Referee Jason Harding
"One of the best independent professional wrestling referees in the midwest is Jason Harding. In a few short years of being in the pro wrestling business, Jason has been able to put himself into a position of refereeing some matches for some of the best talent in pro wrestling today. Trust me when I say, you may not know Jason's work now, but you definitely will see him in the big time soon....."--Randy Klemme
1) How long have you been in the business and where did you receive your training?
JH: I have been in the business since October of 1998 (approx. 8 years) and trained with a small group in southern Indiana.
2) What organizations have you worked for and which ones are you currently associated with?
JH: I currently work primarily for Ring of Honor, NWA-Indiana, and the Micro Wrestling Federation, with a tour of Japan's Dragon Gate Pro Wrestling thrown in for good measure. In the past, I've worked for Hoosier Pro Wrestling, Extreme Wrestling Federation, Windy City Pro Wrestling, Revolution Championship Wrestling in Illinois, Insanity Pro Wrestling, and a ton of other local organizations.
3) What has been some of the top matches you have refereed so far in your career?
JH: Probably the most prestigious match I've refereed was in Dragon Gate during the WrestleJAM tour last summer. The match was Austin Aries and Roderick Strong defending the ROH Tag Team Titles against Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino. The prestigious part about this was the fact that this match turned the ROH Tag Titles into world titles - I was honored to be involved. During that same tour, I was awed by the fact that I was given the task of reffing the main event at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. An absolutely amazing experience.
4) What is the most important thing that people do not realize about being a pro wrestling referee?
JH: The one thing that is most overlooked is the referee's involvement in the overall product of the match. I firmly believe that a bad ref can bring even a good match down, but a good ref can make a good match great.
5) A pro wrestling referee isn't a glamorous job, so give us your best and worst things about being a referee?
JH: My favorite part about being a ref is the simple fact that I get to work several times a show, with many different wrestlers. I always try to take away a learning experience of some sort from every match I'm involved in, so working more than once a night just leads to more experience and more knowledge.
The worst thing, as I said above, however, is how often overlooked the referee can be. Our job description, though, is to fade into the background until we're needed - I've always heard it said that "if you don't notice the ref, then he's doing his job".
6) Any good road stories that you can pass along (keep it clean LOL)?
JH: Well, yeah, I've got road stories... unfortunately, the "keep it clean" kinda removes most of them.
Nah, in all seriousness... one of my favorite stories was pretty early in my career - I might've been two years in by this point. Diceman Ronnie Vegas invited me to travel with his group out to South Dakota, by far the farthest I'd traveled to work to that point. One thing I *DIDN'T* know, was that Johnny Grunge from Public Enemy was traveling out with us, and Rocco Rock would be meeting us there. As green as I still was then, I'll be honest, I was pretty starstruck initially. We made it out to South Dakota in one piece (barely), and got to the venue in time to start setting up the ring. Naturally, I joined in with the other rookies, as well as a few local South Dakota wrestlers, in carrying in the pieces of the ring. We were just getting everything ready to set up as Rocco Rock walked in, just arriving from the airport. He could very easily have played his 'veteran' card and gone off to shmooze and chitchat while we set things up.
That's not the kind of guy Teddy was, though.
He immediately set down his bag, walked over, and grabbed a ringpost. He stuck around until everything was set up, then proceeded to hold an impromptu seminar for the rookie wrestlers, giving pointers and dispensing knowledge selflessly.
That story always brings back good memories of a guy we lost way too early - and really taught me that no matter how long you've been in the business, or how much you've done, never disrespect your fellow brothers. That's a good lesson for everyone to learn.
7) Are there things that you would like to achieve during your pro wrestling career? Short term and long term goals?
JH: Short term goals... I suppose first and foremost, my short term goal would be to work in as many states and places as I can.
Long term (and realistically, this may be a shorter term goal than one might think), I'd obviously love to work for the WWE. That's been my goal since the first day I got into this business - if only for the simple fact that, as a referee, it's the only place I can make a living in the wrestling business.
8) Have you received any important advice from other more famous names in the pro wrestling business and what was that?
JH: I've been given tons of pointers along the line, from nearly everyone I've had the pleasure of working with - but I suppose the best advice I've been handed was from Jim Cornette. I had the distinct pleasure of working with him for Ring of Honor several times, but didn't really have much of a chance to talk to him until Wrestlemania weekend last year in Chicago. The knowledge I gained that night just from talking to Mr. Cornette, and listening to his stories, did more to open my eyes to some of the finer points of the wrestling business than anything I've experienced, either before or since.
9) Is there a difference between Jason Harding the referee and the Jason Harding in real life? and what is that?
JH: There really isn't a whole lot of difference, to be honest with you. Maybe a little less counting. That's about it. I'm pretty much me - what you see is what you get.
Whether that's a good thing or not, the jury's still out. Maybe my wife can be the judge of that one.
10) If someone wanted to become a wrestling referee...what would be three important things you would tell them to get them started....
JH: First off, go get trained. And get trained by a credible school. I can't stress enough what the simple credibility boost of having a known, quality school behind you does for a new career. I've been one of the lucky ones, in that I've been able to break through and really achieve a lot of my goals without having trained at a major name school - but it took 8 years of scraping and clawing to climb the ladder to that point. Save yourself the headache.
Secondly, even above and beyond classroom training, watch any and all tapes you can get your hands on. The body of work that a Tommy Young, or a Mark Curtis, or a Mike Chioda, etc. has available on tape is one of the best training tools a young ref could ask for. As a ref, it's all about the subtleties, and studying tapes is what'll help separate a good ref from a great one. Also, get advice from everyone you come in contact with. I try to do this, and I've gotten some really great pointers through the years, things that have really fine-tuned my style, and made me into the ref I am today.
And thirdly - get professional gear. A ref jersey and a good pair of slacks aren't expensive.
And for God's sake, tuck in your damn shirt.
You can catch up with Jason Harding at Ring of Honor (http://www.rohwrestling.com/), NWA-Indiana (http://www.nwaindiana.com/), or the Micro Wrestling Federation (http://www.microwrestling.com/), or for more info, his website (http://www.jasonharding.com/) or MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/refharding123)