REAL NAME: Wayne Cassibo
BORN: March 14, 1945
DIED: March 13, 2001
The southern Ontario wrestling scene has lost one of its good guys. Well-known referee Wayne Cashman died Tuesday in a London, Ontario hospital, one day short of his 56th birthday.
It is next to impossible to keep myself out of this story and obit, so I will not even try. Cashman, whose real name was Wayne Cassibo, was one of the first to take me into the wrestling scene when I was just a young teen doing a wrestling newsletter.
He was a fun man, and laughing came easy to him. In our last conversation, in January 2001, he ribbed me about not having any “little Olivers” running around the house yet.
I last saw him at an Apocalypse Wrestling Federation show in Toronto’s east end over a year ago. He was there to see some old friends and watch his son referee.
Cashman was THE referee for the Ontario indy scene in the mid-to-late ’80s, and we ran into each other on many, many occasions from London to Kitchener to Hamilton to Tilsonburg. I also befriended his two sons, Justin and Bryan, both of whom learned how to referee as well, and came to know his wife Carol a little bit by my phone calls.
This past January, he shared with me how he got involved with pro wrestling. He was living in Georgetown, just outside Toronto, and there was regular wrestling shows in town every other week. Dewey Robertson was the promoter, and Cashman was a regular at the shows.
Dewey’s son came over, and told Wayne that his dad wanted to see him in the dressing room. It seems that the future Missing Link wanted young Cassibo to referee. “I went into the dressing room [and] I kind of went into the ring blind my first night. I went in as a fan.”
Cashman trained for two years, twice a week in Burlington at Dewey’s Gym, and every Friday night they had a little wrestling show at the gym.
The first match he refereed at the Gym was a Boxing Match between Terry Yorkston and Billy Red Lyons. “Terry came out and had the [boxing] earpiece over his nose. That just cracked me up, and I’m supposed to be refereeing. But Jesus, how can you help but not laugh? Dewey told me in between matches, he said, ‘You’re acting like a fan.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but that was funny, man.’ Well it was. He cracked Red Lyons up, but Red Lyons didn’t show it as much as I did. I had to laugh, I couldn’t help it.”
Over time, Cashman got pretty good at his craft, and took pride in it. “I used to to be good at, I’d stand there if the guy was coming off the ropes to give the other guy a tackle, well I would jump out of the way at the last minute and make it look like I wasn’t expecting it. But I knew what they were doing.”
No one would ever accuse Wayne of being a fitness fanatic. He smoked and liked to have a good time with the boys. “[Dewey Robertson] was always on me about smoking, but half the guys used to bum my cigarettes like Johnny Evans, one of the Love Brothers. He’d always bum my cigarettes, then he’d break my filter off. That really used to tick me off.”
Besides Robertson, Cashman also credited Billy Red Lyons, the Hangman, Terry Yorkston and Steve Bolus as being a big help in his early career.
“Once I learned how to referee and everything, anywhere I went, I used to take my gear. That’s how I got working for the Bearman because I had my gear with me.”
The Bearman Dave McKigney and Cashman are forever linked through the great book, Drawing Heat, by University of Western Ontario anthropology professor Jim Freedman.
“He was a key figure in the show because he participated so much in the show,” recalled Freedman. “Wayne was able to control the show. He really had a keen sense for some of the practicalities of the show. … He was able to keep the midgets in line. That was always everybody’s concern!”
Freedman can’t think about Cashman without laughing. “He really gave it an air of decency and joviality. He was good at it that, he really was. Of course, he loved the show. That was one thing about Wayne. Dave [McKigney] was too concerned about making the bottom line. But Wayne, Wayne would enjoy himself. He loved it.”
“I think that Wayne, in a way, held it together. These [Bearman McKigney] tours, which really were an institution because they were run very much like they were run since the 1920s, that’s the way Dave ran it. Boy, I’ll tell you, I’ve never had so much fun in my life. It wasn’t that it was a party, it was just fun. Everybody had a grand time and Wayne was right there holding it together. And I think that one of the reasons it worked so good was that he had both a business sense and a sense of the show, and he could put it together. He’d tell Dave to get the truck and we’d run through the town with the megaphone. But he’d also tell Dave if the ring wasn’t up in time, he’d better get busy. Or he’d do it himself, he was that kind of guy.”
Cashman refereed for 27 years, and worked for the Tunneys in Toronto, McKigney, Big Mac Sports, George Cannon and many other indy promoters.
Longtime fan and friend Terry Dart said that Cashman was “a good ref” and he particularly remembered him refereeing a Bob Backlund vs Nick Bockwinkel clash in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, a rare WWF vs AWA World title match. “He refereed pretty well all [the Tunneys’] big matches,” Dart said.
In the end, it was a number of problems that felled Cashman at 7:20 pm on Tuesday. He had sugar diabetes and needed to go on kidney dialysis. He had a stroke and a heart attack. His time simply ran out.
Wayne Cashman was one of the guys who made wrestling fun for me. He wasn’t a superstar, wasn’t on TV, didn’t make big bucks. But he made wrestling worth watching for me.
I’ll miss you buddy.
The funeral will be in Langton, Ontario (near Simcoe) on Saturday, March 17 from 2-4 pm at Verhove Funeral Home, 40 Queen St. 519-875-4464. A further visitation will follow from 7-9 p.m. Donations would be appreciated to the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Wayne Cashman was a true credit to this sport. I met Wayne early in my wrestling career and looked up to him as a true link to the “old school”. Today’s generation of professional wrestlers could learn a lot from Wayne Cashman. Wayne got respect from the boys because he respected the boys. I suffered a torn ligament in my knee and required surgery to repair it. Despite the horrendous health problems that Wayne was going through, the first thing he was concerned about every time I would meet up with him was my well-being and when I was going to be ready to return to the ring. He will be greatly missed.
I hope there’s a squared circle in heaven.
“Dangerous” Danny Steele
I was lucky enough to have had Wayne Cashman referee one of my matches. It was a match in Simcoe in 1999. The scheduled ref was unavailable so Wayne was nice enough to fill in. Towards the end of the match while using a Kendo Stick on the back of my opponent, I accidentally caught Wayne in the side of the head as well (totally not planned). From that day on every show that I ran into him, he would hassle the hell out of me. We would insult each other back and fourth all in good fun. Now upon hearing of his passing I’m glad I was able to share those moments with him. He was a good man with a constant smile on his lips and a dirty joke to throw you off your game.
Mr. Magnificent Austin Shaw
This is truly a sad day for me, hearing of the passing of a great guy and a legendary referee. The last time I saw Wayne was at The Hand And Upper Limb Clinic where he had taken his son Justin, so while we were waiting Wayne and I went for a coffee and had a long talk about the wrestling business and a host of other topics. Wayne even invited me out to his place for a barbecue in the spring. Wayne would always worry about my diabetes and blood pressure, and tell me to take it easy, never worrying about himself; that’s the kind person this courageous man was.
I saw one of his first matches in Ingersoll and talked to his parents at a Wildman Show, they were so proud of their son as Wayne was of his sons first refereeing. Wayne liked to rib me a lot and it made me feel like one of the guys. One time on a George Cannon TV taping at University of Windsor, the floor broke in the ring, so there’s Wayne going across the hall to the woodworking shop and sawing boards on the radial arm saw. The matches were stopped while Wayne sawed away, and when I heard a referee sawing wood at a wrestling show I bust a gut laughing. Wayne did fix the ring floor and thanks to Wayne the matches continued. I saw Wayne referee a lot of big matches in Toronto, Detroit, and all points in between. I could go on and on about this wonderful man, but it would take a book to cover it all. I’ll really miss you my good friend so will all of the wrestlers, promoters and fans, as you made our lives a lot happier. Rest In Peace Wayne and keep refereeing those bouts for The Wildman, Frank Tunney, and George Cannon up there in Heaven. God needs a good referee, Wayne.
Terry Dart, London, Ontario a fan since 1957
This is truly a loss to the wrestling world. I had the pleasure of getting to know this man about a year ago. Wayne was a regular at most of my shows as his son Justin works most of them with me. Wayne reffed one of our shows in London for us last year. Truly one of a kind and I can honestly say he never had anything bad to say about anybody. He was always fun to have in the dressing room. Wayne may God be with you and until we meet again I will miss you.
It’s always sad to see one of the old guard give up their post. The stories you could hear from the likes of Wayne Cashman never failed to entertain. Those stories and his insight into the wrestling world will be greatly missed by all the young talent breaking in.
In my two short years in the wrestling business, I have never worked on a show that lacked the presence of the great Wayne Cashman. Whether working in security or commentating, Mr. Cashman was always there to help advise me in my work. I will always appreciate how Mr. Cashman had a smile on his face no matter how a show was going, and you couldn’t help but smile alongside him. It is a shame that so many of us won’t get the chance to further benefit from his expansive knowledge of the ins and outs of the independent wrestling scene. I wish I could have known him better, and I will forever cherish those memories of him that I hold inside of me. He will be sorely missed by fans and workers alike. Take care Mr. Cashman, and God bless.
Canadian Bad Ass A.C. Mack
Wrestling will miss one of the good guys, he was always professional and very upstanding in all moments in the ring. He was also a good father and husband, he will be missed…
King Kong Mosca (Angelo Mosca)
I never got the chance to know Wayne when he was big into refereeing. You see I only met Wayne just a few years ago when he and his family had moved down to the country from the big city. I knew Wayne as the fun loving great man that he was. From the moment I met him, he was family.
He would tells us stories of his wrestling days and show us all his pictures. But there was more to Wayne Cassibo than that. We will miss his smile and jokes and his carefree antics. I will miss him as will all the friends and neighbors from this small town…
from all of us in Walsingham