Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Gateway Interview







DC: I understand that you came to the Mid-Atlantic area in late 1975 after you caught the eye of George Scott when you were working for the IWA?


Tommy: I got the TV exposure on the IWA, where George Scott saw me. George was the booker for Crockett Promotions at the time.


Actually, George’s kid who was doing the tapes saw me. George told me that his boy told him that if you don’t get anybody else from the IWA, get that referee.


George told me when I came over, that he wanted me immediately. This was November of 1975. The night I was hired by George I worked Park Center here in Charlotte . George said he woke his kid up that night to tell him that he had just hired Tommy Young. 


DB: Wasn’t it the case that Jimmy Crockett didn’t want to hire anybody from the old IWA, and George pretty much decided to do it on his own?


Tommy: Right, because the IWA was the ‘opposition.’ Back then, I told George that I didn’t even know what ‘opposition’ was. I’m just some new guy coming along, trying to get an opportunity. I never meant to be Crockett’s opposition.


George said he knew that, not to worry about it and he was going to use me. A few days later I got a call from Gene Anderson…(Tommy then used his best Gene Anderson impression) ‘Tommy Young—got some bookings for you—come on down kid.’ The rest is history.


DC: But didn’t you play hockey early on, Tommy?


Tommy: I played a little hockey. Didn’t play all that much organized hockey. It was mostly just pick-up hockey.


DB: How did you get in the wrestling business at the very beginning?


Tommy: I always liked wrestling, ever since I was a kid. But I never really thought that I would get into it.


I was just driving a truck in Detroit in the early 70’s. Lou Klein, who was one of the Bastien brothers, was the local guy on the Big Time Wrestling show up there who did a ‘You Want To Be a Wrestler/Come On Down’ commercial right on their TV show.


DB: Was this what was referred to as the original Sheik’s promotion?


Tommy: That’s correct. The Sheik was the big boss back then.


I was having trouble at work with my foreman at the time, so I decided to go down there and follow up on this commercial. I was 25 at the time. I knew wrestling wasn’t on the up-and-up. If I ever thought it was real, I wouldn’t have gotten near that place. (everybody laughs)


I’m not a tough guy and I can’t wrestle. There were three guys, and the two guys ahead of me wanted to work out a payment plan to train. I walked up and threw the $300.00 on [Lou’s] desk and he threw the others out and trained me. He smartened me right up, which he really shouldn’t have done. But really it’s a good thing that he did, because if they’d beat the hell out of me like they did to a lot of the guys, I would have left. I’d have just run…you can have this.


DC: So, you actually started in the business as a wrestler as opposed to a referee?

Tommy: Yes, I broke in to wrestle. I wrestled my first three-four months in. I went to see Lou in February of 1973 and had my first match in August of 1973. It was at a high school against a guy named Dr. H.


(from the collection of Ben Martin)

See more photos from this IWA program article.


I think I wrestled through October-November of 1973. It was only part time. I was just a jobber, underneath mostly. Kind of like what George did…getting beat up by guys.


George:  (Smiles and nods.)


DB: How did they train you as a wrestler?


Tommy: We’d get in the ring and lock up, and Lou showed me a couple of basic things. That’s all Lou ever did, other than taking my $300.00. He’s was always training guys, and after 3-4 months those guys would start training the brand new guys. It was almost like a pyramid type of thing.


DC: Well, I guess the big question now becomes…how did you become a referee?


Tommy: I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. So much of life is timing…being at the right spot at the right time.


One night we were in Canton, Ohio, and the referee didn’t show up and they were in a panic. I told them to let me referee…scratch my match. I was the opening match and it didn’t mean anything. I had a basic knowledge of what was going on.


I got in the ring and refereed the whole show. Afterwards, I had three-four guys come up to me and told me to pursue refereeing. They said, ‘you ain’t going to make it as a wrestler, but damn you’re good as a ref.’


DC:  So, describe refereeing for the Sheik’s promotion for us.


Tommy: I did a lot of the Sheik’s TV. Once they realized I could ref, they used me more and more.


Michigan had a very strict commission, and it was hard to get a license there to ref.


DB: Was the Sheik helpful to you?


Tommy: The Sheik did nothing to help my career…nothing at all.


DB: But you still refereed for his promotion for the rest of 1973 and 1974, before going to the IWA?


Tommy: At that time, I was really rotating it around my job. They would call me up on the phone at work…can you make so and so. It really depended on my schedule at work. I mainly refereed, but I did wrestle a little too then.


They were very loose about it…if I couldn’t make a particular card the Sheik had a stable of other guys.


DC: Dick mentioned you going to the IWA (International Wrestling Association). Personally, my first recollections of you were when you were refereeing for the IWA in 1975. How did you end up in the IWA?


Tommy: The guy that got me the opening for the IWA was a guy by the name of George “Crybaby” Cannon. He lived right across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario Canada. I developed a pretty good friendship with George.


The big boss for the IWA was a guy named Eddie Einhorn.


DB: I read somewhere that Einhorn was a mark.


Tommy: A total mark. Kind of like me…smarten him up and he’s still a mark. (everyone laughs) But he was a very nice man.


DC: When did you start for the IWA?


Tommy: I was originally supposed to go to IWA’s opening show in Savannah , GA in January of 1975. I was supposed to just go down and do jobs as a wrestler.


DC: During your time in the IWA in 1975, did you basically work Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic territorial area?


Tommy: No, we were really moving all around. The opening taping was in Savannah , but we would go to Florida some. We did do a lot of work in the Carolina’s. We also went up north and tried to challenge Vince McMahon, Sr. in the New York/New Jersey area.


DB: When you all were in the Carolina’s with Einhorn’s IWA in 1975, did Crockett try to shut you all out of buildings around here?


Tommy: Crockett did try to keep us out of buildings when I was working for Einhorn. I remember one time Mid-Atlantic tried to keep us out of the building in Lynchburg, Virginia, but they couldn’t do it.


DC:  How long did the IWA last?


Tommy: Einhorn’s IWA lasted from the opening taping in Savannah in January of 1975 to our last show that was in New Haven , Connecticut . That was October of 1975 when Einhohn got out. And when Einhorn was out I was out.   


After that, a sort of “mini IWA” opened in the Carolina ’s area with Johnny Powers running it with Ronny Martinez. They held on for a while into 1976 as an opposition to Crockett. But by that time, as I said before, George Scott had brought me into Mid-Atlantic to work for Crockett. I never worked the ‘outlaw’ IWA.


Powers’ IWA tried to go after Crockett with a monopoly lawsuit. It really was a monopoly, but Crockett won…I don’t know how he did it, but he won.


I’d heard stories that Powers’ attorney had a home bought and everything just on what he was going to get from winning the suit against Crockett. When they said ‘not guilty,’ Powers’ group was just stunned. That was the end of it all then…Powers and them just folded up.


DB: The path that you took to become a ref, do you think that was a typical path for other would-be refs?


Tommy: Again, I would suspect for most it involves being at the right place at the right time. Take Charles for example. Right Charles?


Charles: Yes sir.


Tommy: One night I told Jody ( Hamilton ) to take a look at Charles, but that didn’t really mean anything. The simple truth was, Charles was there with his equipment that night when they needed somebody. (Terry) Taylor spotted you, and there you go.


I’d love to say that I was the reason Charles is in the business, but I’m not.


Charles: Well, Tommy is one of the big reasons. And I’ve patterned my style after Tommy.


George: Hey Tommy…did you hear what Charles said…he just copies you! (laughs)


Tommy: He doesn’t use my style…he has his own style.


DC: Did being a referee seem to come naturally to you Tommy?


Tommy: It’s all psychology. You play with the people’s minds. You try to get yourself in a position not to see stuff. I told guys, if you’ll do it right…when I’m trying to catch you but I can’t…I’ll let you do it all night.


But you have to feel the crowd. If the crowd is getting totally disgusted, like thinking ‘you dumb SOB referee,’ you don’t want that because you’ll run the crowd off due to the referee coming off as too stupid to believe.


I relished refereeing…it was fun. Most guys that were refereeing, if they had a choice they would have been wrestlers rather than refs. I never wanted to wrestle after I started refereeing. Being a ref was my forte…that’s what I was best at.


I was going to suck as a wrestler. But as a referee, it just came so natural.


DC: Did you ever have any formal training as a referee?


Tommy: I never took a lesson, and nobody ever told me anything. I learned it all by feel…as do most referees. I don’t know of any referee’s school.


DB: Weren’t you influenced by anyone…like another established referee?


Tommy: Believe it not, I learned some things from (Sonny) Fargo . How’s that for an admission. (everyone laughs)


George: Could you repeat that? I don’t think I heard that right! (everyone laughs)

Continued in PART THREE