two referees
Hulk Hogan points at a cleverly disguised mirror reflection of referee Dave Hebner during a famous illusion.

It has long been said that “anything can happen in professional wrestling,” and rarely has that sentiment seemed truer than on Saturday Feb 5, 1988, when WWF referee Dave Hebner astoundingly came face-to-face with his own doppelganger. 

The seeming miracle was witnessed by millions on television during Saturday Night’s Main Event, after Hulk Hogan lost the WWF World Championship fair and square to Andre the Giant. 

What happened next has baffled fans and experts for decades — the sudden appearance of a second Dave Hebner, identical in every way, right down to his cute little referee bowtie. 

Nobody could believe it — not the commentators, not Hogan, not even the Daves Hebner — as evidenced by their theatrically overblown reactions to the strangeness of it all. 

The commentators suggested that perhaps The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase had paid off someone to undergo extensive plastic surgery in order to mimic the chiselled good looks of Dave Hebner. But this theory is, of course, preposterous. 

The real secret behind the double-referee is far more innovative and clever. 

“The illusion relies on misdirection, mirrors, and carefully controlled camera angles,” reveals legendary magician Penn Jillette. “I can assure you, there’s only ever one Dave Hebner, the whole time, but the illusion is wonderful — nearly fooled me!”

For much of the trick, the illusion of a second referee is created by a hologram projected onto a thin, transparent scrim secretly lowered for the rafters. When the audience is distracted by this part of the illusion, ringside assistants slide mirrored panels into the ring — panels that, when viewed from the correct angle, seem to show a second Dave Hebner in the reflection. 

Finally, when Hogan appears to throw one version of Dave Hebner out of the ring, he is actually throwing a stunt double wearing a head-to-toe green bodysuit — the image of Dave Hebner was digitally added in post-production. 

Now that you know the secret, watch the whole thing again. The ruse will seem so obvious now! 

 

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