With no referees, there would be no pro-wrestling. Their role is too often underestimated, despite the fact that they are essential to get things working in the ring.
A referee can be compared to an orchestra conductor, and the wrestlers can be assimilated to his musicians. However, a referee must avoid the spotlight to let the grapplers shine.
Usually, a referee will be under six-feet tall and their weight will be no more than 180 pounds. The small size it to make the big guys look even bigger and to make sure the cruiserweights don't look too small.
The referee is the one who coordinates the match and who give the rhythm to the action. He is connected to the backstage with ear plugs and he receives specific instructions when required, especially for commercial breaks.
The in-ring official is also in charge of the safety of the wrestlers and he communicates with the hidden officials with hand and arm signs.
If someone is actually injured in the ring, he will determine how serious it is and he will decide if the match can continue as planned or if there must be a precipitated ending.
As I mentioned earlier, referees must play an erased role, but some of them became exceptions over the years and became famous or infamous. And you guessed right: those notorious exceptions are the stars of the following slideshow.
Tim White's career as a WWE referee started in the late '80s, and he was part of the first SummerSlam ever.
In May 2002, at the Judgment Day pay-per-view, he took a very serious bump in the Hell In A Cell match between Chris Jericho and Triple H. He suffered a shoulder injury that kept him on the sidelines for several months.
At WrestleMania XX, not long after he returned in 2004, he re-injured his shoulder, putting an end to his referee career.
White eventually returned to a minor but distasteful on-screen role in 2005. He cut a series of vignettes in which he attempted unsuccessfully to commit suicide. He declared that the 2002 Hell In A Cell match ruined his life and had 14 failed suicide attempts with a shotgun, a plastic bag on his head and even with a toaster while he was taking his bath, among others.
Mike Chioda debuted his referee career in 1989. He slowly climbed the ladder, officiating in mid-card matches at various big events such as Survivor Series and WrestleMania.
The first historical match he refereed was the WrestleMania 14 main event between Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels, so he can brag that he was in the middle of the action when the Attitude Era officially began.
He was also appointed as the official for the Hulk Hogan/The Rock encounter at WrestleMania 18.
Chioda's continuous hard work finally paid when he became a head referee in 2002. The veteran ref is still employed by the WWE, and he has officiated many high-profile matches, such as Batista vs. Triple H at WrestleMania 21 and John Cena vs. Batista at SummerSlam 2008. In addition, he was the one there when the ring collapsed when Brock Lesnar applied on Big Show the most explosive superplex on that famous episode of SmackDown! in 2003.
As have many of the other referees on this list, Chioda battled in a wrestling match. In 2001, he scored the pin when he teamed up with The Rock and Chris Jericho against The Dudley Boyz and Nick Patrick, another referee.
His most notable moment as a WWE referee was in the storyline involving his twin brother (Earl), who replaced him to screw Hulk Hogan in a match for the WWF Championship against Andre the Giant.
The plot took place on The Main Event on February 5, 1988 in front of 33 million viewers. Dave was locked in a closet, so Earl stole his spot as the referee. A rivalry was meant to be created on-screen between both referees, but it was dropped after Dave suffered a legit injury.
He officiated in many WrestleMania matches as well as in various other big cards from 1980 to 1990.
Among other classic matches, he was the referee in Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III. He was also in the WrestleMania V main event between Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan.
Armstrong is a former wrestler who had some success with some NWA territories in the early '80s. He also wrestled for WCW, but he hung up his boots to become a referee for them in the early 2000s. He then joined TNA and was eventually hired by WWE in 2006.
He quickly became a senior referee and officiated many high-profile matches, including the WrestleMania 25 main event between Randy Orton and Triple H, who battled over the WWE Championship. Armstrong was also the referee in the classic Undertaker/Triple H encounter at WrestleMania 27.
At the 2009 Breaking Point pay-per-view, he played a role in a screwjob angle to prevent The Undertaker from winning the World Heavyweight Championship against CM Punk. The Deadman had the match won with his Hell's Gate submission move, but the match was restarted after Teddy Long reminded the ref the move was banned. Then, a stunned Undertaker was put into CM Punk's Anaconda Vice, but Armstrong quickly called for the bell despite The Phenom never actually submitting him.
In the following days, Armstrong declared on TV he only did what was asked by his boss. Then, the next month, on the October 23rd episode of SmackDown, another screwjob was planned by CM Punk, again with Armstrong as accomplice. The roles were reversed this time, with The Undertaker as the defending Champion, but the plan failed, and Punk fell to the reinstated Hell's Gate.
The week after, CM Punk was granted a match against the poor referee, who was squashed in just a few minutes.
Dick Kroll started his career in 1960, and he became one of the most prominent referees in pro wrestling history.
If he didn't make many waves, he could be called "Mr. Main Event" for being the referee in countless high-profile and historical matches.
He was assigned to almost all of the WWWF/WWF's Madison Square Garden cards from 1960 to 1985, including for the first WrestleMania.
One of the highlights of his career is the bump he took in a contest between Pedro Morales and Blackjack Mulligan. He made a flip over the top rope to land on the concrete after he was accidentally hit by Mulligan.
The old school referee was the official in countless classics, including the 1971 upset when Ivan Koloff ended Bruno Sammartino's 2,803-day record reign. He was also the referee in the legendary main event of "Showdown At Shea 1972" between Pedro Morales and Bruno Sammartino. He was there too during the controversial WWF Championship match between The Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund in 1983.
Beyond the fact that he is Gorilla Monsoon's son and that he died in a tragic car accident at the age of 30, Joey Marella will be remembered as a top WWF referee in the mid '80s and in the early '90s.
If the father and son's relationship was never acknowledged on screen, Jesse Ventura emphasised his smack talk against Marella more than against any other referee. He constantly complained about slow counts or any other decision favoring the babyface wrestlers to pick on Monsoon.
Marella was the top referee at some point, and his hard work was rewarded by officiating the biggest match in pro wrestling history, the Andre/Hogan encounter at WrestleMania III.
He was also the referee for the classic Intercontinental Championship match between Davey Boy Smith and Bret Hart at SummerSlam 1992.
In what was one of his last appearances, he was a referee in the controversial 1994 Royal Rumble match won by both Lex Luger and Bret Hart.
Robinson, who is still employed by the WWE, made his debut as a referee in WCW, and he became notorious by constantly helping Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen to win matches in 1999.
When the WWE bought WCW, he kept his job and sided with The Alliance when the WCW Invasion angle started, but he mostly remained impartial in the matches he officiated.
He didn't take many notable accidental bumps, but he was on the receiving end of some memorable beatings. One of them was a Tombstone by The Undertaker, who was mad about a match decision in 2006. In 2008, after he ejected Chavo Guerrero from ringside during a match involving a member of La Familia, Robinson was also put into a squash match against The Great Khali as a punishment given by Vickie Guerrero.
Among other historical encounters he officiated, we can cite Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair's retirement matches. In addition, he was the referee in several World Championship bouts, including The Undertaker vs. Batista at WrestleMania 23.
Jim Korderas was a top WWE referee from 1987 to 2009. He officiated on most of the biggest pay-per-views, including at the inaugural Survivor Series and several installments of WrestleMania.
One of his most memorable moments was at WrestleMania IV, when he was legitimately knocked out by Jimmy Hart's megaphone. In a match between The Honky Tonk Man and Brutus Beefcake, the storyline was to kayfabe hit the referee with the megaphone in order to obtain a disqualification and keep the title on Honky Tonk Man.
On a more tragic note, he was the assigned referee for the match between Owen Hart and The Godfather when the biggest in-ring tragedy in WWE history happened at Over The Edge 1999.
In late 1999, he had an important role in a scripted referees strike. In the angle, he was the only one who continued to do his job, and he was assaulted by his coworkers on strike after he crossed the picket line.
Danny Davis was a trained professional wrestler who was known as Mr. X, wrestling under a mask as a jobber. He wrestled on many occasions while he was pursuing his referee's career.
As a referee, Davis was the epitome of the biased referee by favoring the heel characters, with quick counts against the babyfaces and slow counts when a villain was down. He made it so obvious that, sometimes, he was attacked by the frustrated face wrestlers, which led to disqualification.
His actions generated a lot of heat, especially when he faked not seeing heel tactics such as the use of foreign objects or outside interference. He also never denied Gorilla Monsoon's accusations of being corrupted. Monsoon, as the face commentator, often mentioned how Davis was rich for "just" a referee.
Davis' biggest kayfabe screwjob was in a WWF Tag Team Championship match when the Hart Foundation challenged the British Bulldogs for the title in January 1987. He allowed many illegal maneuvers to help the Hart Foundation to become the new Champions, and right after the match, he was fired as a referee by the WWF President.
"Dangerous" Danny Davis was then born, and he joined Jimmy Hart's stable as a wrestler. He wore black and white striped pants in reference to his previous referee's job, and the rest is history.
After his stint as wrestler, he came back to his officiating duties in 1989 but on probation for the first months of his "second chance." To keep his job, he had to behave well in the ring and to drop his heel antics. After the probation storyline came to an end with no wave, he faded in the mass of other referees to eventually leave the WWF in 1995.
Who else than the infamous Earl Hebner could be No. 1 on such a list? For those who don't know, he was the referee during the Montreal Screwjob in 1997.
There's no need to elaborate on the topic, but it could be noticed that he was one of the few to know what was about to happen before the events and he was the first out of the arena afterwards.
As mentioned in Dave Hebner's slide, Earl played a crucial role in the Andre vs. Hogan controversy. In what was his first match as a WWE referee, he was paid by Ted DiBiase to screw Hogan out of the WWF Championship. The match ended with a quick three-count with Hogan's shoulders not down.
Following the Montreal Screwjob, Earl Hebner participated in various storylines, including one during the McMahon-Helmsley Era in which he was fired by Triple H then reinstated by Linda McMahon.
Hebner was also the leader of the referees strike angle in 1999; as the spokesman, he declared that the referees were tired of being brutalized by wrestlers and, in the end, they obtained the right to physically reply to assaults.
During the WCW Invasion angle, he represented the WWF and he defeated rival referee Nick Patrick in a wrestling match.
As a reward for his loyalty from 1988 to 2005, he became a head referee and he officiated in many historical main events.
Among others, he was the referee in the "Winner Takes All" match at the 2001 Survivor Series to "save" the WWE and to conclude the Invasion angle.