Thunderbolt Patterson
Birth nameClaude Patterson
Born (1941-07-08) July 8, 1941 (age 80)
Waterloo, Iowa[1]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)K.O. Patterson
Sweet Daddy Brown
Thunderbolt Patterson
Billed fromAtlanta, Georgia
Trained byPat O'Connor
Steve Kovacs

Claude Patterson (born July 8, 1941) is an American retired professional wrestler, ring name Thunderbolt Patterson. He began his career in 1964 and wrestled primarily in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. During the early 1970s, he was blacklisted by the National Wrestling Alliance for repeated appearances with independent promotions, complaints of institutional racism and attempts to form a wrestlers' labor union.

Professional wrestling career

Patterson had grown up in Iowa and worked for John Deere in Waterloo, Iowa when he broke into professional wrestling in the Kansas City area.[1] Promoter Gus Karras put Patterson in matches against Don Soto in 1964.[1] In 1965, Patterson moved to Texas and worked with promoter Dory Funk Sr.[1] The following year, he traveled to California, where he held the WWA Tag Team Championship with Alberto Torres.[1] He also continued to work in Texas, where he worked as a villainous character in Dallas until he was turned on by his partner Boris Malenko. Fritz Von Erich had a Russian chain match with Malenko for Patterson's contract which Malenko owned.[1]

In 1969, he worked for Big Time Wrestling in Michigan and Ohio.

In 1970, he feuded with Jose Lothario and held the Florida version of the NWA Brass Knuckles Championship.[1]

Patterson agreed to work for an outlaw promotion (that is, one outside of the NWA) run by Ann Gunkel, the widow of his old friend and Georgia promoter Ray Gunkel, in the 1970s.[1] He also spoke out against poor working conditions for wrestlers and sued for racial discrimination, and as a result, he was blacklisted from wrestling.[1] He had been complaining about racism from promoters for many years (he would later recall that only Dory Funk Sr. had backed him) and wanted to start a wrestlers' union, a dream he shared with former NFL player and wrestler Jim Wilson, himself blacklisted. It would be years, with Patterson working at the Los Angeles Times in the interim, before he would get another shot, when Dusty Rhodes took ill in Florida.

In 1976, he won the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship from Bruiser Brody.[1] In 1977, he scored a surprise pinfall win over The Sheik in Toronto for the U.S. title but lost three weeks later.

Patterson joined Ole Anderson as a tag team partner in the early 1980s and they briefly held the NWA National Tag Team Championship.[1] Ole's kayfabe nephew, a young Arn Anderson, came to the sport, and Ole, saying he was "tired of carrying guys like Patterson and Dusty Rhodes" broke up with Patterson, and joined Arn in what would be the foundation for the Four Horsemen which would include NWA Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard.

Patterson retired from the ring in 1993 (his last match was at Slamboree '93, where he teamed with Brad Armstrong to defeat Ivan Koloff and Baron von Raschke).[1] He would also mentor Ice Train, until retiring completely in 1994.

On July 27, 2019, Patterson was inducted the 2019 Class of the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in his hometown of Waterloo.

Patterson is regularly mentioned by commentators Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino on the Ring of Honor wrestling promotion's Ring of Honor Wrestling syndicated television show.

Personal life

In 1988, he was a labor organizer for Service Employees International Union in Atlanta.[1]

After retiring from professional wrestling, he began running a Christian camp for children.[1] Patterson is also an ordained minister.[1]

Championships and accomplishments


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Johnson, Steven (August 14, 2008). "Thunderbolt Patterson still 'on top'". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2010-05-17.
  2. ^ Johnson, Mike (May 21, 2019). "2019 Tragos/Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Class Announced". PWInsider. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  3. ^ Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2006). "(Dallas) Texas: NWA American Tag Team Title [Fritz Von Erich]". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. ISBN 978-0-9698161-5-7.
  4. ^ "N.W.A. American Tag Team Title". Retrieved January 19, 2020.