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AS I SEE IT 7/3: Remembering…again

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Tomorrow is July 4 again. Each year, I remember the passing
of former WWF referee Joey Marella, who died 23 years ago as
the result of an automobile accident on the New Jersey
Turnpike, while traveling to Newark, NJ from a WWF show in
Ocean City, MD.

But since that tragedy happened, so much has taken place in
our world and in all of our lives. The world is a very
different place than it was then, with terrorism (both
foreign and domestic) and war now an everyday concern. The
fruit of our country’s youth has come home in body bags from
serving overseas. Others are living without arms or legs, or
physically damaged by the horrors of war. Worse still is the
hell many suffer mentally.

Along with this anniversary, I’m thinking a bit more about
the issue of people with wrestling suffering untimely deaths
(whatever the cause or reason); especially with the passing
this weekend of Hart Family elder Smith Hart, and the
beloved father of Wrestling Observer guru Dave Meltzer,
Herbert Meltzer.

The death of one person, and our need to remember those
people, still stands out above and beyond things that we
often can’t understand or control; like terrorists using
God’s name to hate or kill, the actions of nation against
nation, or the actions of nations against their own
citizens. We have to remember those who are and who were
important within our lives…or within our areas of personal
interest, like wrestling. If we do, they continue to live
on…if only in our memories.

So as we celebrate another July 4 today, I do my annual
remembrance. It has a foreword from Kathy Fitzpatrick, who
is, as always, is mentioned in the article below:


“On this 4th of July after the picnics and parades, I always
do one thing that I thought I wouldn’t ever have to start a
tradition of doing…going to the cemetery to remember a
dear friend, Joey Marella. Joey was taken away from his
friends and family way too soon, and this is the anniversary
of his passing.

That fateful day will always stay with me no matter whatever
may happen to me. The reason it sticks with me is that I was
one of the last people to see Joey. it was after a WWE show
in Ocean City, MD and I was staying with friend in
Baltimore. I am the person that Bob speaks about in the
column below that wanted Joey to stay with us. But Joey and
Bruno Lauer had to go to Newark to drop a car off and fly

I will always remember his last words to me… no, nothing
mushy… just “call me I go to the Philippines on Friday’.
Well, that Friday was when Joey was laid to rest in New
Jersey. Joey was a great friend and will always have a
special place in my heart.

I just want to say that Joey was a very important person to
me and so many other friends and co-workers; and on this
remembrance of his passing. I just wanted to remember a
friend by saying I love you Joey. My prayers are always with
your family…

Kathy Fitzpatrick”

Looking back on the memory of…
The dance we shared…
‘neath the stars alone…
For a moment…
all the world was right…
How could I have known…
that you’d ever say goodbye…
Dance, (Garth Brooks and Tony Arata, 1989) 

Every July 4th, most people remember the holiday for
fireworks, barbecues, and patriotic speeches. But some of us
remember it each year for different reasons.

I remember July 4, 1994, all too well. I was sitting down,
eating lunch, getting ready to watch an early round World
Cup soccer game when the phone rang…two friends, one of
whom was a ECW referee; had left messages on my phone within
five minutes, but I didn’t think anything of it.

Then the phone rang again. I finally picked it up, realizing
something had to be wrong. I heard the agonized voice of a
friend over the line… I could make out about every third
word being said. Gradually, I pieced together the news.

Joey Marella had been killed in an automobile accident while
returning from a WWF show in Ocean City, MD the previous
evening. He had fallen asleep at the wheel on the New Jersey
Turnpike; and was involved in a one car accident together
with Bruno “Harvey Whippleman” Lauer. Joey wasn’t wearing a
seat belt, and was killed only miles from the Marella family
home in Willingboro, NJ.

Only hours before, my friend had been with Joey and friends
after the show…they’d tried to get him to crash with them
up in Baltimore, but Joey told them he had to get going, up
to Newark Airport before going overseas. The person was on
the phone going through horrible, but unnecessary, guilt for
somehow not making Joey come to Baltimore with her.

For many readers of this column who might not have been
around back then, Joey Marella was a WWF referee who worked
many high-profile WWF matches during the late 1980s and
early 1990s.

Joey’s career highlights include PPV main events, such as
the legendary Hogan-Andre the Giant match at WrestleMania
III from the Pontiac Silverdome in March 1987, Ric Flair’s
first WWF title win at Royal Rumble 1992, Bret Hart-Davey
Boy Smith at Summer Slam 1992 from London’s Wembley Stadium,
and Owen Hart-Razor Ramon in the final match at King of the
Ring 1994 from Baltimore. He also worked many high profile
WWF TV events, including the NBC and Fox Saturday Night Main
Event shows, and the 1993 debut of Monday Night RAW. Joey
even made a brief appearance as himself in the Hulk Hogan
movie “No Holds Barred”.

Aside from the ring, some readers may even know he was the
adopted son of Robert (Gorilla Monsoon) Marella. This led to
a running inside joke on WWF TV of Monsoon telling viewers
how “horrible” that referee Joey Marella was each time Joey
“missed” heel interference in a match.

But some knew another side to Joey.

Joey Marella was a “big brother” to many within the
wrestling business, particularly the World Wrestling
Federation. He was always there with a shoulder to lean on,
or with time to listen to those who needed it.

Joey was loved by many, including a friend of mine who was
quite close to him, who’s kept a special place in her heart
for him to this day….the same friend of mine I told you
about earlier.

I knew Joey through this friend, so on that July 4th, the
feelings weren’t from the death of someone distant. They
were strong and deeply personal. Joey’s loss was felt deeply
by many in and out of the World Wrestling
Federation/Entertainment. The loss is still felt deeply to
this day.

As one example, WWE ring announcer Tony Chimel (the
announcer on Smackdown and house shows) named his newest son
after his friend (who had been Godfather to his other two
children) Joey Marella.

Some would argue the young Joey Chimel is just as
mischievous as his namesake. One hopes he’s half as good a

On this upcoming July 4th holiday, please keep a special
place in your thoughts for Joey Marella, who left this world
at the age of 31. Keep also in your thoughts those others
who left wrestling far richer for having been a part of it,
yet poorer for having left the business and their loved ones
too soon.

Finally, on this upcoming July 4th weekend, I’ll repeat the
motto I leave you with frequently: Be sure to treasure those
in your own lives… for we are never promised tomorrow.

“And now, I’m glad I didn’t know…
The way it all would end…
The way it all would go…
Our lives are better left to chance…
I could have missed the pain…
But I’d of had to miss the dance…” 

I once received a kind letter from Joey’s sister Valerie
regarding the version of this column that was published in

“I just happened to come across your article about Joey
while I was at work, and I wanted to thank you. You really
seemed to know a lot about him, not just as a referee,
because we both know he was so much more than that.

I am his younger sister, and in addition to Tony Chimel
naming his son after him, I had twin boys 2 years after he
died; and named one Joey after him, and named the other Gino
after my father.

Thanks for making my day.”

Hopefully…in an era when lives seem to mean a lot less,
when political viciousness and hatred are a perpetual
occurrence; where war, terrorism, and 24 hour
cable/satellite TV, together with social media, make the
deaths of Americans and others in foreign lands reported on
the news far too close to scores in some obscene video game;
we can remember Joey’s passing in some manner similar to the
way his sister did…and take time to remember those
important in our own lives.

Take a minute to say a prayer for or give a thought to them,
as well as all within wrestling who’ve left us too soon as
you approach this holiday weekend; and remember to see human
beings, and not just as anonymous performers when you watch
RAW, Smackdown, Impact, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of
Honor, or your local independent promotion…because some of
those performers were and are remarkable human beings.

Until next time…

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