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Old 08-17-2015, 10:34 PM
RIPbossman RIPbossman is offline
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Default Special Guest Referees

Special Guest Referees

“Welcome everyone to Game Seven of the World Series here in Boston! Tonight we’ve got what looks to be a pitchers’ duel between two of the best. It all boils down to this, folks. It’s winner takes all, and for a game of this magnitude, Major League Baseball has decided to bring in special guest umpires. Tonight’s home plate umpire will be former Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson. I doubt any player will argue a call with him! At first base will be billionaire and presidential candidate Donald Trump, and at third base will be Hall of Famer and former Red Sock Pedro Martinez. Let’s hope he stays impartial towards his former team.”

The above scenario obviously never happened, nor it will ever happen. The concept of inviting special guests to referee sporting events is absolutely ridiculous. It undermines the credibility of the game when inexperienced people do officiating. Mike Tyson was a great boxer, but should he be trusted to be in charge a baseball game? Should Terrell Owens officiate a Philadelphia Eagles game when he clearly might have a rooting interest against them, as well as no experience wearing the black and white striped shirt? As ludicrous as it sounds, such is a normal occurrence in World Wrestling Entertainment.

In professional wrestling, guest celebrity referees are occasionally requested for some big matches in order to draw in extra viewers and publicity. Mike Tyson was brought in as a “special enforcer” for WrestleMania 14 for the main event. In weeks leading up to the event, Tyson openly aligned himself with Shawn Michaels and Degeneration X. While he technically wasn’t the main referee, he still had that authority. To give that type of power to someone with no pro wrestling or referee experience, and obviously has a rooting interest, only because of their celebrity status sounds preposterous. But it was one of the smartest, greatest business deals Vince McMahon chose to do. With Nitro beating Raw for about eighty weeks straight, Mike Tyson’s star power brought attention to Stone Cold Steve Austin as he became the face of the company, and to a new theme that was permeating the product. Three weeks later, Raw snapped that losing streak.

And while the mere idea of any untrained referee, celebrity or not, calling a hockey game is flat out stupid, it doesn’t stick out too much in the crazy world of sports entertainment. Big Boss Man once crashed Big Show’s father’s burial service, chained the casket to his car and drove off. Triple H pretended to have sex with a mannequin, Undertaker survived being buried alive four times, and the regular, trained referees constantly make the same mistakes. Imagine an NFL referee missing a call because a player was arguing with him during a play. That’s professional wrestling for you, and in this world, guest referees are another illogical yet welcomed concept.

When examining how a guest ref should be used during a match, you need to look at the big picture first. Are they a regular part of the programming? Are they an outside celebrity with no experience in wrestling? At what stage in the full storyline is the match taking place? What purpose does this match serve in the context of said storyline?

At Judgement Day 1998, Vince McMahon ordered Steve Austin to be the referee in the Undertaker vs. Kane match for the vacant WWF Championship. He demanded Austin, who made his life a living hell, to raise the hand of a new champion, or else he’d fire him. Here, the focus of the match was not meant to be about Kane or Undertaker, the actual participants. It was really about the long running, hugely successful storyline between Austin and McMahon. And at that time, it should have been. Stone Cold ended up brawling with Kane and Taker, and eventually declared himself the winner. It advanced the McMahon/Austin saga, and Austin’s involvement added extra entertainment and interest to yet another televised Kane/Undertaker match.

At Summer Slam 1999 Jesse Ventura was invited to referee the triple threat main event between Triple H, Mankind and Austin. The year prior Ventura was elected the governor of Minnesota, the hosting state of Summer Slam. While he was on Raw in weeks leading up to the event and a former WWWF wrestler, he wasn’t that deeply rooted in the main event storyline. During the match he refused to count for Triple H, who used a steel chair, and threw Shane McMahon over the top rope while yelling some profanity. Overall, since he wasn’t regularly part of the programming then, he did his job well. Ventura drew attention to himself a few times and added entertainment value, all while keeping the focus on Austin, Mankind and Triple H.

A regular referee is expected, in kayfabe, to call it down the middle and go by the official rule book. And for the most part, as in legitimate, competitive sports, referees can show leeway here and there. A home plate umpire might widen the strike zone for a game. It happens. However, when a guest official is brought in for a wrestling match, showing flexibility and allowing wrestlers to stretch or break certain rules is an aspect of creativity they can add.

Going back to the Austin/McMahon rivalry, Austin wrestled Dude Love, McMahon’s then appointed henchman to dethrone Austin from his championship throne, at Over The Edge 1998 with McMahon himself as the referee. It was evident McMahon would show bias against Austin The match itself is very entertaining, and once again this is an example where the guest official justifiably had just as much, if not more attention than the competitors. As things progressed, Vince eliminated disqualifications, and later allowed falls to count anywhere, each at times when Dude Love had control. The evil boss even made sure not to count Dude Love’s shoulders down after the Stunner. Vince McMahon changing the rules and refusing to count was entertaining in and of itself, and added depth to his rivalry with Austin. In the end Austin, very creatively, slammed the hand of an unconscious Vince three times as he pinned Dude Love. Austin finding a way to counter McMahon’s corrupt authority made for a perfect feel good ending to the pay per view.

On a Raw in the summer of 2005, John Cena defended the WWE Championship against Carlito, with Chris Jericho, Cena’s Summer Slam opponent, as the official. Here the bias of Jericho was blatant, as he tried to fast count Cena every time Carlito tried to pin him. In my opinion, this was a poor example of how to use the guest ref concept. While it was ok for more focus to be on Jericho than Carlito, given his ongoing Cena program, there should’ve been more creativity shown here. Jericho should have been more clever on displaying his bias. In the end a regular ref ran down and made the count, a flat ending that completely nullified the guest referee concept.

Most wrestlers have almost super human toughness when compared to the full time officials. Just merely running into a referee knocks him down to the mat for a while. When a special official is brought in that’s a wrestler himself or an outside athlete, this aspect is thrown out the window, and now a physical confrontation between a wrestler and said referee becomes more interesting.

Six time world karate champion Chuck Norris was brought in as a special enforcer at Survivor Series 1994 for the casket match between Yokozuna and Undertaker. In their previous casket match, ten heels interfered and cost Taker the match. Norris was brought in to stop that from going down again. Jeff Jarrett tried to run in, but Norris prevented it by punching him with his right fist, left fist, and the fist under his beard. (Anyone get that reference?) Not really, but he did roundhouse kick Jarrett, and no one got involved in the match.

Shawn Michaels tried twice to end Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania undefeated streak, and it cost him his career. In 2012 he refereed the Hell In A Cell match at WrestleMania 28 between Triple H and Undertaker, streak still in tact. Would Shawn Michaels show favoritism towards his best friend HHH, prevent him from breaking the streak he never could, or be impartial? Because of Shawn’s deep kayfabe connections to the characters, he could add extra entertainment value than say, Jerry Springer or another outside celebrity. Shawn teased ending the match when it looked like Undertaker was in trouble, and later super kicked Taker in retaliation for putting him in Hell’s Gate. Shawn’s understood the magnitude of the streak, and showed it during the match. But overall, he didn’t make the match about himself. He knew when to keep his distance and let Taker and Hunter tell their story.


At New Year’s Revolution 2005, Shawn Michaels was the referee for the Elimination Chamber match. Again, this is an example of Shawn having history with each competitor. He ended up super kicking Edge and forced his elimination, and later physically stood up to Ric Flair and prevented his physical interference. But like the regular referees who even have training, Shawn became distracted. Batista, who was already eliminated, interfered on Triple H’s behalf and enabled him to win the match. This made sense. Because Shawn had no real training to officiate matches, he should be making the same mistakes regular refs do and then some. It was realistic in that sense, even if it’s absurd they make those same bone head mistakes repeatedly.

What is the perfect way for a guest official to perform? There’s no set answer to that, but there are general rules to follow. With extra attention on their involvement, they need to make their presence felt in a notable way. Maybe getting in someone’s face during an argument. Maybe like Triple H at Summer Slam 2011 when he stopped his count at 9 and threw CM Punk and John Cena back in the ring. But in the grand scheme of things, he shouldn’t overshadow the competitors unless the storyline calls for it. Like at Summer Slam 2011, Triple H mostly stood back and let Punk and Cena tell their story (not counting the aftermath). If it’s an outside celebrity, they should be someone who could bring in interest from non fans who might become regular fans, like Muhammad Ali, Buster Douglas’s (first person to knock out Mike Tyson) involvement at Summer Slam 1989 or Chuck Norris, an popular action movie star. While it the concept of special guest referees may be ridiculous in a legitimate, competitive sport, it’s as ordinary as a holiday in the world of sports entertainment.
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Old 08-20-2015, 05:53 AM
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Wrestling isn't as serious a sport as baseball its sports entertainment so I see nothing wrong with having an occasional special guest refferee, In other sports it would just be stupid having someone like Mike Tyson refferee at the superbowl for example.
I also don't think theres a perfect way for them to perform as it all depends on who is involved and the circumstances of the match and think they can add a lot to a match.
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Old 02-12-2017, 08:03 AM
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I just found this again. I wrote this article a year and a half ago. Thought I'd bump this to see if anyone has feedback.
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Old 02-12-2017, 11:46 AM
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Quote:
But it was one of the smartest, greatest business deals Vince McMahon chose to do. With Nitro beating Raw for about eighty weeks straight, Mike Tyson’s star power brought attention to Stone Cold Steve Austin as he became the face of the company, and to a new theme that was permeating the product. Three weeks later, Raw snapped that losing streak.
Don't forget the Tyson-Austin physical confrontation on RAW was played on mainstream news and sports media outlets 24/7 giving the WWE an amount of publicity no money could buy. Obviously the "guest referee" has to add some juice to the main event (either storylinewise/or celebrity wise) WITHOUT taking away from the main event. I think the Tyson and Austin examples were perfect examples. Tyson added a tremendous amount the pre-fight juice but once the bell rang the focus was on Austin-HBK.

When you're talking about an outside celebrity coming in, you have to trust your performers. When the WWE brought in Tyson, Chuck Norris, Ali, LT you had skilled performers and ring generals in there who could work a match AROUND the celebrity. They made sure the focus stayed on the match while also including the celebrity in spots but never giving the celebrity too much. I remember Ali and Tyson wanting to take center stage in the match at WM 1 and Piper skillfully holding them at bay like a rabid dog chained to leash while also making sure they were included.

Referees are often the "third man" in the ring. They are charged with keeping the match flowing, passing information on to the wrestlers', time keeping etc.....so in that instance you need to have someone with inside knowledge of the business work as a referee. Wrestlers' were often trained as referees early in their career. So in reality the match becomes a triple threat match with the ref obviously being the third man. I have a hard time thinking of a time when a celebrity was an actual referee and not just an "attraction" like a valet or an "enforcer." Kayfabe was still very strict in the '90's even though the reins were loosened a bit. The thought of taking a celebrity inside the business was probably one that the boys' would ultimately veto. I think Vince had enough respect for the business too not break in celebs also.
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