Ringman By Dave Dwinell

February 16, 2021

An unusual take on wrestling in the past four decades, this is at its best when offering the author’s unique perspective.

While you may not know the name Dave Dwinell, there’s a good chance you’ve seen him work. Between 1982 and 2015 he refereed shows for promotions including the WWF, WCW and ECW despite never actually working for them.

That’s thanks to the odd set-up by which New York’s athletic commission, which in some ways treated wrestling as a legitimate sport, was in charge of assigning licensed referees to work on shows in the state rather than promotions solely using their own staff.

Following some extreme persistence, Dwinell got on to the commission’s roster and found himself working at a WWF show despite having virtually no training and not being entirely certain about how wrestling actually worked.

The strongest sections of the book are Dwinell’s experience as a referee working a diverse range of shows from Madison Square Garden to tiny indy shows, along with his memories of amusing incidents in matches. Those only familiar with today’s monster corporation WWE may be surprised to learn of the more bare-bones organization backstage in the 1980s, particularly from the perspective of somebody straddling the line between colleague and outsider.

There isn’t a great overarching narrative as such, with the middle of the book made up of a series of very brief reminiscences of working with well-known wrestlers. Some of these are genuine laugh-out-loud anecdotes, but in many cases we don’t learn much about the experience and it feels more like a roll call.

It’s unlikely to be a must-read for most fans and I’d have liked a little more on the nuts-and-bolts of refereeing. But those who do give the book their time will learn a few things and have some chuckles along the way.

[Disclaimer: The author provided a review copy.]

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