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Ken Patera (born November 6, 1943 in Portland, Oregonmarker) is a former professional wrestler and Olympic weightlifter.

Weightlifting career

Patera is a former Olympic weightlifter and American powerlifter. He won several medals at the Pan American Games (including gold), and finished second in the 1971 World Weightlifting Championships. He was the first American to clean and jerk 500(503 1/2) lbs (227 kg), which he accomplished at the 1972 Senior Nationals in Detroit. He is also the only American to clean and press 500 lbs (227 kg), and he was arguably the last American to excel at weightlifting on an international level. He was a serious competitor to the Soviet legend Vasily Alexeev at the 1972 Summer Olympics, but he failed to total and was not among the medal recipients. After the press (a lift in which Patera was disproportionately talented) was eliminated from competition, Patera retired from weightlifting.

Patera's career best lifts were all achieved in a meet in San Franciscomarker on July 23, 1972 (Wilhelm, 1994):
  • Snatch - 387½ pounds (175.7 kg)
  • Clean and press - 505½ pounds (229.25 kg)
  • Clean and jerk - 505½ pounds (229.25 kg)


When measured for the 1972 Olympics, he weighed 340 pounds at a height of 6'1¾" (Wilhelm, 1994). Patera also competed in the first World's Strongest Man contest in 1977, finishing third behind Bruce Wilhelm and Bob Young. Patera also performed feats of strength during his wrestling career. On an episode of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, in 1978, Patera and Tony Atlas performed various feats of strength, including driving nails through boards, blowing up a hot water bottle until it popped, bending spikes wrapped in a towel and bending bars over their necks.

Professional wrestling career

Patera became a "strongman" in professional wrestling in 1973, following his weightlifting career. After a stint in the AWA, his first major feud was in the Mid-Atlantic territory against then-United States Heavyweight Champion Johnny Valentine, with Patera as the babyface.

The Patera-Valentine house show runs were set up by a TV angle in which Valentine would draw a name out of a fishbowl every week, and the next week wrestle the man whose name he drew. For the first few weeks, Valentine drew the names of one jobber after another, all the time voicing his opposition to wrestling Patera. Finally, Valentine drew a name - and it was Patera's. Patera then appeared on screen and revealed that he had replaced every slip of paper with one that said "Ken Patera".

The next week the two men met in a 10-minute time limit match on TV, with Patera putting Valentine under with a headlock / chinlock when the bell rang to signify the time limit had expired. Officially, the match ended in a draw, but with Patera on the verge of defeating Valentine (who had been portrayed as nearly unbeatable) on television, the two were matched in a series of house show main events, with Valentine always coming out on top and retaining the U.S. championship.

He wrestled mainly as a heel for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), and American Wrestling Association (AWA) during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1976, he challenged Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship. This was a huge draw around the northeastern part of the United States and at Madison Square Gardenmarker, and one of Sammartino's last challenges before his seven year reign as champion ended, when he lost the title to Superstar Billy Graham. When Bob Backlund later won the title, Patera also unsuccessfully challenged him.

At the height of his career, in 1980, he simultaneously held the WWF's Intercontinental Championship, and the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship, two very prestigious titles of that era. He was one of the most hated heels in wrestling (winning Pro Wrestling Illustrated's "Most Hated Wrestler" award in 1977, and often used his Swinging Full Nelson to "injure" babyface opponents during matches (most notably Billy White Wolf in August 1977).

Patera returned to the Mid-Atlantic territory as a heel, defeating area legend Chief Wahoo McDaniel for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship in April 1978. Patera would hold that title, off and on, for over a year, losing it to, and regaining it from Tony Atlas. Patera then lost the title to fellow AWA alumni Jim Brunzell, in Richmond, Virginia.

Patera was an integral part of The Heenan Family in the AWA (1982–1983), and later in the WWF (1984–1985). While in the AWA, he feuded with Hulk Hogan, Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell. During Heenan's absence in 1983, caused by a back injury, Patera joined forces with manager Sheik Adnan El-Kaissie and formed a tag team with Jerry Blackwell known as The Sheiks; both men wore Arabian-style garments and feuded with the High Flyers (Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzell) over the AWA World Tag Team Championship, winning the belts in June 1983. Patera and Blackwell later lost the titles to Baron Von Raschke and The Crusher. In the WWF, Patera resumed his feud with Hogan, and also assisted Big John Studd in his feud with André the Giant, most notably helping Studd cut Andre's hair after attacking him 2-on-1.

On April 6, 1984, Patera and fellow AWA heel Masa Saito were denied service after hours at a McDonald's restaurant in Waukesha, Wisconsinmarker, prompting an angry Patera to throw a large rock through a window of the building (Patera claims that a former employee threw the rock but he received the blame). He and Saito assaulted the policemen sent to arrest them later at a hotel. Sixteen months later, at which point Patera was in the WWF, he was sentenced to two years in prison.

The WWF brought Patera back to the company in the spring of 1987, airing vignettes on WWF TV and releasing a Coliseum Video cassette entitled "The Ken Patera Story", which chronicled his career and his return. He was in top physical condition at this point, and his appearance had changed, as he wore natural brown hair, rather than his previous bleached blond look. To ensure he would be accepted as a babyface, he claimed that former manager Bobby Heenan had abandoned him and "sold him down the river" while he was in prison. Patera and Heenan held a debate to air their differences, which naturally turned into a physical confrontation between the two that culminated in Patera swinging Heenan with a belt around his neck, causing Heenan to appear on television with a neck brace for months. Patera then began feuding with the Heenan Family (at the time composed of Paul Orndorff, Harley Race, King Kong Bundy and Hercules). In his first match back at Madison Square Garden, the final match of the night, he defeated The Honky Tonk Man via submission with a bearhug, to a huge ovation. Some wrestling publications speculated that Patera would reunite with Heenan to face Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania IV. But his push was short-lived. Shortly after his return, Patera ruptured the biceps tendon in his right arm, which led him to miss some time and re-emerge afterward with a stiff and bulky full-length brace for protection. Within six months, Patera was being used to lose to and put over newer, younger talent and found himself floundering in a mid-card tag team with fellow Oregonian Billy Jack Haynes. In his final televised WWF matches in late 1988 (losses to Bad News Brown and "Outlaw" Ron Bass), commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Lord Alfred Hayes remarked on-air that Patera's skills were in decline and that he should consider retirement.

Patera returned to the AWA in early 1989 and unsuccesfully challenged the new AWA world champion Larry Zbyszko for the title. He then teamed with Brad Rheingans as "The Olympians." The team defeated Badd Company for the AWA World Tag Team Championship shortly thereafter, but their reign was brief. Fellow weightlifter-turned-wrestler Wayne Bloom challenged Patera to a "car-lifting challenge" in order to get a title shot for him and his partner, Mike Enos. When it was Patera's turn to lift, Enos and manager Johnny Valiant attacked and (kayfabe) injured Patera and Rheingans. This led to the AWA stripping Patera and Rheingans of the title. Rheingans left wrestling for several months in order to have a legitimate and unrelated knee operation. Patera continued to feud with Bloom and Enos until he left the AWA. Upon his return to the AWA in early 1990, Rheingans resumed the feud until the AWA's demise.

Patera went on to wrestle for Herb Abrams' UWF, as well as PWA and on independent cards primarily in the Minnesotamarker area well into the 1990s, sometimes even promoting his own events.

Personal life

Patera is the younger brother of Jack Patera, who coached the NFL's Seattle Seahawks from 1976 to 1982.

In wrestling





Championships and accomplishments

*AWA World Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Brad Rheingans (1) and Jerry Blackwell (1)


*Other honoree (1999)


*CWA International Heavyweight Championship (2 times)


*NWA Georgia Heavyweight Championship (1 time)


*NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
*NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with John Studd


*NWA American Heavyweight Championship (1 time)


*NWA Tri-State Brass Knuckles Championship (1 time)
*NWA United States Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Killer Karl Kox


*PWI Most Hated Wrestler of the Year (1977, 1981)
*PWI ranked him # 75 of the 100 best tag teams of the "PWI Years" – with Jerry Blackwell in 2003.


*SCW Southwest Brass Knuckles Championship (1 time)


*NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship (2 times)


*WWF Intercontinental Championship (1 time)


*Match of the Year award in 1980 – vs. Bob Backlund


References



External links


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