As I See It: Remembering Former WWE Referee Joey Marella

I remember July 4, 1994, all too well. I was sitting down, eating lunch, getting ready to watch an early round World Cup soccer game when the phone rang...two friends, one of whom was a ECW referee; had left messages on my phone within five minutes, but I didn't think anything of it.

Then the phone rang again. I finally picked it up, realizing something had to be wrong. I heard the agonized voice of a friend over the line... I could make out about every third word being said. Gradually, I pieced together the news.

Joey Marella had been killed in an automobile accident while returning from a WWF show in Ocean City, MD the previous evening. He had fallen asleep at the wheel on the New Jersey Turnpike; and was involved in a one car accident together with Bruno "Harvey Whippleman" Lauer. Joey wasn't wearing a seat belt, and was killed only miles from the Marella family home in Willingboro, NJ.

Only hours before, my friend had been with Joey and friends after the show...they'd tried to get him to crash with them up in Baltimore, but Joey told them he had to get going, up to Newark Airport before going overseas. The person was on the phone going through horrible, but unnecessary, guilt for somehow not making Joey come to Baltimore with her.

For many readers of this column who might not have been around back then, Joey Marella was a WWF referee who worked many high-profile WWF matches during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Joey's career highlights include PPV main events, such as the legendary Hogan-Andre the Giant match at WrestleMania III from the Pontiac Silverdome in March 1987, Ric Flair's first WWF title win at Royal Rumble 1992, Bret Hart-Davey Boy Smith at Summer Slam 1992 from London's Wembley Stadium, and Owen Hart-Razor Ramon in the final match at King of the Ring 1994 from Baltimore. He also worked many high profile WWF TV events, including the NBC and Fox Saturday Night Main Event shows, and the 1993 debut of Monday Night RAW. Joey even made a brief appearance as himself in the Hulk Hogan movie "No Holds Barred".

Aside from the ring, some readers may even know he was the adopted son of Robert (Gorilla Monsoon) Marella. This led to a running inside joke on WWF TV of Monsoon telling viewers how "horrible" that referee Joey Marella was each time Joey "missed" heel interference in a match.

But some knew another side to Joey.

Joey Marella was a "big brother" to many within the wrestling business, particularly the World Wrestling Federation. He was always there with a shoulder to lean on, or with time to listen to those who needed it.

Joey was loved by many, including a friend of mine who was quite close to him, who's kept a special place in her heart for him to this day....the same friend of mine I told you about earlier.

I knew Joey through this friend, so on that July 4th, the feelings weren't from the death of someone distant. They were strong and deeply personal. Joey's loss was felt deeply by many in and out of the World Wrestling Federation. The loss is still felt deeply to this day.

As one example, WWF ring announcer Tony Chimel (the announcer on Smackdown and house shows) named his newest son after his friend (who had been Godfather to his other two children) Joey Marella.

Some would argue the young Joey Chimel is just as mischievous as his namesake. One hopes he's half as good a person.

On this upcoming July 4th holiday, please keep a special place in your thoughts for Joey Marella, who left this world at the age of 31. Keep also in your thoughts those others who left wrestling far richer for having been a part of it, yet poorer for having left the business and their loved ones too soon.

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