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Billy Silverman’s five decades in stripes

A tradition of the Cauliflower Alley Club is to honor contributors from every level of the professional wrestling industry. At this year’s reunion ceremony, one of the most recognizable figures to don a striped shirt will be presented with the CAC’s prestigious Charlie Smith Referee Award.

A native of Auburn, Maine, Billy Silverman will receive the accolade in recognition of a prolific career spanning five decades in stripes.

It was in the winter of 1985 when William Daley first entered the pro wrestling industry through a local promotion in Augusta, Maine, which was operated by a friend’s father, Sam Michaels. More bookings followed, and Daley steadily became a fixture in the New England independent scene, adopting the name Billy Silverman and getting early television exposure on International Championship Wrestling, an outfit run by the family of Angelo Savoldi. Billy credits Savoldi’s sons, Mario and Tom Fornini, for furthering his understanding of a referee’s role in the narrative of a match.

While working for ICW, Silverman remembers that he was noticed by athletic commission official Richard Herring, who offered the young hopeful an opportunity to obtain a referee license in the state of New York,

“I had always been led to believe that the process to get a license was incredibly tough and political, and I felt so blessed when I learned that the athletic commission approved my application,” Silverman recalled. “It was through this that I was able to work as an official for the World Wrestling Federation, which was a dream come true.”

Silverman had been working in the business for just over a year when he started officiating for the expanding promotion, which was steadily solidifying its position as the market leader in sports entertainment. The company had been riding a wave of mainstream interest and embedding itself into the heart of American pop culture by the mid-1980s. Silverman’s license enabled him to receive countless bookings from Steve Taylor, who was involved in event operations for the WWF. He would referee at major cards for the Federation, including some at the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Juggling his duties amongst him amongst other independent commitments, it was a stint that would last until 1997.

Billy Silverman referees an early match with Rocky Maivia in WWF.

That year, Silverman was contacted by Terry Taylor and offered a contract with World Championship Wrestling. The two had remained friends from an earlier run in northeast independent outfit AWF, long before Taylor had accepted a management position for the Turner-owned promotion.

Having worked in the WWF on major cards such as WrestleMania 13 and being in the middle of a heated escalator brawl between Triple H and The Undertaker on Shotgun Saturday Night, the opportunity at WCW presented new challenges for Silverman. He was the third man in the ring for the unforgettable cruiserweight bout between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero at Halloween Havoc ’97, officiated matches between legends Ric Flair and Terry Funk, and was the assigned referee for the infamous ‘Finger Poke of Doom ‘ championship match between Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash on Monday Nitro.

Billy Silverman was the third man in the ring for WCW’s infamous “Finger Poke of Doom” between Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan.

But Silverman remains humble, insisting that he does not have a particular favorite memory from his career.

“I was incredibly lucky to be involved with so many gifted athletes and individuals during my career. To list a favorite match or memory would be a real disservice to all the stars up and down the card who sacrifice so much to create magic in the ring every night,” said Silverman.

While at WCW, Silverman would be cast in the Warner Brothers film ready to rumblea comedy based on the company which was theatrically released in April 2000. Three years later, he would find himself back on the silver screen in a small role in the acclaimed Clint Eastwood drama Mystic River. Working in film was an unlikely challenge for Silverman, who feels that learning from many of pro wrestling’s finest minds equipped him for opportunities beyond the ring,

“I am forever grateful that I got the opportunity to be around some of the most amazing people in the industry. People such as the McMahon family, Jim Ross, Terry Taylor, Kevin Sullivan, JJ Dillon, and the Wild Samoans, and so many others who helped me in my career. To me, these are not just great wrestling minds, but they know how to tell a story and could craft entertainment for any genre,” he said.

Chyna and Billy Silverman. Photo courtesy Billy Silverman

Silverman remained with WCW until its closure and was one of the talents acquired by the WWF in its purchase of company assets in the spring of 2001. He was featured in the Invasion storyline pitting stars from both brands on opposing sides.

Following the conclusion of the Invasion storyline, Silverman continued to serve as a referee in matches across the country, before relocating to Palmetto, Florida. Coincidentally, Palmetto is the city which hosted the UWF Beach Brawl, which featured Silverman’s debut pay-per-view appearance at Manatee Civic Center on June 9, 1991. Nevertheless, he has maintained his ties to the northeast pro wrestling community since taking up residence in the Sunshine State.

In 2014, Silverman was introduced by legendary announcer Howard Finkel as an inductee into the New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, among a list of luminaries which also included Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart and Matt Borne. Today, he remains active as a referee, but also enjoys attending legend conventions.

Billy Silverman, inductee into the 2013 New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, with Howard Finkel. Photo by Christine Coons, www.coonsphotography.com

Silverman is thrilled to make his return to the Cauliflower Alley Club, where he can engage with the community from a career he dearly loves.

“I really love the opportunity to make personal appearances and meet the fans. Without them, and the help of a supportive network of decision-makers in the business, I would have never had the chance to pursue a career in an industry I love. They helped me realize my dreams,” he concluded.

Silverman will be receiving the Melby Award at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion, September 26-28, 2022, at the Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.


2022 CAC AWARD WINNERS

Men’s: kevin sullivan
Men’s: Tommy Rich
Tag Team: Rock’n’Roll Express
Struggle: Konnan
Referee: Billy Silverman
President’s: Jerry Lawler
Women’s: Jacqueline Moore
future stars: Madison Miles
Historian: Steve Johnson
Posthumous: Christine Jarrett


TOP PHOTO: Billy Silverman in a WCW promotional photo.

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