November 6, 1943 |
|Occupation||Olympic Weightlifting, Professional wrestling, Strongman|
|Height||6 ft 1.75 in (1.87 m)|
|Weight||330 lb (150 kg)|
|Competitor for United States|
|World Weightlifting Championships|
|Silver||1971 Lima||+110 kg|
|Pan American Games|
|Gold||1971 Cali||+110 kg|
|Competitor for United States|
|U.S. National Weightlifting Championships|
|Competitor for United States|
|World's Strongest Man|
|3rd||1977 World's Strongest Man|
Early athletic career
Ken Patera was genetically predisposed towards Olympic lifting from the start: he was strong and extraordinarily athletic. His brother Jack Patera played football for the Baltimore Colts and was the head coach for the Seattle Seahawks from 1976 until 1982. Ken played football at Cleveland High School in Portland, Oregon and wrestled weighing at 193 pounds. However, Track and Field was his first love and he ran the high hurdles and high jumped, but a serious ankle injury forced him to switch to the shot put and discus in high school. Ken grew to become one of the nation’s premier track and field weight throwers. Ken attended Brigham Young University on a scholarship and won a gold medal in the shot-put at the Pan American Games in 1967. After his disappointing 6th place finish in the shot-put at the 1968 Olympic trials, he turned his full and complete attention towards Olympic weightlifting.
Before becoming a professional wrestler, Patera was a highly decorated Olympic weightlifter. He won several medals at the 1971 Pan American Games (including gold in the weightlifting total), and finished second in the 1971 World Weightlifting Championships just behind the weightlifting legend Vasily Alekseyev. On national soil, Patera won 4 consecutive U.S. Weightlifting Championships in the super heavyweight class from 1969 to 1972. He was the first American to clean and jerk over 500 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 was the last American super heavyweight for years to excel at weightlifting on an international level. At the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, Patera was expected to be a serious competitor to the legendary Vasily Alexeev, but he failed to total and was not among the medal recipients. Vasily Alexeev even stated to the media that Patera was even stronger than him, illustrated by a 550 pound overhead push press (off the racks) that Patera had allegedly done in practice. Nevertheless when it came to competing, Alexeev was always the winner. After the clean and press (a lift in which Patera was disproportionately talented) was eliminated from competition, Patera retired from weightlifting.
- Clean and press - 505.5 lb (229.3 kg)
- Olympic 3-Lift Total - 1,397.5 lb (633.9 kg)
→ the highest 3-lift total ever made by an American
When measured for the 1972 Olympics, he weighed 321.4 lb (145.8 kg) at a height of 6 ft 1.75 in (1.8733 m).
Being a legitimate weightlifter and strongman, 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 Garden, and was one of Sammartino's last great challengers before losing the title to Superstar Billy Graham, which ended his second, shorter WWF title reign. 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 alumnus 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 both had attacked him.
On April 6, 1984, Patera and fellow AWA heel Masa Saito were denied service after hours at a McDonald's restaurant in Waukesha, Wisconsin, prompting an angry Patera to throw a 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. On the "Right After Wrestling" program on Sirius Satellite Radio Channel 98, Patera told hosts Arda Ocal and Jimmy Korderas that his natural hair color was blonde and he had decided to wrestle in his natural hair color later in his career. 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 defeated by 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 unsuccessfully 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.
Bret Hart has said that Ken Patera was possibly the most legitimately strongest wrestler he'd ever known.
Wrestlers of past and present have mentioned that current WWE superstar Mark Henry is very reminiscent of Patera, both being former Olympic power lifters and known for their immense strength. Early in Mark Henry's career, he portrayed an Olympian-type character similar to Patera's.
Championships and accomplishments
- Other honoree (1999)
- NWA Tri-State Brass Knuckles Championship (1 time)
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Tri-State version) (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.
- Universal Wrestling Association
- UWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Solomon, Brian (2006). WWE Legends. Pocket Books. pp. 209–213. ISBN 978-0-7434-9033-7.
- "U. S. Weightlifting Champions - Men (all weightclasses)". Hickok Sports.com. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
- "Olympic Weightlifting On the Web!". LiftTilyaDie.Com. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
- http://www.usatf.org/statistics/champions/OlympicTrials/HistoryOfTheOlympicTrials.pdf Olympic Trials P146
- "Pan American Games Weightlifting Medalists - Men (all weightclasses)". Hickok Sports.com. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
- http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/pa/ken-patera-1.html Sports Reference
- http://www.obsessedwithwrestling.com/profiles/k/ken-patera.php Obsessed with wrestling
- http://www.rfvideo.com/shootwithkenpatera.aspx rfvideo
- "Ken Patera talks about his natural hair color". SIRIUS Radio 98. The Score Satellite Radio. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
- "Finishing Moves List". Other Arena. Retrieved 2009-11-03.
- Royal Duncan & Gary Will (4th Edition 2000). Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.