Saturday, June 10, 2023

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"Wheel of Fortune" contestant tackled by Pat Sajak speaks out about incident

A professional wrestler who was put in a headlock by Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak has defended the veteran television star.

Fred Fletcher-Jackson, who also works as a drama teacher, said he “loved” the moment that Sajak, 76, grabbed him in the “chicken wing” move, which had puzzled some viewers of the long-running game show and sparked criticism over the playful “attack.”

Fletcher-Jackson made it to the bonus round on Tuesday’s Hawaii-themed show where he correctly guessed “His mind is wandering” in the puzzle round to bring his total prize winnings to $75,800.

Overcome with emotion, he held his head to his hands and was congratulated on stage by his dad who’d come to join him, before Sajak ran over to tackle him. Even as a younger man with pro wrestling experience, Fletcher-Jackson admitted Sajak was strong and he couldn’t get out of the hold.

“As a pro wrestler, and as you know, a guy who is in showbiz and as the guy that he was putting in that hold, I loved that moment,” Fletcher-Jackson told TMZ. “LOVE in capital letters. Like that was one of the biggest highlights of the show.”

Fletcher-Jackson said he thought it was “a little unfair” for Sajak to have faced criticism online after the episode.

“I was the one who was put in the hold, and I was perfectly okay with it. In fact, I loved it. I don’t think they should get any more upset than I’m getting because I was the one who was concerned,” he said. “If it’s not your sense of humor, you know, I can understand that… but to call it ‘cringe’ and the call for his retirement, that’s taking it a little bit too far.”

He also mentioned that the viral moment was improvised and he had no idea Sajak was going to tackle him.

“Seriously, I think it was completely as organic as you saw it on the show. I was so elated after my win and then Pat just came up behind me. I was genuinely trying to counter him and try and like actually have a wrestle, but he had me so tight that I wasn’t going anywhere,” Fletcher-Jackson said.

“He is way stronger than he looks when he put my arm back behind me. He had it pretty tight,” he added.

The contestant reassured people that even though Sajak “did have me pretty tight and my arm wasn’t was not going anywhere,” he wasn’t in any pain.

“It just means that he has a much bigger knack for pro wrestling than I think anyone would have given him credit for,” Fletcher-Jackson said.

Sajak may have been planning the moment all along because earlier in the episode he’d told one of Fletcher-Jackson’s competitors, “You want me to body slam him for you?”

After the episode, he sat down with Maggie Sajak—Wheel of Fortune‘s social correspondent and Pat’s daughter—to talk about the moment.

“He got me genuinely,” Fletcher-Jackson said. “I was trying to counter his hammerlock that he had me in. I was trying to get behind him, and I wasn’t going anywhere.”

He also revealed appearing on the game show was a lifelong dream come true.

“My mom says that my first words ever were, ‘Buy a vowel,'” he told Maggie. “Wheel was at the top of my list of dream-come-true scenarios in my life, and it’s happening.”

The wrestling moment was shared on Wheel of Fortune’s Instagram page where fans were left puzzled, but bemused by Sajak’s action.

“Not only another Perfect Game, but another showdown with Pat vs. another contestant!” commented one fan.

“What was with Pat at the end?” another person wrote, adding a laughing emoji.

And a third wrote: “Why is everyone making a big deal about the end? He was just messing around.”

A professional wrestler who was put in a headlock by Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak has defended the veteran television star.

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