two wheels. I grew up in South Carolina, so all I got to see was Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling...and occasionally Florida Championship wrestling.
CF: On who gave him his opportunity in the AWA
Wilkes: Wahoo [McDaniel] was working for Verne Gagne at the time in the AWA, and Wahoo had a home in Charlotte and would spend the holidays in Charlotte around Christmas. Moolah was running a show in Columbia, so she had Wahoo on the show and that's when I met Wahoo.
That's who probably more than anybody else—at least at that particular time—had an influence on me was Wahoo. After I met Wahoo, I literally went out on the road with him for the next couple of years and he got me hired up in the AWA.
CF: How did the "Trooper" gimmick emerge?
Wilkes: Moolah had a few guys she would occasionally send up, and they would work Vince's TV just in an enhancement match. And one of the guys the she had was actually a local deputy sheriff in one of the counties right outside of Columbia.
When I was in Minneapolis and had been there for a few months working for Verne and, of course, Wahoo worked in the office there as well; he sent me a tape (the guy who worked as a super enforcer) and asked me if I could pass it on to Wahoo, and I did. A few weeks later Wahoo came back to me and said, "Look, we have no interest in the guy, be we do like the gimmick."
So Wahoo, and Greg Gagne and Verne Gagne sat down with me and explained to me this character called The Trooper and what they saw it being, and the way they wanted it to look and the way they wanted it to present itself to the people. That was their idea; I give them credit for it, and as a young, upcoming wrestler, this was really my first big break. It was going to be my first time working on nationwide TV, so I was all in.
CF: How in the world did The Trooper become The Patriot?
Wilkes: I got a call, and [Joe Pedicino and Bill Eadie] said they were going to FedEx me a plane ticket to fly to Dallas, Texas, for the first GWF TV taping; they wanted me part of the crew. Now, all they told me was to bring my gear, and I thought that meant I was going to work as either Del Wilkes or The Trooper.
I figured I was going to be The Trooper, because that's what I had just been doing a few months before for the AWA on ESPN. And literally, just a few hours before we were to leave the hotel and go to the Sportatorium, Bill Eadie, Joe Pedicino called me [into Joe's room] and said, "we want to talk to you, got an idea." I had no clue what to expect, but I went. I was called, so I went.
Got in and sat down with them, and they said "we've got an idea for a character that we think could really, really, really take off." This was back in '90 or '91 when Iraq had gone into Kuwait and liberated Kuwait. And we had gone in with our military to liberate Kuwait.
Obviously, when something like that happens, patriotism is at a fever pitch, and they said because of what's going on politically in the country, because of what's going on militarily in the country over in the Middle East, with us going into Kuwait and liberating Kuwait...patriotism is pretty high right now. We've got an idea for a character. And they literally had a costume box right there in Bill's hotel room.
They opened it up and pulled out a red, white and blue pair of tights and a red, white and blue set of trunks to go over that; and they pulled out a red, white and blue mask, and they had a red, white and blue vest with it. They said it's a character called The Patriot, and we think you're the guy for it, and we really think it'll be something the people will really get behind. And I said, I'm in.
CF: Feeling left out during his WCW run
Wilkes: It was a lot of great tag teams in the company at the time, but it was a very cliquish company. It seemed like they started pushing the established [WWE] stars who have been working for Vince [McMahon] for a number of years. So they went and raided his talent and gave everyone guaranteed contracts, and it seemed like the rest of us become sort of an afterthought.
He also gives great stories about the environment during his WCW run, working with Bret Hart, what caused his release from the WWE, overcoming drug addiction, and much more. You can listen to the full interview here.
Chris Featherstone is the host of the Pancakes and Powerslams show, as well as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, PWMania.com, and WeAreWrestling.net. Follow Crave Wrestling on Twitter @cravewrestling, as well as like the Crave Wrestling Facebook page for the latest news and updates.