Heel ref Brad Maddox harkens back to the great Danny Davis

There is some interest about where the WWE plotline is heading with crooked referee Brad Maddox, who gave Ryback a low blow at Hell in the Cell, leading to a CM Punk victory.

Maddox brings back memories of perhaps the most infamous heel ref, Danny Davis, who peaked in 1987 with the gimmick.

Davis, who is from New Hampshire, was a longtime referee in the early 1980s for the WWF, often working the house shows at the old Boston Garden. He got wrestling experience in the ring by competing under a mask as Mr. X, and many old-school fans in Boston will remember Davis pulling double duty on some shows, wrestling as Mr. X and later officiating.

Eventually, plans were laid to make Davis a heel ref, which at the time was a gimmick the WWF had rarely, if ever, done. He would favor the bad guys and come up with interesting ways to avoid counting pinfalls on the heels, such as picking up trash on the ring apron.

I remember one match during which the Hart Foundation fought Mike Rotundo and Danny Spivey, and when Bret Hart was being pinned, Davis got up to remind Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart that he must always be holding the little tag rope during the match. It was great stuff.

Davis had a certain look when he confronted the babyfaces that just made you want to smack him. He was arrogant and smug.

In January of 1987, the Hart Foundation won the WWF Tag Team Titles due to blatant double-teaming that Davis ignored. This lead to Jack Tunney’s famous line, “Referee Danny Davis is suspended for life!”

To which announcer Vince McMahon followed up, “Danny Davis has been suspended for life. All right! All right!”

After his suspension, Davis joined the Hart Foundation and became Dangerous Danny Davis, competing in ridiculous black-and-white-striped tights. His biggest match was teaming with Hart and Neidhart at WrestleMania III to defeat the British Bulldogs and Tito Santana.

By 1989, Davis as a wrestler had worn thin, and he returned as a ref with probationary status, before finally leaving the WWF in 1995.

The whole Brad Maddox plotline has gone by too quickly, as is typical for WWE these days. The Davis build lasted months, so by the time the babyfaces got a chance to beat on him, fans had been waiting and waiting for that big moment. I don’t sense the same anticipation for Maddox in the ring.

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One comment

  1. Joe Lowry

    This was a unique and most unusual story line back then. Referees were never used in storylines until this idea came about. Lets not forget about the evil referee twin brothers, Dave & Earl Hebner. These two ref’s catapulted Andre the Giants title win over Hulk Hogan back in February 1988.

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