Former WWE Referee Tells Backstage Story Behind Legendary Match, In-Ring Injuries, A Ref’s Role

Feb 8, 2017 - by Steve Gerweck

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Today The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling is joined by Lucha Underground’s Senior Official Marty Elias as the feature guest on episode #240. This episode serves as an informational “how to” when it comes to what it is a referee does inside of a wrestling match. From the movements of the performers through the instructions of the producers, Marty Elias explains how a referee truly can make or break a match. In the following excerpt, Marty shares an interesting story from his tenure in the WWE regarding the infamous Shawn Michaels vs. Undertaker WrestleMania 25 match as well as what he had to do when Triple H injured his quad mid-match on pay per view in 2007. The full episode is available for download at this link.

Full Episode Download Link

What are the major misconceptions about a ref’s role in a match:

“A referee can make a good match better and it can make a bad match horrible. For a referee it is all about positioning, it is all about timing, it is all about being able to work with a heel and a baby-face. It is being able to communicate time cues and being able to communicate spots when the boys are down, there are all these factors that people don’t take into consideration. The referee has a responsibility of safety, times, the crowd to worry about and you have to make sure nobody is going to come into the ring and do something. You are given feedback from the producer or Vince McMahon or a Chris DeJoseph in your earpiece that they want to see something different or someone needs to tighten up their punches or a kick-out needs to be better and you need to communicate all this stuff. There are all these different factors and probably about twenty different things you need to be cautious of and aware of and you have to make sure you are doing it right. These are the things I think people don’t have the perspective on and that there is so much going on for a referee all at once.”

Being the referee for Shawn Michaels vs. The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25:

“It was amazing. For me personally, it was something that I was in awe of being in the ring with Taker and Shawn but not to the sense where I was “marking out” (and of course we are all marks, I’ll admit that) but it wasn’t a sense that I was marking out because “Oh My God” this is WrestleMania and this is Shawn vs. Taker. I was marking out because of the fact that I had this opportunity to get in and do this and for me it was everything that I had worked for. The blood, sweat and tears and all the BS and the stuff like no pay days and long car rides and if I am doing the right thing for my family and relationships going bad or whatever but for me being in that match and the match turning out to what it is today, it was all worth it. All that stuff paid off and that match was voted the greatest WrestleMania match in the history of WWE.”

“Being a part of it and being in there is an experience I’ll never forget but it is funny that when I got to the building and we got to the outside, right before Taker did the dive and Shawn did the moonsault out and I got thrown against the barricade, you felt it. You felt the momentum that this was going to be something special because the way they had that match built you could just feel it and we had the crowd from the get-go. For it to turn out the way it turned out, I still pinch myself and am blessed every day and if my life ended today I could say that I had a great match in WWE history and I’ll always be a part of WWE history and Taker’s history and Shawn’s history and nobody else can say that.”

The matches odd placement on the card:

“I’m laughing because if you read Shawn’s latest book, the first chapter talks about the WrestleMania match. I laugh because you said it wasn’t the Main Event, that match was actually only supposed to be 15 minuets and they were originally supposed to be third on the card for that show. I remember being told that and us sitting in there. It was me, Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, Pat Patterson and Michael Hayes and when Michael Hayes told Shawn and Taker that we were third and we only had 15 minutes, it was something that needed to be changed. Now, it did change and we didn’t get the Main Event but it was something that we just kind of looked at each other and Shawn and Taker looked at each other and gave these puzzled looks and I still remember that and when you said it wasn’t the main event it brought back a bunch of memories and that is why I am laughing about it. It should have been the main event. One of the things I will say is that after that match, Shawn and I came through the curtain and we walked through and everybody is clapping and everybody is giving a standing ovation and Hurricane Helms was standing right there and I’ll never forget what he said. He said something like “oh my God, if there is a mercy rule in pro wrestling right now they might as well pull the mercy rule because nobody is going to follow that”. It should have been the main event and I always tell people it was the main event.”

Communicating an injury to wrestlers mid-match and HHH’s injury at New Years Revolution 2007:

“It was Degeneration X vs. Rated RKO and where Hunter blew out his quad in Kansas City. I was there and in that match and we had a finish laid out and when Hunter blew his quad it was something that I’ll never forget and it was something that I had to go communicate to Edge and Randy and Shawn that Hunter was hurt. If I wasn’t able to go do that then I don’t think things would have turned out the way they did. Stuff like that where Hunter gets hurt and everything else after that is called on the fly that goes back to being a good referee and being a good communicator and being there and not losing your cool, being calm and collected whereas if you are losing your cool your mind starts to panic and that is the last thing that you want to do.”

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