Often under-appreciated, but always part of the show, WWE officials play a role in nearly every match, outside of counting 1, 2, 3. Usually their job is very simple, control the action, count the pinfall, submission, count out and, if need be, discipline the unruly culprit who engages in some sort of unfair actions. Just as much as the combatants in the ring, WWE officials help to tell the story that takes place in (and often outside) of the squared circle. While most of these men and sometimes ladies are often smaller in size than the two, three, four, five or even six wrestlers that fill the ring, they are still expected to be in top shape both physically and mentally.
Just as much as the wrestlers are relied on to keep the flow of the action going and sometimes improvising depending on the feel of the crowd, so too are the officials, who are in constant contact with the backstage crew, helping to relay communication to the participants either verbally or physically. Sometimes the officials have been known to become a little more invested in the story, either positively or negatively, through over zealous and animated counts, facial or body actions, outside distractions or the ever so popular ref bump. How is it that a slight body check or trip can take a out a grown man, but then somehow miraculously, he is able to recover in time to slap down the three count.
Some of the officials have managed to stay out of the limelight over the years, just coming in and doing their job and leaving, where others have somehow, someway made the story more about them than the wrestlers they are supposed to be policing. However, the best officials are able to get through the match without letting fans know that they are aware of how the match is going to play out, even if they are advised well in advance. Even better is when the officials go through the match unadvised as to the outcome of the match, having just as much a surprise reaction as the people in the crowd.
15. Best: Candice Michelle
Yes this a bit of a stretch, but let’s just take into consideration that Candice Michelle may be one of, if not the sexiest official ever to rock the stripes (no matter what the event). Given the honor of overseeing the action between Torrie Wilson and Melina in a Bra and Panties match, Michelle filled out the official’s shirt like no other.
This happened to be during a period of time in which Wilson and Michelle were “besties” and while the match would be called down the middle with Melina having her hand raised at the end, the two friends would end up double teaming the heel Diva after the victor took it upon herself to attack Michelle for what appeared to be no reason. Lucky for fans watching, the post match celebration was well worth it.
14. Worst: Brad Maddox
Before taking on the role of RAW General Manager, Brad Maddox would be given the task of screwing over a number of fan favorites, including Ryback during his feud with then-champion CM Punk.
Maddox started his career wrestling on the independent circuit, before joining the WWE in 2012. Depending on how you view it, luckily his first match was a Number One Contender Divas Battle Royal during an episode of RAW. Maddox’s reasoning for screwing over Ryback was based on his desire to become an official WWE wrestler and figured that attacking the biggest dog in the yard would be a stepping stone.
Whether he was a referee or a wrestler, unfortunately for Maddox, both storylines turned out to pretty much be failures. After a somewhat successful stint as the GM, Maddox would once again find himself in the role of a wrestler, teaming up with Adam Rose at a number of events, before being fired for using a derogatory phrase (remember this is the PG era) during a dark match. Since that time, he has been an active wrestler traveling on the independent circuit.
13. Best: Chad Patton
As a member of the WWE crew since 2000, Patton has been a staff and fan favorite since day one. Starting off as one of the ring hands, Patton would quickly move up to becoming an official two years later.
As a member of the Raw brand, Patton would eventually find himself involved in in-ring storylines with Chris Jericho and then GM Eric Bischoff. At WrestleMania XXX, Patton would be given the honor of calling the classic and controversial match between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, an event where Patton was unaware of what the outcome would be. Up until the actual 1,2,3 was counted, the plan that nearly everyone was going by was that The Phenom would continue his WrestleMania streak. Fearing that he was about to make the biggest mistake of his career, Patton himself stated that he was afraid to slap the mat three times and award Lesnar the match.
For those in attendance or watching at home, having Patton (along with many others) not know the outcome of the match made the event even that much more believable.
12. Worst: Scott Armstrong
A member of the Armstrong wrestling family (Scott’s father is Bob Armstrong and his three brothers are Brad, Steve and Brian “Road Dogg” Jesse James), Scott started his professional wrestling career in the WCW wearing tights, before taking on the role of a referee with TNA. Hired by the WWE in 2006, Armstrong started his tenure with the promotion as a straight and narrow official, calling matches as they should be, but as time passed, he became more involved in controversial calls that favored the heels more than the fan favorites.
As a favorite official of The Authority,Armstrong made it a point to make sure that anyone related to the McMahon driven faction would find success in the ring, by hook or by crook, leading fans to get annoyed of him being involved.
11. Best: Earl Hebner
If you are able to tell the brothers apart, you could make your opinion on who is the best or worst of the Hebner brothers.
Earl started his career working for Jim Crockett in 1977 before moving over to work for Mr. McMahon in 1988. Earl would continue to be involved in further infamous events, including the famed Montreal Screwjob, the referee’s strike and, unfortunately for him, a role in profiting WWE merchandise on the side.
Both brothers would leave the WWE and take on a role with TNA, where Earl currently continues to be involved in many of the biggest story’s in the TNA broadcasts, while Dave, who worked backstage for the promotion moved on to play a ringside manager role of the Mid-Michigan Wrestling Association. Speaking of brother Dave…
10. Worst: Dave Hebner
Debuting with the WWE in the mid 1980s, the other Hebner twin had his share of big moments during his run with the WWE. He was given the honor of calling some of the most epic grudge matches in wrestling history between Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III and Savage verses Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania V.
The twin officials would be called upon to work one of the most memorable storylines in referee pro wrestling history as they would be featured in the “Evil Twin” controversial finish during a match between Hogan and Andre the Giant during Saturday Night’s Main Event, a match that saw Earl make a false three count on Hogan. Dave’s officiating career would come to an end shortly following the match after suffering an accidental injury at the hand of his brother.
9. Best: Jack Doan
For over 20 years, Jack Doan was a part of the WWE in some capacity. Starting with a backstage role as part of the ring crew, Doan would also lend a hand as a ring official when a fill in was needed. His skills in the ring would lead to a full-time position and one of the better referees in the company.
Over the course of his time as an official, Doan would take a number of bumps, both real and kayfabe, including a memorable beating at the hands of Vader who delivered a brutal combination of punches, powerbombs and avalanches. Although he fell short of success, Doan made an attempt to take advantage of the 24/7 rule for the WWE Hardcore Title, challenging then champion Crash Holly to an match.
Before Doan was let go in 2013, his resume was filled with key matches, such as Chris Benoit losing to Kurt Angle at WrestleMania X-Seven and the very first Boiler Room Brawl between The Undertaker and Mankind. Officiating also had it’s benefits for Doan as during his career, he was given the task of sharing the ring with the beautiful wrestlers of the Women’s/Divas division for the majority of their matches.
8. Worst: Danny Davis
His first role with the WWE was as an official, but he quickly added the character Mr. X to his resume. As the masked jobber, Davis would be on the losing end of many of his matches, but still had the privilege of working with such greats as Bruno Sammartino and Pedro Morales.
Despite his wrestling talents, Davis was better known as a corrupt official. With fast three counts and a quick on the draw ruling to disqualify the fan favorites for even the smallest of bumps or bending of the rules, Davis was thought to be “on the take” from the bad guys. Davis’ most memorable moment came during the feud between The Hart Foundation and then-champions The British Bulldogs, allowing underhanded antics, Davis helped The Hart Foundation win their first Tag Team Championships.
This would lead to Davis being let go from his officiating duties and becoming part of Jimmy Hart’s stable. For nearly two years, “Dangerous” Danny Davis would once again take on the role of a wrestler with a fair amount of heat, but little success both in and out of the ring. Davis would soon find himself wearing the stripes again to finish out his career after being reinstated on a probation basis.
7. Best: Joey Marella
Imagine being given the honor of officiating what would be come arguably the biggest match in wrestling history. Call it nepotism, call it being in the right place at the right time, call it whatever you want, but Joey Marella (son of WWE legend Gorilla Monsoon) was the third man in the ring during Hulk Hogan’s title defense against Andre the Giant during the main event of WrestleMania III.
Luck would be on his side years later as he would also have the good fortune of officiating the Intercontinental Championship match between Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith during the SummerSlam 1992 card at Wembley Stadium. Sadly, Marella would pass away at the age of 31 in an automobile accident after he fell asleep at the wheel, not wearing a seatbelt, following an event in Maryland. As a tribute to his character and class in the business, both Marella’s sister and ring announcer Tony Chimel have honored the former official by naming their respective children after the late Joey Marella.
6. Worst: Tim White
Before he entered the ring as the third party, Tim White was a personal assistant to one of the biggest names in wrestling history, Andre The Giant. White would go on to begin his officiating career in the late 1980s at the inaugural SummerSlam PPV.
While he would work the ring for over 20 years, a series of unfortunate and disturbing events would lead to White being remembered more for the negatives than the positives. During the Judgement Day Hell in a Cell match between Triple H and Chris Jericho, White would wind up coming out worse for wear as he suffered a separated shoulder. A second injury during WrestleMania XX would send White into retirement.
Somehow, someway, White would be brought back as an on-screen character, helping build a Hell in a Cell match between Triple H and Kevin Nash. It was during this time that White would work a spot that depicted falling into depression and leading to a number of attempted suicides. Maybe it would be karma that in real life White ended up shooting his own foot with the shotgun.
5. Best: Mike Chioda
Influenced by fellow referee Joey Marella and his father Gorilla Monsoon, Mike Chioda has been a part of the WWE for nearly thirty years. As one would expect, considering his tenure with the company, Chioda has seen his fair share of big moments, both as a senior official during Pay Per View broadcasts as well as on RAW and SmackDown.
Starting with The 1-2-3 Kid’s classic upset victory over Razor Ramon to Stone Cold Steve Austin winning his first championship at WrestleMania XIV over Shawn Michaels, to the epic generational showdown between Hulk Hogan and The Rock at WrestleMania X8.
Chioda would then find himself in a series of WrestleMania main event matches, a sign that Vince McMahon had faith and confidence in Chioda’s work ethic. Despite all the positives that can be said about Chioda, one blemish stands out on his resume, that being the first official to be suspended for PEDs, violating the WWE Wellness Policy. Following his 30 day suspension, Chioda has returned to his role of being one of the best officials in the industry and arguably of all-time.
4. Worst: Nick Patrick
Wrestling is in Nick Patrick’s blood, being the son of legendary masked wrestler, The Assassin. Before heading over to the WWE, Patrick spent time working as a referee in the NWA, Georgia Championship Wrestling and then WCW.
As a heel official, Patrick was best known for teaming up with the New World Order, helping the stable claim tainted victories and bringing on a lot of heat from fans. Once the WWE purchased WCW, Patrick continued his evil ways as part of The Alliance attempted take over the WWE. During the original RAW/SmackDown brand extension, Patrick would become the lead official for the blue brand, leaning more towards being a unbiased official. Patrick would be employed by the WWE for seven years as a referee on their main shows and within their development program.
After being released by the WWE in 2008 following months on the sidelines, Patrick would eventually return to the wrestling scene on the independent circuit with Rampage Wrestling and Great Championship Wrestling.
3. Best: Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid may find his name among the greatest wrestlers in history, but he also has a spot as one of the best special guest referees. At times he has remained impartial and yet there have been many matches in which he feels the need to throw in a bit of Sweet Chin Music.
With more big matches under his belt than some of the regular officials, Michaels officiating career started with a title match between Bret Hart and The Undertaker at SummerSlam 1997. Actually a good number of Michaels matches have included The Undertaker for some unknown reason, maybe it is a Texas thing? As animated as he was as a wrestler, the reactions that Michaels gave while wearing the stripes led to additional flavor of the matches he officiated. While he would work a number of matches with names such as The Rock, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and John Cena, the most memorable match would be his role in the “End Of An Era” WrestleMania Hell In a Cell match between The Undertaker and Triple H. Torn between his friendship with Hunter and his respect for The Undertaker, Michaels played a key role in making this an epic match.
2. Worst: Teddy Long
Before he jumped into a WWE ring and long before he became the SmackDown General Manager, Teddy Long wore the stripes as part of the NWA. Long would be assigned to cover such high profile matches involving the NWA World Championship and the NWA Tag Team Championships. However, a controversial three count decision, one of many during his officiating career, led to Long being released as an official and honing his craft as a heel manager.
Teddy would join the WWE late in 1998 and would hold his position of authority until 2002. During Long’s run as an official, he would be in the unfortunate position of being the third man in the ring in what would be Owen Hart’s last match and also during the match between Darren Drozdov and D’Lo Brown, a match that ended with Droz landing on his head and eventually becoming a quadriplegic.
Long would go on to once again take on the role of a heel manager before eventually finishing out his on screen career in the role of the GM of SmackDown and ECW (WWE’s version).
1. Best: Charles Robinson
Kicking off his career in the late 90s with WCW, Charles Robinson would quickly align himself with The Four Horsemen and the rest of the heels in the organization. Nicknamed “Little Naitch” as a take off of Ric Flair, his mentor, Robinson would find himself engaged in the feud with Flair and Randy Savage. Robinson would have as many face/heel turns during his time in WCW, as Big Show during his wrestling career.
Robinson finished his career with WCW, before it was bought out by WWE with the honor of officiating the organization’s final match between Flair and Sting. Robinson would be hired by Vince McMahon in 2001 and, for the most part, be a straight official. Whether it be a comical gimmick match or one of the biggest matches on a PPV card, Robinson has found himself sharing main event moments with the biggest stars in the company, a sign of trust and respect by those backstage.
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