Earl William Hebner (born May 17, 1949) is an American professional wrestling referee who currently works in All Elite Wrestling (AEW). He is best known for his time as the senior referee for the World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (WWF/E).
As senior referee, Hebner officiated most main events during his time with the company from 1988–2005. He (along with his identical twin brother, Dave) played a prominent role in the inaugural The Main Event card in 1988, in which André the Giant controversially defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, as well
as the infamous "Montreal Screwjob" during the main event of the 1997 Survivor Series. He also participated in a number of storylines, including feuds involving The McMahon-Helmsley Faction and The Alliance. From 2006 to 2017, he appeared for Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling, serving as senior referee for the company, and was inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame in 2015, becoming the first referee to be inducted into a major wrestling Hall of Fame. He is the longest serving active referee across all sports in the world.
Hebner officiated matches for Jim Crockett Promotions during much of the 1980s. He was the referee during the famous "I Quit" match at Starrcade 1985 between Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. He can be seen at ringside during the first ever WarGames match at the 1987 Great American Bash as well as the final match of the Bunkhouse Stampede tournament in January 1988.
Just days after that match, Hebner debuted in the World Wrestling Federation as a referee during a WWF Championship match pitting champion Hulk Hogan against challenger André the Giant, which aired live on February 5, 1988, on NBC's The Main Event. In the storyline, Hebner's identical twin brother Dave Hebner was the assigned official, but unbeknownst to Hogan, André's manager Ted DiBiase had bribed the then-unknown Earl Hebner to steal the victory and the championship (Earl and Dave are identical twins, so this was easy to pull off). Earl then counted André's pin against Hogan, even though Hogan's shoulders were clearly off the mat. As André and DiBiase were celebrating (with André quickly "selling" his title to an overjoyed DiBiase), Dave (whom DiBiase had locked in a closet prior to the match) ran to the ring and confronted Earl. The two brothers argued, and then they fought each other in the middle of the ring. Hulk Hogan, figuring out that Dave's "evil twin" had jobbed him out, picked Earl up and gorilla press slammed him over the ropes and onto the aisleway (missing DiBiase). It was part of the storyline for Hogan to lose the title in order for him to start filming on No Holds Barred.
This match helped set up a 14-man elimination tournament at WrestleMania IV, since WWF President Jack Tunney declared the title "vacant" a week after The Main Event match as the WWF Championship "cannot be bought or sold," where the winner would win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Vince McMahon paid both Hebners a bonus of $2,500 for participating in the angle.
Meanwhile, the WWF continued to build heat for Earl Hebner through a kayfabe "investigative report" published in the promotions' flagship publication, WWF Magazine. The article claimed, through a fictional backstory, that Dave had "been plagued by the misdeeds of his brother Earl" throughout their childhoods, citing such examples as Earl's cheating in school and, while posing as Dave, doing such things as bullying fellow students and abandoning Dave's pretty girlfriend on a sidewalk in a slum district at night. The report continued by noting that, despite Dave's appeal of the controversial ending to the Hogan-Andre match at The Main Event, Tunney had to uphold the decision since Earl was a licensed referee in Indiana (the match took place in Indianapolis); and that, as a result of Earl's cooperation, he became a "very rich" man thanks to a payoff by DiBiase.
However, the "evil twin" referee storyline was quickly dropped when Dave was apparently injured in the aftermath of the Hogan-Andre Main Event match; in a 2001 interview with the WWF RAW Magazine, Dave claimed to have suffered broken ribs as a result of Earl kicking him as part of the angle, forcing Dave out of action until after WrestleMania IV. The storyline was then shifted to have Earl come clean, and he was the referee when "Macho Man" Randy Savage won the Tournament final at WrestleMania IV against "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase for the WWF Championship.
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