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Dr. Darin Davis

Minnesota independent pro wrestler discusses past experiences and the current state of pro wrestling

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I attended the Minnesota Independent Wrestling (MIW) show at the Chanhassen American Legion last Saturday Oct 17th. Recorded video of the MIW no DQ tag match while it was in progress. Pretty brutal and a great end to the feud between these two tag teams.

Excuse the purple hue- my phone does that in lower light conditions.

I’ve written previously about the importance of having a good referee in a match (I’m with the Show). They can make or break it for the wrestlers and the fans.

For the last three or four years, I have been working as referee for Minnesota Independent Wrestling (MIW) when they run shows at the American Legion in Chanhassen, MN. MIW is the promotion of one of my wrestling trainers, Terry Fox, and a long time wrestling friend and fan-turned-promoter Tim Larson. Followers of the local wrestling scene in the late ’90s will recognize Tim as the author of the Upper Midwest Wrestling Newsletter. He created 236 issues ending in April of 2002. I have the full archive on my site at this link: UMWN Archive.

I recently ran across an article by referee Jason Iannone that went a little more “behind the curtain” than I was willing to go in some of my previous postings. But, as I wrote in another posting called My Wrestling NDA, I’m more likely to talk about it if someone else reveals it first.

Take a few minutes to read his article and then I have a few follow-up comments on: Things Your Local Pro Wrestling Referee Wants You To Know

I pulled out a few quotes below and added my take.

But we’re pretty much the glue that holds the matches together.  Having a referee there to oversee the action makes it look like a legitimate contest.

Yep. I’ve wrestled hundreds of matches in training camp, some without a referee or with an untrained referee. It just doesn’t work. It’s like watching a movie with the sound turned off. You can kind of follow what’s happening but part of the story is missing.

At our best, we act like the action is real, and officiate accordingly. Yes, we know who’s winning. And yes, we know about certain things planned beforehand […]. But, for the most part, we just call what we see, and treat it as realistically as possible, in the hopes that the audience feels the same way.

It only works well if you treat it as a serious contest, where the winner will either get more money as a result, or move up the ladder to get a shot at a title at some future date (our version of the playoffs). You need to treat it like making a wrong call or not enforcing the rules on both contestants equally could cost someone a shot at success. “Call what you see” also implies that you “don’t call what you don’t see” so that you don’t violate the rule above. In other words, if the heel hits the babyface with his nightstick, but we don’t want a disqualification, then I can’t see it. If  I don’t see it, I don’t have the issue of not calling it like a serious contest.

However, there are situation where things don’t go as smoothly, as Jason mentions…

[I]f we have to disqualify somebody who was scheduled to win, because they wouldn’t stop choking their opponent, then so be it.

You want to have the match end as expected to make the promoter happy. At least a few of the wrestling promotions in the area have “seasons” where they run at a regular venue from September to May (or there abouts) and take the summers off. They usually plan out storylines to build up until the end of the season and then give some reason why people should come back again in the fall. Screwing that up for them is a bad idea.

However, this is only trumped by the rule that the referee needs to officiate like it is a serious legitimate contest. Nothing would look worse than a referee stopping at a two count if the wrestler being pinned did not kick out. Or getting to a five count on some rule violation and not disqualifying the violator. If a wrestler doesn’t lift their shoulder by the count of three, you still need to count three and end the match. If they don’t stop choking by a five count, you need to disqualify them and end the match. In these cases, the heat will be on them and not the referee (from the promoter’s perspective at least). You didn’t give me a choice. But as a ref, you’d better be damn sure it’s not your fault before you make the call. If he didn’t lift his shoulder on time, you’d better be sure he didn’t put his foot on the rope instead. Making contact with the ropes breaks the pin attempt, but many referees don’t think to check that.

This made me think back to a match between Dean Malenko and David Sammartino that aired on a live national WCW broadcast. I did a search and found a video. It was for the WCW Cruiserweight title (Malenko was the champ). Notice that the clip is only five minutes long. Considering it took them a minute and a half to get in the ring, and thirty seconds to walk back after the match, that means there was only three minutes of wrestling. For a nationally televised title match. The referee was one of the best referees of all time, the late great Mark Curtis. At the 4:30 mark, Sammartino didn’t get his shoulders up and Curtis had to count to three. No other choice. I’m sure they were planning to put in at least 10 mins, but that didn’t matter.


Dean Malenko vs David Sammartino-WCW… by TSteck160

The one area I’ll bend a little bit on this is with a ten count violation. If both wrestlers are outside the ring and I get to nine, I’ll go outside and tell them to get back in. I don’t see both of them being out of the ring longer as a violation that would legitimately change the outcome of the match (in the way allowing one wrestler to continue to choke the other one might be). However, if one of them gets back in and the other doesn’t make the 10 count, it’s over.

The best refs, besides being properly stupid and half-blind, are experts at not getting involved, and letting the crowd concentrate on the wrestlers. As I heard so often when training, “the best referees are the ones you never notice.”

This was brought home in a conversation I had a year or two ago with ring veteran Horace The Psychopath. He said, “Did you referee my match at the last show?” I said I did. He said, “That tells me you must have done a good job, because I don’t remember. You got out of the way when you were supposed to. You got involved when you were supposed to… I only remember the ones who screwed up.”

I remember that he also wanted me to “point out the pretty girls” to him during the match (discretely of course), but I don’t think I did that. He must have forgotten that part. I still have to concentrate enough on what I’m doing that I can only take in “distractions” before or after the match.

When I wrestled, I expected people to boo me when I came out as a heel. I was hiding behind my wrestling persona and my goal was to get them to boo. When I was working as a “good guy” and people booed instead of cheered, it bothered me because I felt I wasn’t doing my job, not because I felt anything personal. But when I started working as a referee for MIW (using my real name) and they booed, it was a little hard to get used to. It felt like they were booing me personally, rather than my character, because I don’t know if I really have a character when I’m working as a referee. I feel like I’m being myself. The thing to remember is they aren’t being themselves. They’re doing it because that’s part of their enjoyment, not because they have anything against you personally. Some of them still come up to you and talk, or buy you a drink, after the matches.

So the next time you’re out at a pro wrestling show, take a few minutes to watch the ref and see how he (or she) alternates between the invisible man and the voice of authority.

WWE wrestler the Big Show was interviewed on Wrestling with Rosenberg last month and had some interesting things to say. I don’t know why I was surprised to hear this kind of insight from the Big Show. Maybe because his ring work and character makes me think that he goes out there and wings it most of the time. But I guess it just reinforces the idea that people don’t appreciate the amount of thought that goes into even the most basic wrestling match (and the build-up to it).

Below are a few quotes from the interview along with a couple of my comments (transcript courtesy of Cageside Seats). I also changed “sports entertainment” to “wrestling”… just because. (if you want to know why, read WWE: Don’t Call Us Wrestling).

The full video can be seen at the bottom.

…the one big thing that goes on in our industry now, … that bothers me, is most every finish in a tag match has a dip. Why put in a dip in a finish when you’re a new tag team? If you’re a new heel tag team… A dip is (when) there’s a comeback and the comeback stops, that’s a dip. Stop that. When you’re younger, if you’re a babyface tag team and you’re going over, make a comeback and go home. Because the only reason a dip works in a finish or false finish situation is because the audience is emotionally invested in your character. If they’re not emotionally invested in you and you put a dip in a finish, it just looks like you couldn’t get the job done. If you get them to the highest point and they drop, you never get them back…

 

…I catch sh*t all the time ‘oh, you’re slow;’ I’m slow for a reason. I’m slow because that’s my character and that’s my style. When I accelerate my offense it’s not slow, there’s not a big man who moves as fast as fast as I do. When it’s time for me to bump and feed for a comeback, I bump and feed for a comeback but in the meantime, why am I going to run around looking like everyone else? It’s not because I’m lazy, it’s because I’m telling a story. I try to explain that to some of the younger guys…

 

…our job as a heel is to get the babyface over. Which means when it’s time for you to get your heat, you get your heat. You know, heat’s not big moves. As a heel, your heat is underhanded, it’s kicking a guy when he’s down, it’s taking the easy route out when you can, bailing out of the ring and bailing back in the ring but as the babyface it’s coming back in cutting him off when he’s trying to get in; it’s a psychological game of America and the human race in general has always fought from underneath, through evolution, through war, through disease, through famine, we’ve always had to overcome these obstacles. That’s where sports entertainment [wrestling] comes in and has so many fans who are emotionally invested because we all understand that paradox of life, fighting from underneath and having that obstacle to overcome…

I think a lot of people who are long-time wrestling fans (even the so-called “smart” fans) can read the quotes above and look at their weekly shows in a different light. Even the guys that you put down as not being good “workers” have to think about those kind of things all the time. During the match while they have a dozen other things to concentrate on.

And for us that are in the business, it’s good to get some confirmation that what we were taught at the small-time local levels is the same as what the big-time organizations tell their talent.

Wrestling fans are familiar with the epic battles between Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Many consider the match between the two at Wrestlemania 3 to be one of the best matches of all time.

But have you heard of Randy “The Dragon” Savage?

Skyrim is a first-person action adventure game that was recently released on multiple gaming platforms, including the PC. The PC version has a very supportive mod community, and they also have a lot of time on their hands. Sometime after creating better textures for the female characters (they have their priorities),  somebody modified the model and textures of a dragon to look like the reincarnation of Randy “Macho Man” Savage.

Check out the video below, and make sure you turn up the sound while you “Snap into a Slim Jim”.

TruTV, the network that has fully embraced “white trash” reality programs, has a TV series called “All Worked Up” that follows repo men, tow truck drivers, bail bondsmen, and other folks that get yelled at and spit at on a daily basis. I happened to catch part of this show for the first time a  couple of weekends ago and I’m finally getting around to mentioning it. It just happened to be episode 104 that included a segment on a security guard (Zach Yeager) for Ring Of Honor (ROH) wrestling.

A couple of loudmouth fans were a little upset at a guy by the name of Austin Aries (heard of him?). They waited around for him outside of the building, and at the risk of giving away the “punch” line, one of them gets tagged hard enough to hit the pavement. And they’re Canadian, for all you Canada haters out there.

The full episode is currently available at the TruTV website, or you can take a look at the YouTube clip of the Aries segment below.

I kind of hate to link to the YouTube clip because it looks like it was posted by one of the clueless jabronies that was involved in the whole scuffle, but it’s easier than shuttling through the full episode. Plus you can leave some nasty comments for them there if you like.

For all you “Where’s Waldo” fans, see if you can spot Colt Cabana.

I wrote a couple of months ago (TNA Towel: 2, Believability: 0) about the TNA Bloody Towel ™ making another appearance on the Thursday night TNA Impact! program. Well, good ole’ “BT” was seen again on the broadcast last week after Mr. Anderson got Black Hole Slammed on a big pile of (candy) glass.

See the TNA Bloody Towel ™ in all its glory at about the 2:08 mark:

Since the towel has now gotten more air time than TNA president Dixie Carter, I figure TNA should just add the thing to their official roster.

Think of the marketing potential for this. Since they just signed with Jakks Pacific to have a line of action figures made, now is the perfect time to add it. And I don’t mean as just a wrestler accessory, I mean as a thing a kid could play around with.

I’d stand in a fairly short line to buy one.

If the action figure route doesn’t pan out, they could always hire the ShamWow guy hawk it on late night TV.

Look’it the way this thing soaks up the fake blood.

Are you gettin’ this camera guy?

Last Monday night on TNA Impact, we got to see the TNA BloodyTowel ™ used again on a broadcast. Nearly two years ago was the first time I remember TNA using the towel. Christian was powerbombed through a “glass” table. While laying on his back, the medical team came into the ring with a couple of white towels. Well, they were white on one side at least. The handheld camera happened to catch the fact that at least one of the towels was already bloody (or had some kind of pouch of blood) before they even made contact with Christian. Maybe they need to hire an out-of-work magician’s assistant next time to pull that off.

You can see it in this video from 2008, around the 2:20 mark.

On last Monday’s show, the towel got used again in a match where RVD got hit over the head with a beer bottle. This time one of the towels was firmly planted to RVD’s forehead, but I was watching closely to see if it would accidentally fall off and reveal that there was no cut.

Come on TNA, either do it all the way or don’t do it at all. I get why you (thought you) had to do in in Christian’s case with it being his back, but why with RVD? Does he have a “no blood” clause in his contract? If you would have reordered the matches to have Rob Terry go first, you could have soaked that towel with some of the real stuff from the gusher on the top of his head. I’d feel a little better about that.

The worst part is that now I have to add another clause to the footnote of my answer of one of the most often asked question by casual or non-wrestling fans: Is the blood real?

I got asked this a month ago by the daughter of a friend of mine. I told her it was real. She said her dad told her it wasn’t real. I said, “Your dad told you that so that you wouldn’t get upset.

So is the blood in wrestling real? Yes*

*Except for the cases where the wrestler is bleeding from the mouth AND it’s part of the storyline, OR when it happens before the cameras are rolling like a backstage interview segment where the guy is already face down, OR if they are using the TNA BloodyTowel ™.

There’s a video circulating around of a recent WWE house show in Greenville, SC, where a fan rushes the ring to attack Chris Jericho. You can see it here (Chris Jericho Fan Incidentbetter mute the audio if you value your hearing), with another angle after the fact here (Fan Tries to Attack Chris Jericho).

Some of you may be surprised that the first one to take action and wrestle the fan to the mat was not Jericho, or a backstage worker, or security. It was referee Charles Robinson. This didn’t surprise me at all.

Just a random search of “fan attacks wrestler” pulled up a YouTube video of a match between Eddie Guerrero and Rob Van Dam, where a fan runs in the ring. Who’s the first one to bring him down? Yep, the referee.

Pro wrestling referees usually go through the same type of training as the wrestlers. They learn to take bumps, take punches, and kicks. They may be smaller in size than the workers in the ring, but they can be just as tough.

Several times on the local scene I’ve seen a fan rush into the ring during a match. The first one to take the guy down was the ref. Usually put him in a front facelock (like in the Jericho video) and drove him down to the mat on his stomach and held him there until “security” showed up (a.k.a. the guys who were told to put  shirts on that said “security”). They would toss the guy out of the building while his girlfriend chewed him out.

It’s surprising it doesn’t happen more often on a local level, since there are no barricades and not much if any real security. I guess maybe the local fans at  the smaller shows “get it” and know they’re being entertained so they shouldn’t get too worked up about it.

I put up a post over a year ago (I’m With the Show) that touched a little bit on how important a referee is to a wrestling match. I guess one thing I left out is how they could save your butt if a liquored-up redneck tries to blindside you when you’ve got your back turned.

Good to see “the wrestler formerly known asVictoria back on TV. Hopefully in TNA she’ll have more impact, instead of getting jobbed out every week and “retiring” with no previous build up or fanfare (like in the WWE).

One thing I noticed in her debut on the 5/28/09 TNA Impact program was that Victoria and Angelina Love were trading some good punches. That’s a refreshing change from the weak forearms that the female wrestlers normally use. The forearms just don’t look as good- there’s no real connection there. When you throw in a pile of hair it just looks like it’s totally missing. I wonder if that’s a WWE rule (don’t break the merchandise). I’m trying to remember if TNA Knockouts punch a lot. Punching “like a girl” never looked so good.

Earlier this year, TNA decided to drop guys like Sonjay Dutt and Petey Williams from their roster in order to free up some money to “get in some fresh faces”. Well, now we know where some of that money went.

On the 5/28/09 episode of TNA Impact on SpikeTV, we got to see the re- re- re-debut of Raven and “The Franchise” Shane Douglas. Great. I can’t think of two guys I care about less. Wait a minute… nope, can’t come up with anyone.

But hey, at least I knew who Raven was when I saw him. When Shane Douglas came down to the ring at the end of the Styles/Daniels match (below), I thought it was some reject from the Food Network. Who’s the fat guy dressed like a chef? I was going to upload his picture to enter the Guy Fieri look-alike contest. Looks like Shane’s been hitting a few too many Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

Hey TNA suits- nice work, boys (and girl). Now go give yourselves a bonus for “changing the face of professional wrestling.”