Oliver Newman interviews ROH Referee Todd Sinclair
ROH Senior Official Todd Sinclair talks booking Chaotic Wrestling, refereeing a WWE dark match, ROH and moreâ€¦â€¦.
Oliver Newman: Hey Todd thanks for taking the time out to do this interview.
Todd Sinclair: No problem… thanks for interviewing me.
ON: Can you give the readers who a little unfamiliar with Todd Sinclair, a little background information on yourself?
TS: I’m just a regular guy from Massachusetts: I have a mortgage, I went to college, I love roller coasters, I play video games, I’m a hockey fan — and I also have this amazing job where I get to fulfil all the dreams I had as a little kid. I’m a pro wrestling referee.
ON: Were you a wrestling fan growing up if so who were some of your favourite wrestlers growing up?
TS: I’ve been a wrestling fan for most of my life. I even remember the first match I ever saw — Pedro Morales against The Magnificent Muraco. I was outside doing random kid stuff with my friends, and one of the kids said that wrestling was on TV and that we should go to his house to watch.Â This wasn’t like anything I had seen before — and the moment I saw it, I was hooked.
My favourite wrestler when I was growing up was Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. What initially drew me to Snuka was his top rope splash, because it was so different from what all the other wrestlers did at the time. I would do my own Superfly Splash wherever I could — off the diving board, off the monkey bars at the playground, and even off my Dad’s bureau. Dad was pretty pissed the day he found the legs of his bed had collapsed from one of my splashes.
ON: Was their a defining moment/match when you thought I want to be a Professional Wrestling Referee?
TS: There wasn’t a defining moment, but there was a specific referee that started my fascination with the role of the ref — David Manning from World Class. I was initially raised on the WWF, where the refs upheld the rules and made the 3-counts, but did little else.Â When we got World Class on a local Boston channel, I immediately noticed a difference in the referees. They all wore different clothes in the ring — Bronco Lubich wore the stripes, Rick Hazzard wore colourful pants, etc. And they also had a bigger role on the show, especially David Manning.
If there was a really big match coming up like Flair vs. Kerry, not only would you get promos from the wrestlers, but they would even get David Manning’s thoughts on refereeing the bout. Or when something dastardly went on during a match — Manning would grab the mic and say something like “this match is going to have a winner, and Gary Hart… you’re banned from ringside!”. For me, David Manning showed what an integral part of wrestling the referee was, and watching him started my major interest in becoming a ref.
ON: How did you go about becoming a Referee?
TS: I actually got my start on a fluke. I had always wanted to ref, but never had the guts to pursue it — but one night, when my friends and I went to a local wrestling show, I found myself refereeing my first match. Long story short, I had a friend who wrestled on the show, and it was suggested by another friend that I ref the match. Despite being terrified, I agreed to do it — and thus got my start. Shortly after that, I enrolled in the Chaotic Training Center wrestling school and got myself the proper training to become a referee.
ON: Who did you train under at Chaotic Training Center wrestling school?
TS: When I first started at the CTC, the two trainers were Mike Hollow and Dukes Dalton. Although they may not be household names, they have a ton of knowledge and experience and were both exceptional trainers. They taught me the bulk of what I know today about professional wrestling as a whole, not just refereeing.
Later on in my training, the CTC merged with Killer Kowalski’s School of Pro Wrestling, and Walter “Killer” Kowalski brought his amazing wealth of knowledge to all of us. Having Walter join in on my training was such a huge addition. Here was a true legend that had done things in wrestling that I could only dream of. And he was one of the nicest, sweetest men I’ve ever met in my life — the complete opposite to what you would expect from meeting a man nicknamed “Killer”. Walter just recently passed away, and I’m really sad that I won’t be able to see him smile again. He was a great man.
ON: Can you talk the readers through a typical days training?
TS: When I made the decision to train to become a referee, I felt that in order to really learn the wrestling industry, I would have to learn to wrestle too. So, my training was the exact training that all of the wrestlers did. Doing this was the best thing I’ve ever done for my career — I feel that it helps my refereeing immensely.
A typical class would start with a bunch of warm-up stuff — jumping jacks, squats, running the ropes, etc. Then we would get into drills for the bulk of the class — you’d pair off with someone and start with some basic chain wrestling, leading into doing a specific series of moves, such as “hiptoss, armdrag, dropkick”. Then for the last part of class, we would usually have full matches — this is where I would do all my refereeing training.Â I would referee all the matches, so I was getting a lot of hands-on training each session.
ON: Thoughts on refereeing that first match?
I was extremely nervous beforehand — not about refereeing the match itself, because I had studied referees for years and felt that I could hold my own. My nervousness came from a fear performing in front of people. One of my biggest fears has always been public speaking, so getting up in front of the crowd that night wasn’t easy. But once I got in there, I calmed down and did ok.
ON: Considering you had wrestler training, was there ever a moment when you thought ‘why don’t I become a wrestler’ or was the dream always to be a professional referee?
TS: The thought never crossed my mind. For one thing, even though I was trained to do it, there’s no way I could step into the ring as a wrestler and be 1/1000th as good as the guys who wrestle for ROH or Chaotic. I may be good at a couple of things, but overall I’m an awful wrestler. “Todd Sinclair the wrestler” would be a total disgrace. Aside from that, my dream for over 20 years to be a referee, and that was always my focus.
ON: How did you become the booker of Chaotic Wrestling?
Around August of 2002, the main booker of Chaotic Wrestling had stepped down, leaving a hole on the booking end of the company. The owners of Chaotic had taken over the booking, but it was obvious that they weren’t very interested in that aspect. Chaotic’s big summer show, “Summer Chaos”, was coming up, and there wasn’t anybody to head the booking of the show.
Seeing an area that the company needed help in and also wanting to give booking a shot, myself and a good friend of mine, Eric Arsenault, put together a sort of “fantasy booking” version of Summer Chaos. After we were finished, we set up a meeting with the owners and presented our ideas to them. They really liked what we had come up with, and we were given the book. It was a great opportunity to learn all kinds of aspects of the wrestling industry, and it was a job I enjoyed doing for the next 4 1/2 years.
ON: Can you explain to the readers the trials and tribulations of booking a wrestling promotion?
I had a really hard time with it for the first year or so, because a handful of people still wanted their hand in the booking, even though Eric and I had the job. We had to deal with a lot of “I’m not happy with this, I want it changed” from all sides, which was extremely frustrating. I can be very stubborn person, and I butted heads with people a bunch of times. Eventually I got so sick of fighting the battles, that I started taking a “we’re doing it my way, and that’s it” attitude — which saved me a lot of aggravation, but didn’t always make me Mr. Popular with people.
In hindsight it wasn’t a great attitude to have and I should have done it differently, but it was the only way I could do the job effectively. But I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t like the job, because I really loved it. I haven’t found a greater feeling in the world better than when ideas and execution completely click. It gives you goose bumps.
ON: Best moment as booker of Chaotic Wrestling?
TS: The first John Walters vs. Luis Ortiz match from our Breaking Point event in 2003. From the second we took over the booking, we knew we wanted to build to this match. They had never faced each other in Chaotic before, and they were the top two wrestlers we had. As a bonus, we had the WWEâ€™s Dr. Tom Prichard be the guest referee of the match. Everything that night clicked better than I could have ever hoped. As a whole, the Walters/Ortiz feud is the thing I’m most proud of from my booking days.
ON: Worst moment as booker of Chaotic Wrestling?
TS: Changing the planned main event of my last show, COLD FURY 6. For a good part of 2005/2006, our main tag team feud was The Logan Brothers vs. Intellectual Properties. I decided about 9 months before CF6 (which was scheduled for February 2007) that I wanted this feud to main event that show in a steel cage. But instead of having them feud constantly for like 18 months, I gave them a semi-blowoff early in 2006 and took the teams in separate directions — with the plan to bring them back into a war with each other in late 2006 to build to the cage match.
As the time was nearing to bring them back together to feud, I was getting tired of booking.Â I had been doing it for over four years (Eric had left the booking team in early 2004), and it had reached the point where it just wasn’t fun anymore. I didn’t have the desire or energy to put everything I had into the booking — but I had agreed to stay on until CF6 while they figured out a new booking team. Because I didn’t have the energy to put into the Loganâ€™s/Properties feud, I decided to do a different cage match for CF6. The main event we had that night was ok, but I feel deep down that the Loganâ€™s and Properties would have torn the house down. I wish I did that differently.
ON: How did you get involved in ROH?
TS: I was interested in refereeing for ROH from the beginning of their running shows in Philly. When they came up to Boston, I went to the shows — and seeing matches like the Danielson/Williams Ironman Match made me even more interested in getting involved in ROH.
John Walters started with ROH mid 2003, and I travelled to a couple shows with him so I could meet Gabe Sapolsky and see if there were any referee openings. ROH was doing “convention cards” at the time, which were the same as pre-show matches now, and Gabe gave me a shot at refereeing on the “Main Event Spectacles” pre-show. From there, I kept doing pre-show matches wherever ROH went and also helping out with things like setting up, with the goal of eventually earning myself a regular spot. I finally earned that spot at the 2nd Anniversary Show, and I’ve been on ROH’s roster ever since.
ON: Favourite match refereeing for ROH?
TS: This is a tough one to answer, because I’ve been a part of so many great matches in ROH. But I think my favourite is Samoa Joe vs. Kenta Kobashi. There was an amazing atmosphere in the building that night, and the match was really something special. If you haven’t seen this match yet, it was recently re-released on the “Best in the World” DVD.
ON: Least favourite match refereeing for ROH?
Kevin Steen vs. Necro Butcher from “Bedlam in Boston”. Not because of the match itself, because it was a great brawl. The reason this is my least favourite is because I got thumbtacks stuck in my side when I went down to count a pin. Extreme shooting pain that I hope I never feel again. And I can still remember the look on Bobby Cruise’s face while he was sitting at the ringside table — he was laughing so hard at me. Bastard.
ON: Favourite ROH match you’ve watched as a fan?
TS: I really enjoyed watching the Bryan Danielson vs. Doug Williams Ironman Match from “Scramble Madness”. I’m not usually a fan of Ironman matches, but when you put two great technical wrestlers in the ring together, you get something special.
ON: Favourite moment as an ROH Official?
TS: The opening of our first pay-per-view, “Respect Is Earned”. I was kneeling outside the ring next to the ringside table as BJ Whitmer opened the show. As the countdown finished and the PPV started, the NYC crowd went bananas. When special moments like that happen, I try to take a moment to soak it all in — I looked around the building at all the ROH fans, and it gave me goose bumps to hear such a passionate reaction.
ON: Refereeing a WWE dark match?
TS: Over the years, I’ve done a handful of extra work for the WWE. I’ve played security, a police officer, and even dressed as a woman. In December of 2005, Chaotic got a call from the WWE that they needed six guys to play druids for Smackdown in Springfield, Mass. The owner of Chaotic, Jamie Jamitkowski, gave me the chance to head down Springfield for the show.
During the day at the arena, I saw Ricky Steamboat in catering, and I said hello to him and had a quick conversation. I knew Ricky from his time in ROH, where he was an amazing help to everyone on the roster. It was nice to see him again, and I went on with my planned day as a druid.
Later in the day, we were sitting in the arena waiting to be told details on our role on the show. That’s when Sgt. Slaughter came up to me and asked if I was a referee. I told him I was, and he said I would be refereeing the dark match that night. Unbeknownst to me, Ricky Steamboat went to bat for me and gave me the opportunity to referee the dark match between Sylvan and Kenny Dykstra. I was in shock, as I was given a Smackdown ref shirt and I got ready for the match.
I think I thanked Ricky about 10 times that night for the opportunity. It was a great experience, and I can’t thank Ricky enough for the chance to do it.
ON: ROH heads out to Japan for a couple of International dates in a couple of weeks time, how do you feel about ROH’s international expansion?
TS: This is ROH’s second straight year of presenting cards in Japan, and I think it’s fantastic that we can continue to run in such an important area for pro wrestling. The ROH style has many similarities with the Japanese style of wrestling, and it’s a pleasure to be able to bring ROH cards to the Japanese fans. Last year I met many fans that were so happy that we were there, and I look forward to meeting even more this time around.
Hopefully ROH can continue to expand, both internationally and in the U.S. Our two weekends in England were great, and hopefully we can come back to Europe sometime soon.
ON: Thoughts on the two cards ROH is putting on whilst in Japan?
TS: I think both cards are super solid, and I’m looking forward to different things on each night. On the 13th, I can’t wait for the Dragon Gate Rules six-man, which should be as mind-blowing as ever. And it’s going to be great to see a Nigel/Danielson match in Japan — their matches always deliver.
On the 14th, I’m really looking forward to KENTA/Ibushi vs. Marufuji/Nakajima. I’ve never seen Nakajima, but I’ve heard great things. And when Ibushi was on his tour of the U.S., he was so impressive. I’m hoping I get to referee that one. And I’m definitely looking forward to Kensuke Sasaki vs. Roderick Strong.
ON: Who do you think has been ROH’s MVP for 2008 thus far and why?
TS: Nigel McGuinness. He’s been on a massive roll since he won the ROH World Title, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be beaten anytime soon. Guys have put up a good fight, but Nigel keeps knocking them down.
ON: Thoughts on the ROH ‘Respect Is Earned 2′ PPV?
One thing that stands out to me from this PPV is the “Fight Without Honor” between Roderick Strong and Erick Stevens. They tore into each other and had what I consider the best Fight Without Honor ever in ROH. When they were atop that gigantic ladder, I was honestly afraid for their well being. Hatred will make people do insane things.
ON: Who has been the best ROH World Champion and ROH World Tag Team Champions, and why?
TS: The best ROH World Champion for me is Bryan Danielson. The amount of great matches he had against various opponents is staggering, and it didn’t matter whether he was defending against a hero or a villain — he adapted. He always drew you into every single one of his title defences. Not to mention the amount of matches he wrestled with a terribly injured shoulder — go back and watch the amount of abuse he takes to the shoulder in the match against KENTA. Bryan was exactly what a world champion should be.
The best ROH World Tag Team Champions for me are The Briscoeâ€™s. This is probably the consensus answer to this question, but you can’t deny how great of a team Jay and Mark are. I think they’re five-time champions, which is of course impressive. But if you take a look at their reign that lasted for most of 2007, they had some impressive title defences throughout. And I don’t know specific numbers, but they main evented a bulk of ROH shows during that time.
ON: Thoughts on the upcoming ROH ‘New Horizon’s’ PPV?
I haven’t seen the matches on this show that I didn’t referee, so I can’t speak for the whole card. But I will say that the Bryan Danielson vs. Tyler Black match alone is worth checking this PPV out. Bryan is so damn good in the ring, and Tyler continues on his path to greatness. It was a pleasure to referee that one.
ON: Thoughts on the upcoming Boston PPV?
There are only three matches announced so far, but I feel those matches already guarantee a great show. An ROH World Title shot for Roderick, an ROH World Tag Team Title shot for Steen & Generico, and a 3-way Elimination with Danielson vs. Claudio vs. Shiozaki — all should be awesome. It’s time for the fans of Boston (essentially my hometown — I live 20 minutes north) to show the PPV world how great of a crowd they are.
ON: Thoughts on the upcoming Glory By Honor show?
I just took a look at the card, and man is that thing is stacked! You’ve got a huge Steel Cage Warfare match, plus two international matches that I’m really looking forward to (Sasaki vs. Claudio, Nakajima vs. Danielson). And on top of that, you have two rematches of recent bouts that were off the charts — Nigel vs. Generico and Albright vs. Pearce. I read on the ROH boards all the time which shows people think is the best in ROH history — well to me, this show has a chance to beat them all.
ON: Do you have a favourite Wrestling promotion/s to watch in 2008?
TS: Chaotic Wrestling. I’m not involved in the company anymore, but I still go to the shows when I’m not travelling. There’s a crop of wrestlers in Chaotic that may not get a lot of buzz, but that’s only because people don’t see them in other areas yet. Their roster consists of guys like Brian Milonas, Max Bauer, Fred Sampson, The Blowout Boys, and “The Duke of Elegance” Don Chesterfield — great talents in the ring that just need a little more exposure to break out.
ON: Thoughts on TNA as we stand in September 2008?
I haven’t watched their program in over a year, so I can’t comment.
ON: Thoughts on WWE as we stand in September 2008?
For the past few years, there hasn’t been a lot of stuff going on there that excites me enough to watch their shows. I do Tivo all three shows each week, but I usually find myself fast-forwarding through most of it. I will say however that lately, I’ve been watching more and more of the shows, as I’m enjoying the new mix of guys — CM Punk, Kofi Kingston, The Miz, Evan Bourne, and Santino Marella, to name a few. I hope they continue to mix the old with the new.
ON: Thoughts on ROH as we stand in September 2008?
I’m biased, but there’s a lot of stuff going on in ROH that makes me intrigued to see what’s next. Claudio Castagnoli’s feud with Danielson will be interesting to watch, and Delirious joining the Age Of The Fall is already bringing out a brutal side of Delirious that we haven’t seen before. I’m also enjoying watching the development of guys like Kevin Steen, El Generico, Tyler Black and Rhett Titus. Jimmy Jacobs and Austin Aries are going to continue to tear each other apart — and how awesome is The Necro Butcher? I feel that the rest of the year is going to be great.
I’m also very happy that ROH is starting up in some new areas. Our first shows in Virginia and Toronto were awesome, and we’re debuting in Montreal and the St. Louis area in the next few months. The more areas we can bring ROH, the better.
ON: Favourite referee/s now you’re in the Industry?
TS: The WWE’s long-tenured referees are all great — Mike Chioda, Jack Doan, Jim Korderas, etc. And I always loved watching Tim White.
ON: Favourite match as a fan in 2008?
TS: Ric Flair’s retirement match against Shawn Michaels was tremendous. And an honourable mention has to go to when CM Punk won the World Heavyweight Title. It’s great to watch Punk continue to accomplish great things.
ON: Favourite match from a Referee’s perspective in 2008?
TS: Nigel McGuinness vs. El Generico from last month in Cleveland. Their rematch in Philly on the 20th is going to be fantastic.
ON: If you could referee a dream match who would be the competitors?
TS: Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat. I wish I was a referee when they were having their famous series of matches.
ON: Any advice for any would be referees out there?
TS: Don’t only focus on learning how to ref — learn how to wrestle too. So much of what is taught during wrestling training can help your refereeing. And the wrestling industry has such a wide array of other things to learn, don’t just stop there. Throw everything you have into learning as much as you can.
ON: Are there any websites you would like to mention?
TS: www.rohwrestling.com — if you love the sport of pro wrestling, Ring Of Honor is the company to watch. Come to a live show or buy a DVD — you won’t be disappointed. We can only continue to present the best wrestling in the world if you support us.
ON: Any final words for the readers?
TS: Hopefully I didn’t bore everyone to tears during this interview. Thanks for reading, and thanks for all the support — even when you boo me. I really appreciate it. Stop by and say hello if you see me at an ROH after party.
ON: Thanks for taking the time out for the interview Todd.
TS: Thank you Oliver for the great questions.
Todd and I talked about possibly working on an interview a while back. Iâ€™m glad we finally got around to doing it as this interview has been more informative then I could have ever imagined. Todd has answered the questions I posed thoroughly and because of that this is an interview Iâ€™m truly proud of.
If you would like to contact me I’m on myspace: www.myspace.com/brummieol