In the wrestling world of good versus evil there’s often been another factor thrown into the mix: the heel referee. Today on the blog Brian looks at the history of the devious side of officials that are supposed to call it down the middle.
In the world of pro wrestling…the business is filled with good guys versus bad guys…heroes versus villains and babyfaces versus heels. A key component to any great match…is to have a solid official or referee. Their job is to call everything down the middle. Not favor one side or another and to ensure the rules are being followed. Every great match has a great referee in it…making sure the match goes smoothly.
They are usually undervalued and under appreciated…but a great referee like Tommy Young, James Beard, Mike Chioda etc….make all the difference. There are times though, that referees come out from the shadows and become a part of the show themselves. In most scenarios, they create controversy by neglecting the rule book and even breaking some rules themselves.
In these situations, the referees become the heels and in this business there have been quite a few. The history of the heel referee is an interesting one…nobody really knows for sure when it became “a thing,” but it was popularized in Stu Hart’s Calgary Stampede promotion in Canada. Despite Stu Hart’s objections to the gimmick, his son Bruce Hart was a fan of the idea.
It was used a couple of times, first with heel referee Sandy Scott (Not to be confused with the wrestler/promoter of the same name) and later by referee named Ron Hayter. The gimmick was a big hit in Calgary for a number of years and it wouldn’t be long before many other promotions started using that formula. Let’s take a look at some of the most notorious “heel refs” in the business…
Perhaps one of the most famous or infamous heel referees of any generation…’Dangerous’ Danny Davis was a crooked referee who blatantly favored heels in the WWF during the mid 1980’s. After being fired by President Jack Tunney, Davis became a wrestler and joined Jimmy Hart and his Hart Foundation which also consisted of Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart.
His biggest claim to fame as a wrestler was being on the victorious side of a 6 man match with him and the Hart Foundation defeating The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana. Danny Davis would change his ways and be reinstated by the WWF as a referee and remained a “by the book” official until the early 1990’s.
Nick Patrick turned heel and joined the New World Order against WCW. Patrick would become the nWo’s official referee during the mid 1990’s. He favored all nWo members in their matches against WCW stars and at the nWo’s exclusive pay per view Souled Out…was the one and only referee used the entire evening.
Bill Alfonso was a respected referee for many years before he entered ECW. Alfonso officiated matches starting in the late 1970’s for the WWF, NWA and other territories. He was brought into ECW by the heel Shane Douglas as a ‘Straight by the book’ enforcer. The problem was…there were no rules in ECW…so Alfonso played a heel by doing things as a referee the traditional way.
Before long, Bill Alfonso transitioned from referee to manager and managed the likes of Taz, Sabu and Rob Van Dam.
Speaking of ECW, Bill Alfonso wasn’t the only official used as a heel referee. Jeff Jones would be one for awhile favoring the heel wrestlers like the F.B.I (Full Blooded Italians) among others. He…like Alfonso…would then transition from heel referee to heel manager. ‘Judge’ Jeff Jones would manage Mike Awesome as the ECW world heavyweight champion.
Long before Earl Hebner really turned heel with his involvement in the infamous “Montreal Screwjob,” Earl Hebner was used as an “imposter” Dave Hebner in a title match between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. In 1988, Earl Hebner posing as his real life twin brother Dave Hebner….made a three count on Hulk Hogan despite Hulk’s shoulder reaching up off the mat. It was later revealed that the ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase paid off Earl to screw Hulk Hogan in that match.
Mark “Slick” Johnson
Did you know that Nick Patrick wasn’t the only referee to join the New World Order? Slick Johnson was used as a heel ref back in WCW’s dying days. He also played a heel referee in TNA wrestling.
Before Brad Maddox became Raw’s General Manager…he debuted as a referee with a hidden agenda. He screwed over Ryback from defeating CM Punk for the WWE title by giving him a low blow. For storyline purposes, it was revealed that Maddox only agreed to be a WWE referee so he could break into the company as a wrestler.
Yes indeed, Teddy Long was a referee way before he ever was a manager or the longest tenured WWE Smackdown General Manager. Long was a heel referee in WCW who helped screw babyface wrestlers out of victories.
While a ref in WCW, Charles Robinson turned heel not once but twice. First as Ric Flair’s lackey known as “Lil Naitch.” A while later he would turn heel again and be the heel ref and lackey to Sid Vicious.
Scott Dickinson was briefly a heel referee in WCW before the angle was scrapped.
Harold T. Harris
Harris was also a heel referee in the USWA before joing Iceman King Parsons and Brickhouse Brown as a member of the Blackbirds faction. Harris would become a wrestler/manager.
Scott Armstrong became a reluctant heel referee for ‘The Authority’ in the WWE. He has since been seen sporadically for the company.