Standing in between these two giants (pictured below) is the referee. Well, they are not giants in the traditional sense, but certainly, Rey Mysterio and Low-Ki are giants among wrestling fans. I have never seen this match but it has to have been incredible. Contrary to belief, a great wrestling match isn’t between two individuals; it is between three. Having seen first hand the amount of work, safety precautions, and in-ring knowledge the refs have, I know their role is crucial to success. Meet Kris Levin – Kid Ref – who has been everywhere from Impact Wrestling to Chikara to MLW and has his own persona in the ring. Levin shares what it means to be in the squared circle without the spotlight. (Shoutout to Ref Clark Feldman who is not Jewish but an awesome guy).
1) Tell the TGR audience about yourself.
Greetings, I hope this finds you all well! I’m Kris Levin, better known as “Kid Ref” or “Baby Ref” from Game Changer Wrestling, CHIKARA, MLW, Desastre Total Ultraviolento, and formerly Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor. I pride myself on being a jack-of-all-trades in the wrestling world. Aside from refereeing, I have also worked as a producer, commentator, and promoter (including VALKYRIE Womens Pro Wrestling, New York City’s first-ever all-women’s wrestling event).
My greatest passion in life is storytelling, whether it’s with wrestling, writing, or filmmaking. With writing, I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s in journalism at UMass Amherst and work as a contributor for Ripley’s Believe It or Not! I also produce a syndicated anthro-historical wrestling series, Tales From the Mat, which I have been fervently working to transition into an audio docudrama (set for a June release). With film, alongside Mark Adam Haggerty, I am the co-creator of IWTV’s Locker Room Detectives, a sketch comedy series involving friends and co-workers in the wrestling community. We’ve featured a ton of incredible guests involved in wacky hijinks, from contemporary stars like “Retrosexual” Anthony Greene, Josh Briggs, Nick Gage, Karrion Kross, Shotzi Blackheart, and Penelope Ford to legends such as Scott Steiner and Rhino (who is currently President-Elect in our universe).
2) When did you get involved in wrestling?
I first started in November of 2007 at Force-1 Pro Wrestling in South Jersey when I was fifteen.
3) Where did you gain experience and learn to ref?
The first four years of my career (while I was finishing high school) were spent exclusively on small events throughout the South Jersey independent scene. In 2011, Sami Callihan took me under his wing and helped me expand to surrounding states. Without his guidance, I am unsure if I would even still be in the business.
4) What is the biggest challenge of being in the ring that fans might not be aware of?
The two most important aspects of a referee are watching over the safety of the performers and facilitating communication. When something goes wrong, the referee is the first line of defense when it comes to course-correcting in order to right the ship. With that comes the necessity of staying cool under pressure and being quick on your feet—a daunting task that I am fortunate to have a knack for.
5) Your career path led you to Impact Wrestling. What was that experience like and what did you learn from the experience?
Impact Wrestling provided a great opportunity to grow as a person and performer and I am thankful for my time there. I made friends and memories that will last a lifetime, learned about producing television on a global scale, and the importance of respecting yourself enough to summon the courage to leave a toxic work environment.
6) Now you are with Chikara, how is that different than the experiences before?
CHIKARA is one of my favorite promotions I have ever worked for. The atmosphere is friendly, respectful, and encourages the democratization of learning. You couldn’t ask for a better locker room. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the product. It’s not only inclusive, but it goes to lengths that are otherwise unseen when it comes to experimenting with multilayered, long-term dramatic narratives. It’s exciting to be part of something so dramaturgically avant-garde.
7) What was your Jewish life like growing up and how do you connect today?
Personally, I am non-practicing, but I’m very proud of my Jewish ethnic heritage. Many of my closest friends in the business are also ethnically Jewish—NWA’s Royce Isaacs, Evolve’s Anthony Greene, and prolific commentator and ring announcer, Blake Chadwick. Aside from wrestling, we have bonded over similar upbringings and uniquely Jewish struggles.
8) Favorite Jewish wrestler of all-time and why? (Macho Man, Goldberg, Barry Horowitz, Colt Cabana, David Starr, MJF, Lisa Marie Varon, Chris Masters, …)
If we are looking specifically through the scope of someone who proudly represented Judaism (as opposed to it being an unmentioned aspect of their identity), it would hand down be Barry Horowitz. Win, lose, or draw, having representation matters—and Barry always represented the Tribe with great pride.
9) Where can people follow you on social media and support you as a wrestling personality?
You can find me on social media @RefKrisLevin, my upcoming audio docudrama series @FromTheMatTales, and everything Locker Room Detectives @LockerDicks. I also have a few shirt designs available at ProWrestlingTees.com/KrisLevin. With a shortage of available booking opportunities, all proceeds go directly toward tuition and textbooks. All support is enormously appreciated.