When I first started watching TV wrestling I always paid attention to the referees, thinking that I was too small to be a wrestler (who knew what the future would hold). There were two good refs, Mario Savoldi and Dick Woehrle. I thought Savoldi was great until he got knocked out when Pat Patterson stole the North American Heavyweight Title from Ted DiBiase on television! I ended up working for Mario as a referee years later but at that time and being just a fan who knew nothing I lost faith in him.
In the case of Whoerle he always was in the right matches never looked bad. He looked the part and always seemed to have command in the ring more than any of the other referees. I got to be around him quite a bit. He would always drive up to the venue in his car with the “TV REF” license plate. He was a good friend of Gorilla Monsoon and you never heard anyone say anything bad about Dick Woehrle — that’s for sure!
It was tough to get a referee’s license in New York back in the day if you didn’t live in the State. It was even tough for me to get one and I lived there! I remember Dick talking to Gorilla about going to the athletic commission with him and yet they still wouldn’t give them the license. As WWE gained more influence eventually Dick got a license to referee in New York.
My favorite story about Dick Woehrle was first at the Poughkeepsie , New York TV that WWF did when they left Allentown, Pennsylvania as a regular TV taping spot. He was such a baby face when he went to the ring all the fans cheered him. When he would go back to the dressing room, Vince McMahon questioned Dick as to why the fans cheering for him, stressing that they are trying to get the boys over — not a referee. Dick looked at Vince and said “Do you want me to walk in the ring backwards?”
I actually got to appear on some shows with Dick and that was truly a big deal for me at the time. I remember one night at the Baltimore Civic Center specifically it was a big night for me. Dick was also on the show. I was as much in awe of him as I was some of the wrestlers. At the time he was the guy that I wanted to be and I patterned myself after him. I got confirmation that night from the boss Dusty Rhodes that he trusted me with important stuff. At the time I was stunned that I was chosen to do some stuff over Dick Whoerle that night but to me he was still the man. I wouldn’t have picked me but I’m glad Dusty did.
When we decided to run WrestleReunion 2 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvaia there was no question I had to call my two old referee buddies, Billy Caputo and Dick Whoerle to work the show. I knew the Philly fans would love to see Dick again and Billy had been the only ref in New York to befriend me at the beginning. I’m glad that night was my last memory of Dick Whoerle.
Thank goodness although none of us knew it at the time it seems that all of us live on in reruns on You Tube, WWE 24-7, in my case ESPN Classics as well. If you weren’t aware of Dick you can see him in so many matches its crazy.
If you didn’t respect Dick Whoerle as a referee you didn’t understand what a referee should do. He was also a great story teller, I’m sure for the next several days or weeks people will be telling Dick Whoerle stories, I know I have been telling them for years. I’m sure he never knew how he impacted my life. If you have a chance to let someone know they impacted your life do it. I never told Dick but I did make sure to bring him back to the ring for one last hurrah on August 27th 2005 in Valley Forge. There were two legends that had their last in ring activity that night “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino worked over Larry Zbyszko one more time while Dick Whoerle was pulling Bruno off of him.
So Long Dick Whoerle — you had a great run!
WrestleReunion Founder-“The Big Cheese” Sal Corrente