Possibly, the greatest referee in the history of WWE was let go last week in budget cuts caused by the on-going crisis.
Senior referee, Mike Chioda, joined the company in 1989, taking a short hiatus until 1992 before reappearing and not leaving our screens until 2020. He paved his way to the WWE due to his friendship with Gorilla Monsoon and his adopted son Joey, the latter being the man who trained Chioda.
In wrestling, the referee is often the forgotten third element in a match, behind the wrestlers themselves and the fans in attendance. WWE released a video on their YouTube channel in which Chioda speaks through his experiences and the importance of a referee, showing how much the business meant to him and how important he was to wrestling. Referees are never prominent in a match and many people forget who referees those high-profile matches.
This list is five of the best matches in which Mike Chioda was involved. From WrestleMania to a very unique match on SmackDown, Chioda was firmly ingrained in the lore of World Wrestling Entertainment.
The Rock vs Hulk Hogan – Wrestlemania X8
The original ‘once in a lifetime’ match as two icons of different generations came to blows at the Showcase of the Immortals. The image most associated with this match is the stare down between Rock and Hogan with Chioda in between telling them to part before the match had started. The Rock and Stone Cold had been feuding with the NWO, who had joined WWE from WCW, with the basis of The Rock vs Hogan match coming from Hogan’s request for a picture of The Rock for his son, Nick. The match is still remembered as one of the best clashes in Wrestlemania history, 18 years later. The match itself is absolutely brilliant but I don’t mean from an in-ring aspect, I mean from the sheer atmosphere surrounding this match.
The noise from the fans, the wrestlers working towards all of this and Mike Chioda selling his body to the business of giving this match the hype it deserved. He made every two count seem like it was going to be a three and gave everything an extra level of intensity. Eventually, The Rock hit two Rock Bottom’s and a People’s Elbow for the three before shaking hands with Hogan in respect. We also got the post-match beat down of Hogan courtesy of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, ousting Hogan out of the NWO and turning him face for the first time in three years.
Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar – Wrestlemania 31
The heist of the century, the greatest Money in the Bank cash-in in the history of its existence. The match goes into this list as the singles match it was billed at but is very well known for what happened halfway through. Reigns, one of the most hated wrestlers at the time, won the Royal Rumble and sealed his ticket to Wrestlemania to face The Beast Incarnate and WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar. The match seemed very one-sided with Lesnar throwing Reigns from pillar to post, with random spurts of fight coming from the Big Dog before he seemingly turned the tide and opened up that opportunity for Seth Rollins.
After an emphatic F-5 from an exhausted champion, both men were out on the floor before the start of The Second Coming hits the speakers and Rollins sprints down the aisle like he’s being chased by Mike Myers. Mike Chioda has made a name for himself when it comes to Money in the Bank cash-ins, normally seeming really confused by the concept but ultimately making sure the competitor isn’t wasting the opportunity. Rollins cashed in, hit a Curb Stomp on Lesnar before hitting one on Reigns and picking up the win, with Chioda lifting his hand high before he scarpered and celebrated at the top of the ramp.
Seth Rollins vs Roman Reigns – Money in the Bank 2016
At the time, this match was shown as the vengeful Rollins hunting for the title he never lost, he forfeited it due to his horrific knee injury. It just turned out that the title holder at the time was former Shield member, Roman Reigns. And even more fortuitous, the third member, Dean Ambrose, won the titular match earlier in the evening. This night came to be one of the most significant nights in WWE with three men who would carry the company for years to come, with all three Shield members holding the WWE Championship in the same night. Reigns would walk in as champion; Seth would defeat him and Ambrose would cash in to leave the event as Champion.
This night also brought us the creation of the WWE Universal Championship after the brand split which came a month or so later. Two Pedigree’s and Seth Rollins wins the title he never lost before those oh so familiar guitar strums hit the speakers and Ambrose appears from behind Rollins to cash in the briefcase. This was one of Chioda’s quickest conversations, possibly because the lock on Ambrose’s face was pretty terrifying. One Dirty Deeds later, a three count from the man and Ambrose knocks off Seth.
Shawn Michaels vs John Cena – Wrestlemania 23
Possibly, one of the most exciting main event matches in Wrestlemania history. Michaels, now on his own after Triple H got injured, found himself in the WWE Championship picture. As WWE do, they put Michaels and Cena together as World Tag Team Champions as a dysfunctional duo. They both walked into Ford Field as co-champions but it was all about the WWE Championship between two hugely popular megastars. The story of the match came down to Cena’s inability to get on top of Michaels, who was one step ahead of him most of the match. Watching back, this was the time where Chioda wasn’t seen as the best or as the senior official, he was just there but you forget how influential he is to megastar matches like this one. I feel like this match silenced the Cena haters for a little bit, he always got hate for his wrestling ability but he managed to put on an unbelievably compelling 30+ minute match with one of the very best.
Eventually, Super Cena did manage to bring some offence into the contest and get on top after busting Michaels open. We get an expected ref bump from Chioda, the best in the business, after Cena ducked a Sweet Chin Music and it connected with the chin of Chioda. Michaels uses Chioda being down and makes Cena bloody himself, delivering a Piledriver onto the stairs, giving Cena a cut on the top of his head. We get another referee down to count the pin, whilst Chioda is on the outside of the ring, where he remained for the rest of the match. The replacement referee, Jack Doan, finishes the match as the official as Cena makes Michaels submit with the STF-U.
Chris Jericho, The Rock & Mike Choida vs The Dudley Boyz & Nick Patrick – Smackdown, October 4th 2001
Possibly, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, The Dudley Boyz making their entrance with Nick Patrick hovering in the background looking like an angry Fred Flintstone. We then get Mike, enter on his own in silence, poor teamwork choice from team WWF right there. A lot of wrestling fans are very torn on the Invasion angle but when it comes up with 24 carat gold like this, those who think it’s bad are wrong.
The match came about after Chioda cost the Dudleyz the Tag Titles, which of course you do, is get someone who is not a wrestler into a wrestling match. However, Mike held his own, got some nice shots in on D-Von in the early going. At one point, Nick Patrick breaks up a pinfall which invites Chioda into the ring to chase Patrick around the ring and bait him into the grasps of Jericho but that was thwarted by the Dudleyz. Nick Patrick actually tagged in, got a couple of shots in on Jericho but as he started to get up, Patrick runs and tags out.
He also hit Chioda with a cheapshot whilst he was on the apron, giving the heels the consistent advantage. Until, The Rock does Rock things and electrifies the fans like only he can and leaving Nick Patrick on his own. Patrick tries to run away before Earl Hebner comes down and throws him to The Rock, until Chioda comes in and takes him down with a beautiful spear and a ground and pound. We all know Chioda can bump for a referee, he gets levelled with a Clothesline by Bubba. I love the end to this match, Nick Patrick is the legal man and he gets a Rock Bottom, Lionsault and a Referee’s Elbow courtesy of Chioda for the three. If you don’t love things like this, you don’t love wrestling. WWF referee, Mike Chioda, is an undefeated competitor.
We hope the budget cuts are temporary and people can regain their jobs because if anyone deserves it back, it’s the longest-tenured referee in WWE. So many big moments Chioda has been a part of and we hope that he’ll be part of more in the not so distant future.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @George_Geal_. Thanks for reading!