Class of 2008









Member of  the Hall of Heroes Class of 2008


Inducting Thunderbolt Patterson into the Class of 2008


Member of the Hall of Heroes Class of 2007

Then the to-that-moment-placid Patterson took the mic and demonstrated to anyone who didn't know exactly why he was called Thunderbolt. Modeling after the great preachers and prophets of the '60s and '70s, and showing why some of the best promo men in the sport's history stole as much as they could from him, T-Bolt tore the house down with a five minute you-better-call-somebody-I'm-so-full tour-de-force promo-sermon that was the last word on while-the-work-in-the-ring-may-be-generations-better-script-THAT. I had my mouth open in awe for about four of those five minutes.

- Bruce Mitchell

Excerpt from a PWTorch VIP Exclusive


Sometimes, you don't even have to close your eyes to imagine that you are living in a world of 25 years ago. You just have to listen. Thunderbolt Patterson, still displaying the shuck-n-jive speak that made him one of the biggest gate attractions of the 1960s and 1970s: "I love all of ya; the boys that done me wrong and the boys that done me right ... Often imitated, but never duplicated ... You better call somebody!"

- Steve Johnson

Excerpt from "Legends Abound at Charlotte Fanfest"

Canoe SLAM! Wrestling


Thunderbolt Patterson is involved in wrestling work these days, but for a much higher order of promoter. An ordained minister, the 67-year-old Patterson is working with Tony Evans, a pastor and founder of the Youth Dynamics ministry in Georgia, to promote Kingdom Championship Wrestling. The goal is to incorporate family-oriented pro wrestling as a springboard to spiritual causes, with free shows and motivational speaking that promotes church and community. “So Pastor T and I, we just try to clean up wrestling a little bit,” Patterson explained. “When I say clean up, I mean all the vulgar stuff, hitting below the belt and cussing, and misconduct dealing with ladies. We’re just trying to clean it up a little bit.” According to Evans, Patterson is a perfect fit for his ministry, since he’s a white minister tending mostly to disadvantaged and at-risk black youths. “These children needed a black role model and I couldn’t think of anybody better than Thunderbolt. I tracked him down, asked him to come and be a part, and he’s been a part of it ever since,” Evans said.

With his colorful style and often controversial full-bore approach, Claude Patterson was one of wrestling’s top gate attractions during a career that stretched from the 1960s to the 1990s. After growing up in Iowa, he got involved in wrestling in Kansas City, and then headed to Texas and California, where he won the promotion’s version of the World tag team title with Alberto Torres. “He was a pretty good wrestler, and would show off a lot of wrestling moves. He knew how to wrestle,” said veteran star Jose Lothario, the trainer of a young Shawn Michaels. “He always treated me really good. To me, he never thought he was better than me or anybody else. He was a very, very nice man.” Always ready to roughhouse, Patterson had a boxing match in Raleigh, N.C., one night against Gary Hart. Citing lingering racism, Hart recalled that some wrestlers had a problem with whites wrestling blacks at the time. “I was more than happy to do it,” Hart said. “We sold the building out.” And Lanny Poffo remembered how Patterson was willing to take an up-and-comer under his wing. “When I got to Atlanta, Thunderbolt Patterson gave me a lot of advice on interviews, and a lot about my individuality and being myself,” Poffo said. “Going in a car with him was an education because he was the biggest star at [Georgia-based] Gunkel Enterprises.” Among his championship claims were the NWA National tag team title with Ole Anderson, the NWA Mid-Atlantic tag team title with Jerry Brisco, and Brass Knucks titles in Florida and Amarillo, Texas.

What stood out about Patterson, then and now, was the ability to move masses with his oratory. It’s that speech-making ability, straight from the heart, that had a dramatic impact on an entire generation of wrestlers. As Brickhouse Brown put it, “The guy that used to influence my promos was T-Bolt Patterson. You know the time I heard T-Bolt Patterson preach like he was talking in church I say, ‘Now yeah, that’s the way to do interviews.’ ” Hart, who managed Rhodes in Florida, acknowledged that his charge lifted his soulful shuck-and-jive mannerisms directly from Patterson.

Patterson has long been a fighter against racism and an activist on touchy issues such as unionization, which did him little good with what he describes as the tightly knit wrestling establishment. He’s not “bitter,” he emphasized; just puzzled by how a business that banked on star power blackballed one of its brightest lights. “I just thank God that Tony called me because all these years, all the so-called wrestling friends or whatever – the promoters or bookers or owners or whatever – had no interest in myself,” said Patterson. “I thank God that I found Jesus Christ … here we are in 2008, God has kept me all the way.”

- Steve Johnson


(L) Thunderbolt brought down the house in his acceptance speech on the floor of the banquet. (Photo by David Layne); (R) Thunderbolt thanks Ole for his grand induction speech with a big kiss! (Photo by Peggy Lathan)

Photos by Blake Arledge, David Layne, Peggy Lathan, and Steven Johnson (Slam! Wrestling)

The image used for the 2008 NWA Legends Fanfest t-shirt and VIP pass features a Bill Janosik photo of Thunderbolt Patterson doing battle with the Anderson Brothers in the Richmond Arena in Richmond VA.

Click here for details on the NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest

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