Thursday, February 20, 2014

1-2-3 You're In the Hall of Fame

Hogan and the Hebners
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Referees have long been an important part of any professional wrestling match.  When I was a kid, it seemed like I knew the names of all or most of the officials in the match.  Now, I would be lucky to name more than just a few refs.  I think that's a sign of the times, as they don't seem to be worked into matches like they used to, or maybe it's that announcers don't bother to include them during commentary most of the time.

As of right now, there are no referees in the WWE Hall of Fame.  Sure, there are men (and women) who have served as special guest referees, but not one pure ref from back in the day.  There are plenty of outstanding refs who deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame.  I think once there's an actual physical building, the WWE should include a Referee Wing to go along with the Celebrity Wing.  

Danny Davis
So if the company were to induct a ref, who would be the first to get the honor?  There are plenty to chose from including Danny Davis who went from ref to wrestler back to ref in the WWF.  Nick Patrick and Teddy Long were notorious as well.   World Class Championship Wrestling ref Bronko Lubich was memorable to me for many reasons.  He and David Manning were two of my favorites growing up and watching WCCW.  Dick Woerhle, Dick Kroll, Tim White, and Jim Korderas all stand out to me also.

I like all the names mentioned obviously, but here are my three top choices. I'm basing my decision on memorable moments for each of these men and my personal enjoyment of said ref.

Ric Flair & Tommy Young
Tommy Young may be the best wrestling referee of all time.  He was an NWA/WCW guy so I don't think the WWE would make him the first to go into the HOF.  Young worked some of the greatest matches in wrestling  history, including the Ric Flair-Ricky Steamboat series of matches.  As I write this, Tommy Young is the ONLY NWA referee I actually remember.  He helped the wrestlers in the match tell their story.  His emotions and close counts in those Flair-Steamboat matches helped fans get more invested into the contests.

Joey Marella
The late Joey Marella was one of my favorite refs as a kid.  He didn't really stand out for any particular reason.  I think his claim to fame came at Wrestlemania III and that perceived three-count he made in the early moments of the Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant match.  Jesse Ventura called him out on it during commentary and Bobby Heenan would later criticize the botched count too.  After that Marella was a house hold name.  I'm not sure when I figured it out, but Joey is the son of WWE Hall of Famer Gorilla Monsoon.  Sadly, Marella died in a car crash in 1994.

Earl Hebner and "The Screwjob" 
Earl Hebner is a part of wrestling history from a couple of big matches.  He first officiated the rematch between Hogan and Andre on Main Event in 1988.  This time Andre did win, but we learned that Hebner had been bought off by the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase.  Controversy lingered around Hebner in 1997 when he called for the bell during the Bret Hart-Shawn Michaels WWF Title match at Survivor Series.  It's all a part of the Montreal Screwjob.  I didn't remember this, but Hebner apparently beat WCW ref Nick Patrick in a match during the Invasion Angle of 2001.  Hebner has cashed in on his notoriety and is still working as a ref, but now for TNA.

There are plenty of great referees now who have had Hall of Fame worthy careers, including Charles Robinson, Scott Armstrong, and Mike Chioda.  Who are your picks?

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