Pennsylvania Referees Who Happen To Be Deaf Flourish In The Vibrant World Of Professional Wrestling
October 27, 2016
by Trapper Tom, Ring Announcer/Wrestling Journalist
In professional wrestling, a referee is an arbiter of the rules, the impartial delegate who is expected to call the action “down the middle.” The referee’s ideally invisible work is an integral part of the goings-on of any match. They are supposed to see all of the activity and enforce the rules; however, while sight is mandatory, there is no pre-requisite about hearing anything inside the squared circle.
Some of Pennsylvania’s most sought-after referees are deaf.
Recently, there have been at least three referees who have plied their trade without the benefit of hearing any of the chops, slaps or body slams.
Unquestionably, the most active authority in this category is Matthew Calamare, 32, of the tiny Tioga, County town of Blossburg, PA. Originally a native of Massachusetts, Calamare started to attend wrestling shows with a friend and started to help set up. The promoter liked Matt’s initiative and searched for a role. Calamare trained with “Brutal” Bob Evans and Chris Blackheart and then debuted as a referee for Showcase Pro Wrestling in Sturbridge, MA in 2006.
Over the past decade, he worked for a number of promotions up and down the East Coast. Along the way, Matt met Lyndsay in 2011 and the two were married in 2013. Calamare moved to Lyndsay’s hometown in Pennsylvania to become a farmer. His moonlighting as a referee only picked up.
“I decided to be pro wrestling Referee, because it’s my passion to be part of it,” Calamare said via email. “When I was younger and watched the shows on TV, I asked myself, ‘Can Deaf (people) do that in the ring?’"
Today he is the Senior Referee at True Wrestling, Ultimate Wrestling and Ace Fusion Championship Wrestling.
He’s also worked for more than a dozen federations, including New England Championship Wrestling, Killer Kowalski’s “All Star” Wrestling, and the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance in Pittsburgh.
He’s had many memorable moments inside the squared circle, but points to working with Nunzio, Billy Gunn and the legendary Lord Zoltan as “favorite moments” in the ring. “I am honored to work with them,” he continued.
Ken Jugan, who has wrestled all over the northern hemisphere as Lord Zoltan, knows a thing or two about refereeing and raising hard-of-hearing in-ring authorities. Both of his sons, Adam and Blaise, have at least dabbled as pro wrestling adjudicators.
Adam Jugan, 27, is Ken’s oldest son. He attended the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, and had a very busy athletic and intellectual adolescence. “I am an avid chess player. I went to Triangle Tech for HVAC and graduated with an associate’s degree,” said Adam in an email. He had a difficult time finding work in HVAC so he recently started a new job at Bettis Marine Propulsion Corporation as a yard person.
Finding a good day job was sage advice from Lord Zoltan. In the 1980’s, Ken Jugan worked for what was then WWE and lost to the Iron Sheik and others. He knew he wasn’t going to make it to the “big time,” so he got a job at home and worked in professional wrestling on weekends and during vacations.
“Pro wrestling was my first and favorite hobby when I was little kid because of my dad,” said Adam Jugan. “He’s been wrestling for over 40 years. I grew up traveling a lot and watched my dad wrestle all over many places.”
Over time Adam became disenfranchised with the independent scene and stuck to watching the televised product. Then, a few years ago Ken asked Adam if he was interested in filling in when it was discovered that a promotion where Lord Zoltan was to appear found themselves short a referee. “I decided to do that and became hooked after the first show,” he said. “I enjoyed refereeing because pro wrestling is my passion. I worked along great with many wrestlers.”
Adam found that gesturing works just as well as shouting at a dirty wrestler for choking and performing other dastardly deeds. While none of the deaf referees can hear the tag team “slap,” veteran grapplers catch on quick by showing the proper tags with hand movements.
Adam has worked on Indy shows for CWF, New Generation and Code Red Wrestling. Today, he primarily works for the KSWA, alongside Head Referee David Fedor and longtime veteran (and one of the best in the local business) Shawn Patrick.
Blaise Jugan, 23, doesn’t currently work as a professional wrestling referee, but has at dabbled. A few years ago, he worked one event for Bill “Powerhouse” Hughes’ now-retired CWF in Western Pennsylvania’s Mon Valley. “It was all last minute,” Blaise said via email. Just like Adam’s scenario, “They were shorthanded on a referee, so I volunteered to do the show.”
He continues, “It's not really my thing, but I did it once. I had to communicate with the wrestler beforehand. I just did it a favor, just never again.”
Blaise also counts his father as inspiration to get into the wrestling business. “I was thinking about wrestling, I feel like I fit in that category more than refereeing, but who knows!” Blaise currently doesn’t have any realistic plans to wrestle, but like his brother, he is whip-smart and an avid athlete who has the physical chops to work on the independent level if he chose to.
For his part, Lord Zoltan has done just about everything there is to do on the independent level and beyond. “I became involved as a wrestler and referee early in my career,” he said, also via email. “My sons never really wanted to get actively involved as wrestlers. I dissuaded (Adam) as the wrestling business has drastically changed and there really are limited opportunities for anyone to make a living anymore.”
He continued, “Being Deaf makes communication difficult too but both of my sons do a good job of communicating. Plus, neither want to upstage the wrestlers, who are the main ingredients of all matches. The referee is a vital component to every match.”
Ken Jugan also noted that being deaf hasn’t limited anyone who wanted to get into the wrestling business. He notes the masked “Silent Warrior” Louis Long (who wrested internationally) from Buffalo and “Silent” Brian Mackney, who had cups of tea in both the WWE and WCW during his 1-91 career (wrestlingdata.com) stemming from 1975 to 1993.
The Head Referee of the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA), David Fedor, has worked alongside Adam Jugan. “It's difficult being a professional wrestling referee to begin with, and taking away one of your senses seems like an insurmountable set back,” he commented, via email. “Yet they can go out there and keep in step with all the action, keep those wrestlers in line, making all the calls. I respect that tremendously.”