Veteran WWE referee Charles Robinson was on the latest episode of the WWE After The Bell podcast where he discussed his “Little Naitch” storyline in WCW as well as other stories from his time in WCW. Corey Graves asked if WCW referees also had many other ancillary responsibilities like WWE referees do now, and Robinson said yes and recalled giving out meal tickets to WCW talent.
“It was exactly the case,” Robinson stated. “When we were at Universal Studios for example, they would give us the meal tickets. Everyone had to have a meal ticket to get food. I remember one time, I went up to Lex Luger and Buff Bagwell, and I said, ‘Hey, here’s your meal ticket.’ He said, ‘I’m Lex Luger. I don’t need a meal ticket.'”
Graves also asked what a day-to-day is like for a WWE referee. Robinson jokingly said that refs are kind like babysitters to the talent before describing the long work days for referees.
“On any given day, we’re running to get talent to do a backstage segment,” Robinson said. “We have to make sure that they’re at the Gorilla position to go out prior to their match. You don’t want to wait till two seconds before for them to be there. So the match before, we’re running to get the talent to be where they’re supposed to be. So basically, we’re babysitters in a way. Myself along with a couple of the other referees, we’re ring crew members.
“So we’re in charge of setting up the ring, making sure the ropes are tight and safe, changing the canvases and doing things like that. So there’s so many things to do during the day. My day may start at 9:00 in the morning, 8:00 in the morning to build a ring, and then once the show’s over, then we tear everything down. And once we’re done with that, it’s 12:30, 1:00 a.m. and then off to the next town, so it’s a long hard job to do.”
Robinson was part of history as he the ref for the last match on Nitro, Ric Flair vs. Sting. He described what the atmosphere was like that day noting the uncertainty that everyone had about their jobs.
“That was a sad day in Panama Beach,” Robinson admitted. “I show up thinking everything’s great. I know WCW’s great. I knew that they were struggling because our houses were way down, but there was talk of Eric Bischoff buying the company, and so that’s what I thought we were going to do. We’re going to be WCW. We’re going to carry on under Bischoff’s reign, and we show up.
“And there’s Shane McMahon, and [Bruce] Prichard, and [Gerald] Brisco and all these other guys. It was sad because no one knew if they had a job the next day. They said, ‘Hey, everybody’s good,’ but they don’t need a whole roster of referees and wrestlers to come over to the WWE. It’s just not needed, and we did that show. We cried. I did the last match, which was Flair vs. Sting, which was so historical. So lucky to be able to do that.”
Robinson revealed that he worked a regular manual labor job after WWE bought out WCW because he had to find someway to make income. He said months later, he got a call from WWE to work with them, and the day he would start was coincidentally on his birthday.
“I went home, and that was in April, I believe,” Robinson recalled. “I went home, and I got a manual labor job. I was digging ditches and digging holes for posts to build decks with because I didn’t know where my next paycheck was coming from. I had bills to pay. I had a new wife. So I had to make sure that things were taken care of, and WWE called me up the last week of June. And they said, ‘We want you to be in Tacoma, WA on July the 2nd to start up with us,’ and the only reason I remember that date is because that’s my birthday. So it was a great great birthday present.”
Graves noted that WCW talent coming from WCW to WWE received mixed reactions. Robinson admitted that he was terrified because he thought he would get heat over the idea of him taking someone else’s job, but that was not the case as he was immediately welcomed by his fellow referees.
“I’d only been on TV for four years. That’s really new in the business,” Robinson noted. “Coming over to WWE, I was terrified. I didn’t know if I would be accepted because when someone comes in from the outside, everyone else is thinking, ‘Hey, he’s trying to get my job.’ Fortunately, the group of referees that we had, Jack Doan, Chad Patton [and] Mike Chioda, all these guys, they were so fantastic. I mean, Earl Hebner, they brought me in, and they taught me to do things the way that WWE wants it done. And they made me feel like part of the family right away.”
Robinson described the differences between working for WCW in the late ’90s and working for WWE when he entered after WCW ended. He said WWE was a lot more organized than WCW noting that things would change all the time in WCW.
“It was just so organized when I got here,” Robinson remarked. “I would show up at noon or whatever, and they would tell us then what we’re going to be doing for that day and sometimes maybe even for the next week, which was amazing. They said, ‘Hey, we’re thinking down the road about this and this and this.’ That didn’t happen in WCW. We would have a lot of changes before the show, and during the show [and] even after the show. It was a lot of confusion in WCW near the end, and I loved my time there. They gave me a lot of great opportunities.”
Robinson later told a story about the unique way he was introduced to The Rock. He said after throwing water at another ref, they other refs taped him to a chair with him flipping the middle finger and with a sign that said “The Rock who?” as they showed that to The Rock.
“The guys, they were playing cards,” Robinson recalled. “I never learned how to play cards. I’m just not good at it, but for some reason, I had a cup of water in my hand. And I think it was Jack Doan that said something to me and acted like I was going to throw water on him. He goes, ‘You won’t do that. You’re the new guy here.’ Okay, so I throw the water on him.
“All the referees, they get me. They tape me to a chair. They tape my mouth shut. They tape my finger in a position, the middle finger showing, and they put a sign on me that says, ‘The Rock who?’ They pushed me up in the chair to meet The Rock that way. That was a lot of fun. [On The Rock’s reaction]. He does this little thing with his eyebrow. He did that to me. That was it.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit WWE After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.