The Evil Twin Referee
The Grand Prize for Wheel of Fortune contestants this week is a Wrestlemania VIP Package. It includes transportation to Philadelphia, lodging, a pre-match reception with some wrestlers, and ringside seats. Isn’t that better than a brand new car or a week in Hawaii?
This is Wrestlemania 40. They would “class it up” with Roman numerals like the Super Bowl but pro wrestling fans aren’t as sophisticated as pro football fans. I speak from experience as a pro wrestling fan myself. I know it is scripted. In fact, the World Wide Wrestling Federation has nearly as many writers as Saturday Night Live. But I admire the plot and character development as bad guys turn “heel”, see the error of their ways, and “save” a good guy from certain dismemberment at the last moment. Tag teams break up, reconcile, and break up again as often as couples do on “General Hospital”. Metal folding chairs are Weapons of Mass Destruction and ringside tables cleave neatly at the slightest touch just like in real life. Pro wrestling taught me The Claw and The Boston Crab that enlivened wake-up time in the Dufton household.
The greatest storyline in WWWF history occurred in 1988. Andre the Giant could barely walk at that point. He would die five years later. Andre was the undefeated fan favorite who had never been lifted off his feet during a match. He really did weigh nearly 500 lbs. Hulk Hogan was #1A for the fans. The Hulkster was the reigning heavyweight champion at the time. By the way, this was when pro wrestling and the film industry got together. Andre was great in “Princess Bride” and Hulk had a big part in “Rocky III”.
Fans demanded a match between Andre and Hulk. The WWWF built it up for months and finally allowed it as part of Wrestlemania 3. In the match, Hulk dramatically lifted and body-slammed Andre to retain his championship belt. The important thing was that the pay-per-view grossed the highest revenue to date. Andre and Hulk must meet again. WWWF’s “bottom line” demanded it. In fact, NBC televised the rematch in prime time and 33 million TV sets tuned in which was nearly as many as watched that year’s Super Bowl.
But it was obvious that Andre was a shell of what he had been. He couldn’t remain on his feet in the ring for more than five minutes at that point. With at least 30 minutes of TV time to fill, the WWWF writers devised a plot line comparable to one by Agatha Christie. Two minutes into the match, Andre collapsed onto Hulk. Pro wrestlers build tension by waiting until the count of “two” to “kick out”. The referee counted a fast “two” and lifted Andre’s arm in victory before Hulk could “kick out”. Andre was the new champion!
But wait. Andre presented the belt to his manager Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase proclaiming him the new champion. Ted was accompanied by the Real Referee who he had kidnapped, bound, and gagged. It was the Real Ref’s Evil Twin who posed as referee and gave Andre the victory. The two referees were real life identical twins hired for the match. The Evil Twin Match went down in history. It was clearly the WWWF writers’ Finest Hour.
It is unlikely that Wrestlemania 40 will compare to the drama and pathos of that event thirty years ago. Still, Wheel of Fortune winners should not turn the VIP Package down. You never know what the writers will come up with this year.
By Ed Dufton