Former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas knows how exciting WrestleMania weekend can be. Having been with the company for 22 years, he’s worked the big event many times, including the main event between The Undertaker and Edge two years ago at WrestleMania 24. This Sunday, he will be imparting some of his experiences to those who want to one day follow in his footsteps, at a referee fantasy camp being held in conjunction with Toronto’s Squared Circle Training.
The camp, which will also feature longtime Ontario ref Harry Dee and TNA’s Angelina Love — herself an alumnus of Squared Circle — should act as a good appetizer for those who will be watching the pay-per-view later that evening.
For Korderas, to be able to teach referee skills in Toronto brings him full circle to where he got his start in the business back in 1985. Born and raised in Toronto, it was at Maple Leaf Gardens that Korderas got his first taste of the business.
“They used to run shows every three weeks there,” he recalled. “I was a regular there, I had what would be the equivalent of seasons tickets. I became friends with someone who used to work for Jack Tunney. We became friends and he introduced me to Jack to try to get me a job there, and I got hired on as part of the ring crew.”
After about a year and a half, Hall of Famer Pat Patterson suggested that Korderas give refereeing a try, and it wasn’t too long before Korderas got his first match.
“It was like baptism by fire,” he laughed, when asked to describe the training he went through. “I was told to get the black pants and blue shirt and a black bowtie. I did all that and carried it with me and was waiting for someone to train me to referee. One day, Chief Jay Strongbow said to me, ‘Mr. Jimmy, do you have your referee gear with you?’ ‘Yes, I do, Chief.’ ‘Well, put it on, you’re working tonight.’ He told me not to worry. My first match was S.D. Jones versus the Red Demon, who was Jose Luis Rivera underneath a mask. The guys helped me get through the match, nervous as I was.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Over the course of the next two decades, Korderas had a number of highlights while acting as the third man in the ring. In terms of highlights, matches that come to mind are the first Hulk Hogan match he got to ref, a Smackdown match between Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero, and one of the the very special Tribute to the Troops shows.
“Getting to go to Iraq and doing the show for the troops was an awesome experience,” he beamed. “I still keep in touch through e-mail with a couple of the soldiers that I met there.”
And, of course, the aforementioned WrestleMania match. It’s not just part of the storyline, he said, that WrestleMania is considered as the biggest night of the year. The excitement is real for all of the participants, and he was no exception.
“It’s hard to describe. It really is an unbelievable feeling of anticipation. You’ve heard it described as our Super Bowl, but for us it’s even bigger than that. To be a part of it is just phenomenal. Something that sounds as simple as standing in the ring. Then, The Undertaker’s music hits, and then his pyro hits, and the crowd is going crazy. Taking all that in, the sight of that is incredible. Knowing you have a job to do, trying to do your job, and at the same time, being in awe of everything that’s going on around you, it’s the most incredible feeling in the world for anyone that’s been in the business.”
It’s an experience that he knows many people would love to have some day, and to that end, he’s suggesting they come to the referee camp to learn some of the secrets of the art of refereeing.
“What I’d like to do,” he said to preview what attendees can expect on Sunday, “is begin with explaining the actual role of the referee. Then I’m going to give them what I think is the right way to do things. We’re going to go through everything from psychology in the ring as a referee, positioning, the psychology of taking a ref bump, how to protect yourself, and anything else I can think of. There are little nuances to make it look like you’re not doing what you’re trying to do. For example, not to look like you’re trying to look the other way.”
Contrary to the stereotype of the blind and incompetent wrestling referee, the role plays a definite purpose in a match, and it’s important that the person filling it understands what the role is, and how to best perform it.
“Simply put,” he explained, “we’re there to help enhance the story being told in the ring. To do the job, to be the authoritative voice in the ring, and do that without taking attention away from the wrestlers. People shouldn’t really notice the referee unless there’s something in the match that requires him to be noticed.”
“Two guys could be out there busting their butts, and if the referee is not good, it won’t ruin the match, because the guys’ talent will shine through. But a good referee will make a really good match that much better.”
This is done, he said, through a combination of bodily actions, facial expressions, voice and tone, and ring presence. The camp, he said, will touch on all of those aspects.
Though there will be a lot covered during the fantasy camp, people shouldn’t be scared that they will miss WrestleMania if they choose to attend. On the contrary, since Korderas himself is still a big fan of the product and is very much looking forward to watching the show that night.
“I still watch, I still pay attention to what’s going on. I think once it’s in your blood, it never leaves.”
While that comment makes it sound like Korderas longs for a return to the WWE, he is actually quite content with his post-WWE life. Attending classes in broadcasting with a goal to work in radio or television, Korderas is more than happy to be back in the Toronto area, spending time with his wife and family on a full-time basis.
“I had taken some time away from the company because I was dealing with a personal situation — an illness in the family,” he revealed. “When the company was looking to downsize for cost-cutting measures, it was a perfect time for a mutual parting of the ways. People may assume I’m bitter about not being with the company, but that’s not the case. I’m very thankful of everything they gave me. I had a run of over 20 years — how can I be anything but happy? I miss it a lot, sure. But at the same time, now that I’ve had the chance to be at home and spend time with my family, my wife, I like that too. The door is not closed, there’s always an opportunity to go back. But like I said, it’s good to be home.”
For more information, or to sign up for the referee fantasy camp featuring former WWE ref Jimmy Korderas, Harry Dee, and TNA’s Angelina Love — www.squaredcirclewrestling.com, or email [email protected]
JIM KORDERAS STORIES
- August 16, 2013: Ex-WWE ref Korderas makes his wrestling debut
- March 29, 2013: One, two, three! WWE ref Korderas’ book hits shelves
- July 2, 2001: Toronto’s Jim Korderas on life in a striped shirt