With so few spots in the business, it’s extremely difficult to make it as a professional wrestler on a big stage.
What’s even harder is trying to do so as a referee.
Earl Hebner knows.
Hebner, 63, is in his fourth decade refereeing matches, making sure things run smoothly or even if they don’t, making it appear they did.
Hebner has worked successfully for Jim Crockett Promotions, WWF, WWE and currently TNA Impact Wrestling. He debuted for TNA in February 2006.
It’s something he enjoys doing, and the wrestlers are glad he does.
When the wrestlers know a good referee is working their match, it puts them at ease. Hebner is that good, putting them at ease so they can concentrate more on the opposition.
Fans remember Hebner working the Main Event (twins referees for Hogan vs. Andre with DiBiase) and the Montreal Screwjob (Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels), but he’s ref’d so many more top matches. One of his first big spots was the famous I Quit match at Starrcade 1985 between Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A..
WrestleManias, Great American Bashes, Royal Rumbles, WarGames, Survivor Series, Slammiversaries, SummerSlams, he’s done ‘em all.
Hebner, one of the best ever, is a disciple of one of the best.
Legendary referee Tommy Young took Hebner under his wing during the days of Jim Crockett Promotions.
Best thing to happen to Hebner, professionally.
Personally, one of the best things is his son, Brian, who is grabbing the torch.
When his dad served as senior official in WWE, Brian spent some time refereeing for WWE. It was a good learning experience for Brian who was frustrated he wasn’t getting bigger matches.
Dad knows best.
Brian wasn’t ready then, and he realizes that now. Currently, they referee for TNA Impact Wrestling, and Brian is ready, working main events. The wrestlers trust him, just like they trust his father.
Having the name Hebner helped Brian get his foot in the door, but the rest was up to him. Dad couldn’t help him in the ring during a match. Brian had to do it himself, and he did.
TNA Impact Wrestling wrestlers Kazarian and Samoa Joe as well as the immortal Hulk Hogan noted the importance of a referee in a match. They praised the work of the Hebners, and they aren’t the only ones.
Being a referee is a challenge.
A referee doesn’t just enforce the rules and make the three count. There is more involved inside the ring and out.
Growing up in it, Brian has adapted quicker than most. Not just anyone can referee. You’ve got to be smart. You’ve got to be in shape, moving around the ring constantly, staying out of the way, taking some bumps, knowing the time limit, following direction, etc.
With so many years in the ring combined and learned from the best, the Hebners can determine if someone has that ‘It’ factor for refereeing.
The Hebners are targeting Brian Stiffler, a young referee in TNA, who they are grooming.
Just to give you an idea of the limited number of referees in the main companies.
TNA has three. Ring of Honor carries five. WWE has 10, including three who also work FCW, WWE’s development group based in Tampa.
If you want to become a referee for one of the bigger companies, just realize it’s quite the task. Don’t give up, but you’ve got your work cut out.
• Interview with referees Earl and Brian Hebner (Part 1): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va95D3ZmN0c&feature=plcp.
Interview with referees Earl and Brina Hebner (Part 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgj5mO37S9k&feature=plcp.
Interview with referees Earl and Brina Hebner (Part 3): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fRufe3svbg&feature=plcp.
Interview with referees Earl and Brina Hebner (Part 4): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6zXpoO_QGw&feature=plcp.
• TNA Impact Wrestling continues its live summer series on Spike TV at 8 p.m. EST Thursdays from Universal Studios Orlando.
• TNA’s Hardcore Justice pay-per-view is 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Aug. 12 at Universal Studios Orlando.