Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Man in Stripes

Man, do I wish I had a picture for this post.  But I don't.  Saturday night I made my debut as a "special guest" referee for a wrestling promotion in McLeansboro, Illinois.  It's called USCW.  I was so nervous about the task at hand that I had forgotten to get a picture of myself in the stripes.

Quick backstory on USCW.  They were holding a fundraiser event for a group that helps people with developmental disabilities live independently.  The crowd Saturday night was bigger than I had anticipated, because McLeansboro is a small town, but there were plenty of fans on hand.

When I first arrived at the old high school gym, I was greeted by the three men who were running the show.  We talked for a few minutes about what was going to be happening that night, and then one asked me if I could take a bump.  I explained I had never taken one before but would be willing to try if they wanted me to.  He laughed and said he was just kidding.  I was glad of that.

The only other time I had been in the ring was when I served as a ring announcer for the IWA: Midsouth when they ran a few shows in Herrin back in 2005.  This was the first time I'd actually be in the squared circle with the action.  I would be an active part of the show.  I was excited, but I was extremely nervous.

During that initial conversation after my arrival, I was also asked if I would ref a second match.  Of course I said yes.  Who could turn that down?  

The first match I was to ref was a handicap match.  The three guys involved met with me and their managers in the locker room prior to the show and we discussed the basics of what was going to happen.  As a fan for more than 25 years, it never dawned on me how much the referee plays a role in the match.  There were points where I'd be "distracted" and have to look the other way while some underhanded actions were going on.  With the buzz of the crowd and the excitement and nervousness I was feeling, I was grateful the heel manager, Brooklyn Bobby was guiding me through it.  I actually forgot to call for the bell during that first match and Bobby looked at me and yelled, "Well are you gonna call for the bell, come on?"  

I survived the first match and the second match was a bit more action packed and high paced.  I was afraid of getting in the way or not being in the right position, but I think it went well.  Bobby was out there for that match too and again he got the heat from the crowd he was looking for.  

I thought we played well off one another too.  At one point I threatened to send him back to the locker room if he didn't stop interfering.  That was something I just ad libbed.  Because I am the morning news anchor on the local TV station here, many of the fans in attendance recognized me and cheered as I made my way to the ring.  A few of them even asked for autographs during the show's intermission.  That was pretty cool.

After this experience, I have a new found respect not just for referees, but the guys who work these shows on the independent circuit.  I listened to their stories and their passion for the business.  It was great to get that insider look.  Hope to be able to do something like this again.

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