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.