“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage,” quipped Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a phrase that seems especially appropriate in the case of Maritime referee Frank Parker, who estimates he’s worked 3,000 matches over the past seven years.
It’s a mind-blowing number, but the calculations go pretty quick: Working six or seven days a week, for three-plus months during the summer, with at least five matches on each show. Then throw in the occasional tour or show during the rest of the year, both around his Truro, Nova Scotia home or further afield, and Parker is one of the busiest refs in the country.
Well, he was.
The Maritime summer scene was pretty-well non-existent during the summer of 2003, and Parker, at 43 and sporting wonky knees, doesn’t think he has too much left in him. “I’m pretty well done now,” he told SLAM! Wrestling. “I can look back on it now and smile.”
It’s been quite a ride for Parker over the years. He grew up in Truro a wrestling fan, tuning in to watch his favourite Eric Froelich and announcer Ron Morrier from the B.C. All-Star Wrestling show that was aired out east at midnight. Parker would watch the matches with his grandmother. When wrestling came around locally, both with International Wrestling, and then Atlantic Grand Prix, Parker would head to the matches with his dad, and later by himself.
In 1982, he was visiting with his friend, who ran the Truro arena, when together they learned that the scheduled announcer for the evening’s card wasn’t going to be able to make it. Parker stepped up to the plate and began a 15-year career as an occasional ring announcer in the Maritimes.
To Parker, the 1992 tour with Stephen Petitpas’ Canadian Championship Wrestling promotion was among the most fun, but he remembers it most for befriending Todd and Rod MacPhee.
In 1997, Parker and Todd MacPhee went knocking on long-time promoter Emile Dupre’s door. They convinced the veteran to run another summer tour. On that 1997 tour, Parker refereed for the first time as Dupre’s regular, Ron Goguen, didn’t think his knees could hold up for the duration.
The tour was an up-and-down affair. Some shows drew 500-600 people, others a dozen or so. “I looked at it as honing my craft,” said Parker. “I took every match very seriously.”
He also opened his ears to suggestions and criticism from the veterans on the tour, like Bad News Allen, Rip Rogers, Hubert Gallant, and, for the last three weeks of the tour, Rick Martel. “Work with professionals, and you’re going to get better,” Parker said.
Parker also got to learn the business alongside youngsters Sexton Hardcastle (later Edge), Christian Cage (now just Christian, Mike Lozansky, Scott D’Amore (as half of the masked Super Warriors), Glenn Kulka, Gary Austin (Gary Williams) and Rodney Blackbeard. And to top it off, Parker and MacPhee were responsible for the ring truck as well. All told, it was truly a baptism by fire.
“I wanted to be good … I wanted to work at it so maybe I could get work elsewhere,” he said. Thanks to his new friends — “everybody helps everybody” — Parker did get booked for a short tour of Saskatchewan with Tony Condello’s promotion, and later went to work for Tony Atlas’ EWA promotion in Maine, which included TV spots.
At 6-foot-2, and 220 pounds, Parker found that there was actually a prejudice against large referees with many promoters. “Most promoters like smaller referees,” he said, explaining that smaller refs are both smaller that the wrestlers they are officiating, and are perceived to take more dramatic bumps. “I’ve lost work because of my size.”
Dupre’s Grand Prix promotion was his main employer from 1997 to 2000. In 2000, he jumped to the upstart Real Action Wrestling company, which ran fairly regularly until 2002. Now, he appears on the sporadic MainStream Wrestling show. When he’s not refereeing, Parker has sold cars, worked as an insurance salesman, written a newspaper column, and recently joined Coca-Cola. He is married and has two daughters, aged 13 and nine.
He really can look back on it all and appreciate how privileged he was to be a part of it all. “I made a lot of good friends that I cherish and that I’ll have for the rest of my life,” he said.