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alstein

What do you guys look for in a ref?

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Have a friend of mine who just said he's started training- with the likelihood he'll end up reffing for a good long while.

 

This is mostly for the folks who have performed- what do you guys want in a ref, and what should he be looking at? (other than photos of Kana ^_^)

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I've never been in the biz, but I love how Tommy Young would facially sell the moves people were hitting. He wouldn't comically oversell, but he would still give you the impression that from his perspective "damn, that hurt." 

 

I never notice referees anymore. I guess that's a good thing, maybe?

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The best referee in the business is Pro-Wrestling NOAH's main event referee Shuichi Nishinaga. He's always in the right position and is ridiculously consistent, but his best quality is that he's always making sure the wrestlers are okay after a bump. 

 

You don't want to be Earl Hebner or modern day Kohei Wada. 

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Just credibility. Not over-the-top smarky dedication (there are indy refs who will fuck up a finish because someone's foot is 1 millimeter under the bottom rope during the supposed-to-be-winning pin, it's awful), and not total feeble deer-in-headlights green stuff either. Some authority, but mostly invisibility. Also obviously the ability to bump and work adequately. No one wants to see you oversell a ref bump when you count a pin. But don't shrug shit off either, or forget your place - I'll always remember the punk ass ref at a show I was calling, who decided he would show zero fear and stand his ground when the enormous monster heel champion wanted to indimidate him during his entrance. The fuck you think you are?!

 

Some shit, no ref can fix, though. There's workers who will keep doing blatant low-blows when the finish isn't a DQ, for instance. Not for some reason integral to the match, just because they have no idea how to work heel. You can't do much about that as ref. After the third or fourth "final warning" you will start looking a bit feeble to the crowd, but that's fully on the inadequate heel.

 

(Also don't be huge. Physically. Duh. And look kinna boring. You're not in Dragon Gate. Don't put 8x4s on the merch table.)

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Anonymity.

 

I mean, Earl Hebner had a virtual stranglehold on the main event scene in WWE but think of how much you noticed him because he screwed up or made...counts...like...this? You shouldn't notice a ref until you have to and then they should make shit look real. 

 

I know he was a special guest referee but, Jesus fuck, does Gene Kiniski ever distract from the actual, you know, wrestlers in the Flair/Race cage match.

 

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The ability to take a nudge from a wrestler without being KOed for five minutes. One of my favorite things from late-70's, early-80's Portland that I noticed was the way that the refs looked like off-the-clock lumberjacks who could take the wrestlers on if need be (kind of like what the fans looked like then, too).

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Someone who is good in the kitchen. Someone who wants to spend time with me, but isn't wholly dependent on me. Someone who enjoys the finer things in life - good food, good wine, art galleries and museums. But last of all, and most importantly, must love cats.

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I reffed for years and the best advice I can give is do your best to be credible but go unnoticed.  First and foremost he should know the rules, when is there a 10 count, when is there a 5 count, what is a choke and what isn't, etc.  I hate seeing a referee look like an idiot because he doesn't know what he's doing.  A line that I think Cornette mentioned in one of his videos was to not be blind.  If a heel doesn't grab the ref and you see a tag... you saw the tag.  If you catch a manager cheating, yell at him, threaten to DQ his man, don't just ignore it.  It is the wrestler's fault for not getting you.  I've seen refs turn around for no reason because the wrestler didn't get them and they (being the ref) just ends up looking like an idiot.  Another thing that some refs don't do is hit the mat hard enough and be vocal enough.  When you're counting to 10, fans should be able to hear so they know what is going on.  When you're hitting the mat, not only should those in the ring hear it, but those in the crowd as well.  Something that I know some refs don't know or aren't taught is the  8 spots in the ring they stand which is to the left and right of the corners.  This is because it is rare that a wrestler is hitting that part of the ring.  Normally it is the corners or the center of the ropes.  Finally, he shouldn't be afraid to ask advice.  If he has a question, he should ask, in the right way of course.

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Red Shoes?

 

Blonde Hair?

 

The potential to create tag team matches 20 years down the road?

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Hebner would do something in his later days that was irritating.  When he was counting a pin, he would move differently (move his knees back and bring his arm down at a different angle) when he went to count 3 depending on if the wrestler would kick out or not.  So you could always tell when their would be a kickout a second before the actual kick-out.  When it was the actual finish, he would count fluidly and not move his knees or arms any differently on the third time.

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Hey!  Something I have experience in!

 

* Look professional.  You will get so far these days by just LOOKING THE PART.  Get a short sleeved referee shirt, a pair of black pants, a black belt, and black shoes.  I'd recommend solid black sneakers, like possibly Skechers - you want something that will be comfortable, won't leave marks, and will blend in.  Some promotions may have different referee looks but this will cover 99% of places you will work.  Believe me, you're gonna see some REALLY badly dressed refs.  Don't be one of them.  

* Study.  Watch the refs of the past.  Watch how they move, how they get involved when they need to and stay out of the way and out of sight otherwise.  Tommy Young and Nick Patrick were the two that I watched the most.  (Oddly, after I reffed for a while I started to not enjoy Mark Curtis as much - I found that when I had to dive into a spot like he frequently did, it was because I was grossly out of position, and noticed that he usually was, too.)

* Check your ego at the door.  You are an important player in the match - but you're a supporting role.   You are NOT the star and will not be the star.  Don't start thinking of angles you can do, or how you can get over - you can get yourself over by being the best ref you can and having workers you respect give you that praise.  When the booker puts you in the main events because you're reliable and do your job well, THAT'S when you're "over".

* Know the rules.  NWABCS nailed a lot of this, but seriously, at least know the basic rules of wrestling (DQ counts to five, CO counts to 10, chokes are illegal, so are punches, etc).  A story: When I worked a basic match with a big green rookie in DOA, I called the finish as the ol' El Gigante clawhold pin.  When we did the spot, the ref stood there.  I told him to count.. and he started doing a DQ count.  We hate that guy.  Don't be that guy.

* Ignore the fans.  I don't mean be a dick, but don't let what they say get to you.  By design, you're the patsy, and by design, you're going to get tricked by the heels and booed and jeered and cursed.  Part of the game.  You're a professional and professionals don't let the small stuff get to them.

* Positioning.  Again, NWABCS nailed this with the corners.  Don't get between the wrestlers and the hard cam unless you ABSOLUTELY have to (and usually you shouldn't.)  Secondary to this, watch any floor cams as well - they want shots of the wrestlers, not you.

* Enjoy it!   It can be frustrating, but when you're in there with two great workers having a fantastic match, and you've got literally the best seat in the house, just inches from the action and calling it like a pro, it can be the most rewarding job out there. 

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Punches are actually legal some places now (WWE, Anarchy Wrestling).  Mounted punches are illegal in WWE.

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A huge bonus is reacting to wrestlers differently, like when Taker stares down Charles Robinson when he tries to give him a 5 count in the corner, stuff like that helps their whole act.

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Sell the big moves but without looking goofy or jumping. In submissions, constantly check the guy if he wants to quit. Look at the time table keeper or the bell guy, saying "no" from time to time. The NJPW main referee is great at this, a bit over the top but I actually like it. 

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How does one break into reffing?

in my experience it's usually dudes who start out training to be a wrestler but are quickly discovered completely to suck ass at it

 

I know of a couple guys who straight up started out wanting to ref & ended up being the best ones, though

 

(especially this dude richard - he's one of the best in the world and just reffing one small local show a month, it ain't right :P)

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I've reffed a bunch too (still do a masked gimmick for one promotion I work for, as I used to do double duty as ref/wrestler). All the points above are great, in addition:

 

  • I hate refs who think they're hot shit, "I don't need to know the finish, I'll just count the 3 when it's the 3" etc. The way I did it was to go up to the guys about 30 minutes before they were on and ask "Hey guys, I'm reffing your match tonight, do your know your finish yet? Also is there anything else I need to know?" Don't be a brown-noser, just act professional.
  • As far as invisibility goes, try and form a triangle with the guys in the ring.
  • Keep your wits about you with positioning, don't be the ref that stands in the corner as a guy is getting whipped into it.
  • Bring a watch, then drop timehints when you're checking on guys "CAN YOU CONTINUE??? five mins in guys, five mins DO YOU WANT TO SUBMIT??"
  • On that note, work on voice levels for shit you want the crowd to hear, and shit you only want the workers to hear. Just like how guys call spots.
  • Signal everything to the crowd, and to the timekeeper. When there was a near fall I would shoot my hand up with 2 fingers and shout it was a 2-count as loud as I could, then signalled it to the timekeeper. Makes it seem more legit.
  • Workers will try to use you to communicate to their opponents, do it subtlely.
  • Also, screw black sneakers. I wore black suit trousers (cheap ones), and black dress shoes/black wrestling boots when I reffed.

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Punches are actually legal some places now (WWE, Anarchy Wrestling).  Mounted punches are illegal in WWE.

 

Good point.  Be sure to pay attention to any individual nuances of the promotion you're working for (punches being legal, piledriver being illegal, 20 count on the floor vs. 10 count, etc)

 

 

How does one break into reffing?

in my experience it's usually dudes who start out training to be a wrestler but are quickly discovered completely to suck ass at it

 

I know of a couple guys who straight up started out wanting to ref & ended up being the best ones, though

 

 

Personally, I was self-aware enough that I knew my body wouldn't hold up to being a full-time wrestler, so I went for the next best thing.  (Actually, I wanted to be a manager, but I knew I couldn't start out that way,)

 

 

I've reffed a bunch too (still do a masked gimmick for one promotion I work for, as I used to do double duty as ref/wrestler). All the points above are great, in addition:

 

  • I hate refs who think they're hot shit, "I don't need to know the finish, I'll just count the 3 when it's the 3" etc. The way I did it was to go up to the guys about 30 minutes before they were on and ask "Hey guys, I'm reffing your match tonight, do your know your finish yet? Also is there anything else I need to know?" Don't be a brown-noser, just act professional.
  • As far as invisibility goes, try and form a triangle with the guys in the ring.
  • Keep your wits about you with positioning, don't be the ref that stands in the corner as a guy is getting whipped into it.
  • Bring a watch, then drop timehints when you're checking on guys "CAN YOU CONTINUE??? five mins in guys, five mins DO YOU WANT TO SUBMIT??"
  • On that note, work on voice levels for shit you want the crowd to hear, and shit you only want the workers to hear. Just like how guys call spots.
  • Signal everything to the crowd, and to the timekeeper. When there was a near fall I would shoot my hand up with 2 fingers and shout it was a 2-count as loud as I could, then signalled it to the timekeeper. Makes it seem more legit.
  • Workers will try to use you to communicate to their opponents, do it subtlely.
  • Also, screw black sneakers. I wore black suit trousers (cheap ones), and black dress shoes/black wrestling boots when I reffed.

 

 

 

I actually tried the dress shoes first.  They ended up killing my feet, and actually stood out too much against the rest of the outfit.  The more matte black Skechers worked better, were much more comfortable and allowed far better movement.  

 

Workers also seem to give some dirty, dirty looks when a ref's wearing wrestling boots, especially if they weren't a wrestler before.   

 

Also, keep in mind reffing may look easy on the body, but it's not.  Consider that every time you're going down to do a count, you're essentially taking a minor bump, and usually on your knees, which is not good for them.  Also invest in some thin knee sleeves or kneepads - your ligaments will thank you.

 

A lot of this amounts to "don't be a bloody idiot."  Believe me, 99% of the refs on indies don't subscribe to that, and it shows.  You can probably count the number of legitimately decent referees on the indies on your fingers and toes and have some left over.

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The best referee in the business is Pro-Wrestling NOAH's main event referee Shuichi Nishinaga. He's always in the right position and is ridiculously consistent, but his best quality is that he's always making sure the wrestlers are okay after a bump.

 

I was going to post the same thing, except I never caught the guy's name. It's hard to pinpoint what he was doing since I've never worked in wrestling, but he always came across as the most natural, "true professional" in that position, similar to a ref for a legitimate sport. He had the perfect balance of keeping the heat on the wrestlers, but still selling big moments by reacting like a normal person who didn't know what was planned.

 

On TV, I think a big thing is how the announcers put over a ref doing his job well and calling him by name (eg "Referee Mike Chioda was in great position to see that foot on the ropes). WWE went through this weird phase where they didn't want to call refs by name, and it just made everyone look silly. You want to create the illusion that the matches are being competed fairly and at a high level, so acknowledging the presence of the ref when appropriate is a big help.

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