On a recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast, Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman sat down with former WWE referee Mike Chioda where Chioda discussed his view of how referees are treated in today’s wrestling. He first touched on how the role of the referee changed from when he started in the business.
“Well, when we started out in the company, it was great that I got Chief Jay Strongbow [to make] me a referee, and I always looked to Joey Marella, which was one of my great friends when he was living back in the day. We grew up together, Gorilla Monsoon’s son,” Chioda noted. “So in getting into the referee business, Gorilla Monsoon said to me, ‘Look, I’m going to tell you what I tell my son, the longevity in this business is refereeing.’ I wanted to be a wrestler.
“I want to snap bumps and snap suplexes, and I was working out with the boys in the ring in the afternoons when I’m setting up the ring. You’d be at the arena all day, and Gorilla kept pulling me aside. He goes, ‘What are you doing taking bumps like that?’ I go, ‘I like to learn.’ He goesm ‘Well, you’re going to be a referee. You can bump certain ways, but you want to be one of the boys, or you want to be a referee.’ I said, ‘I want to be a referee.’ He goes, ‘Referees have longevity in this business,’ which I’ve had a great career for 30 plus years refereeing.
“They’ve gone through a lot where they don’t take care of the referees a lot anymore in the business over the years. They need to protect the referees as much as possible, I think, as far as the rules and stop changing the rules because they change the rules on and off when it’s convenient for them.”
Hausman wanted to clarify if Chioda was referring to the idea that the referee has less power in the ring nowadays. Chioda said yes, and he talked about the inconsistency of the rules in certain match types.
“True, that’s correct,” Chioda stated. “There are talent that worry about where the referee is placed and how he’s working around the referee so they don’t bury the referee, but sometimes, even from the top, from the company’s, if you have a no disqualification match, why does the guy able to get to the rope and break the count or a hardcore match or a no holds barred [match]. There’s always questions, and they’ll do things in a steel cage match where a guy will be in a hold. He gets to the ropes, and you break the count.
“There is no rule book for refereeing in the professional wrestling business. I was actually trying to write one a while back, and it got scratched because two of the guys that were working with me in the office had gotten released. We were six months into this situation and that just went right down the tubes. This was when Johnny Lauranitis was actually still head of talent relations.”
AEW referee Aubrey Edwards has said before that she is working on an official rule book for AEW. Chioda continued and discussed how WWE referees are trained.
“Yeah [they] train, but a lot of wrestlers are training wrestlers there too,” Chioda noted. “They’re training them on their entrances, on their workmanship, on their selling [and] on taking bumps. The referees down there, how much experience does that referee have if he’s down there training referees that come in? Has he been a referee for 15-20 years?
“Sometimes, when you’re a worker, a professional wrestler, you can come in this business, I’ve only seen that very few times, and be an unbelievable talent in a couple years. Sometimes, it takes a wrestler quite a few years to really learn the business, and that’s what I feel about refereeing. There may be some referees that come in and grasp it right away, but there’s going to be the majority that are going to need experience throughout.”
Officially, WWE Superstars are independent contractors meaning they generally have to pay for their own expenses. Chioda revealed that referees and ring crew are independent sub-contractors, and they have their road expenses paid for. He also revealed that AEW takes care of talent’s health insurance as well.
“They’re not employees. They’re independent sub-contractors,” Chioda revealed. “They’ll get their stuff. The ring crew referees, like I was for 20 years plus, I was a ring crew and referee, I got everything paid for, whether it was per diem, hotels, transportation, gas [and] everything. There are a lot of referees still with WWE that have to pay for their own hotels, cars, food, expenses on the road, health insurance and everything. AEW takes care of health insurance as well too, takes care of a lot.”
Former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas has been on the podcast before where he discussed the idea of referees being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Chioda gave his thoughts on that idea.
“Am I surprised? No, I’m not surprised about the Hall of Fame,” Chioda admitted. “Would I like to see the referees enter the Hall of Fame? Yeah, totally. I was always pitching for Joey Marella for the longest time. He’s done someone incredible matches. He’s done quite a few matches I remember, off my top five at least, including Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan [and] Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart and Davey Boy ’92 Wembley. Do I think Joey should be inducted? Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of referees I think that should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Chioda admitted that if he ever got inducted, his speech would be very short unlike many others. He also named other referees that he hopes can one day be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
“No, but if I got inducted, I’d be like, ‘Hey, thank you very much, appreciate everything. Goodbye,'” Chioda said. “I couldn’t give you a 30-minute speech and pour it out. I don’t know, maybe it’s just not enough time in the Hall of Fame package. Hopefully, one day, the referees do get thought of and inducted. There’s some old-school referees like Dick Whirly and Dick Kroll. The guys have done something incredible talent back in the day, working with Bruno Sammartino’s to [Jimmy] Snuka’s [and] a lot of all time greats.”
Mike Chioda can be seen every other Monday as one of the hosts of “Mailbag Mondays” on AdFreeShows.com. Chioda’s full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here.