Pro Wrestling
Pro Wrestling

A photo of referee Earl Hebner of WWF and TNA fame

A professional wrestling referee is the official figure that makes sure that wrestling matches move smoothly in an attempt to maintain kayfabe. The referee also has the ultimate power in the ring. It has been known for higher authority figures to reverse a referee's decision, often leading to what's known as a "Dusty finish".


The kayfabe purpose of a pro wrestling referee is to render decisions (pinfalls, submissions, disqualifications, count outs) during a match, but the legit purpose they serve is to transmit messages to wrestlers about the progress of matches, communicate with them about the amount of time left, and, if necessary, help them gauge the crowd reaction. This legit purpose explains why there is a referee in matches that do not otherwise require them, such as ladder matches.

The "X" sign[]

Although professional wrestling is staged, real injuries can be sustained. In such an event, the referee raises his hand above his head into an "X" shape to alert backstage officials and paramedics, as well as any other wrestlers that what is going on is really happening.

After this, the officials backstage will communicate to the referee, if necessary, revised plans to end the match quickly. There is also a "blow off" sign, raising both arms straight up, if a wrestler seemed injured but feels he can continue.


Sometimes during matches, referees will be knocked down by wrestlers. This is usually to allow for a wrestler to use a foreign object or perform an illegal move, or for another wrestler to run in and be able to get away with it.

To emphasize the power and fortitude of the wrestlers, referees have a tendency to oversell moves done by the wrestlers. For example, a wrestler being Irish whipped by his opponent may clip the referee. While a wrestler would probably only be knocked back in this situation, the referee would most likely be knocked across the ring and (kayfabe) injured or knocked out.

Special referees[]

Also known as Special Guest Referee is any match in which the usual referee is replaced with a guest. Celebrities (such as Muhammad Ali in the main event of WrestleMania), managers and other wrestlers can "guest" as the special referee. In some cases, a special referee is put into a match which is already a different match type or stipulation (for example: Hell in a Cell with a Special Referee). The special referee will often be biased towards or against one of the competitors or will be assigned as the Special Referee to ensure the match is called down the line. Some special guest referees who are wrestlers with bigger arms would cut the sleeves. Some female special guest referees would wear the shirts like a bra. The Rock wears one of his signature T-shirts when he's the special guest referee instead of the real uniform. Stone Cold Steve Austin did the same thing, but at Wrestlemania 23 he wore a sleeveless referee shirt. When Mick Foley is a special guest referee he wears a painted striped shirt.

Special Outside Referee[]

Also known as Special Enforcer or Special Guest Enforcer is same as the Special Referee but the guest referee stays on the outside enforcing what the normal referee doesn't see. These guests are sometimes known as "enforcers", the most famous of which was Mike Tyson, who served as the Special Guest Enforcer for the WWF title match between Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV, and Chuck Norris who served as Special Guest Enforcer at Survivor Series 1994 in a match between The Undertaker and Yokozuna.


Wrestling referees have had a series of different uniforms throughout the years. From the 1970s until 1983, still operating under the "World Wide Wrestling Federation" banner, referees wore black and white striped shirts, comparable to referees in other sports, such as hockey, basketball, and football. In the mid-1980s until 1995, a World Wrestling Federation referee's attire consisted of a blue collared shirt with black trousers, boots, and bow tie, similar to that of a boxing official. In 1995, the uniform was changed back to the black and white striped shirt. With the WWE Brand Extension in 2002, referees appearing on WWE Friday Night SmackDown! began wearing blue striped polo shirts, differentiating themselves from the WWE RAW referees continued to wear black and white shirts. When Extreme Championship Wrestling was revived in 2006 their referees were given black shirts. Now in 2007 they have grey and black polo shirts.

In Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, referees switch between the striped shirts and the "boxing referee" attire on occasion.

List of WWF/E Referee's[]

  • WWF/E Referee