One of the most celebrity-packed Wrestlemanias was Wrestlemania 11. People remember that year for stars such as Pamela Anderson and Lawrence Taylor. But very few remember a man by the name of Larry Young, who may have had the biggest impact.
If it were not for the Major League Baseball umpire counting the 1-2-3 in his role as special guest referee, The Undertaker would “only” be 16 and 0 at Mania.
Unlike a lot of celebrities who attend Wrestlemania, Young wasn’t there for the payoff. He was there because he genuinely enjoyed it.
“I was always a fan,” Young told SLAM! Wrestling. “I grew up in the Chicago area and I would love to see guys like Nick Bockwinkel and Verne Gagne. I always enjoyed watching wrestling and I love it.”
Although it was Young’s only Wrestlemania appearance — the umpires were on strike that year, so he could participate — it would be one that he would remember for a lifetime. In fact, Young still attends pro wrestling-related events, such as the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame last year in Amsterdam, NY, and the upcoming Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Las Vegas.
Refereeing the match between The Undertaker and King Kong Bundy was no easy task, but Young was certainly up to the challenge.
“I was assigned that match by JJ Dillon,” he said. “I had worked a couple matches before that. One was in Times Square. I did a couple of tryout matches there and then went on the road for a while.”
For Young, it wasn’t just a one-time deal. He actually took it very seriously, because as a fan himself, he knew exactly how important Wrestlemania is to the business and wanted to be at his best, which is why he made sure to have the experience before going to the big game, so to speak.
“I got started when I was in Puerto Rico, working winter baseball,” Young said. “And some of the wrestlers went down there and the wrestlers and the umpires got to live in the same apartment complex, so I got to meet a lot of the wrestlers and that’s how I got started officiating.”
As for baseball officiating, Young started umpiring in his home town of Oregon, Illinois, when a Little League ump failed to show and he was thrust into the spotlight. More kids and adult church league games would follow until he moved up through high school, college and minor league games.
As a big-league umpire, Young worked for the American League from 1985-1999, and for MLB from 2000-07, when he retired. He was an umpire at the 1996 and 2003 World Series, the ALCS in 1992, 1998 and 2002, two All-Star Games (1991, 2003), and in six Division Series (1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004).
When most celebrities are used for Wrestlemania, they tend to be positioned for bigger spots than the wrestlers. However, Young didn’t mind being kept out of the high profile angles, because he was just glad to be a part of it all and also didn’t want to take any spotlight away from the wrestlers.
“There were a lot of celebrities that year,” he said.
He wasn’t kidding, especially with Lawrence Taylor (LT) in the main event position and his football cronies out: Pamela Anderson (cornerperson), Carl Banks (LT’s All-Pro Team), Jennifer McCarthy (cornerperson), Steve McMichael (LT’s All-Pro Team), Ken Norton Jr. (LT’s All-Pro Team), Rickey Jackson (LT’s All-Pro Team), Salt-N-Pepa (vocalists), Chris Speilman (LT’s All-Pro Team), Jonathan Taylor Thomas (timekeeper), Nicholas Turturro (ring announcer, interviewer), Reggie White (LT’s All-Pro Team).
“I may be a little different than most of the so-called celebrity participants,” surmised Young. “I don’t even consider myself a celebrity, but I had a real respect for the business. I think a lot of people were just there because of their status, but I really wanted to be there and be part of it.”
As memorable as 1995 was for Young, he’s hopeful that 2010 will be just as memorable. And surely, Young knows exactly what he’ll be doing on March 28.