Any specific fan-related incidents?
I remember once in Norfolk,
Virginia, the heat was really on me and the police
actually surrounded me. Out of the blue,
some guy dove out of the aisle and spit
right in my face and zoom…he was gone. It
happened so fast, that the cops never got
him. He was gone.
was a town we went to in the mountains of
, named Brevard. This guy got right in my
face after the show was over and told me,
‘you ain’t worth a dime.’ I figured he
was half drunk or something. But he was
right in my face and there were no cops
around, so I reached out and threw him down
on the ground and held him until the cops
came. I could have hit him, but I didn’t
What was the worst situation you
remember with the fans?
The most dangerous one I remember was
when we were leaving the auditorium in
. It was in January of 1979 I believe. I was
in the front seat of the car with John
Studd, and in the back were Geoff Portz and
I believe Ricky Ferarra.
we were driving off, I saw some kids hiding
behind a dumpster but I didn’t really
think anything about it at the time. But as
I was passing that dumpster, the next thing
I know my driver’s side window just
exploded. What happened apparently, was that
one of those kids had come out from behind
the dumpster with a bottle and fired it and
hit the window head on.
was covered in glass, and got cut a little
bit. But thank God I wasn’t looking to the
left or I would have lost my eye. And of
course they ran off like cowards, and I
wasn’t about to chase them.
boy, it was cold that night!
Oh my gosh!
I had to stick a piece of cardboard in
the window and try to hold it and drive 250
miles with the heat going full blast.
was up front…and he was the reason those
kids throw the bottle—he was in the main
event. And Studd never offered to get in the
back and let one of those poor guys in the
back freezing to death come up front. Me and
Studd were fine, because we had the heat
coming out of the floor. (everyone laughs)
Studd never offered to help me with the
window…I had to spend $75.00 to get that
window fixed. But John was normally a nice
What did you consider the referee’s
primary function to be in a match?
All you referees, or referees-to-be,
please read this. It is our job to make the
wrestlers’ job easier. Always remember
that. I would do anything I could do to
would even talk to guys before the matches.
I would give them pep talks. Like Sid
Vicious…now Sid, when they called him
‘Psycho Sid,’ they weren’t too far
off. (everyone laughs)
Sid was wrestling George South here, I would
tell Sid …’come on Sid this is Georgie,
you don’t want to hurt Georgie…you’re
twice his size anyway. The more you make a
match out of it the better it is.’
had trouble with a lot of people, but I
always got along great with Sid.
Was there a difference refereeing the
prelims versus the main events?
I used to have as much fun with the
prelim matches as I would with the main
events…even more so. With the prelims, you
could do more things. With the prelims, you
are just warming up the crowd and trying to
get them going. If you make an idiot out of
yourself doing it, go ahead…so what?
had a deal that I did sometimes where I told
them to do a sunset flip and land by the
ropes, and I’ll go sliding for the count
and I’ll slide right under the ropes and
bam…hit the floor. Ouch! (everyone laughs)
It’s a stunt to get the audience involved.
Like that ‘Ouch’ you just now did, I
always thought your facial expressions in
the ring set you apart from the other refs.
Thank you…I was always told that.
This might be an unfair question, but
how do you rank yourself as a referee?
This may be misinterpreted by people,
especially if they don’t like me, but I
always felt that I was by far the best
referee there was. And if there was somebody
better than me, then it would have been time
for me to move on.
really got into what I was doing. Refereeing
was me…I never wanted to wrestle after I
started as a referee.
As we’ve talked about before, you had
a rather aggressive style of refereeing. Did
any of the wrestlers think that you tried to
Oh yes. Not everybody appreciated my
style. There were some guys who felt that I
overdid it. And there are times that I
of the times I overdid it, Flair called me
on it. Ric was in the main event here in
, can’t remember who he was against, but
dummy me forgets what I’m doing and I’m
arguing with a fan. Flair’s pounding on
the guy in the ring, and I’m not there.
few seconds later while I’m still jawing
with this fan I get a tap on the shoulder
and Flair yells…‘WAKE UP!’ And
Flair’s voice carries like it’s a hot
knife going through soft butter. (everybody
laughs) So everyone heard it, and the
audience roared. And then Flair went right
back to what he was doing.
looked like an idiot…but I deserved to
look like an idiot. I was doing something
stupid, and I apologized to Ric in the
dressing room after the match was over. Ric
was too nice and said he was only ribbing
me, but he did the right thing and was
ribbing me on the square…I had it coming.
I just had a mental lapse. I needed to go
home with three shoes that night…the two
on my feet and somebody’s up my @$$.
be honest with you…I’ll tell you that I
think I’m great, but by the same token
I’ll tell you about things I’ve done
that are stupid.
Something else just popped into my mind,
Tommy. Over the years, I’ve really come to
appreciate the work of Baron Von Raschke.
Tell us about the Baron.
One of the really nice persons in this
profession. So nice of a person, and what a
great wrestler. This guy was a super
Were there people that you wish you
would have worked with, but never did?
I always wanted to work with Bobby
Hennan, and never had a chance to. We became
friends, almost strictly by telephone. Bob
had an operation, and can’t talk too well
in his heyday in the early 1970’s when he
was wrestling and managing, man was he
He was ahead of his time…he was
bumping before bumps were popular.
Hennan was best known as a manager. What
are your thoughts about interacting with
managers at ringside?
I enjoyed the managers, because it was
that much more of a distraction for me.
Who were some of your favorite managers
to work with?
There were a number of them. Boris
Malenko was mostly managing and you could
work so easily with him. Let’s see…I
worked with George Cannon in the IWA.
Al Hayes did mostly managing. Lord was great
to work with…I love Lord. If you’re out
there Lord…I love you man, and hope
you’re doing well.
were others…I’m trying to think off the
top of my head. Bill Dundee was very
difficult to work with…the manager was
supposed to be sneaky and Bill didn’t
really come off that way.
guy that was probably better than anybody
was Jim Cornette with that tennis racket. He
just looked like a big sissy, and the fans
wanted to kill him. Corny was a great
manager to work with.
We were talking earlier about deflecting
heat, but one time you really caught it was
in Greensboro, in 1987 I think, in “The
People’s Money” match with Dusty Rhodes
vs. Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. was
holding the money.
Oh, yes, where they interviewed me
Yeah, where Crockett said they were
going to investigate ‘Mr. Young’ for his
Shady stuff Tommy……real shady!
You remember the look I gave Crockett?!
I still have that tape…I was very proud of
that interview. Because I didn’t even know
we were going to do the interview.
I thought you were going to be dead in
the next matches there, because Crockett
threw all the heat your way!
was Crockett’s largest arena, but did you
like working the smaller venues?
I used to love those spot shows. They
Did you have favorite towns or areas of
the territory to work in?
The further south you went, the more fun
it was to work for me.
people were the hardest in
, followed by
…I don’t know why that was.
…I loved that building. If there were 500
people in there it seemed like there were
I think it was that low ceiling in the
basement of that building…there was
nowhere for the sound to go.
…all of the
towns I loved.
, Tommy…we were outdoors.
Well, the thing I hated about
was that the bugs would get in the ring.
When you were wrestling the first match
George, it was still light…
Thanks a lot for pointing that out!
I mean George…you wrestle and you’re
done for the night. I was out there all
night when those bugs really came out.
were getting slammed on the fish-flies.
I remember that Dick Murdock would drop
big elbows on some of those bugs in
and squash them. A couple of times he would
even go for the pin on the bugs! (everybody
On a much more serious note…Tommy, you
had an unfortunate injury in the ring that
really ended your career in 1989. Please
tell us about that.
We were doing TV that evening at Center
Stage where we were taping at the time, and
it was Tommy Rich versus Mike Rotunda.
it happened, it wasn’t even the
finish…it was a high spot.
were supposed to do a deal where Rich is
pounding on Mike in the ropes…I was
pulling Tommy back and walking him back to
the other side of the ring. At the same
time, Rich is looking over my shoulder at
Rotunda getting to his feet.
was supposed to just slap me in my back
telling me to get out of the way, which
would have left me where I was and then he
goes charging at Mike. Then Mike would have back dropped
him over the top rope for an
automatic DQ if I caught it. But since I was
off balance from the slap and would be a
couple of seconds late, I wouldn’t see it.
All I would have seen was Mike standing in
So this was basically just a spot?
happened was that when Rich shoved me he
also raised his foot, which was about as big
as this table, and he tripped me. I lost my
balance, and when I lunged to grab the ropes
to protect myself I missed, and went through
the ropes. The middle rope hit me right
between the eyes and my neck just snapped.
Everything jammed together.
heard this God-awful sound when I fell. Then
I heard this humming noise. I knew I was in
real trouble…no pain but I couldn’t feel
anything from my neck down. And I thought,
‘Oh my God, I’m in big trouble.’
lights had gone out before this happened. We
still had the camera lights but it got
noticeably dimmer. Whether that caused me
missing the rope, I’ll never know.
my opinion Tommy Rich was impaired that
night. But I could never prove it…so we
dropped the lawsuit. But suffice it to say,
it was Tommy Rich’s carelessness that cost
me my career. It was just one of those
things, but Rich clearly caused it.
tried to deny it…said it was my fault! But
he was just trying to protect himself then.
What did they do for you medically?
I had to have surgery immediately, or
risk going quadriplegic. When the feeling
did come back, I had no strength in my left
side, because fragments were pushing up
against my spine.
they could do was lay me open from the base
of my skull and simply remove all that
damaged vertebrae. When they can go in from
the front you can usually come back, but
when they have to lay your spine open like
they did me, it’s over.
look at me now, you wouldn’t know that I
have a 25% disability. But, that protective
covering of the spine—I don’t have it
anymore. So that’s why it’s extremely
dangerous for me to ever get back in the
What are your thoughts of Tommy Rich
I’m not bitter at Rich anymore,
because it’s history. But, you know, I
don’t ever recall him even apologizing. He
never wrote me a letter…nothing. But he
was probably advised not to…because that
would imply guilt.
As we wind down Tommy, just a couple of
additional questions. How did you approach
specialty matches as a referee? Especially
those like no DQ, where you were expected to
keep order when there were really no rules.
You just played it by ear. I would still
count guys anyway. The fans would say,
‘why are you counting, it’s a no DQ?’
I would tell them I was trying to keep some
semblance of order…I can’t DQ them but I
still have to try to do my job. Maybe
they’ll instinctively break, forgetting
that it’s a no DQ. It made sense to me to
treat them that way.
tell you, the really tough ones were the no
DQ matches but there was a count out as the
finish. The people would say, ‘why did you
do that, it’s no DQ.’ I’d have to tell
them over and over that I wasn’t
disqualifying him, I counted him out. That
would never work, because people thought
they were getting screwed on something like
though they’re not, to most fans the DQ
and the count out were almost the same thing.
Staying in the later years of your
career…do you remember after Magnum beat
Wahoo for the U.S. belt in March of 1985,
David Crockett came into the locker room and
you told him that was the greatest match you
ever refereed. Any semblance of truth to
told me to say it was the greatest match I
ever refereed. (everybody laughs) So I did
it. I was thinking to myself at the same
time…it wasn’t even that good!
Okay, so what would be the greatest
match you ever refereed?
It’s very difficult to pinpoint any
best thing to say would be, almost anything
that involved Flair and Steamboat. Those two
just complimented each other so well. Like
love and marriage, horse and carriage, bacon
and eggs…they all go together
also enjoyed the matches with Terry Funk and
Ric Flair in the late 1980’s. Terry is a
What’s your opinion of why Crockett
went under in the late 1980’s?
The problem with Crockett then, mostly I
think, was the expense of the two planes.
Even Vince McMahon didn’t have his own
plane. Keeping the pilots on the payroll and
the jet fuel alone was an enormous cost . It
wasn’t Dusty so much…
But Jimmy Crockett would never have
gotten those planes if it wasn’t for
I think you’re right. Jimmy always
wanted to be one of the boys…he’d go
right with us.
my opinion Jimmy also had a crooked
accountant. Wahoo even went after that
accountant one time. But with all those
expenses, Crockett had to go broke. Whether
it was Dusty’s fault or not, I don’t
know. Dusty did a lot of good things, though
he didn’t have much to do with me after I
I mean, I do owe a lot to Dusty because I
basically shared my refereeing with a bunch
of other referees until Dusty came into the
area in 1984. Then I became ‘the’
ref…he got rid of Fargo and Stu.
Later in your career, did matches become
more scripted? We hear about all this
rehearsal of matches in the WWE now. Did
much of that type thing take pace when you
were a ref?
We never rehearsed! Never…all you got
was the finish and the whole match was
spontaneous. Guys might talk over a spot or
two, but that was it.
Looking back, was there a particular
type match that you really didn’t like
doing? Particularly later in your career
when some of these weird matches started
Do you remember that ‘
’ thing that Kevin Sullivan did? If it’s
one thing I don’t like its heights. I had
to stand on the top level of that thing
outside the trap door…they are fighting
and the cage is shaking and I was twenty
feet above the concrete floor. I hated it!
did that match two more times…and I was on
the floor for those. (laughs)
In closing, how do you see Tommy Young
Well, the business has always been
designed to have the fans think of the
referee as being crooked. Perception wise,
we sort of have two strikes against us to
I think most fans like me more than other
referees. You might love me or you might
hate me, but when I come out that door…you
know you’re never going to be bored.
Something is going to happen…you’re
going to get your money’s worth from Tommy
bottom line is entertaining the people. You
want to bring them back. You want them going
out the door talking about coming back for
that return match.
what you have to do, and the referee can
play a big part in that. I think I’ve
proved that…probably more so than any
thanks again to George South for
visit with Tommy Young.
South, Tommy Young, & Dick Bourne
TO THE MID-ATLANTIC GATEWAY LOBBY