Jamin Pugh, a professional wrestler from Laurel, who competed in the Ring of Honor for two decades under the stage name Jay Briscoe, died in a car crash Tuesday night. He was 38.
His daughters, Gracie and Jayleigh, were also injured in the head-on crash, and the driver of the other car was killed.
Jana Pugh, Jamin Pugh’s mother and a member of the Laurel School District Board of Education, said that both of Jamin’s daughters have had emergency surgeries, and doctors aren’t sure if one will be able to walk again.
Jamin was “a family guy,” Jana said. He would do cheerleading dances with his daughters, even putting a bow in his hair to match them. He just spent the weekend at one of their cheer competitions in North Carolina, and Jana said she could hear him cheering in the background of the videos he sent her.
Since his death Tuesday night, Jana said she’s received an outpouring of messages and support from people her son met all around the world. On social media, many Delawareans have changed their profile pictures to the silhouette of a dog with “#prayersforthePughs” underneath it.
BACKGROUND:‘An incredible performer’: Ring of Honor wrestler Jay Briscoe of Delaware dies at 38
What happened in the fatal crash?
Delaware State Police said Jamin Pugh was driving east in a 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 on Laurel Road near Goose Nest Road at 5:09 pm Tuesday. At the same time, another Chevrolet Silverado driven by 27-year-old Frankford resident Lillyanne Ternahan was heading in the opposite direction on Laurel Road.
Ternahan drifted across the center line for “unknown reasons,” ending up in front of Pugh’s pickup truck in the eastbound lane, police said. Both drivers were killed in the head-on collision.
Pugh was not wearing a seat belt, according to state police, but Ternahan and Pugh’s daughters were.
Police were still investigating the crash as of Wednesday afternoon and have not determined what may have caused it. The road was closed for about four hours on Tuesday.
Jamin Pugh was beloved in the Laurel community
Although he was well known as a pro wrestler, Pugh’s athletic exploits began at Laurel High and he continued to influence area athletes.
“He was heavily involved,” Kevin Walmsley, the Laurel High athletic director, said Wednesday. “He was at school almost every day. … It’s a huge tragedy for the community.”
Pugh was a first-team All-Henlopen Conference Southern Division fullback and linebacker and honorable mention All-State linebacker before graduating from Laurel in 2002 on teams coached by his father, Mike.
More recently, he was an assistant coach on the Laurel Middle School football team, on which his son, Gannon, played, and also coached youth basketball in the town.
In addition, Pugh regularly visited with and inspired Laurel athletes, Walmsley said.
“With the kids at practice, teaching skills, techniques, some of them knew he was a star in professional wrestling and some didn’t know that,” Walmsley said. “But he treated every kid the same, and he’s gonna be missed.
“You saw him at the local store. He gave back. All the kids knew him. Just a true motivator.”
Laurel School District announced on Facebook on Tuesday night that all schools would be closed Wednesday “due to an unthinkable tragedy in our community.”
The district, which is slated to reopen Thursday, asked people to “please keep the Pugh Family in your thoughts and prayers.”
The pro wrestling community reacts
Using the names Jay and Mark Briscoe, Pugh and his brother Mark were a tag-team duo and original participants in Ring of Honor, founded in 2002 as one of several American professional wrestling promoters along with World Wrestling Entertainment and others.
They were 13-time ROH world tag-team champions and recently won the tag team title back in December in a Double Dog Collar match against FTR’s Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood.
Along with being crowd favorites while traveling around the US, the Briscoes also often earned the admiration of fellow wrestlers, said Rob Begley, who has been a pro wrestler for 20 years. Competing as Vik Dalishus with tag-team partner Hale Collins, Begley wrestled the Briscoes for the first time at the National Wrestling Alliance’s Crockett Cup in Nashville in March.
“Those guys, Mark and Jay, have a reputation in professional wrestling as being the absolute standard,” said Begley, a father of three himself who was shocked and saddened to hear of Pugh’s death. “It was a huge opportunity for us meeting them and realizing their professionalism and willingness to make us look like equals and challenge us to come up with the best professional wrestling match that we could come up with. It was really cool.”
Begley said the Briscoes earned that sterling reputation on the circuit by always having “the absolute best match of the night whether there’s five people there or 50,000.” Those guys wrestled all around the country making a name for themselves in a way that traditional professional wrestlers do.”
They did that, he added, without the benefit of being on national television, which he called “a credit to their hard work” and the fact “they never gave up following their dream.”
The Briscoes were inducted into the inaugural class of the ROH Hall of Fame last year.
Among those particularly devastated by Pugh’s death was Cary Silkin, who owned Ring of Honor from 2004 through 2011 and developed a close bond with the brothers.
“I lost one of my kids and the world lost a great man!” Silkin tweeted after hearing the news.“Jay and Mark were Ring of Honor lifers,” Silkin said Wednesday. “A lot of these guys went on to WWE and the Briscoes were happy and made a good living staying in Ring of Honor.”
Professional wrestling is theater that often involves brutal, athletic and acrobatic movements, Silkin said. The Pugh brothers – the Briscoes, to Silkin – mastered those difficult, choreographed skills.
“They brought a sense of as real as it could get,” said Silkin, who still has an advisory role with ROH. “Whether it’s in theater or sports or business, you hear about the ‘it’ factor. They had it.”
USA Today contributed reporting to this story.
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