Former WWE referee Mike Chioda has described the day he was released from the company and the role he was meant to undertake in the performance center prior to his departure.
One of the longest serving WWE officials in the company’s history, Mike Chioda first buttoned up the classic blue shirt in 1989 and through the years became one of the company’s most trusted referee’s. When the legendary Earl Hebner was dismissed from the company, it was Chioda who stepped into the Head Referee role where he remained until his release in April 2020.
However, prior to his release as part of the COVID- necessitated talent cuts, Chioda had been in talks with Triple H to become a mainstay at the WWE Performance Center where he would have trained the next generation of referee’s as he told Chris Van Vliet in a recent interview:
“Triple H came to me a few years ago and said, ‘Hey Chioda, you know, moving you in a different direction in the company yada yada yada. I don’t want to see you like an Earl Hebner being in a ring for 60, 65 years old.’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t want to be that way either. I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I can in this business. But I said, ‘Yeah, my time is whenever my time is’. […] It took a while for me to get down to Florida. But then when I got down to Florida, I got released. So I had no idea. I thought I was going to make a transition to go to the PC Centre in Orlando and train the referees. Which I was doing when I got hurt. I was hurt from August of 2019.”
Unable to be ready for WrestleMania 36, Chioda remembers getting the call shortly after ‘The Grandest Stage of Them All’ to notify him that he was no longer part of the WWE family. However, mere weeks following the call that would change his life, WWE were back in touch to ask if he would be available to referee Randy Orton vs. Edge at WWE Backlash:
“Then I got the call on April 15. So you know I was just dumbfounded. I’m not saying hey, I’m the only guy that got released and it was many people behind the stage and everything but when you’re the only referee? Out of all the referees in the WWE and the most experienced you’re thinking, ‘Okay, did I get my heat when I had bicep surgery, rotator cuff at the same time?’ Dude just did my surgery in October of 2019. I needed about a good six months to heal from both – the bicep took longer than the rotator cuff.
We were going over some things with the referees down in NXT. And I was doing PT with Tara down there and boom, get a call April 15 during a pandemic and thought, ‘You gotta be kidding me’. […] They called me a month later, to do Edge and Randy Orton’s match. And Randy had texted me and he really wanted me to do this special match that they were having.”
Mike Chioda went on to reveal that while he wanted to say yes and doing so would have probably lead to him being reinstated with the company, he couldn’t bring himself to leave his wife who was required to attend appointments for medical reasons.
However, to this very day the official believes that there was someone within the company that didn’t want him to retire as a referee and a little warning that he was on the way of the company would have enabled him to prepare properly for his exit:
“There’s somebody that didn’t want me to go out strong and retire a referee. If they would have told me, ‘Hey, this is your last WrestleMania in Tampa, or this is your last WrestleMania here’, I’d be like ‘Yeah, so I’m ready. So be it. I’m ready to move forward into a different direction’. When I was going down to the PC, X-Pac, Steven Regal and all these guys, Shawn Michaels, The Miz and Matt Bloom runs the the facility down there. And of course, Triple H oversees everything and yeah I thought, ‘Man, I hope I could fit in here and do something’. And it was it was a shocker because I’ve never bashed my company. My father always told me, ‘Don’t bite the hand and feeds ya’ and I never did that. I just did what I was told, when to do it, how to do it and just went and did my job every day. That’s all I could have done.”
Mike Chioda hasn’t been taking things lightly since leaving WWE in April 2020. One of the world’s most famous referee’s has made sporadic appearances for All Elite Wrestling, officiating AEW TNT Championship bouts.
Credit for the interview: Chris Van Vliet