The WWE Referee: The Thankless Job of Being the Third Man in the Ring

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2013

Quick, name as many pro wrestling referees as you can in 10 seconds.

I am willing to bet that even the most devoted wrestling fan didn't need all of their fingers to count how many refs they could name.

Most fans probably thought of Charles "Little Naitch" Robinson, Earl Hebner, (#Hardbodyref) Scott Armstrong, and going back a bit, Dave Hebner and Nick Patrick.

Some referees have been around for a long time, so naturally, they are a little more recognizable than most, but the third man in the ring usually goes unnoticed.

Quick, how many matches can you think of that were actually ruined by a bad ref? The Montreal screw-job doesn't count.

This number was probably not much higher than the number of refs you could name. Being a ref is not easy, and yet, they manage to make it look easy.

Everyone can count to three, right?

However, the referee is much more important to a wrestling match than anyone really realizes.

They are the ones who communicate messages between the wrestlers, make sure the match is timed out right, checks to make sure nobody is really hurt, and most importantly, they call the end of the match.

The referee is a thankless job.

They are crucial to how well a match comes across, but the credit always goes to the guy who has his hand raised at the end of the match.

Refs have to appear like they are enforcing the rules, while sometimes allowing them to be skirted for the sake of a match. The best example is when a ref waits a long time before starting to count someone out.

The whole point of an outside-the-ring beatdown is for the person to possibly be counted out, so letting them have a little longer to tell a story before beginning the count is appropriate.

It's not as if being a ref means you are not going to take a bump here and there. There have been refs who have taken bumps that most veteran wrestlers would think twice about.

They have been hit with finishers, put through tables, hit with weapons and everything else that is supposed to be happening to the wrestlers in the ring.

It's easy to point out how a ref is usually knocked down by one shot, but it's all part of the story. Many matches have had incredible conclusions because of what happened to the ref.

Refs get knocked out, then all of a sudden the hero pops up and hits his finisher on the heel. Then, with all his strength, the ref slowly crawls over, raises his hand and drops it to the mat once, twice and three times for the win!

The arena erupts as the hero manages to beat the odds with a slow, dramatic count for the pin.

That moment happened because the ref played an important part of the story, but it's always the wrestler being praised by the crowd for their performance. The ref heads to the back, probably in a little pain, without so much as a thank you.

That is the burden of a referee. They go out there every week in front of millions of fans, and they perform their duties to such a high degree of quality that it goes completely unnoticed.

You don't notice a great ref, you notice a bad ref. Nobody talks about what the ref is doing unless a mistake was made.

There are not many jobs where you can say, "the less I am noticed, the better I am doing," but being a referee in pro wrestling means exactly that. Unfortunately, that also means not getting any credit or thanks.

I always hear people talking about how everything has a holiday, from Secretary's Day to Talk Like A Pirate Day. I went to both Google and Bing, yes Bing, and searched "National Referee Day."

Google had nothing. Bing informed me that Canada has something called National Official's Day to give refs their due, but many of the results thought I meant National Refugee Day.

It may not be much, but on behalf of wrestling fans all over the world, thank you, referees.

Thank you, Mike Chioda, Charles Robinson, Chad Patton, John Cone, Justin King, Rod Zapata, Scott Armstrong and all the refs who came in WWE before you for doing a great job being the invisible third man in the ring every single week.


Thanks for reading and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.