Former WWE referee Mike Chioda has discussed the backstage reaction in the company to the announcement that a new wrestling company was on the horizon when AEW was formed in 2019.
All Elite Wrestling was formed off the back of the success of the All In show held in 2018. All In was a show put together by Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks after Rhodes responded to a Tweet from wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer who had suggested a company other than WWE would be unlikely to sell out a 10,000 seat arena. Rhodes and The Bucks took the gamble and literally went ‘all in’ on the show held in the Sears Center on the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois.
All In was a huge success right off the bat with tickets for the event selling out in less than half an hour. An action-packed night saw stars from Ring Of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, IMPACT Wrestling, and the top stars of the independent scene come together for a show like no other. The event was headlined with a six-man tag team match that saw The Young Bucks team with Kota Ibushi to face the team of Rey Mysterio, the new Ring Of Honor World Champion Bandido, and Rey Fenix.
The night is most likely to be remembered for Cody Rhodes’ bout with Nick Aldis for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship. In an emotional contest, Rhodes defeated Aldis for the title that his father The American Dream Dusty Rhodes held three times.
All Elite Wrestling soon came together with the news that the company was backed by billionaire Tony Khan and would involve Jim Ross and Chris Jericho along with Rhodes, The Young Bucks, and New Japan star Kenny Omega being given Executive Vice President roles.
Speaking on his Monday Mailbag show [available at AdFreeShows.com], long-time WWE official Mike Chioda detailed the backstage reaction in the company was when All Elite Wrestling was announced on New Year’s Day 2019.
“The boys were excited that something else was opening up. I mean not so much for the referees because the referees don’t sell tickets, they’re not gonna be the fight of a contract dispute or whatever because referees comp tickets, they don’t sell tickets. There was a buzz, the boys were happy, the wrestlers were totally happy that another company’s opening up. And the company that’s opening up, they’ve got good talent like Cody Rhodes and Y2J was starting off this business with them. [They had] a lot of young talent and the backing of Tony Khan which the buzz was out there like ‘Oh he’s worth 7 billion dollars, owns the Jacksonville Jaguars, owns a European football team, he’s got the money for the company.’ Here’s a guy that’s starting a company with AEW that actually has more money than Vince [McMahon].”
“So it was just the buzz was great and what they did was they ran around talent relations, whoever it was that came up with the idea of let’s sweep up all the talent so they can’t hire anybody and they were just paying people a ridiculous amount of money. The boys were just getting paid ridiculous amounts on contracts and talent relations were handing out huge contracts to keep people from even thinking about AEW. They were signing people left and right just to do agent and producer work so they wouldn’t work for AEW.”
Mike Chioda then discussed that these huge contracts are now potentially being broken by WWE themselves as they have initiated a raft of talent releases over the last few months.
“So they tried to be the only game in town, to surround the talent, pick up all the talent with these additional contracts that are now just getting broken apart. Big Show gone, Mark Henry gone, Braun Strowman gone, Lana, Rusev, and it really comes down to money. The payroll. Look at Brock Lesnar, you think he left because he wanted to leave, no, they didn’t wanna pay him. That was the big issue there. So they lost Brock and I’m not saying they’ll never get him back but they just gotta pay him. But it’s good to have AEW out there and AEW’s willing to work with anybody.”
Mike Chioda himself was released from his WWE contract in 2020 after a thirty-plus year career with the company. He has since made some appearances in AEW as a match official with the last of these coming at Full Gear in November 2020. Chioda was the man in the middle when Darby Allin defeated Cody Rhodes to win the TNT Championship.