Pat Patterson, the trailblazing wrestling star who spent six decades in the industry first as a performer and then as a creative consultant, died this week at the age of 79. After a decade in semiretirement, Patterson returned to the national spotlight in 2014 when he publicly acknowledged that he was gay. The truth is he had never gone to great lengths to conceal his orientation from colleagues during a distinguished career in which he collaborated with tag-team partners, top promoters, and up-and-coming young wrestlers to help create his own technically sound style of performance as well as the in-ring styles that came to define the 1980s and 1990s. While never the biggest-drawing main-event star or the face of WWF backstage production, Patterson’s creativity and attention to detail were an open secret among the wrestling community.
In his 2016 autobiography, Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE, Patterson described how he lived much of his life in “two closets,” needing to stay mum about the details of his domestic affairs while also protecting “kayfabe” by ensuring that the predetermined nature of wrestling wasn’t disclosed to fans. But Patterson occupied a third closet, namely that of behind-the-scenes visionary—a role that fans like me became slowly aware of only after allegations of sexual harassment were leveled at Patterson in 1992, forcing Vince McMahon to part ways with his trusted advisor for several months until those charges were dropped.
Prior to that, Patterson had all but invented major portions of modern wrestling out of whole cloth: He wore the mantle of the first WWF Intercontinental Championship, won in a made-up tournament alleged to have happened in Rio de Janeiro because Vince McMahon enjoyed how Patterson’s thick French Canadian accent caused him to butcher the pronunciation of that city; ushered in “hardcore” wrestling with a bloody “alley fight” match against Sgt. Slaughter that won Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s 1981 Match of the Year; developed the “Royal Rumble” concept of staggered wrestler entrances into a battle royal to keep the ring from becoming too crowded to focus on individual performers; and shepherded superior technicians such as Bret Hart, Jacques Rougeau, and Shawn Michaels into both the tag-team and singles wrestling spotlights. He was already a very big deal, but fortunately for wrestling fans, his story didn’t end there—he came back to troubleshoot some of the greatest matches of the late-1990s “Attitude Era,” display his comedic chops in a series of memorable sketches and matches involving fellow backstage producer and amateur wrestling star Gerald Brisco, and eventually even appear on the 2014 Legends House reality show during which his long-awaited revelation about his sexual orientation proved to be the signature highlight.
Patterson’s story began in Montreal in 1941, when he entered the world as Pierre Clermont, a name he said he hated from the start. One of nine siblings living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment that lacked a shower or even hot water, the young Pierre slept on a folding bed inside a closet—“I was already living in the closet,” he wrote in his autobiography. Amid these modest circumstances, in the same province that produced notable tough-as-nails families like the Vachons and the Rougeaus, Patterson dreamed of performing, not fighting. He aspired to be a figure skater, a singer, a priest. He just wanted to draw a crowd. After the seventh grade, at the age of 14, he began training to become a wrestler with “Cyclone” Samson, son of local wrestling promoter Sylvio Samson.
In 1958, at the age of 17, Patterson recalled breaking an empty Coke bottle against the ring post to intimidate the crowd and his opponent, intuitively grasping the value of both villainy and “hardcore” wrestling. He grew into a medium-sized frame during this time, 5’10” and 190 pounds, thick-necked and athletic even if he was admittedly “not a big fan of the gym.” And, given that he was on the losing side of most of his bouts, he focused on taking impressive bumps and making his opponents look good, in order to gain time in the ring with experienced wrestlers who appreciated his efforts. He also settled on a ring name, Pat Patterson, that he claims to have selected just by flipping through a dictionary of names, and he finally made it his legal name in 2008 to at last excise Pierre Clermont from the record.
Patterson was working blue-collar gigs when he wasn’t wrestling, unrewarding factory jobs he quickly lost due to disinterest, and he also began dating men. He had a falling-out with his father over this—his father called him a “tapette,” a slur directed at effeminate men—and not long thereafter he prevailed upon the Boston wrestling promoter Tony Santos, who was visiting Montreal, to bring him to Santos’s territory.
In Boston, Patterson found himself in an apartment with hot water and at the bottom of a wrestling ladder he would slowly begin to climb. Ron “Golden Boy” Dupree was the wrestler Santos assigned to test Patterson’s mettle and was also gay himself, a bit of fortuity that enabled the Quebecois grappler to acclimate himself to his new surroundings much quicker. In Boston, many of the hallmarks of Patterson’s style both in and out of the ring began to develop. He was a notorious practical joker, perhaps one of the best in an industry filled with people vying for the title. He delighted in crank-calling the extremely heavy wrestler Haystacks Muldoon (not the 600-pound Haystacks Calhoun, but a regional imitator). Muldoon, who shared an apartment building with Patterson, would then be forced to lumber down the steps to take the call, which delighted the young wrestler.
And it was in Boston that Patterson met the love of his life, Louie Dondero, a slender, attractive young man who worked in a poultry slaughterhouse and drove a late-model Buick and a Harley-Davidson. Dondero and Patterson hit it off quickly, but visits to Dondero’s parents’ house were always in the context of the pair being “friends.” In fact, although Dondero and Patterson would remain together until Dondero’s death in 1998, the term “boyfriend” or “partner” never resonated with the wrestler. “I still can’t call him my boyfriend,” he wrote. “That feels wrong. He will always be ‘my friend Louie.’ And to me that’s so much more than a boyfriend.” While Patterson worked for Santos—as would generally be the case with other promoters—“being gay turned out to be not an issue at all,” and there were “even a few other wrestlers [like Dupree] who were gay,” which Patterson thought would surprise sports journalists because many “assume dressing rooms are anti-gay.”
From Boston, he moved out to promoter Don Owen’s Portland territory, where he started getting slightly larger paydays and, more importantly, experience working alongside the best veteran wrestlers of his era. He got ring time with former NWA World Champion Pat O’Connor. The two didn’t initially mesh in the ring, since the New Zealander O’Connor had an amateur background and wrestled aggressively, trying to lead matches as the good guy in a sport where the bad guys usually call the moves. After Patterson raised the issue, O’Connor eventually let his young opponent lead the matches, and due to Patterson’s superior understanding of psychology and pacing, the crowds went wild. “Everyone has to be produced,” he realized. “After a while, stars get into a habit and the show becomes stale because they only want to do their usual thing. The worst part is, in many cases, no one around them wants to tell them.”
Patterson spoke his mind, though. Maurice Vachon, the Quebecois amateur and professional star who had vouched for Patterson with Don Owen, became angry when he learned that Louie Dondero had moved to Portland to live with Patterson, but Patterson brought the two together, and eventually Vachon “figured out that Louie and I were great people who happened to be gay.” Patterson himself had a similar realization after he spent time around the family of Black wrestler Shag Thomas, his first time in “a house where everyone was Black.” In the end he counted both Vachon and Thomas as great friends.
“I just think it’s important to stress how easy it was for me to gain acceptance,” Patterson wrote, acknowledging that little dustups like the one with Vachon were the only stumbles along his road to success. “Then again, I was never openly gay in front of the wrestlers. I was gay, and I had to be careful about showing who I really was. I couldn’t draw attention by flirting with men at the hotel bar or bringing guys back to my room. There were those wrestlers in Boston who were gay, but they were never part of a couple.”
It was in the Pacific Northwest that Patterson used Dondero as his manager, developing a “Pretty Boy” gimmick in which he wore a beret, smoked a cigarette in a holder, and wore lipstick. Dondero served as his put-on second, “a little bit like the Ted DiBiase and Virgil relationship,” and Patterson would mistreat him until his opponent laid a hand upon Dondero, whereupon Patterson would fly into a rage and attack his foe. This was the gimmick that started getting Patterson some top-of-the-card traction, even if his real personality was much more along the lines of the crude, wisecracking French Canadian tough guys around whom he grew up.
After doing his time in Portland and touring elsewhere, Patterson and Dondero headed to San Francisco, where Patterson had landed the biggest break of his career—main-eventing for Roy Shire as one half of the “Blonde Bombers” alongside Shire’s former tag-team partner Ray “Crippler” Stevens. “He got it right, and got it right all the time. And it seemed like everything came to him naturally, that he never had to struggle to learn anything,” Patterson wrote. “Shawn Michaels might be the best comparison I can give to help you understand how good Ray Stevens was.” Stevens was also a train wreck outside the ring, and it fell to Patterson to harness and utilize his partner’s talent, ensure he showed up on time for his matches, and so forth. Once there, and regardless of how hard Stevens had partied the night before, “he performed as brilliantly as usual, as if nothing had happened.”
Patterson worked mainly as a heel in San Francisco and throughout his career, despite calls to become the sort of good guy his friendly face and technical abilities suggested he should be. He did this because it allowed him to lead the match, and he led the matches because he believed he was better at producing them than most of the people he wrestled against. And he drew heat in Shire’s promotion merely by showing up with his bleached-blond hair, causing the crowd to scream antigay epithets at him. Patterson, who along with partner Dondero had become a fixture on the emerging San Francisco LGBT scene, found that amusing. On one particular evening, he recalled that “everyone in the match but Ray—the referee, the ring announcer, and me—was gay.”
While working with Shire—an unpleasant and abrasive man at the best of times—Patterson found himself taking on extra duties, producing wrestling shows in smaller towns while learning from his mentor about the importance of doing more with less in the ring, conserving big moves and high spots for key moments. Early in his time in this role, while laying out an important match in the locker room, another wrestler told his colleagues not to listen to “that guy,” said in a way that was intended to hint at and disparage Patterson’s sexuality. “Sit down, you piece of shit,” Patterson responded, and with several wrestlers supporting him, a fight was avoided. But Patterson, by his own frequent admission hardly a tough guy, also didn’t mess around. When he thought Black main-eventer Rocky Johnson wasn’t carrying his weight in a match, Patterson got him in a headlock and yanked on his hair, urging him to work harder.
But San Francisco, though a profitable home base from 1965 to 1977 and the city billed as his hometown during his time in the WWF, eventually began to wear on Patterson. “I wanted something . . . different. I was stuck in a gay-only world,” he wrote. “Gay bars, gay restaurants, gay theaters, gay friends: it became too much. I wanted to get away from it.” So Dondero and Patterson packed up their operation and headed to Florida, where Patterson began wrestling for Eddie Graham, a promoter whose booking abilities ranked alongside the likes of Jerry Jarrett and “Cowboy” Bill Watts. Patterson also produced shows for Graham, but didn’t really gel in the territory, clashing with the creative philosophies of hard-nosed fellow wrestler Johnny Valentine. He wasn’t in the territory long enough, but recalled a “tall, skinny” aspiring wrestler named Terry Bollea, the future Hulk Hogan, a hanger-on from whom he admitted he expected little future success.
Patterson followed his brief run in Florida with a stint in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association in 1978, to be supplemented by occasional return matches tagging with Ray Stevens until his (first) retirement in 1984. And though Patterson helped grizzled amateur wrestling star Gagne overcome his suspicion of gay people via Dondero’s home cooking, he wasn’t long for the Minneapolis-based promotion. At 38, and already two decades into his career, New York and the WWF came calling, and Patterson, always searching for a larger stage on which to perform, answered.
Vince McMahon Sr. was a tolerant man who had zero interest in or concern with Patterson’s sexuality. He paired Patterson with a gay manager, “Grand Wizard” Ernie Roth, and took Patterson, Roth, and Dondero out on his boat shortly after hiring Patterson. “There he was, the biggest wrestling promoter in the country, out on the ocean with his three gay friends,” Patterson wrote. But the puzzling thing was that Patterson, still under 6 feet tall and around 230 pounds, was being brought in not for a midcard feud with the likes of Pedro Morales or Ivan Putski, but a title series against Bob Backlund, the promotion’s incredibly athletic good-guy champion.
First, Patterson feuded around the circuit with young Ted DiBiase, then a clean-living, energetic good guy, winning DiBiase’s North American belt after coldcocking him with a pair of brass knuckles. Few heel wrestlers ever got as much mileage out of concealed weapons as Patterson, whose understanding of psychology enabled him to build crowd suspense and strike at the appropriate moment. The practice of scripting out entire matches, which accelerated in the WWF after his retirement from full-time work in 2004, never sat entirely right with him because it impacted wrestlers’ ability to read the crowd and time moves for maximum effect. “[Wrestlers] forget that there’s 10,000 people looking at them,” Patterson told wrestling historians Greg Oliver and Steven Johnson in The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels. “It doesn’t matter if [the fans] are yelling or not, they just want to do their stuff.”
Patterson’s series of matches against Backlund during the summer of 1979 were among the best of his career, and he was rightly proud of them. The brass knuckles he had used to beat DiBiase became the centerpiece of his first Madison Square Garden main event against Backlund, when he employed them to get a controversial “blood stoppage” that ended the match and prevented a title change. “In the early days, you know, Bob was still a little green, and still had some of that amateur in him, so when you’d start beating the shit out of him, he didn’t sell as long or as much as he could have,” Patterson commented in Backlund’s autobiography Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion. “He’d want to pop right up and start making a comeback—but you can’t make a comeback without heat, you know?” Backlund acknowledged Patterson’s superior in-ring talent, writing that Pat “was very smooth, very gentle, and exceptional at developing a story in the ring,” in addition to his having “a knack for knowing exactly what to do at exactly the right time to infuriate the people.”
After the first blood stoppage win for Backlund in early July, the pair resumed hostilities at the Garden at the end of the month. “Pat and I built that match so masterfully and worked it for almost thirty minutes that night that when the finish came, it was one of the most memorable endings Madison Square Garden had ever seen,” Backlund wrote. The finish was indeed an impressive bit of booking: Patterson used his brass knuckles to knock out Backlund while the Grand Wizard distracted the referee, then Backlund’s manager Arnold Skaaland used the world title belt to knock out Patterson. The result was nearly unprecedented for the time, when most draws were due to the time limit expiring. Here, both men were unable to answer the 10-count and the match ended without a winner.
By the time the third Madison Square Garden match rolled around, in late August 1979, Patterson was being billed as the “Intercontinental Champion” rather than the North American titleist, because he had gone to South America and won a fictitious tournament to claim the South American championship and thereby unify the two belts. “The office didn’t think that the name ‘North American Champion’ had quite the pizzazz that they were looking for,” Backlund wrote, and the new title along with Patterson’s strong prior performances against the champion built interest in the third bout. “Our matches were completely different from what had come before,” Patterson wrote. “Before me, he had wrestled all of these big guys who really couldn’t move all that well. Now I’m in the main event with Bob at the Garden, and I said to him, we’re going to have some real fucking action! And we took bumps and had high spots all over the place.” And that third bout had action in spades, culminating with a well-timed brass knuckles spot that laid out Backlund outside the ring, where he was counted out.
In Backlund’s six-year reign as champion, only one wrestler ever received four consecutive Madison Square Garden title matches with him: Pat Patterson. And the fourth match was one for the record books, arguably the best cage match of that generation. Within the cage, Patterson would be able to use his dreaded brass knuckles, so presumably anything could happen. To make the match, Patterson decided to utilize Backlund’s ridiculous athleticism and fear of being double-crossed in the ring to make the combat look as fast-paced and believable as possible. “I told Bob before the cage match began—when I go for the door, or I go for the top, I’m going to dive for it and it’s going to be like a shoot Bob—so you better grab my fucking leg, or I’m going over,” Patterson remembered in Backlund’s autobiography. “And Bob was like damn, Pat, are you crazy? And I said no that’s what I’m going to do to make the match. But I had a blast with him—because when I’d hit him, he’d go down, but he wouldn’t stay down, because while he was down I’d be jumping up over the top trying to get out and he had to pop up and chase me to keep me from going out. Or another time, the door was open, and I was like, ‘Let go of my leg, let go of my leg,’ and as soon as he did, I would dive out the door and he’d catch me at the very last second, oh, it was awesome.”
The match plays out as described: Patterson acts exactly as someone in a cage whose job is to escape the cage would act, constantly rushing for an exit, and the faster and stronger Backlund constantly rushes after him. It’s little more than near-miss escapes and a pair of “blade jobs”—both competitors “get color,” and few bloodied themselves as well or in as timely a fashion as Backlund—yet it seems as innovative as any match that happened in 2020. The psychology of actually escaping from a cage, over and over, makes far more sense than diving from the cage, or otherwise dawdling in the cage.
The other defining match of Patterson’s WWF tenure was his so-called “alley fight” against Sgt. Slaughter in 1981. Slaughter, whose jaw-jutting military credentials were recently called into question, was someone I remembered fondly as a good guy until his Gulf War–era heel turn, but he originally lit the WWF on fire working as a hated villain. He was big and tough, an excellent in-ring worker for his size, and he had been working a “$5,000 Cobra Clutch Challenge,” in which he and his manager the Grand Wizard would offer a wrestler $5,000 if he could escape the hold. Patterson, who was semi-retired and working as a commentator, was taunted by the pair, even offered $10,000, until they finally met in-ring after Slaughter called Patterson a coward. Patterson fought mightily and theatrically to escape the hold, and when it appeared he would, Slaughter swatted him with a chair, drawing blood.
The encounter led to a Madison Square Garden main event in April 1981, a no-disqualification bout. Patterson showed up in a tight T-shirt, tight jeans, and cowboy boots, and the action was fast-paced and bloody from the start. Every punch seemed to matter, with the two men rocking back and forth, simulating the actual wear and tear a hardcore encounter like this would have on the body—unlike many later such matches, in which over-eager competitors pop up like the Undertaker after landing on tacks, fluorescent light bulbs, and so on. The match finally ended when Patterson repeatedly bludgeoned Slaughter with a cowboy boot, a vicious and realistically nasty assault.
The match would win journalist Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year for 1981, a distinction that would gain additional trivia-related significance when Patterson won the Observer’s Worst Match of the Year for his “Evening Gown” Match against Gerald Brisco at the King of the Ring 2000. It would also mark the high point of an in-ring career that was slowly winding down, with Patterson shifting into commentary and production roles while reappearing for significant performances when Vince McMahon Jr., his closest confidant for many years, could ill-afford a screw-up—like refereeing the main event of the first WrestleMania after he and McMahon had determined that celebrity referee Muhammad Ali couldn’t perform his duties in the ring, and reprising his role at WrestleMania XI. Both matches featured box office draws like action movie star Mr. T and NFL football player Lawrence Taylor wrestling before a live audience for the first time, and Patterson ensured things went smoothly.
Patterson’s backstage duties expanded over time. He did a little of everything for McMahon, from helping with travel arrangements to improvising main events on the fly when talent failed to show due to travel delays or other issues. He supported young Vince’s decision to disclose the sport’s scripted nature to escape the regulation of state athletic commissions, even if he thought that knowing too much in advance about a wrestling match “took away from the beauty of the performance.” He gave Vince the idea for the Royal Rumble, an event that he conceptualized as a way to enhance drama, fill programming time while maintaining spectator interest, and keep the ring less cluttered to allow for more one-on-one wrestling through the use of staggered entrances, in two-minute intervals, of 20 wrestlers—later expanded to 30, which Patterson believed to be the ideal number. And he oversaw the development of young talent, both premier French Canadian stars like Raymond and Jacques Rougeau, as well as helping top technicians Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels prepare for increasingly important roles in the company when circumstances forced Vince McMahon to deemphasize hyper-muscular bodies.
It was around this time that Patterson appeared on the radars of many smartened-up fans. He seemed to be the subject of numerous backstage rumors spread by tabloid wrestling journalists. Patterson was reputed to have helped distract British Bulldog and noted bully “Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington when Jacques Rougeau sought revenge for a series of pranks and a hard slap in the locker room. Patterson doesn’t admit to such a role in his book, only noting that he was there talking to Ray Rougeau when Jacques blindsided Billington with “one hell of a punch. … There was blood everywhere.” As with other rumors about him, Patterson added, “I wish that story was something only insiders talked about.”
And when other backstage employees were embroiled in a sex scandal, Patterson was swept up in that, too, writing that “the fact that I was gay certainly played a part in me being targeted like that.” Vince McMahon released Patterson after former ring announcer Murray Hodgson brought sexual harassment charges against him, but rehired him after the charges were dropped and a private investigation cleared and vetted Patterson. As for other charges that Patterson helped talent like young Quebecois performer Sylvain Grenier receive a push in exchange for “favors,” the first Intercontinental champ was similarly emphatic: “Let me just say to end this: If you didn’t get to WWE, or didn’t succeed, it was because you were not good enough … and not because of anything I did, or didn’t do.”
Because of the charges brought against him by Hodgson, Patterson was gone for part of 1992, and contemplated becoming a bartender and leaving the wrestling world entirely, but his return came later that year and allowed him to help orchestrate the best matches of the Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels–dominated “New Generation” era as well as the most-remembered story lines and events of the “Attitude Era” that followed it. Most notably, and tragically, Patterson participated in a production meeting backstage for the 1998 King of the Ring pay-per-view held in Pittsburgh, three hours before the show was set to begin, when he learned that his long-time partner Louie Dondero had just died of a heart attack. Vince and Linda McMahon consoled Patterson as best they could, getting him a limo back to the hotel and then chartering a jet so that he could visit Dondero’s family as soon as possible. “I’m screaming like a lunatic [during the Hell in a Cell match], ‘Where the fuck is Pat to walk me through this?’” fellow veteran producer Bruce Prichard recalled. He remembers looking around frantically for his “best friend in the business,” only to be told by Jerry Brisco that Patterson’s partner had died. Mick Foley, whose vicious steel-cage showdown with the Undertaker took the match type pioneered by the likes of Patterson and Bob Backlund to the bone-breaking next level, had assumed Patterson learned of Dondero’s demise during the match, only to be told by Patterson, “Goddamn it, no, you crazy bastard … he died three hours before the show.”
But in any case, Patterson was a both company trooper and comedy trouper. His willingness to let it all hang out led to him earning a good deal of screen time during the heyday of Vince McMahon’s Corporation stable, a time when most of the WWF’s primary story lines revolved around the McMahons. Patterson and Brisco, both excellent technical wrestlers during their heydays, were refashioned as the “Stooges” that smartened-up fans thought they were, yes-men for the megalomaniacal McMahon. Patterson, who wrote that he “didn’t care about the Stooges while doing it,” remembered Brisco constantly checking the ratings for their segments. Even if neither man was enamored of their angles, Patterson noted that he would “give [Vince McMahon] the credit for anything about the whole thing that was good, including the ratings we achieved.”
From there, Patterson receded from view, embracing his role as a gray eminence and occasional adviser. His last star turn, on WWE’s Legends House reality show, helped salvage a program that otherwise had to rely on Roddy Piper’s bizarre mood swings and a seemingly “worked” or at least exaggerated feud between aging tough guys “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Tony Atlas. Patterson hung mostly with his own crew, long-time ring announcer Howard Finkel and backstage interviewer Gene Okerlund, and saw the show as an opportunity to break the “wrestling character” that Piper, Duggan, and Atlas seemed to be maintaining. “It was like we all had something we needed to let go,” he wrote. “So I opened up in front of everyone like that, knowing I had the right to let go, to be myself, without playing a character for anyone. For the first time in my life, I said it openly in front of everybody.” Then Patterson wept, as much for the passing of Dondero as anything else. He didn’t regret the timing, because until then he “hadn’t wanted to come out and didn’t see the benefit.”
Patterson recalled being a bit nonplussed when Roddy Piper told him he “supported” Pat on the final episode, because why did he need anyone’s support? Meanwhile, the enormous ex–Canadian Football League star and pro wrestler Angelo “King Kong” Mosca—who had worked with Patterson during their respective primes and who revealed in his own moving autobiography that the secret he carried for decades was that he had Black ancestry—called Patterson and told him, quite simply, that he found the disclosure moving, although he had never thought negatively about Patterson one way or the other during their time together. This, Patterson thought, struck the note he had always wanted to play: He wanted to be accepted as an equal, a performer in the arena, and a friend. Mosca, to his credit, had given him that.
Acceptance and closure; Pat Patterson had sought these two things since he was a poor little boy trying to attract attention in hardscrabble, working-class Montreal. Louie Dondero’s death in 1998 had closed the book on the most important era of his working life, and the response of old colleagues like Angelo Mosca to his Legends House disclosure reminded him that he had always already been accepted on his own terms. But Patterson wasn’t finished yet. One final thing, he realized, remained to be done. “Going to see Louie at the cemetery makes me happy,” he wrote at the conclusion of his autobiography. “I feel close to him again. We’re all scared of death; we all wonder what comes after. I don’t know if there is something after, but it can’t hurt to hope I’ll get to speak with him again.” And perhaps he will. Patterson, after all, excelled at extracting meaning from a dramatic pause or extended rest hold, fashioning something from nothing, hand-crafting those classic wrestling stories so many of us took for granted merely as soundtracks to childhoods grown old so very, very long ago.