Referees: The Neglected Characters

The Katz Files – Arnie Katz
Referees: Wrestling’s Neglected Characters?
The Kingfish Arnie Katz considers the role of the referee in the wrestling show and offers some future possibilities.

The WWE recently made an announcement that shocked and surprised me, which is no easy trick after over 50 years of watching this stuff. It didn’t take a major signing or weird stip, either.

What WWE did was to decree that, henceforth, their referees won’t be referred to by their names. In one stroke, they removed the possibility of using the referee as a non-wrestling character in the show. Voluntarily giving up the option to do so came as a bolt from the blue.

From Red Shoes Dugan to the Hebners to Danny Davis and, most recently, Shane Sewell, referees have played significant parts in the pro wrestling show. Dugan’s flamboyant style and exaggerated counts enlivened southern California wrestling in the 1970’s – and who can forget the Dueling Hebners plot that turned on the physical similarity of the two refereeing brothers?

Shane Sewell provided a reasonably current example of how the referee can be used as a character. TNA bookers scored one of their notable successes in turning the unknown Striped Shirt into a credible opponent for Sheik Abdul Bashir.

The most outrageous use of the referee character occurred in a TV show that mysteriously turned up on New York airwaves in the 1970’s. It originated in South America and there were no sub-titles to help those of us challenged by the Spanish language.

The program brimmed with enigmas, such as a beautiful woman who sat at ringside in an elaborate costume and wept into her lacy handkerchief.

Yet one of the most striking elements amid all the strangeness was the referee. He was dressed as a pig! I don’t think WWE or TNA would want to go quite that far, but it shows what a vivid imagination cold do with the ref character.

The right move, I think, is to come up with good ways to use the referee rather than restricting him from his official duties (and the unofficial ones of cueing the wrestlers about elapsed time, flagging injuries and so forth).

What kind of thing could be done? Well, here are a few ideas, are a few possibilities:

* A referee could develop a strong friendship with a wrestler and start calling matches in a highly biased way. A babyface would then challenge the affected wrestler and, in the process, deal with the compromised official.

* Take a wrestler from near the bottom of the roster and have him become a referee. The storyline would revolve around the efforts of old enemies to ruin his work and cost him his job, Naturally, the ref’s buddies from his wrestling days would come to his aid and the two factions could have a cluster schmazz at a pay per view.

* A woman, someone like Jackie Moore, could apply for the referee’s job, The babyfaces would simply accept the idea, but the heels would do anything they could to intimidate her. It would lead to an inter-gender match, probably a six-person, in which the female referee would get some payback for the harassment.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back Monday with a fresh installment of the Internet’s fastest-rising pro wrestling column. I hope you’ll join me then and, please, bring your friends.
— Arnie Katz
Executive Editor
[email protected]
(7/7/09)