Gilberto Roman, Danny Davis, and other WWF referees from the 1980s

Ever since former WWF referee Dick Woehrle died, I’ve been thinking a lot about the refs we used to know by name during the early 1980s.

Part of that familiarity was because ring announcer Joe McHugh would always tells us their names during his opening monolgue every week on Saturday morning Championship Wrestling here in Boston. But even the refs themselves seem cookie-cutter in today’s WWE compared to the refs of yesteryear.

Aside from Woehrle, other guys (and one gal) I remember include:

  • Gilberto Roman, a stocky little fella who kind of looked like a very short King Kong Mosca (I can’t even find a photo of Roman online, but in this YouTube clip from Madison Square Garden, you can see Roman adjusting the tag team rope about 20 seconds in)
  • Dick Kroll, who was taller than most of the wrestlers and did a lot of Saturday morning matches, as well as at least the first WrestleMania
  • Joey Marella, who was Gorilla Monsoon’s son in real life and officiated the Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant main event at WrestleMania III (Marella died young in 1994 in a car wreck)
  • Billy Caputo, who was a blond-haired ref who appeared on many Saturday morning matches
  • Jack Lotz, who many of us remember as the ref in the ring when Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik for the WWF World Title
  • Danny Davis, who was perhaps the most famous wrestling ref during the 1980s thanks to his heel turn in 1987 (although for years, he was a straight-laced official who worked TV tapings and Boston Garden house shows)
  • Dave Hebner, who came to the WWF in the mid-’80s and was eventually involved in an angle with twin brother and fellow ref Earl when Andre defeated Hogan for the WWF Title
  • Rita Marie, who may have been the first official woman’s referee ever in wrestling (you can see her in this great clip when Terry Funk attacks ring attendant Mel Phillips)

There are probably other refs I’m missing. Let me know…


  1. Frank

    Woehrle Only worked PA, NJ, DE & MD. Roman & Kroll worked NJ, NY & PA…Mario Savoldi was the only one who worked all 13 states that the WWF showed. New England had Tony Altimore, Jack Lotz, Danny Davis, Fred Spotta, Joey Marella, & refs/ jobbers Victor Taylor (Quinones when he jobbed) & Jack Savage. Billy Caputo & John Stanley only did NY & PA. All but Kroll & Marella were very nice to talk to & would always carry a conversation with a fan but Kroll & Marella always seemed like they were in a rush.

  2. Anonymous

    You are missing Wee Willie Webber, who was not the Philly TV personality but a “portly” guy who often worked the Hamburg PA matches with Woehrle. Woehrle was a noticeably better actor than the others. He sold better, but seemed to enforce the “rules” better.

    Meanwhile, he’d be funnier with the midgets.

  3. JerseyGreg (@KnewJoisyGreg)

    *I realize this thread is nearly SEVEN YEARS OLD, but…what the heIl; maybe someone will stumble-across my comment…? Perhaps, at least the owner/mod.*

    The early ’80’s were my “heyday” of being enthralled with pro wrestling. Namely,…the WWF, as the NY Metro area was where we lived. Two of the refs that you mentioned, I was a sorta’ a “fan” of; Dick Woehrle & Gilberto Roman. With Woehrle, he seemed to be REALLY into his matches. A laid-back persona, yet PASSIONATE once the match(es) started! Always right on top of the action! If I were to use just one word to describe Woehrle as an in-ring, official, it’d be…EXCITABLE! With Roman, on the other hand,…while he seemed to be quite “efficient” in his capacity, I found his officiating style to be somewhat, COMEDIC, most times! Picture this: an average match with Roman officiating, accompanied with/by the song “Yakety Sax” (the Benny Hill Show theme song) I betcha’ that you’d get a pretty good laugh with that! But nevertheless, as alluded to, Roman was a QUALITY, officiating-talent for the [W]WWF.

    • bostongardenbalcony

      Thanks for writing. Yes, I still catch all the comments that people post to my blog. I think your thoughts reflect what I originally wrote — that the refs back then were memorable in their own right and not just these interchangeable people you see now as refs.

    • Stephen ONeil

      I believe Gilberto was Comedic on purpose…His size alone made the visual pure comedy…especially if Andre was involved..but almost every wrestler towered over Gilberto. The Image of Gilberto telling these Huge guys what to do was certainly part of the Show !!!

      • David

        Right. There were as much a part of the matches as the wrestlers themselves. I noticed that Monsoon, when he was commentating, always seemed like he had a legit beef with Gilberto, always roasting him, saying what a lousy ref he was and “didn’t know a wrist lock from a wrist watch.” LOL. Totally unrelated but I’m asking this question in old-school wrestling circles so what the heck–I’ll give it a whirl here, too: Does anyone know if former PRISM announcer Dick Graham is still alive?

  4. David

    I didn’t read all the comments. I remember some other WWWF wrestlers from the ’70s. There was Wee Willie Webber whom I suspected Vince McMahon, Jr. disliked when he was just the TV announcer. He’d say things like, “Wee Willie Webber, not one of the popular referees.” (During a Webber match) McMahon would say, “now if Dick Whirley were referee, this match would have been over.” “Sounds like Wee Willie Webber got more boos than (two jobbers) Rick Hamilton and Jim Arnett.” (McMahon’s comments were from 1974 and 1975. I have Aspbergers and can easily remember small details like that from over 40 years ago.)

  5. trippnorris

    There was a ref that I always wondered what his name was. He refed at the first Survivor Series during the Savage team vs Honky Tonk Man team match. We always called him the comb over referee because he had comb over hair. Does anyone know his name? He was also one of the few WWF refs that counted pinfalls left handed.

      • David T.

        Confirmed Jack Kruger. His nephew or purported other relative Bill Kruger also refereed in the early 1990s. I believe Kruger and Jack Doan were from the same area in rural Illinois.

    • Say-ahh

      The guy would wear a crazy hat or bandana and I think he had glasses maybe suspenders? He was there every time as a ring boy attendant janitor I was there every month 81-83 might have missed 2-3 shows in 3 years Great Times

  6. drmajcher

    The ring crew guy that resembled Abe Lincoln was Bob (never knew his last name).
    Another ring crew member of note, from the 70’s, was sometimes wrestler Pinky “Bimbo” Larsen.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I remember “Pinky” Larsen. I knew that he was used as a fill in jobber from time to time but I remember him being backstage at several venues. Could he have been an admin like Goulet, Strongbow, & Lanza were?

      • David

        Pinky Larson! I remember seeing him in two matches in 1975. (I have Aspbergers and can remember certain minute details quite vividly.) In the spring, Larson wrestled against Spiror Arion after Arion turned heel. He also wrestled against Baron Mikel Scicluna. After Scicluna won, Vince Mcmahon who was broadcasting said to his colleague, Argentina Rocca, “Baron Scicluna defeated nobody, but that’s not a nice thing to say about Pinky Larson.”

    • Frank

      Bob Tsyrmyck (pronounced Ceramic) was Abe Lincoln. I believe that both he and Jack Savage who was a jobber/ring attendant/referee were native Vermonters

  7. Pingback: My first time on the WWE Network: Watching Backlund, Hansen, Patterson, and Slaughter from MSG in 1981 | Boston Garden Balcony
  8. Steve

    Great little article! Those were the days. My sister, cousin, and I use to wonder what the heck Joe McHugh was saying when he finally said his name at the end of the monolague. We used to debate, Joe? Jill? Joel?

  9. David T.

    I am really into finding out who the referees at MSG in the 1980s were. In addition to the easy to ID ones (Gilberto Roman- short guy); Dick Kroll (tall guy); Billy Caputo (blonde guy); Jack Lotz (older guy with gray, curly hair). Others: Miguel Correz (guy with the slicked hair and goatee); Santos Ramos (short, bald ref); Henry Terranova (1983-86 mainly; wavy dark hair with a bald spot). Anyone know this guy:; I swear I heard him be called Tom Badee once, but hard to figure out his ID.

  10. Frank

    I remember refs Victor Quinones (who also wrestled as Vic Taylor) & Fred Sparta who was not liked by Gorilla Monsoon (he would often refer to him as Freddie the Freeloader) In the New England area, I remember a ref named Jack Savage who also was part of the ring crew who worked with a man who resembled Abe Lincoln. What about the ring attendants Mel Phillips & Elliott “The professor” Marin, anyone remember them?

    • bostongardenbalcony

      I remember Sparta well, as he was often a ref for the Boston Garden house shows in the 1980s. Mel Phillips was an interesting footnote in wrestling — as I noted in the post above, he was in that great Terry Funk angle, but he also got in trouble in the early 1990s for alleged indiscretions with ring boys and was never seen again.

      • dcinfowarrior

        “Mel Phillips was an interesting footnote in wrestling”

        Pun intended? (Mel Phillips apparently had a foot fetish.)

  11. Pingback: The day Greg Valentine sort of won the WWF Title from Bob Backlund « Boston Garden Balcony
  12. Joe Lowry

    Doctor in Attendance…Dr. George Zoharian..Timekeeper at the bell..Charlie Daniels…your referess Dick Woerhle, Dick Kroll and Gilberto Roman…and my name is Joe Mchugh….

    • bostongardenbalcony

      Zahorian was always there for those matches (I remember him coming out to help Jimmy Snuka after Ray Stevens piledrove Snuka on the concrete floor), and it’s crazy to think in real life what Zahorian was doing in the dressing room with the steroid distribution.

  13. Joe Lowry

    Another awesome memory in regards to the 80’s – The Referees. I find that each referee in the day were relevant in some story line or another. I do recall that referee Gilberto Roman was usually the referee who was tossed aside when Greg Valentine usually tried to break the legs of either Chief Jay Strongbow or Pedro Morales. Dick Kroll was famous for his match in 1981 in which he accidentally awarded the WWF Title to Greg Valentine in his match against Bob Backlund. I do believe both men were wearing black shorts thus prompting a confused Kroll to make his controversial decision. The title was therefore held up for one month until the return bout at NYC MSG took place. Kroll usually handled the main events with Bob Backlund. Dick Woerhle was always the impartial tough as nails referee. He did alot of the tab bouts. Joey Marella was indeed the son of Gorilla Monsoon, but they never divulged that info during the day. Its funny, you never saw these referees at house shows such as The Boston Garden, Philadelphia Spectrum or even the Meadowlands of New Jersey. If you did see them, it meant a title change or some kind of storyline was in the making. Good Stuff!!

    Joe Lowry

    • David T

      For the record, that was John Stanley, who was the referee during the Backlund-Valentine match. I believe the reason why Boston, New York and New Jersey had separate referee crews was because refs were licensed by the state athletic commission. Kroll rarely reffed matches outside NY-NJ; Woehrle mainly worked in Maryland, NJ-NY; Sparta mainly in the norhteast. As the WWF expanded its TV tapings across the nation in the mid-1980s, the referees travelled too with the main full-time crew being Dave Hebner, Marella, Tim White (mainly if Andre worked the card), Danny Davis and maybe a regional ref in the area (Sparta in the NE; Nick Kozak in Texas; a man whose name escapes me in the NE; Jimmy Korderas in Canada (and later joined the regular crew).

      • Frank

        Don’t forget Jack Savage (jobber, ring attendant & Ref in NE states. Also Jack Lotz (nice guy in & out of the ring) & Billy Caputo who worked from New Haven, south to Allentown.
        Speaking of ring crew, anyone remember that guy who resembled Abe Lincoln who drove a blue metro panel truck and at one time was on the receiving end of a haircut on TNT via Brutus Beefcake. He was on the ring crew in NE States.

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