Legendary pro-wrestling referee Tommy Young recently spoke with Mike Mooneyham of the Post and Courier to talk all things pro-wrestling, including his favorite match he’s ever officiated, thoughts on his injury, and how he revolutionized the referee position. Highlights are below.
How he revolutionized refereeing and how he owes everything to the business:
Wrestling gave me everything. I am so grateful to this profession because I’m not that smart a guy. I’m not going to tell you I am. I’ve got a computer, and I don’t even know how to use the thing. And I’m getting dumber as I get older. I owe everything I’ve got to wrestling. It gave me a sense of notoriety. I got to be a mini-celebrity. I do think, to a degree at least, that I revolutionized refereeing. I feel I certainly brought more athleticism into it. And it wasn’t a conscious thing. It was just something that happened. I knew that it was entertainment, and I thought I’d help as much as I could. If you really look at it, I’m a failed wrestler. I’m a guy that just fell into refereeing by accident.
His favorite match that he’s ever officiated:
There have been so many. But the one I really enjoyed, almost as much for its history and nostalgia, is when I refereed the two-out-of-three-fall match between Flair and Steamboat at the Superdome (in New Orleans in 1989). I was star-struck. Everybody you can think of was there. The only guy that we really didn’t have that should have been there was Dick Hutton (world champion between Lou Thesz and Pat O’Connor’s reigns). Thesz and O’Connor were there, along with Buddy Rogers, Gene Kiniski, Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk, Jack Brisco, Harley Race. Now that was something.
On suffering a career ending injury while reffing a match between Tommy Rich and Mike Rotundo:
It’s right on the tape. He was supposed to shove me, he wasn’t supposed to trip me. He shoved me in the back and he’s stepping on my foot at the same time. It just screwed me all up. But it’s water under the bridge. It’s history. I had 15 great years. It’s not like it happened overnight. But I’m the only referee that ever got hurt like that.
How he felt things out in the ring while officiating:
You do it by feel. As you go along, you get to learn the different styles of the wrestlers. Every wrestler has a different style. You don’t ref any two matches the same way as a rule. Some things you do with some guys you can’t do with others. As you go along, it gets easier. I knew what Flair was going to do before he did. I’m sure it was the same with me as far as he was concerned. He’d grab a guy in an armlock and get near the ropes, and I knew I had to slide in underneath and ask the guy if he gave up. And Ric is already reaching right over top of me and grabbing that top rope. Other stuff you’d play by feel.
Says he hated working with the legendary Abdullah the Butcher:
Any referee hated working with Abdullah. He doesn’t work with you. He’ll come in the ring with a gimmick the size of a sledgehammer, and you’ve got to act like you don’t see it. And then he doesn’t even try to hide it. A couple of times I just stood in the corner and watched him.
On some of his favorite tag teams:
For fluidity, the best team I ever saw was the Anderson Brothers. Their work ethic and the way they got their heat made them great. They never buried the referee. Everything they did made sense. They were the best team I ever reffed, and that’s saying a lot. The best series of matches I ever reffed, without a doubt, was The Midnighters and The Rock ’N Rollers. And it drew so much money. The little girls loved Ricky and Robert. Ricky was one helluva performer.
The full interview can be read here – Wrestling’s striped shirt was perfect fit for Tommy Young
A complete profile of @NWA / #IWA referee, Tommy Young by premiere wrestling journalist, Mike Mooneyham of Charleston, SC's "The Post and Courier" newspaper. You'll learn about the little known early ring career of Tommy.https://t.co/nCcaNG5GGJ
— Gary Cappetta (@GaryCappetta) October 11, 2020