Every week, you tune in to RAW, SmackDown, Superstars or NXT (and perhaps that new Saturday show—I haven't watched it yet, not that I really plan to) and watch a good guy battle a bad guy in the ring.
During the encounter, you largely disregard the third figure in the ring. While occasional watchers will dismiss the presence and casual fans will know that he is only obvious when absent—he is apparently too squeamish to watch the use of a weapon or an attack on an unauthorized part of the body—longtime fans will know that he used to be featured more prominently.
If you don't realize who I am talking about, you might want to get your IQ tested. But, before you go, you might want to read the title. I am talking about the ubiquitous yet seemingly impotent character that officiates official matches—as opposed to unofficial and unsanctioned brawls backstage—in the world of professional wrestling. The humble and lowly referee.
These days, referees are a nameless—and almost faceless—bunch in the WWE. They are not given any time of their own and are usually not even mentioned by name during the broadcasts. Their presence is not often noted in storylines—unless their role is usurped by special guests or they get their head kicked off, leading to an unprecedented fine of half a million dollars—I understand that amount is in XFL stock and not real-world currency.
If you have watched WWE for at least half as long as I have, you will know that this was not always the case. Referees were not always the largely ceremonial figures they are now. They often had big parts in storylines. There were good referees and bad referees.
Certain referees favored certain wrestlers or stables and were hostile toward other groups. The referee was once even cloned in order to influence the outcome of a WWE Championship match. Referees occasionally fought in matches with each other and even squared off against some of the big stars of the company.
Perhaps referees should again get a more pronounced role in the WWE. Many of them have had pro-wrestling training and have wrestled in smaller promotions. They have taken bumps from time to time. Why not recognize their presence and importance by giving them something to treasure? Why can't we have a WWE Referees' Championship?
I know what you might say. They are officials, not contenders. Besides, the 30-day title defense clause for a referees' title would just add unnecessary—bathroom-break quality—matches to pay-per-view cards. And, more importantly, having referees compete for championships might make them biased in order to curry favor with superstars or authority figures.
To each of the points I have counterpoints. Firstly, most referees can deliver some sort of action. It doesn't need to be a technical submission match. They can have an arm-wrestling contest and occasionally a battle royal. Who wouldn't want to see a referee's battle royal right before the Royal Rumble?
The 30-day defense clause can easily be accommodated by the aforementioned arm-wrestling match concept, which takes about as much time as a Natalya Neidhart fart joke.
Finally, for the unbiased referee question. Is there a question? If some of the referees are biased, it makes the show even more interesting. Fans will invest even more in the match if they feel that the supposedly neutral referee might turn on the superstars themselves.
This would also give one more avenue for the WWE to test new stars in the roster—bring them in as referees! They can improve themselves in the ring while they feel comfortable in the big show environment. Then, they can suddenly feud with superstars and jump into the active roster.
Just one question: Who will referee the referees?
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