On the surface, nothing peculiar sticks out at Joyce Paustian's two-story residence tucked in a cul-de-sac just north of 53rd Street in Davenport.

Inside, framed photographs of eagles and Quad-City bridges shot by Paustian and her husband, Woody Perkins, decorate the walls on the first and second floors.

Hardly anything, except for a caricature sketch of the couple drawn at the Wisconsin State Fair in 2015, hints at Paustian's passion she closets in her basement-turned-"fan cave."

Since her early teenage years in the early 1970s, the lifelong Davenport resident has accumulated a massive collection of professional wrestling memorabilia.

"It's the biggest it's ever been," said Paustian, a retired Rock Island Arsenal employee who worked there for 36 years. "It's its own museum now."

Over the past 45 years, Paustian has acquired thousands of items, including photographs, magazines, posters and action figures that now blanket the walls in the lower level of her home. 

A framed promotional poster for "The Wrestler," a 1974 film produced by the late Olympic grappling great Verne Gagne, greets visitors at the bottom of the stairwell.

"I finally just had to focus on the ones I really liked," she said, referring to materials related to her favorite wrestlers.

Prior to the commercialization of professional wrestling, Paustian snapped photos of her "heroes" in action, a practice that became her pastime. 

Today, she's dedicated separate areas of the downstairs to her three famed giants she grew up watching on television, cheering from the stands and photographing ringside:

• Doctor X, aka The Destroyer, now 86.

• Nick Bockwinkel, who died in 2015.

• Baron von Raschke, now 76.

Paustian recalled watching the sport on her black-and-white TV for the first time in 1969 and going to her first event as a 13-year-old in 1971 at Davenport's John O'Donnell Stadium, known now as Modern Woodmen Park.

She still has the physical card, or lineup of matches, to prove it. 

Perkins, who completely accepts and appreciates his wife's self-proclaimed "addiction," called her stock "impressive." 

"There's no end to it," he said. "You open a cabinet, you open a drawer — it just keeps going. I don't save anything, so it's so strange to see somebody who's saved things from back when they were a teenager."

Before he could start his next sentence, Paustian chimed in. She uncovered a piece of history dated July 5, 1971.

"It's a little beat up, but this is the wrestling card, the very first one I went to," she said, holding the worn sheet of paper that urged Davenport fans not to throw anything at the athletes.

In storage, more photographs, old magazines and excess action figures fill binders, cabinets and bins.

Paustian estimates she has attended more than 400 shows and spent "thousands of dollars" on her collection, which she also uses as motivation when she works out on her treadmill. 

"I never really thought about the money," said Paustian, who still bids on items she finds online to feed her nostalgia. "It was just part of my life. It's where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do."

Someday, the mega fan hopes to donate her archive to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa.

Gable coached the University of Iowa wrestling team to 15 NCAA team titles between 1976 and 1997.

In more recent years, Paustian has introduced herself and grown close to the legends she once idolized at reunions around the country. She even received Christmas cards this year from both Doctor X and Baron von Raschke. 

Last year, Bockwinkel's death hit Paustian hard. She compared it to losing a piece of her childhood or a member of her family. 

"I hope it's a long time before I lose my other two favorites," she said. 

Although she still followed wrestling in the 1980s, she lost a lot of interest when Hulk Hogan began dominating the scene.

"That name to me represents when wrestling really changed and became more of a traveling circus," Paustian said. "More of a spectacle than a sport." 

She also acknowledged professional wrestling's scripted history but noted the the good-versus-evil story lines kept her tuning in for decades.

"I don't care," she said. "It's fun to watch, and I never knew what was going to happen."

Editor's note: Look for reporter Jack Cullen's Notes @ Noon Tuesday, Thursday and Friday online at noon. He captures various sides of life in the Quad-Cities. Contact him at jcullen@qctimes.com or 563-383-2363.


Jack Cullen is a reporter uncovering offbeat stories about people and places in the Quad-City area.