PITTSBURGH (AP) — The night before the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance's FanFest last month, Thomas Leturgey couldn't sleep.
Leturgey, a bespectacled, 50-year-old, self-described former superhero kid, does not wrestle with the KSWA, Pittsburgh's professional wrestling promotion. But like many wrestlers, he leads a couple of lives.
By day, he works for a magistrate. By day and night, he works game-day security for the Pirates at PNC Park. And by night — well, at least one night a month — he is Trapper Tom, the ring announcer for the KSWA.
Like larger promotions, the KSWA features predetermined fights between heels (bad guys) and faces (good guys), with names such as BROhemoth, "Big Country" Matt McGraw, Justin Sane and YINZA, the Pittsburgh luchador.
For Leturgey, FanFest isn't just any wrestling event.
"It's like Christmas Day to me," he said. "My wife said, 'Really?'"
FanFest was held at Spirit, a converted Moose Lodge in Lawrenceville. The room had two-toned gray flooring and smelled faintly of a high school gym. Around 550 KSWA fans, called Krazies, arrived early to find seats, enter the 50/?50 raffle and buy $1 hot dogs.
In this space, every chair is ringside, and that's by design. The KSWA is the heir apparent to Pittsburgh's Studio Wrestling show, which toured the region from the 1950s to 1970s, Leturgey said.
"First and foremost, the KSWA to me is a tribute, a throwback to wrestling, the way it was in the days of old as compared to how it is nowadays," said KSWA owner Bob Orkwis, known to Krazies as "Bobby O."
Growing up in Portage, Cambria County, Leturgey didn't have cable TV, but he watched "The Incredible Hulk," devoured comic books, played Wiffle ball and fell in love with the 1979 Pirates.
He met Orkwis while working on the radio station at California University of Pennsylvania, and they bonded over their shared love of the Pirates, wrestling and music. In 2005, when Orkwis bought the KSWA and was looking for a new announcer, he turned to Leturgey, who has appeared at more than 200 KSWA events.
In 2007, after a divorce, Leturgey was looking for a way to supplement his then-day job as a real estate agent, so he started working game-day security at PNC Park. It's turned out well for Leturgey, who met his wife, Marion, an Aramark supervisor, at the ballpark. In 2015, he proposed to her at the Bill Mazeroski statue, and they were married there the next year.
The wrestlers also have regular jobs, as Uber drivers and steelworkers and union carpenters. At KWSA events, though, they transform into Joey Cuervo ("The Drunken Luchador"), T-Rantula and Lord Zoltan. Before their FanFest fights, they waited behind a red curtain, tapping their feet in anticipation. Then, Leturgey's clarion voice would announce their arrivals: "First, the challenger. He weighs in at 320 pounds. He is BROhemoth!"
The wrestlers emerged from behind the curtain to take strides around the hall and trash-talk his opponents. "All muscles, no brain, this guy!" Tommy Faime complained of his opponent, Anthony Alexander, as the Krazies chanted, "Faime is lame!"
Then the bell rang, and the body-slamming, clothes-lining and head-locking ensued. In a recap for KSWA Digest, Leturgey described the dramatic finish of the KSWA world championship match between BROhemoth and Mitch Napier:
Napier rolls in the ring, while BROhemoth argues with fans on the outside. BROhemoth repeatedly asks why Napier won't quit. BRO wants to end it again. BRO (head-butts) the champion. Out of nowhere, Napier rallies, splashes BROhemoth in the corner and hoists him up for the Sioux Falls Slam and gets the win. The crowd goes berserk.
"It's not nearly as pre-planned, choreographed, completely planned out as maybe the layman might think," Leturgey said. "I'm just as shocked as the Krazies are some nights."
Leturgey is a bridge between the Krazies and the wrestlers — not that there's much of a barrier between them. He might add some edge or lower his voice when announcing a villain's arrival, prompting boos from the crowd. In one inspired moment, a wrestler named Bobby Badfingers became "B-B-B-Bobby Badfingers," and fans latched on to that for years.
"God has blessed me with a halfway-decent voice," Leturgey said.
Still, for Leturgey, a Shaler resident, being a ring announcer requires more than technique. Orkwis, who was the KSWA's ring announcer before he took over the promotion, said Leturgey's personality and sense of humor are what make him effective; longtime fan John Saccomanno prefers Leturgey to announcers from WWE, the premier wrestling promotion in U.S.
"I think he's actually better because he's more fan-friendly," Saccomanno said. "The WWE announcers, they're so used to it, they don't interact with the fans sometimes."
Leturgey also brings an intellectual bent to his craft, watching old boxing and wrestling clips and writing for KSWA Digest. This fall, he taught a two-session class at Community College of Allegheny County on the history of pro wrestling in Pittsburgh, dating to 1871.
Unlike wrestling, none of baseball's drama, as far as we know, is decided in advance. Yet Leturgey sees many of the same good-versus-evil dynamics that drew him to wrestling in the first place. In 1980, Pirates center fielder Omar Moreno stole 96 bases; the Montreal Expos' Ron LeFlore stole 97, edging out Moreno for the National League stolen-base title. But, as Leturgey later learned, two of Moreno's stolen bases were wiped out in a canceled game, and the Pirates hero was robbed of the title.
"Omar was the good guy," Leturgey said, "and Ron LeFlore was the bad guy."
Orkwis, too, sees parallels between Leturgey's work at PNC Park and at the KSWA. At both venues, Leturgey is among the first people a fan or visitor might encounter. In baseball and wrestling alike, the fans are looking for a good show.
"I believe there's a piece of all of us in wrestling, in wrestling personalities, the wrestling personas," Orkwis said. "But there may be more bravado in our wrestling persona."
Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com