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Great St. Louis Referees

 - John Edwards

The referee in a professional wrestling match is a key participant, along with the grapplers. The "third man in the ring" monitors the action, ensures the match stays on time, calls for the finish, relays information from the booker in the back, might pass a blade or a foreign object, and might even help "call" the match. The referee accomplishes all this while staying out of the action and making sure the talent is the focus of the match. In some cases, the referee might even "take a bump" (see "Dusty Finish") Some referees are former wrestlers or wanted to be wrestlers (such as Bronko Lubich in World Class and Nick Patrick in WCW), some are bookers and office types, and some are career referees.


The St. Louis NWA promotion had all of these types at one time or another during the glory years of the promotion. In addition, we had many times where we were treated to a "Special Guest Referee" when a feud had to be settled or the action was so intense that a special referee had to be called upon the ensure a fair match and a clean finish.


As mentioned in earlier articles, the referee had a special place in Sam Muchnick's NWA promotion. Unlike today, referees were totally respected. The few (and I mean very few) times a referee was touched resulted in an immediate disqualification. (And, of course, the money drawing rematch.) The few grapplers I ever saw touch the referee were Dick The Bruiser and Ox Baker. This is not to say there were not more cases of this in St. Louis. It was, however, an uncommon occurrence compared to today's product.


Regular St. Louis Referees

I would like to pay tribute to the great referees who kept the action at the Chase and the Kiel on the level in the squared circle. They were, for the most part, local St. Louis personalities, who had long-time association with Sam Muchnick and the St. Louis Wrestling Club. I have researched to the extent possible for any information I could come up with on these legends of the squared circle. Sadly, due to to history and the keeping of kayfabe, there is not much information available. The following listing of St. Louis referees is mostly from my memory and reading what is available on the internet or working with others, such as ChiTown Rich.


Here is my listing (with comments) of the referees that worked in the St. Louis NWA promotion in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In some cases, these men had worked in St. Louis going back to the 1940s or 1950s.


      Joe Tangaro - A 1971 Kiel Program described Joe as a "former Army physical training instructor".

      Charles Venater - One of my favorites that would give it right back to the heels when they would challenge him.

      Terry Garvin - Worked with the SLWC in the early 1980s.

      Sonny Myers - I seem to recall him actively refereeing in St. Louis. While I know he had a long time association with the Central States region, this would make sense, since Bob Geigel worked closely with Sam Muchnick.

      Ed Warren - A longtime fixture on Wrestling At The Chase and the Kiel Auditorium shows.

      Lee Warren - Assume he was related to Ed

      Joe Schoenberger - Another long time referee. I don't know too much about him, but I know I saw him hundred of times on Sunday morning.

      Eddie Smith - Another referee regular on St. Louis TV.


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