He debuted in wrestling in 1965 and broke onto the national scene when he won the World Wrestling Association Tag Team Championship with Alberto Torres.
Patterson later won the Tag Team Championship and the Television Championship in the National Wrestling Alliance, which was the precursor to the extremely successful World Championship Wrestling promotion.
He also holds exclusive claim to being the first wrestler double-crossed by the famed alliance known as the Four Horsemen.
This past Saturday, the wrestler who held these major titles and numerous other honors played to a crowd of maybe 100 people beside a small ring in the parking lot of Franny’s Kitchen as commission of Kingdom Championship Wrestling.
As a guest of Gray Christian Fellowship, Patterson presented the wrestling promotion that he runs along with Tony Evans, Jones County resident and founder of the Middle Georgia ministry Youth Dynamics, to a group of local wrestling enthusiasts and churchgoers.
Patterson hopes to use the sport that brought him so much fame to bring others to Jesus Christ.
“Wrestling has had a great following over the years, but it has always been on the other side of the fence when we talk about Jesus,” Patterson said. “This organization is built up on Jesus. We’re trying to upgrade and bring family wrestling to places. We’re not low-grading women, and we don’t want to hear any cussing.”
The legendary wrestler from Iowa once thought he would be separated from the sport. He battled racism and adversity that resulted from his notable attempt at the formation of a wrestlers’ union.
“None of the organizations would ever call me. I was totally blackballed from what God told me to do,” Patterson said. “But now God has moved it around to introduce me back into it.”
Patterson is balancing the task of putting together an account of his life story with the demands of his role with KCW.
“I’m the commissioner to try and bring a little order and just to be involved with wrestling.”
KCW’s shows are free of charge and do not include offerings of any sort.
They do include testimonies from the wrestlers, a message from Patterson himself, and even an altar call for those who wish to pray or initiate changes in their lives.
“We want to take advantage to show wrestling fans that the things they want in life are all available through Jesus Christ,” Patterson said. “Hopefully they will see a new light.”
Patterson said that KCW’s lineup of wrestlers includes a mix of mostly young up-and-comers with some grizzled veterans.
“These are not your wrestlers who are in the lights making the big money and doing everything but serving God,” Patterson said.
Saturday night’s card, which consisted of five two-man bouts, featured Charles “Chick” Donovan, who debuted in 1977 and achieved success in the NWA and the American Wrestling Association before working for a time with WCW.
Donovan’s match concluded with a brief message from the wrestler to the fans stressing the importance of personal salvation in Jesus Christ.
Evans has been working in Macon and Milledgeville with Youth Dynamics for 10 years and has reached young people through events such as retreats and revivals long before the opportunity to form KCW came along three years ago.
“Thunderbolt Patterson had this vision to bring the gospel, the community, and wrestling together,” Evans said.
Evans said the promotion does around 24 shows per year, and Saturday was their first-ever event in Jones County.
Evans and Gray Christian Fellowship’s Christopher Peavy worked together on a youth revival at the local church the previous week and formed plans to hold the wrestling event.
“Something as simple as wrestling can get a lot of people interested and allow the opportunity to share the gospel and give the church more exposure,” Peavy said.
Gray Christian Fellowship began as a meeting as a ministry two years ago and moved into its own facility at Settlement Point six months ago.
The interdenominational church holds services Sunday mornings, 11 a.m., and Thursday nights, 7 p.m.
“We really are mostly established for people who are looking for more than a traditional church setting,” Peavy said. “We encourage freedom of worship. We pay a lot of attention to children and youth outreach such as with something as crazy as wrestling.
“We just want to reach people with the true gospel of Jesus Christ and be here for this community.”