LaBar: Did WWE referee know finish to Undertaker match?
WWE is trying to sell the story of referee Chad Patton not knowing what the finish was going to be to The Undertaker versus Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30.
I smell a work in the form of a juicy headline. I think it's all an effort to enhance the legend of this historic moment.
The Undertaker lost and his undefeated WrestleMania streak was over. The shock on the face of fans was visual paradise for Vince McMahon and executive producer Kevin Dunn. Wrestling is all about emotions, and WWE television loves to capture reactions from the fans in the audience. There was no shortage of that with this surprising loss.
This story of the referee not being smartened up sounds like a piece of fiction WWE purposely leaked.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter is the source of saying Patton was originally told The Undertaker would win this match. The Newsletter then added to its report and said many inside WWE believe Patton was tipped off somewhere in the match that The Undertaker was going to lose.
I refuse to believe anything on the first report. The second report is possible, but still ridiculous on WWE's part if it's true. I can't fathom the company playing such communication games with such a major spot on the biggest show ever.
Let me clarify what I'm saying: I think The Wrestling Observer Newsletter is saying what it is honestly finding out. I don't think it is throwing darts on the wall and making up stuff knowingly. However, I do think what it is honestly finding out isn't honest from its sources.
I think WWE realized it could add layers to this shock value if news broke that not even one of the three men in the ring knew what was going to happen.
One thing that is for sure that the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported is WWE has given referees a fair amount of power over the years. The power to enforce the “rules” of professional wrestling. Meaning that if a guy actually doesn't break the five-count rule when a submission should be broken, then disqualify him.
This actually has happened in the past when the referees were told to stand up for themselves and the rules. They've been told not to let the guys run wild on them unless it's a noted angle for the match or storyline. Referees have done this. From the stories I've heard first-hand, it's never been on a big stage, but back when WWE had its version of ECW airing on Syfy, it was a situation that came up.
The wrestlers weren't happy with the referees if they followed through with this power, but it was what management wanted.
Taking all of this into account, what benefit is there for WWE to not tell the referee the shocking finish in one of the biggest matches in company history?
So the referee can get some legitimate entertainment? So you can avoid the finish getting leaked? So you can test and see if the referee has the courage to stand up for the rules as they're all told to do? None of this makes sense.
WWE does tell referees and referees will tell young referees they are training that a certain amount of responsibility goes to the wrestlers. If wrestler A is supposed to win the match, but in the match he gets pinned by wrestler B, it's wrestler A's job to make sure he kicks out.
It's not the referee's job to do a balk and stop counting as his hand is getting close to the mat for three. It's the wrestler's job to be sure he times it as well as he can or wants, but to stick with the script.
So, again, why not tell referee Chad Patton? It doesn't hold any logical weight to trust the referee to do the right thing in that big of a situation. Imagine if he didn't. Imagine how sloppy and bad the ending for one of the most respected performers — and his Wrestlemania winning streak — could have been.
WWE obviously kept almost everyone in the backstage out of the loop that The Undertaker was going to lose. That's fine. In fact, I like that. If you're not involved in the match, you don't need to know. Paul Heyman, who is managing Lesnar; Lesnar; The Undertaker and referee Chad Patton — they all must know. No excuses or other scenario to it.
Shock the ring announcer. Shock the time keeper. Shock the commentators. Everyone who is playing a role in the match must know the ending goal of where they are going. There is no reason or way to believe WWE would actually allows a reckless decision of everyone involved in the match not to know.
The referees do have IFB ear pieces, with which an agent backstage can communicate to them. In theory, somewhere in the match, somebody could have spoken to Patton via his IFB and told him what the real finish was going to be.
If this is the case, it would make the second report from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter accurate that Patton was tipped off during the match. If this is the case, I still ask why?
Again, I don't understand why you would allow such a risk to be taken with a lack of accurate communication until the very last minute for such a big moment. Did WWE think the cadence of Patton's count was going to change or be better somehow if they handled the situation like this?
In the end, it all worked out. A shocking WrestleMania moment with Lesnar getting a rub and The Undertaker going out the way he should, losing. He's old-school, if you're going to be done, you go out looking at the lights and put someone else over.
It might not be Undertaker's last match, but it also might be depending on health. In that case, it makes sense he lost. I always thought the streak should never be broken, but if Undertaker wanted to stay old-school and go out losing, who is anybody to say no to him.
The legend and memory of this match will forever be enhanced with these tales of the referee's knowledge or lack thereof.
I think because of who Lesnar is, he adds legitimacy to the streak since he broke it. That's all the legitimacy WWE needed. No need trying to make your referee make the best on-the-fly judgment call as if he works for the NHL (insert your own joke here).
Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.