HomeWrestlingWWE: The History of Very Special Referees At Summerslam

WWE: The History of Very Special Referees At Summerslam

Special referees are a long-used trope in professional wrestling. It has been used multiple ways throughout the years. We have seen romantic storylines, personal feuds, and celebrities play out during these matches. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it is always fun to talk about afterwards. The inclusion of special referees can also increase the stakes for a big PPV. That is exactly what WWE hopes will happen at Summerslam this year.

Jeff Jarrett (That’s Double J. J. E. Double F. J. A. Double R. E. Double T!) has been announced as the special referee for the Undisputed Tag Team Championship match. It is their way of bringing a bigger spotlight to an already massive match. With that announcement it got the wheels spinning as to other times there was a special referee at Summerslam. Did it live up to the hype? Let’s take a look at those six instances below.


Summerslam 1988 – Jesse “The Body” Ventura

The very first Summerslam had a massive main event. Hogan and Randy Savage were the two biggest faces in the company. They were set opposite the biggest heels in Andre and Ted DiBiase. It was a huge match that was worthy of the inaugural Summerslam main event. To add fuel to the main event it was announced that Ventura would be the special referee.

It raised questions, as to his loyalty, as Ventura was biased towards the heels of the company. His deference to Andre and DiBiase was pretty clear throughout the match and it helped to add some drama to the match. Anyone, who is anyone, was expecting Hogan and Savage to walk away with the win, but this move stacked the deck. It added a sense of unpredictability to the match and was a successful way to use special referees


Summerslam 1990 – The Big Boss Man

This will be the least important special referees moment on this list. The Big Bossman was a huge babyface at the time and aligned with Hulk Hogan. So why would he be involved with Jake Roberts and Bad News Brown? To keep law and order during the match of course.

Bossman DQ’d Brown after he hit Roberts with a chair. He intervened when Bad News was about to attack Damien. That is the extent of Bossman in this match. He was more than likely added to get him some more air time on the show.


Summerslam 1991 – Sid Justice

Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter’s lacklustre main event feud went on for far too long. WWE’s propensity to drag out the Iraq angle was a terrible idea and one that they consistently caught flack for.

Bringing in more men WWE booked a tag match including the Ultimate Warrior, Co. Mustafa, and General Adnan for Summerslam. It was not a match that many wanted and was further confused by the addition of Sid Justice as the special referee.

Justice was brought in for a babyface push during this. WWE was trying to get him into main event consideration but it was clear where he sided during the match. His favouritism towards Hogan and Warrior made for a more heel-y feel to the match than anything. It was a head-scratching move.


Summerslam 1997 – Shawn Michaels

The Undertaker had finally been given his run with the WWE Championship, in 1997. It was a so-so run that started to gain steam as Summerslam rolled around. Going up against Bret Hart was a great idea to face The Undertaker. He was getting some tremendous heel heat and the stipulation of Bret never wrestling on American soil again, if he lost, heightened the stakes.

To further add to the match HBK was added as the special referee. He had a history with both men and his ability to be impartial was questioned for weeks. It was a great way to add more drama to the match. A drama that was intensified when Michaels affected the outcome of the match, causing The Undertaker to lose his WWE Championship.


Summerslam 1999 – Jesse “ The Body” Ventura

The muddled WWE Championship program going into Summerslam was indicative of the Attitude Era. The over-the-top booking led to a triple threat match between Austin, Mankind, and Triple H. With the shenanigans that would naturally be present in the match, it was announced that Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura would be the special referee.

Summerslam was also taking place in the state of Minnesota, so it made sense for Ventura to be inserted into the PPV somewhere.

The match is mainly forgotten, save for the finish. It seemed as if Triple H was going to complete his ascent to the top of the card, but in a strange twist Mankind ended up taking home the championship. If rumours are to be believed Ventura had a hand in this as he preferred to have Foley win the match. This is one of the glaring examples of special referees affecting their match.


Summerslam 2011 – Triple H

The Summer of Punk was the highlight of WWE in 2011. After his glorious pipebomb Punk won the WWE Championship, only to leave WWE. This left a void at the top, which was filled by John Cena when he beat Rey Mysterio to regain the championship.

Once Punk made his surprise return a unification match was booked between Cena and CM Punk at Summerslam. To make sure that there was an Undisputed Champion crowned, COO Triple H announced himself as the special referee.

Instead of this being a straightforward match the finish was one of the bigger clusterfucks in company history. After a GTS, Punk covered Cena for the 3. However, it was clear to the world that Cena had his foot on the bottom rope. Triple H counted the three anyway lending to a screwy finish that immediately hurt Punk. It was a failure on Triple H’s part.


Summerslam 2013 – Triple H

Daniel Bryan was getting some of the biggest natural pops in company history over the summer of 2013. This caused John Cena to pick him as his opponent for the main event of Summerslam. It was a fantastic match that saw a clean finish with Bryan taking the championship.

With Triple H inserting himself as the special referee one would assume that he would have affected the outcome of the match.  However, he called it down the middle and was right there to count Cena down.

What happened afterward was another story. Orton, the Money in the Bank briefcase winner, came out to tease a cash-in. As he turned his back Triple H shocked the world, pedigreeing Daniel Bryan and allowing Orton to successfully cash in his briefcase. It was a great way to utilize the special referees role and it started the famed Authority stable.

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