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23.02.14 20:40 Age: 7 yrs

All hail the mighty referee

Photos: Al Simmonds | Words: Blair The Flair

Referee "The Sol Man" Danny Sol checks turnbuckle integrity before a match at Wellington High School.

Refs are responsible for health and safety in the ring. It is their job to protect the athletes from the potential dangers of unsecured turnbuckles, wayward mats on the outside, and broken ring boards caused by the powerful impacts of falling bodies. Refs are also responsible for maintaining the tension of the ring ropes and ring chains to prevent accidents. Just as the wrestlers are under obligation to keep their conflict in the ring, the ref is charged with ensuring the integrity of the battlefield.

KPW Head Referee Daniel "Sweet Biscuits" Martins helps "The Standard Hero" Graham Hughes to the locker room following a grueling match for Portsmouth's finest.

How Daniel Martins got his nickname is shrouded in locker room secrecy, but his dedication is known to all KPW fans, ring and production crew, and wrestlers. When knocked down, he invariably gets back up again.

As well as being a sheriff in the ring, refs can be forced to act as medics for battered wrestlers. It is among the ref's duties to ensure the physical well-being of a combatant; this can require calling off a match if a wrestler cannot continue either due to injury or being unable to effectively defend themselves. Refs can and will put themselves directly in danger to protect a wrestler.

Shane "the Shooter" Sinclair dares Head KPW Referee Daniel Martins to disqualify him for not releasing his hold on Graham Hughes. If Martins' count reaches five, Daniels will be within his rights to disqualify Sinclair outright and award the match to Hughes. Sinclair has latched on the dreaded "camel clutch", the extremely painful signature submission hold of WWE's first Olympic medallist and latter-day Twitter personality The Iron Sheik.

Martins is in position to either register any submission - verbal or otherwise - from Hughes, or to call the match if Martins judges Hughes cannot continue.So much of what happens in the battlefield of a professional wrestling ring is down to a referee's discretion. Refs walk a fine line. They have to balance having to interrupt the flow of the match - or even to throw a match out when the participants fail to follow the organisation's rules - and thereby deprive the fans of a thrilling bout with deciding whether to allow some leeway so the match can continue and the fans can see the bout that they paid to see. To be a good referee, more important than having an encyclopaedic knowledge of the professional wrestling rules is knowing how to apply them.

Referee "Iron Man" Chris Ferguson is in perfect position to count Lazarus Volt's jacknife pinning predicament on H-Flame during their "Career versus Career" match at KPW's "Halloween Howl 7" at Wellington High School.

A graduate of the professional wrestling school run by ECW, WCW and WWE veteran Lance Storm, Chris Ferguson gained his moniker from his favourite method of ensuring he keeps up with the wrestlers in the ring: iron man competitions! Ferguson transcends the stereotype of a bulky, slow referee - perhaps epitomised by Max Ward from Britain's "World Of Sport" - to be fit and agile enough to be all over the ring at once. At any given time, a referee has to be both right up close to the action without getting in the way of the wrestlers - not as easy as it sounds!

With head held high and feet held higher, Referee Danny Sol is unceremoniously ejected from the ring - right towards a photographer - by veteran grappler and all-around ratbag "Irishman" Mike Ryan.

Despite the threat of physical violence and their apparent fragility, referees are an integral part of the match, as well as the professional wrestling business as a whole. Without refs, there's no semblance of order. Without order, there can be no match. With no matches, how can there be a professional wrestling business?

Being a ref is as much of a calling as it is a job. Many feel the calling, but only a few are chosen. Being a ref can be a high and lonely destiny - responsible to the front office, having to make the tough calls that may alienate the fans, running the risk of being in the firing line... all these challenges and more sort out who's serious from who's curious.

And having been a ref on more than one occasion, I'll let you into the greatest secret I've learnt during a decade in the professional wrestling business... being a ref is the best seat in the house!

BLAIR "The Flair"