AEW referee Aubrey Edwards was a guest on the Talk Is Jericho podcast as part of “Ref Week”. She and Chris Jericho talked about her journey to AEW that included her time in WWE. She talked about the things the she learned from WWE ref Drake Younger including how to work live TV.
“Drake, who’s a senior ref down at NXT. He’s phenomenal,” Edwards said. “He’s so good, and the amount of stuff that I’ve learned from him, it completely changed a lot of the ways that I approach reffing especially [since] I had zero TV experience. The first time I’d ever done live television for wrestling was in DC, October 2nd with Sammy and Cody. Yeah, I got thrown into the fire real fast.
“A lot of just how to help the talent tell a story. A lot of positioning stuff,” Edwards recalled. “A lot of how to make sure you’re out of the way for cameras because they have a very particular way. They want the refs out of the picture, so that in the event that they want to zoom in on wrestlers, the refs not in the way. I had already had a lot of experience with hard cam just with a couple of the venues that I performed in like we had that experience.”
Edwards worked a few matches at the Mae Young Classic even the Tegan Nox-Rhea Ripley match where Nox suffered a knee injury during the match. Edwards detailed what happened and gave her perspective of the situation.
“So that wasn’t too hard, but like working with an IFB, being able to pass time cues,”Edwards noted. “They have Talkback mics, so being able to talk back to the production [was] super handy because one of the things that happened in the Mae Young Classic, there was a match where a girl took a dive on the outside, Tegan Nox. Yeah, she blew out her knee, so I did that match.
“So the doctor comes out, and he has no way to communicate to the back. So I’m like flipping on my Talkback mic, and he’s talking to my little lapel basically updating what’s happening. So yeah, that was terrifying. So I threw up the X, and I’m showing it to the timekeeper guy who’s kind of like hesitant. I think because he’s on a different channel that I’m on, and even though it’s pre-recorded, it’s a tournament. You want to keep going if you can, so I’m trying to communicate like hey, something’s wrong. Someone needs to come out.
“She wants to make this happen like she missed it the year before because of her other knee, so the doctor comes out. I’m basically pushing Rhea Ripley back. They’re checking with her, and she’s like no, no, no, I can continue. I can continue. I’m like OK, and then air is sucked out of the room. She tries to continue, ends up not really working. She’s like no I can’t continue. I think she tried to do a double dropkick, falls down, like throws me the X and I’m like, oh, OK, we’re done.”
Edwards praised Rhea Ripley for being able to put together a match with Io Shirai soon after Nox’s injury took her out. She admits that it’s not something to brag out because of how devastating the situation was for Nox.
“So we basically just called off the match, and then Rhea went over. She wasn’t supposed to, so she had like 20 minutes to put together a 15-minute match with Io Shirai, who doesn’t really speak English,” Edwards recalled. “So that was pretty much like, oh no, Rhea’s good. Like this is someone stepping up to take an opportunity but it was heartbreaking.
“It was real sad to see especially because she missed it the year before, and I mean now, she has this great comeback story. No one ever wants to be involved in that. Right? Like I’m not proud to say I was the ref when Tegan blew out her knee. That’s terrible. Nobody wants that.”
Edwards was not signed with WWE after working around two weeks doing the Mae Young Classic, some NXT Florida live events and Evolution. She talked about why she feels AEW is a better fit for her.
“They kind of just stopped calling me,” Edwards stated. “I reached out to them again a little while later, and they’re like, ‘no we got nothing for you.’ And then they kind of stopped calling, but I think given my personality, I don’t think I would have been successful there. I’m really fortunate AEW came around because I feel like this is a much better place for me, for who I am as a person, what I want out of being a performer.
“We let our referees be personalities, and Tony Khan has said that our referees have personalities because they’re people with personalities. The biggest stark difference is they don’t say their names on TV. They’re nameless faces, whereas Jim Ross is saying everyone’s name every episode multiple times in a single match.”
Edwards revealed that she is a meticulous note taker and likes to take notes from her matches to help her remember things from her career. She noted that her WWE notebooks were a lot longer with a lot more information to remember. She contrasted how there is a lot more details in WWE matches compared to AEW saying AEW is “like an indie show with a lot of money.”
“The amount of information you need to have is so much more than something like here,” Edwards explained. “The producer’s telling me the next spot, so that if they if they get lost, I can immediately communicate it to them. They know the match forward, backward [and] upside down, and that’s part of the reason NXT is so good because they have a long time to prepare for those matches.
It’s almost like an indie show with a lot of money, where we show up, ‘hey, what are you doing today? Cool, we’re going to do this blah, blah blah.’ Sometimes people will talk about it ahead of time, but it’s very much what I’m used to. So I feel very comfortable here because like I haven’t talked about any of my matches today. I know what I’m doing and I’ve talked to the guys like, ‘hey, we’ll catch up later,’ but I’m not worried. I’ve worked with everyone before.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.