Guest Post: Joe Babinsack reviews Jimmy Korderas book

Submitted by Joe Babinsack ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

Three Count: My Life in Stripes as a WWE Referee
Jimmy Korderas
ECW Press
$19.95 US/CDN

I was going to lead off with a WCW Three Count joke, but who remembers that trio of Evan Karagias/Shannon Moore/Shane Helms (and Tank Abbott)?
Besides, in a stroke of marketing genius, Jimmy Korderas included a discussion he had with Bruno Sammartino about thirty years ago. My read on the quote was that it spoke to the usual theme of Bruno inclusions, but in the end Korderas must have heeded Bruno’s words, because he did escape the industry unlike most people who get caught up in it.

As an aside, after this weekend it will be interesting to see how those Bruno comments change. I can’t wait to hear what Michael Hayes has to say on future roundtables with the WWE….

But back to the well timed book…

Jimmy Korderas touts that the most important part of being a professional wrestling referee is to not be noticed. I do wish he would have gotten more involved in various aspects of his role in the business, but in terms of the typical biography, ECW Press style, I was pleasantly surprised. There is a distinct sense of how Korderas went from fan to referee, how he took up theopportunity to get involved in the business with Jack Tunney, and how he made a career in the WWF/E.

There are also several distinct tangents that very much should have been explored. Early talk about some controversial referees are clearly avoided, which leads to to many unanswered questions. Sure, there are scandals and some of them outside of his own story, but Korderas seems to sidestep the details of a few situations with a fellow Canadian referee, a guy whom he – in many ways – replaced.

And then there’s a whole big story about Korderas had his WWF referee career sidetracked by something he’d rather not talk about.

It’s bad enough when he writes how he dodged the details with Jack Tunney, but this is his book, his life and he’s dodging some scandalous times in the business?

What’s-up-with-that? (To quote that guy that used to be in WCW’s Three Count).

And then there comes to the Larry Zbyszko time frame issue, where a huge gaping hole in the timeline mysteriously gets sidestepped. In this case, there’s a half decade in the 1990’s, and another few years in the 2000’s, that seem to get the glossing over. It’s not just that there could be a lot more detail involved in the day-to-day role of a WWF/E referee, but there’s a lot of time and a few generations of workers involved, all of which could have gotten a lot more detail.

The only other negative I’m feeling is that, despit the intro by Adam Copeland and a chapter about that WrestleMania match between Edge and The Undertaker and the feeling of respect involved by having Jimmy Korderas welcomed as the referee, I really thought there would be more about Edge and that Canadian crew….

Korderas writes early on about how he had to learn the job on his own, how he started out as a fan, and how he transistioned into a bigger role in professional wrestling. But he never seems to break big ground about being a referee or get into details beyond the typical ECW ‘wrestling is a work’ theme.

Yeah, Korderas talks about the talent giving him spots and the finish, but I was very much more interested in learning more about how different guys worked, how he interacted with the talent and a little more about the details of his job and not just the screw-ups.

Isn’t a book a great place to establish what it is that you do, how it is that you do it well, and to try to pave a path for future talents?

But enough about the negatives. The important parts of the book are when Korderas does get into details, like the night when Owen Hart tragically plummeted to his death at the Kemper Arena in St. Louis, MO. This may not be the longest chapter, but it is filled with an emotional account, a description of the events and details just how close he was.

There are few chapters I’ve read about professional wrestling that can touch the emotional impact of this one. Korderas follows up with his trips to Iran, in support of the Troops mostly from that country south of his border. These stories are interesting – funny, detailed and conveying the sense of danger involved.

While there are some gaps in the chronology, the stories, celebrities and happenings do pick up the paces. I’ll let the reader read the book to get more on those stories, and it’s taking every ounce of willpower to avoid the triteness of some of the language of Korderas’ writing, but he deserves more than just some cheap jokes.

Even though his second (third, actually, most of the time) job as a comedian trading barbs with Tony Chimel can either come across as very witty or very …. well, not as funny as he thinks.

But Korderas tries, that’s for sure.

Another emotional chapter (before the ending, where he talks about his father) is about Eddie Guerrero. That’s a big one, and another good one. I think there could have been a little more length and a little more depth, but the nature of Eddie’s battle and Korderas’ position as someone who a lot of guys trusted – not so ironically considering his role in their matches – does come across well.

His take on Chris Benoit is very short, very abrupt, but obviously understandable. Coupled with the chapter about Eddie and his various stories and refelections, there is a lot of ‘read between the lines’ invovled when Korderas talks about Benoit throughout the book.
Maybe that’s good or bad, but it does add a significant level to the 230+ written pages.

If you want to learn more about being a WWE referee, there’s a lot in this book, but it’s more of the same with ECW books and on one hand talking more about wrestling and what it is, but never really hitting the details and the craft of the performances.

However, Jimmy Korderas is truly had a central perspective on many huge events in the WWE, and while he seems a little too focused on staying out of the way of those stories, what he has to offer is insightful, even if Korderas seems to be playing it safe enough not to burn too many bridges.

Like most books in the professional wrestling world, Three Count does offer a valuable glimpse at an often strange industry, and even if Jimmy Korderas didn’t follow Bruno Sammartino’s immediate advise, I remain curious about how that advise stuck with him – he did remember a conversation thirty years ago, and he did seem to exit the professional wrestling world, so far.

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