The Virgin Referee…

On Saturday night, August 20th,  I made my refereeing debut. Previously I was being used as a ringside manager, but the company was short a referee so I agreed to step in and give the reffing gig a go. Having been a fan for more years than I care to remember, and having the “dying to get in there and get involved” mentality, I agreed!

So what was my first refereeing gig like? It was actually pretty fun. True, I didn’t make it all the way to the end of the night (I got too hot) but I had a great time doing it.

Before the show I had a coaching session with referee/pro wrestler, Thomas, and he ran through some of the basics I’d need to know. I tried to soak up as much as I could in the short amount of time available because in about and hour and a half I was going to have to put it into practice. One of the things he told me was the integrity of the referee was of utmost importance. If a referee looks like a goon, why are the fans going to take anything they see seriously. Pro wrestling is presented as “sport” and a referee acting like an incompetent goon is going take away that sports element. So most importantly, the ref has to be like a true sporting official. Anything less will make the match a joke. Another thing he told me is that I should call things as I see them. And little did I know, I’d have to put this into practice in the first match.

Let me pull back the curtain a little. While professional wrestling is extremely athletic,  there is a pre-determined aspect to it. When two wrestlers’, or “workers”, are having their match they are working together to put on a show. While most matches aren’t choreographed from beginning to end, certain points of the match are predetermined. You can kinda look at it like the match has bullet points. You go from point A to point B to point C, but the content between these points isn’t laid out in advance. While A, B and C are the structure of the match, the rest is improvised on the fly. True workers can feel the tide of the crowd and can draw them into the match. If a match were planned move for move, there’d be no room for the wrestlers to interact with the fans. Thus, more likely than not, the fans aren’t going to enjoy themselves.

So here was the first match of the night. You had The Puma, Steven and Aidan in a Triple Threat match with Rick, Aidan’s second, on the outside. In the backstage area, the finish of the match was discussed. Puma would get destroyed on the outside, leading to me, the referee, checking on him to see if he was okay. In my absence Rick would jump into the ring and turn on his charge, Aidan, by blasting him with a chair. Then the ring would clear, the ref would reenter the ring (with no knowledge of the heel chicanery) and then count the 1-2-3 on the betrayed and fallen Aidan. It was your standard “distract the referee and steal a victory” routine.

That was all fine and dandy, but it didn’t exactly pan out that way. The match (a fine one I might add) was going along swimmingly and it was time for the finish. Puma was thrown to the outside and was destroyed by being run into the ring post. The referee, me, bailed to the outside to check on the fallen wrestler. So far so good. We both heard the chair shot which meant it would soon be time for us to return to the ring for the finish. The problem was that the guys in the ring were taking their time getting out of the ring. First, Puma returned to the ring to try to get the outside interference cleared up. I waited a few moments to let everyone who wasn’t supposed to be in the ring leave. So after a few seconds (which seemed like an eternity) I turned around and saw that everyone was still in the ring along with the chair. The first thing that came to my mind was “Oh crap, what do I do now?” I slowly climbed up to the apron and pondered what I should do. The sporting official, me, had seen all the illegal misdoings and the natural reaction would be to stop the match. But what about the finish that the guys had put together, I wondered? Also, I’m a newbie referee, so my actions are under the microscope. I took a deep breath, and made the signal to the timekeeper to ring the bell. Due to the interference of Rick I’d called the match to a close. Yep, I’d changed a finish in my first match. But it had to be done…

I was pretty nervous to face the booker when I returned backstage. And the guys that were working the match too. But it turned out everything was okay. Nobody had a problem with what I had done. PHEW!

That my was initiation into the world of refereeing and I loved it.

Wrestling Shoes Ordered

Today I ordered my first pair of wrestling shoes. I’ve decided to go for the wrestling shoes/kickpads look rather than regular boots. The main reason being that the shoes and pads option will save me a few bucks. The ones I’ve ordered are pictured here. It felt weird ordering a pair of wrestling shoes. In England (where I was born and grew up) wrestling shoes are foreign to us. The amateur wrestling scene is microscopic and unlike high schools in the United States, wrestling is not an English high school sport. So I’m largely buying a product that’s foreign to me.

So, so far I have obtained some TRACE wrestling knee pads and some ASICS wrestling shoes. To finish off the look I’m going to have to get the kick pads, elbow pads and a singlet. I don’t see myself being ready for my debut match anytime soon, but I’m biding my time by trying to piece together my ring gear. When I make my debut I want to have my look straight out of the gate. It frankly embarrasses me to see kids come straight out of wrestling school and they’re wearing jogging pants, a pair of trainers and a T-shirt to the ring. I’m embarrassed for the sport and I’m embarrassed for them.

Fourth Practice…

So last night marked the fourth time I trained for in-ring wrestling. I’ve noticed some improvements in myself and my sensei has also remarked on them too. So I’m pretty excited about that. But I have to say, I’m a little banged up too. Like a lot of things, I guess the best way to learn in-ring is the hard way. This morning I have discomfort in my left wrist, my right ankle and my lower back. I’m not sure at which points I tweaked each of them, but I’m definitely gonna keep an eye out for them in the future. I realize pro wrestling is not ballet, but I want to keep myself as pain-free as possible.

Anyway, now that griping is out of the way, here are the areas I believe I’m improving in:

For one thing, I noticed my stamina is taking a noticable up swing. During my first few sessions, I’d get blown up (tired out) after taking a couple of bumps. Now, not so much. It was kinda embarrassing to take a couple of bumps then roll out the ring and start dry heaving. I guess the dry heaving had a little bit to do with my equilibrium being out of whack too.

I seem to be absorbing instructions more efficiently now. There’s a lot of mechanics when it comes to exchanging wrestling holds. For the most part I’m doing pretty good.

Then there’s running opening spots. These are when wrestlers exchange holds to open a match. Laying the groundwork for the match, if you will. This is where my stamina and info retention is all coming together. Our sensei put together a sequence for us. Collar and elbow into a side headlock, hammerlock exchanges, back to the side headlock, arm wringers and arm bars, shoot into the ropes and take a hiptoss, arm drag and a punch. Quite a lot to take in, but I did pretty well with it. Sure, I was going half speed and was blown up by the end of it, but it’s a work in progress.

After training session number two, I was down on myself for my lack of progression, but after last night I feel like I’m on the right track.

Yoga Party

So here’s the deal. Most prospective wrestlers begin their training in their teenage years. Some perhaps wait until their mid-twenties. I, on the other hand, have waited until my earlier thirties. There’s no particular reason for this, other than the timing just seems right. I was too much of an introvert in my younger years, and there was no conceivable way I could step my introverted self through those ropes.

Better late than never, huh? You’d think so. Unfortunately, at age 32, it’s gonna take a major effort to keep up with those young whippersnappers. After thinking about it for a while, I came to this conclusion. Being older and less limber than my younger counterparts, I had to come up with a plan. My conclusion was that if limbering up is what I feel I need the most, why not give yoga a whirl?

Some of my favourite workers over the years have had one thing in common: The ability to do a neck bridge. This particular aspect of in-ring has always fascinated me. Be it Mr. Perfect’s Perfectplex, Hiroshi Hase’s Northern Lights Suplex or Chris Benoit’s German Suplex, it’s a movement that looks so graceful. Almost art like. So, hopefully, yoga can help me acheive this limberness.

And it just so happens I’m waiting on my first yoga book in the mail tomorrow. Diamond Dallas Page’s “Yoga For Real Guys”. Can’t wait to start reading up about it. I’ll try to blog  about my thought on it tomorrow.