Three Count:The Nick Brown Story

The drama and the spectacle of professional wrestling are often said to be built around moments, a specific point in time that stands out among all the chaos and colorful bravado to create something memorable in the minds of the audience. As the grappling arts reaches its crescendo, fans lean from the edge of their seats to see if a potential three-count will lead to the final bell. As much as that excitement is generated by the spirited athletes in the squared circle, those with a deep understand of sports entertainment mechanics know that a solid referee is the glue for those tense moments that signal a dramatic victory.

In truth, an official’s job is to stay outside of the viewers’ scope until the action dictates their involvement. You simply won’t notice a great referee until its time to notice their count, calls, or decisions. To say the third participant in the ring is overlooked is a true statement because that’s what the job description calls for. However, as mentioned, those that truly understand the sport know that a top-tier official allows for top talent to shine the brightest possible.

Names like Bucky Palermo, Mark Curtis, Shawn Patrick, Bobby Williams, and Joe Mandak are Pittsburgh natives that have worn the stripes to count the falls on a variety of stages during different eras of the industry.

The region is known almost as much for its wrestling as the steel it once produced. Palermo was a staple of the studio wrestling days, the late Mark Curtis was one of the most beloved figures of the industry during his tenure in Smokey Mountain Wrestling and WCW in the 90s. Shawn Patrick, with more of 30 years of experience under his belt, is one of the most well-regarded officials in the history of the Pittburgh scene. Much of the same can be said for Williams, who broke into the sport as a teen and after more than two decades as a referee and wrestler, is one of the head trainers of the IWC Wrestling Academy. Mandak worked his way to Ring Of Honor pay-per-view before the organization was sold last year.

Quite simply, those at the highest levels of the business understand the value of a professional and talented referee.

Among the current generation of Pittsburgh officials, one of the referees that has drawn comparisons to the previously mentioned refs is Nick Brown, a 31-year-old IT specialist that hopes to take a career path beyond just the standard office with cubicals and water coolers.

“My immediate goal is to work a cable or broadcast level TV match. At the moment I’m trying to work for indies that do their best to create this type of environment at their shows as it is the closest approximation I can get. I’m also doing seminars with professionals from the world of wrestling who have experience working in this environment or creating this environment. Another goal is to continue to work as much as possible. Right now, I work basically every weekend,” Brown explained.

A fan of the industry since he was a toddler, Nick, similar to some many that develop a passion for the business, originally daydreamed out stepping into the ring himself, dropping elbows on imaginary opponents as a youngster. Playing hockey from around the same time that he discovered pro wrestling until his college days, Brown was a sports enthusiast and always trained with a focus on competitive athletics.

Finally, he took the plunge into pro wrestling in 2016, signing up to learn the craft under Brandon K, one of the longest-tenured veterans of the Western Pennsylvania area. That same year, Brandon founded his own organization, Ryse Wrestling, a league that runs event just south of Pittsburgh and will celebrate its seventh anniversary in December.

Unfortunately, a history of concussions from his hockey days brought his wrestling training to a complete halt. After a few scary collisions with the mat, Nick knew that the toll that professional wrestling took on the body wouldn’t yield any longevity for him.

“I had a number of concussions playing college hockey and the deeper I got into training to become a wrestler, the more problems I had. I honestly didn’t feel comfortable making my opponent work with someone who would be in control of their body, but not totally conscious,” Brown explained.

Nick assumed he would help out around events, but little did he know, timing is everything and he had an unexpected introduction to the business that opened another door for him.

When a scheduled referee couldn’t attended Ryse’s second live event in early-2017, Nick Brown was thrown a referee and given instructions. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was a natural in the role.

“Training to become a referee really just happened on the fly. I was given a five-minute tutorial by a veteran worker just before a show and was then thrown right into the card. Thankfully, I had a little bit of aptitude for the job,” he said.

Nick showed a poise and timing not often seen by rookie refs, and it didn’t take long before he was not only a regular for Ryse, but began to branch out to several promotions in neighboring states. The International Wrestling Cartel, Absolute Intense Wrestling, and a variety of other groups are where Nick can be found on any given weekend as he zigzags to different states when promotions look for a solid official to be in the ring for important bouts.

“The most important thing a referee needs to know is that your job is to enhance the match or the wrestlers in the match in any way possible. This will sound cliche, but I honestly take something away from every show I work on. Wrestling is a creative endeavor that makes it highly subjective to people’s opinions and interpretation. As a result of that I have been exposed to a number of ideas for everything from finishes, storylines, moves, promos and just about anything else you can think of,” Brown commented.

After spending the past few years working events almost every weekend, Nick has the reputation and experience of a stellar official so he looks to pursue sports entertainment to the highest level possible. When you don’t see him inside the squared circle, you can see Nick at PPG Paints Arena during Pittsburgh Penguins home games as a part of the ice crew. When he’s not on the canvas or the ice, Nick enjoys adding to his extensive sports memorabilia collection and spending time with his sidekick, a Golden doodle named Emmett.

Perhaps, the biggest takeaway from the career of Nick Brown is that talent is talent, and the serious professionals in the sport find a way to utilize those skills. Sure, he wears the stripes instead of the boots, but he undoubtedly found success in the pro wrestling business.

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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