MEDIA: The battles of Thunderbolt Patterson (

Posted on 8/08/119 by Mike Informer

The Battles of Thunderbolt Patterson

10:57 pm
August 7, 2019

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) A groundbreaking career in
professional wrestling started right in Waterloo, Iowa.
Thunderbolt Pattersons career went through everything from
fighting racial discrimination to advocating for wrestling
working conditions.

Claude Thunderbolt Patterson was actually kicked out of
school and never earned a high school diploma. Patterson
didnt let lack of education get in his way, he went on to
pursue his passion of wrestling.

The first job Patterson every took in the work force was
with John Deere. His passion for boxing eventually got him
recognized by a Midwest wrestling promoter, Gus Karras.
Karras welcomed Patterson to the world of wrestling in
Kansas City.

Gus Karras and Bob Geigel, those two individuals, are jam
up individuals, says Patterson.

After Pattersons first time in Kansas City he knew it was
what he wanted to do. He quit John Deere and began his
wrestling journey, on his way to becoming Thunderbolt

Patterson traveled all over the U.S. for wrestling. He was
able to play the villain or the hero in each match. He says
the crowd-filled arenas and management had a special knack
for recognizing his ability.

You have to ask most people there was electricity in the
seats, all of them, says Patterson. There was some
promoters who were just dogs.

After years in the business, Patterson noticed injustice in
the wrestling community from racism to poor working
conditions. He spoke up trying to unionize the sport, and
eventually was blackballed because of it.

Do I not have a privilege to think for myself and say what
I think? says Patterson. But if I say something about
somebody, thats what we call prejudice and racism.

During the time when Thunderbolt wrestled there were no
contracts or benefits. Fighting in the ring was half the
battle, the other half, the push to get paid.

Just pay me fair, thats all I ask, says Patterson.
Thats all I ever asked, to be fair with me.

Patterson said when he finally was allowed to return to the
ring it was all strictly business.

Hush mouthed, says Patterson. I was there for a purpose,
nobody pretended to be, they didnt pretend to be my friends
or nothing, nobody called me for nothing.

In the early 90s Thunderbolt realized it was time to
retire. His dedication to the sport and honor to other
wrestlers 25 years ago brought him back to his hometown for
a weekend-long induction into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz
Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

He was born and raised here, says Paul Farber. He has
accomplished more things than people have done in their

Paul Farber is the Pro Wrestling Historian at the George
Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was
a reason behind giving Thunderbolt the Lou Thesz Award, an
award based on character of the wrestler.

A lot of those people who receive that for their
integrity, says Farber. Respect for others, giving of
themselves to others these are all different factors because
thats what Lou Thesz was all about.

Recognition came in from all over including the world renown
wrestler Sergeant Slaughter. One tribute that hit home was
from Gerry Brisco, a former tag team partner with

This was Dusty Rhodes the American dream, says Brisco.
Before Dusty Rhodes the American dream began.

Thunderbolt hasnt been back to Waterloo since 2004, and his
homecoming was his most iconic moment in his career. He only
wrestled once in his home state of Iowa during his career.

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