WWE referees are perhaps the most invisible, yet important members of the WWE roster. Referees jobs are the quite possibly the most essential; given that they are the officials that hold up the rules that are governed by WWE, even though many times referees have been known to overrule superstar’s judgements when calling them in the ring. They are the men whose names you forget but faces you recall, they are the ones that WWE put in some of the most dangerous positions all in the name of entertainment.
From Earl Hebner in the 1990s to NXT’s latest acquisition Drake Younger, referees have played a major part in some of WWE’s biggest and most famous storylines over the past few three decades. From The Montreal Screwjob back in 1997 to this year’s blockbuster feud between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, WWE’s officials always have a part to play, even if you didn’t know they were doing it. Sometimes the official can be more important than the wrestlers involved in the actual match and below are some of the reasons why.
The following is a list of fascinating facts that you perhaps didn’t know about WWE’s men in black and white stripes.
20 The Timekeeper Can Overrule the Referee
This is the newest interesting fact and was seen during WWE’s SummerSlam event when the referee was watching the action and failed to notice The Undertaker tapping. Instead the timekeeper, who was sitting at ringside a few inches away from the ring, saw The Phenom tap and decided to start ringing the bell without including the official in the decision.
This has never been done before and is widely considered one of the most bizarre endings to a WWE match, especially given that this match was proclaimed to be “The Match Too Big For WrestleMania” by Lesnar’s advocate, Paul Heyman.
19 Brad Maddox Made His WWE debut as a Referee
Former RAW General Manager Brad Maddox made his WWE debut as an official that was brought in to play a part in the CM Punk/Ryback storyline. Maddox had already refereed matches for WWE before Hell in Cell in 2012, but it was during this main event that he was brought to the WWE Universe’s attention and it was thought that he was working for CM Punk.
The Shield debuted not long after and the heat adjusted onto the shoulders of the trio, whilst Maddox then went on to become General Manager of Raw and, towards the end of his WWE career, he became known as Joshua Kingsley.
18 Sometimes An Official Doesn’t Know the Predetermined Outcome
In the days of Internet culture and the Internet Wrestling Community, it has become widely known that WWE is scripted. The thought is that the superstars and the referee always know the outcome of the match before they set foot in the ring, but this is not always the case.
The famous example of this is during the Brock Lesnar/Undertaker match from WrestleMania XXX, as Chad Patton was officiating when The Streak finally came to an end and it was confirmed following the event that Patton was not informed of the outcome before hand, he was just told to count when needed. This is a rare occasion and because of the amount of leaks around WWE and the fact that The Streak played such a big part in that year’s WrestleMania, WWE couldn’t afford to allow anyone else into the loop.
17 Drake Younger was a Famous Independent Wrestler
Current NXT official Drake Younger was a famous independent wrestler before he was signed by WWE development team. After having some high octane hardcore matches with the likes of Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose), Younger was hired by WWE and instead was given the opportunity to officiate. Younger has trained as a professional wrestler, so he could make the switch at any time.
Younger has mentioned many times in interviews that he is happy working as a referee for WWE because he has less chance of being injured and is still able to be a part of the action inside the ring.
16 Mike Chioda Has Been a Part of WWE Since 1989
Senior WWE Official Mike Chioda has been a part of the company for longer than many of the current main roster superstars. The Raw referee has even been in WWE longer than The Undertaker who made his official debut at the 1990 Survivor Series pay-per-view.
Many officials do manage to maintain lifelong careers with WWE but the constant travel and wear and tear on their bodies does have an impact. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Chioda, who is still refereeing at the highest level on a weekly basis. The second longest tenured referee is Charles Robinson who joined the company in 2001.
15 Scott Armstrong is Road Dogg’s Brother
Scott Armstrong is a well known WWE referee for all of the wrong reasons, as the referee has played a part in many high profile WWE storylines over the past few years, but many members of the WWE Universe are unaware that Armstrong already had connections within WWE.
Road Dogg is currently one of WWE’s backroom staff and has input when it comes to creative decisions, so the fact that Armstrong is related to Road Dogg could mean that the former Tag Team Champion had something to do with him joining the company. Scott first appeared on WWE TV in 2006 and has been a well known figure ever since.
14 Some WWE Officials Have Action Figures
One of the most notable and perhaps famous referees in WWE, Earl Hebner, made history when he was immortalized in plastic for the first time. The controversial referee is remembered as the official on duty during the Infamous Montreal Screwjob, but he was also the first official to have an action figure created in his likeness. Hebner was also the first referee to become a playable character on a video game when he became part of the WWE No Mercy roster.
No other referees have ever been given this honor, but both Trish Stratus and Shawn Micheals had action figures made wearing referee outfits from famous WWE storylines.
13 Referees Are Also Subject to WWE’s Wellness Policy
This is perhaps shocking news to some people, but much like WWE’s main roster superstars, Officials are also expected to be a part of their wellness policy. This means that officials have regular physicals and drug tests to check that they have not taken any prohibited substances.
Substance abuse and steroids have been rife in WWE over the previous decade and given the media attention that this brings, WWE have also added the officials to it to help the company to control it better. Mike Chioda is known as the first and only referee who has ever been suspended for violating the Wellness Policy.
12 All WWE Referees Are Male
This is perhaps the most shocking statistic on the list, given the rise of female participation in sports over the past few years, but, sadly, all of WWE’s referees are male. The most famous female referee was Rita Marie who was a part of WWE back in the 1980s but since she left the company, there have been no long time females who have taken up the mantel.
Divas including Trish Stratus, Lita, AJ Lee, Brie and Nikki Bella and Alicia Fox have all donned the black and white stripes in WWE, as special guest referees, but WWE still awaits a long term female official.
11 Referees Talk to Backstage Officials Through Their Earpieces
As seen on WWE’s newest Network series Breaking Ground, officials are seen wearing ear pieces so that Triple H and Vince McMahon can speak to them from backstage. Officials can then talk to the Chairman and COO and inform them if there is a legitimate injury during the match or be told that a change has been made to the ending to the match, so that all parties are aware of any intended outcome. This also allows decisions to be made backstage during the match, so that the referee can relay the information to the superstars.
10 Referees Can Be Heels
Some lucky referees have been known to be used in storylines, much like Brad Maddox who was mentioned above, and in the process they are given characters. Brad Maddox was considered to be a heel after he attacked Ryback who was a face at the time. Scott Armstrong was also brought in during Daniel Bryan’s feud with The Authority after he made a fast count during a world title match. Scott then turned on Daniel the following night and was the main reason he was stripped of the world title, but he was still “suspended” by Triple H as a result.
9 Referees Are Often Used In Big Storylines
As mentioned above, some referees are used as part of main event storylines, Earl Hebner was a part of the now famous Montreal Screwjob, Scott Armstrong was a part of Daniel Bryan vs The Authority back in 2014 and Brad Maddox played his part in CM Punk retaining his World Championship. Recently Scott Armstrong was brought back to WWE to show that he is still employed by The Authority.
8 WWE Officials Are Paid Handsomely
Some of WWE’s most senior officials are reported to be earning around $2,500 a week for their troubles according to The Wrestling Observer. In addition to being a part of storylines as noted above, many referees are also expected to take bumps and deal with injuries in the ring, so the payment is considered fair. Newer referees are thought to rake in just $1,500 a week if they don’t referee throughout the week, which many are reported to be unhappy about, whilst referees who are part of main events and pay-per-views can earn up to $5,000 for just an afternoons work.
7 Referees Sometimes Know The Storyline Better Than The Wrestlers
As already mentioned, referees do wear ear pieces to the ring so that they can talk to officials backstage throughout. The officials are usually prepped before the match and are aware of a lot of the calls in the ring. Sometimes the referee can tell the wrestlers to change a move or a kick out of a pin during the match if the call has been changed backstage. It is sometimes noticeable when the referee is talking to a superstar in the corner, because sometimes the superstar forgets the next move.
6 Referees Have A Harder Job Than The Superstars
In addition to remembering all of the rules in every WWE match, the officials are also expected to remember any part of the match they should be a part of. Officials need to remember when they are to be distracted, when they need to look the other way, if they need to disqualify someone, if they need to send them to the back or if they themselves need to be physically assaulted or take a bump during the match. They sometimes play a key role in storytelling, so they are as much a part of the match as the superstars.
5 The Referee Uniform Is Now An International Symbol
WWE’s black and white referee uniform has become an international symbol for referees throughout the world, as many British and American wrestling companies also dress their referees in black and white to show who they are. WWE hasn’t always presented their officials this way, SmackDown officials were first introduced wearing blue shirts with the SmackDown logo emblazed on it to show their allegiance to the brand, but following the unification of the brands, all referees were changed to black and white. All special guest referees also wear black and white,which makes it simper to spot the official.
4 Only Times Females Are Referees Is When They’re Special Guests
As previously mentioned WWE currently does not employ any female talent as a referee, which means the only time females are used as officials is if they are special guest referees.
Many Divas feuds have been turned into main event scenarios which has allowed the Divas to don the black and white shirts and dish out their own version of WWE’s justice system. A lot of the time, WWE only uses a special guest referee to sway the outcome of the match, if the company really wanted the match to be called down the middle, they would use an official, but instead adding another party to the equation is thought to be a way to add excitement and heat to the situation.
3 Earl Hebner Knew About The Montreal Screwjob
Sometimes officials are told about story lines, if they are expected to be a part of them. As mentioned above, Chad Patton wasn’t informed about the ending of WrestleMania XXX’s match between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, but Earl Hebner was made aware of his part in the Montreal Screwjob.
Earl Hebner was the one who had to signal for The Timekeeper to ring the bell despite the fact that Bret Hart wasn’t tapping when Shawn Michaels locked him in the Sharpshooter. His place in WWE history was ensured after his part in the event was revealed not long after.
2 WWE Referees Can Be Responsible For Their Own Travel Expenses
As reported above, WWE officials are paid handsomely for the part they play on WWE TV, but according to the Wrestling Observer’s report back in 2014, some officials who are not on the same pay scale, are not happy with their weekly salary from WWE because they are made responsible for travel expenses when getting from show to show, hotel expenses when they stay in certain cities overnight as well as their food whenever they are travelling, which can sometimes be considered rather expensive. Many referees are considered to be as well known as some of the mid-card wrestlers and expect to be paid a lot better.
1 Referees Sometimes Stage Disqualifications
Following his release from WWE last year, Evan Bourne made some controversial statements about WWE officials in a famous outspoken interview. Bourne claimed that sometimes WWE officials took it upon themselves to uphold the rules and disqualify participants even if it wasn’t a part of the story.
He stated that if a referee was counting a five count before they disqualified a superstar then they could infact disqualify the participant and would face praise backstage for doing their job correctly, whilst the superstar would be told that they needed to know the rules better. These were just Bourne’s accusations and are still yet to be verified by anyone within WWE.
WWE officials may be where the saying “to be seen and not heard” actually came from, but as noted above, they have been a part of some of the biggest storylines in WWE history and have become fascinating stars over the past few years.