Referees in the world of professional wrestling are kind of an enigma. They’re the ones who are supposed to make sure no one breaks the rules yet they’re so easily distracted which makes cheating super easy. They’re the officials who are supposed to ensure things don’t get too rough but they can be knocked out cold for several minutes by something as simple as an errant punch.
That’s because the real purpose of every professional wrestling referee is to facilitate and enhance the action happening in the match. They’re never really the main focus of any feud and are just there to add more . However, there have been some exceptions to the rule as they have become not only an important part of an ongoing feud, but an integral part of the story.
So, with that in mind, here are five professional wrestling referees who became big parts of wrestling storylines.
#1 Dave and Earl Hebner
Now, I wasn’t born when this happened but I did research and review the aftermath of this story and, boy, is it a doozy! Its repercussions even became a major reason for Wrestlemania IV’s tournament storyline!
The gist of it all is, after Wrestlemania III, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, now in league with “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, had a match for the
WWE WWF Heavyweight Championship. The finish was a screwjob of epic propotions! After a legdrop from Hogan, The Hulkster tried to pin Andre but the referee was distracted by Virgil. The Giant rallied and suplexed (?) Hogan into a pin. Even though it was obvious Hogan got one of his shoulders up in time but Dave Hebner, the official for this match (or so it seems), still counted the pinfall for Andre!
However, there was a twist to the story. The Million Dollar Man made a deal with Andre and the new WWE Heavyweight Champion proceeded to give the title to Dibiase. Dibiase had bought it beforehand! There was another twist! Another Dave Hebner stormed into the ring! It turns out the referee who officiated the match was Earl Hebner, Dave’s “evil” twin brother! Thanks to the reveal of the Hebner siblings, the WWE Heavyweight Title was vacated and a tournament to determine the a new champion was slated for Wrestlemania IV.
There may have been plans to extend the “evil twin brother” storyline as it was revealed in kayfabe news Earl would do dastardly deeds and blame it on Dave. This was soon dropped as Dave was legitimately injured and Earl Hebner became a “good” guy. While the storyline wasn’t extended for a long period, the ramifications of Earl and Dave Hebner led to an entire Wrestlemania storyline! Now that’s saying something!
#2 “Dangerous” Danny Davis
The odd story of a referee who became a professional wrestler… only to become a referee once again. Once again, I wasn’t born but I do have the Internet, so I can look these things up!
Danny Davis started out as a referee on the take. He would make biased calls in favor of the bad guys and even disqualifying the good guys with little provocation. His more high profile screwjob came during a
WWE WWF Tag Team Championship match pitting The British Bulldogs versus The Hart Foundation. Davis would leave the ring in the most inopportune times, like when Davey Boy Smith performed a running powerslam to Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, which would have had The British Bulldogs win and retain their belts. Danny Davis did blatantly show his true colors with a fast count to give the titles to The Hart Foundation.
This led to Danny Davis getting relieved of his refereeing duties. Jimmy Hart did reward the former referee and repackaged him into a wrestler under the name “Dangerous” Danny Davis. He even appeared in Wrestlmania alongside The Hart Foundation in a Three-Man Tag Match against The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana. In a weird twist of fate, “Dangerous” Danny Davis got his first pinfall on Davey Boy Smith, the very man he screwed out of the titles before!
“Dangerous” Danny Davis figured in a few minor feuds with the likes of George “The Animal” Steele and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The gimmick of a heel referee getting into professional wrestling did lose its thunder after a few years and “Dangerous” Danny Davis just became referee Danny Davis shortly after. Still, the main fact he cost a popular tag team their championship and never getting his comeuppance is quite a storyline, wasn’t it?
#3 Nick Patrick
Once again, this was a little before my time. I was probably around 2 years old when the nWo invaded WCW and took over everything about the promotion. So I do have some glimpses of what happened.
In the simplest of terms, Nick Patrick was the “go-to” official of the nWo. As such, most of his calls would be in favor of the group. This was only hinted at early on but it became more clear the fix was in as more matches came.
Eventually, the facade was dropped and Nick Patrick even accompanied nWo members into the ring and even wearing the traditional black and white colors of the group. He even adopted a more cocky attitude as he was protected by the nWo.
There is a twist to the story, however, as Nick Patrick did turn against the group. During Spring Stampede 1997, Kevin Nash battered Rick Steiner into an exposed turnbuckle repeatedly. official Nick Patrick did try to stop this as Nash had already won the match. Later that night, during the main event featuring “Macho Man” Randy Savage against Diamond Dallas Page, Nick Patrick counted the pinfall victory for Page. Kevin Nash did storm the ring and deliver a beatdown to Patrick, letting us know he wasn’t an nWo man anymore.
This wasn’t the only time Nick Patrick showed he was a biased in-ring official. During the Invasion storyline, when WCW and ECW joined forces to invade the WWE, Nick Patrick was a referee who would favor The Alliance. This even led to a match between him and Earl Hebner!
So, if you really think about it, Nick Patrick and Earl Hebner could even be in this list twice as they had more than just one storyline revolving around them!
#4 Charles Robinson
Now, this I kind of remember! It’s basically the Nick Patrick storyline heel referee thing but done with a gimmick wherein the referee idolizes the man he’s cheating for!
There was a period when Ric Flair became the president of WCW. As Charles Robinson thought very highly of Flair, he started making calls favoring him and The Four Horseman, his wrestling group. This came to a head with Savage, who was suspended by Flair, asked for a match against Robinson and his girlfriend, Gorgeous George. If Gorgeous George wins, he would be reinstated. The Nature Boy trained Charles Robinson for the match and even gave him the moniker “Little Naitch,” similar to his nickname “The Nature Boy.” He even gave “Little Naitch” a rope as frilly as his! This did lead to Charles “Little Naitch” Robinson participating in some more matches!
His wrestling run was cut short as, well, he wasn’t really trained to be a wrestler. He was injured shortly after and returned to being a referee. It must’ve been a dream to participate in a segment with Rick Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage for Charles Robinson, especially the thrill of adopting the “Little Naitch” nickname!
#5 Brad Maddox
Now, this I remember clearly!
Brad Maddox was your one-of-the-mil referees at the beginning. All of that changed when he was assigned to be the official for the WWE Heavyweight Title with CM Punk as the reigning champion going against Ryback in a Hell in a Cell match. At a pivotal point of the match, Ryback was about to do his finishing move on Punk when Maddox stepped in front of him and delivered a low blow, allowing CM Punk to get a rollup victory and retain his championship.
Maddox was basically fired from being a referee after that. He then had a running storyline where he would have matches and, if he won them, he would get his job back. He lost all of them. He eventually revealed he was under the employ of Paul Heyman. After a brief hiatus away from the screen, he returned as the Assistant to the RAW General Manager by then Raw General Manager, Vicki Guerrero, as a reward for revealing the Paul Heyman conspiracy. When Vicki was fired, Maddox was promoted to the role. However, after a few months, he was relieved of his duties by The Authority.
Maddox’s tenure as a referee was brief at best. He has become more famous as a RAW General Manager. Even so, you still have to remember that he started out in the WWE as a referee first and RAW General Manager next. This is enough to put him on this list.
BONUS: Every “special guest referee” in the history of professional wrestling
Honestly, there are just too many to mention. When there’s a Top 10 list of memorable female guest referees, you know that list is loooooooong!
Who are the professional wrestling referees you remember? Let me know in the comments section below!