QUICK QUOTES: Tommy Young recalls refereeing Flair vs. Steamboat, mentoring Earl Hebner, why he was kicked out of WWE’s backstage area

MVP interview

Referee Tommy Young was a recent guest on the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast. He talked about refereeing legendary matches, his career ending injury, and more. Here are some of the highlights they sent along:

Refereeing the classic series between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat:

“It was such an honor and it was really great that we all came along at the same time. Flair broke in about the same time I did in ’73 and he was here in the Mid-Atlantic and virtually all of my career was here for the Crockett Family in the Mid-Atlantic area. I saw Steamboat years earlier and I told George (Scott) that you may want to take a look at this kid because the audience loved him but it was Flair ultimately that went to George and said to give him Steamboat. They just complimented each other so well and drew nothing but money and by the grace of God I came along at the same time and we all got together and they knew that they could do anything and I’d be there for them because they loved to do the false finishes and I could do that 1,2 and come out of it the last second and sometimes I’d show with my hands how close it was and I never saw anybody do that up to that point and it was just something that happened. Sometimes I would fly and slide across the ring and even take a bump to the floor and bang myself up to just show the hustle of it. It was such an honor to be in there with those two guys and I have nothing but respect for them and they are my heroes. They made me a good living and “we” drew so much money in every town. The better the house, the better the payoff.”

Recalling a match where Ric Flair had an accident in his tights:

“If you watched a Flair/Steamboat match, they rarely went home before the 40 minute time mark. These guys always wrestled for a good while and sometimes they’d go 45-50 minuets. There was a situation one time where Flair had an accident and he ate too close to the matches and I don’t want to get too graphic because I have talked about this before but I think we’ve all had a situation in our life where we couldn’t hold our load so to speak (laughing) and had an accident in our britches, it has happened to me and on this particular night it happened to Ric and we were in a SOLD OUT Charlotte Coliseum and about 12,000 people in there and it wasn’t like: “OH! Gotta go, gotta go.” They went another 7-8 minuets and needless to say things didn’t smell too good but it was a bad situation and the only time that it ever happened.”

On his career ending injury caused by Tommy Rich:

“You can see the injury anytime you want, just pull up Tommy Young on YouTube and it shows what happened to me and how I broke my neck and where you don’t see me get hurt, you see me disappear from the picture and I’m laying there. That ended my career. A guy gets careless with me and I get my neck broke. Goodbye career. I am not bitter about it anymore and I don’t know that I ever really was bitter because it was an accident but it was also careless and it probably cost me a million dollars in lost wages.”

Mentoring the great Earl Hebner early in his career:

“Earl is still doing it and he isn’t doing it that much but he is still doing it and I find that amazing that Earl can still do it. I have so much respect for him and I’ll tell you something else too, I did not train Earl. He tells most people that I trained him but he is just saying that to put me over because I didn’t train Earl, Earl learned on his own just like I did.”

Being brought in for the WWF’s NWA Invasion angle in 1998:

The very first night that I was introduced and was “invading” the WWE, Corny put me over like crazy and Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were doing the commentary at the time and I did a match with The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and The Headbangers. Later I did a match for Barry Windham teaming with Bradshaw (John Layfield) and they were The New Blackjacks and Barry turned on him and Layfield came back and we all had to bail out of the ring and that was on a Monday. On Tuesday I was coming down the ramp to do a return match between the Headbangers and The Rock ‘n’ Roll and Sgt. Slaughter came down with Earl and pulled me since I was not a WWF official and since I was with the NWA had to leave. I went to the ring and did not ref, I simply walked back up the ramp and that was the end of it. I got good money for the two shows. I was originally going to be given some house shows here in North Carolina before somebody woke up and said wait a minute, Tommy Young sued Turner so we can’t use him. Corny called me up and said they were going to have to back out of those bookings and I said that now you guys finally have come to your senses and I can’t believe you ever let me in the ring in the first place.”

Getting kicked out of WWE’s backstage area a few years ago:

“I stopped by while they were setting up and “Robby” my old buddy Charles Robinson who is working for them right now got me in. It is different now, when they set up a show they’ve got like 20 trucks out there and the equipment they use now is unbelievable. When they used to come to Charlotte I could walk in and out of there and even had walked into an interview and they didn’t get upset with me but this particular time he had to get me in and he had to get me a pass. I just wanted to say hello to some of the agents and they were really the only guys that I still knew.”

“This big bald guy comes up in a suit and we didn’t pay any attention to it and he asked to speak to me and the next thing I know he is walking me out and taking my backstage pass and when I asked what he was doing, he said he wanted me out and this guy just wanted me out. I thought he was one of the guys at first and he walked me out and I had no idea what the hell was going on. That hurt my feelings and that is something I will never forget.”

For the full interview with Tommy Young, check out the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast. 

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