Mike Chioda

Mike Chioda: The WWE Referee Of Our Childhood Has The BEST Stories!

Mike Chioda (@mjcchioda) is a professional wrestling referee who is known for his 35 year career in WWE. He sits down with Chris Van Vliet in Tampa, FL to talk about his legendary career and being the third man in the ring for matches like Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit, The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar, 123 Kid vs. Razor Ramon and so many others. He talks about what goes into being a great referee, the cues he hears in his earpiece, being released from WWE, his time in AEW, working Ric Flair’s last match and much more.

Quote I’m thinking about: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – Geroge Bernard Shaw

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On Mike Chioda’s unique voice:

“You know, it’s not the first time I’ve gotten that. I get that I started doing this podcast for Conrad Thompson on Ad Free shows. Paul Bromwell hosts and he’s coached me through all this stuff. And it’s going on three years now. Yeah. And you know, it’s our shows doing great on Ad Free and everything we talk, you know, sports, wrestling, of course, sports, food, all the good places and countries and all this stuff that you tried all the food and yeah, and it just gone so well. And I get so many, you know, like, oh my god, are you are you part of the mob boss? I go my father was kind of over there in Jersey. My father was, my mom remarried when I was three. But my paternal father used to sing for to do praise. And he had a very deep voice like me. But when he sang he, you know, it was it was all doo op. And then he was calling it was Joey Van and the Duprees. And you know, my real name is Michael Joseph Conzanno.” 

On being part of an era where wrestlers were referenced: 

“I mean, you know, it was great. They said our names a lot, especially like, you know, Jim Ross and King Lawler and Michael Cole years ago. You know, used to say our names a lot. Which I thought it was cool. But it was just one day, you know, was one day. Some years ago. Vince had just heard somebody’s name, you know, in gorilla and he heard this name. And he’s like, Well, that’s not the talent’s name. He was like, Who? Whose name is that? Oh, that’s the referee. Well stop saying it. Like he doesn’t sell tickets. It’s true. I mean, referees comp tickets. We don’t sell tickets. You know, my comp list. I’m probably about 10,000 or 20,000. Tickets comped in my career.”

On The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan staredown at WrestleMania 18:

“I mean, you know, very few spots where I’d have to get into the centre but you know, that moment is on them and that’s the one thing like you know, you don’t want to, a referee shouldn’t be in business for themselves. You have to focus on your talents to draw your talents in the ring. Now if my scrawny ass got up in the middle of them, okay, I’m putting my face right there. You know, it’s just not right for the referee. You know, it’s, you got to give that moment. To be honest, we had to I froze because I was just marking out on the staredown marking out on the crowd reaction.”

On relaying the face turn to Hulk Hogan:

“Because they didn’t expect the crowd back in Horilla. Whether it was Pat Patterson, Michael Hayes, Vince everybody, they didn’t expect that reaction. You know, and I’m sure when they went through that whole reaction, it changed Hogan from heel to babyface again into the yellow and red trunks and all that yellow trunks and you know, and it was just, they’re probably going Oh shit. I should have put that match on last.”

On the first big match he worked:

“I want to say, I want to say you know, one of my biggest matches I first worked was Razor Ramon and 123 Kid, Manhattan Center, you know, I was still green. I mean, we’re at the Manhattan Center, you know, from Jersey, I’m always setting up at Madison Square Garden. And we’re always now we got this Manhattan Center, and it’s like God what a pain, that was getting the ring in every time. Took us like six hours just to take these parts of this little elevator piece by piece with the ring. Wow. So it just was a great wrestling atmosphere. The New York crowd unbelievable. And razors got to do the job to 123 Kid, you know? So X-Pac at the time 123 Kid of course so, and I remember Razor pulled me over he’s like, Coyote, you got this match, right? I’m like, Yeah, Raz, you know, and he’s like, bro, I know that you got to watch counts and stuff like that. But I want the quickest one two three count without really making it look obvious. But I want the quickest count brother. I’m like, yeah Raz no problem. You know, you don’t want to mess with Razor Ramon, Shawn Michaels. And the Kliq. I’m like, No problem Raz. So I’m just stressing. I’m like I had How do I make this like 123? Like, quick, you know? So I did. I sped up my cadence on account, that’s for sure. You know, but and it worked out perfect. But it was what a pop. What a reaction.”

On Shane McMahon vs. Kurt Angle at King of the Ring:

“You know, that night whoo. I’ll never forget, you know, I thought I may not have a job coming back. You know, during there was several times during that match. You know, Shane had a lot to prove. You know, he rocks this match out. He gets through it. You know, it puts him on the chart of being a wrestler, you know what I’m saying? And he can hang with the toughest. And you know, Kurt’s not in the business that long at that point really, too. But boy he picked up the wrestling business professional wrestling business quick. And, one of the best, you know, and he’s a tough son of a gun in that ring. Man, I’ve done many matches where Kurt and Kurt don’t let up and he just keeps going. He’s like a machine. So, you know, Shane had a lot to prove. And getting to the spot where he goes through the glass. And it just, you know, he didn’t go through the glass. I’m thinking are we at the wrong f*cking panel? You know, because there were certain panels and certain panels were breaking certain panels Weren’t you know. So at one point, I’m thinking now is this the right panel, you know, the glass panel. And Vince is all in the background going. Tell him not f*cking throw him through the glass. No, no more like this. After the first time. Gorilla position was screaming. Everybody was screaming. And then all of a sudden you hear Vince just taken over. Like, tell him, tell Mike Chioda, and I’m going, Kurt. Don’t put him through the f*cking glass. No more. Don’t try it. No more. Don’t try it. I’m on his right side. He tries it doesn’t work again. I’m like, holy shit. And it finally occurred to me. Like, oh, no, I couldn’t stop anything. I couldn’t stop anything because that would have been disrespectful to Shane. And Shane had a lot to prove. And I know Shane is you know, Shane, he’ll go through anything. It’ll do anything. I mean, tough, tough guy, man. I was just like in shock. You know, I’d seen all this glass and Shane’s head and those slices and stuff. And I’m thinking, was that the fake glass that we were supposed to use? Or is this real?”

On Brock Lesnar’s shooting star press:

“Yeah, he was gonna do it and as athletic as Brock Lesnar is and was and is now still, you know, I definitely thought he would make it and when I went up there and I’m telling me like acting like get it down, get it down. You know, it’s always gimmick to like, get it down from the top rope, like it was an illegal move, you know? And I just said, hit that f*cking thing Brock, you know. And I see Kurt because he was so far out. And, you know, Kurt did the right thing. Because you know, you just can’t be in the middle of the ring when all eyes are on you now. And imagine him just fishing wobbling over to get in position to get closer. It will look stupid. And when Brock fell a little bit short on that, it was like, Oh my God, and then I just looked at Brock’s eyes and we’re kind of all blurry and stuff and, and everything. So I was just like, are you okay, brother and he man, he fought right through it and finished it.”

On refereeing Undertaker vs. Goldberg in Saudi Arabia:

“I mean, you know, the travel was brutal, Chris. I mean, it was brutal. We get to Saudi Arabia. I remember we got in the night before. Everybody was on a totally different timezone sometimes jetlag kicks in, like the day later, when these long trips occur and stuff. And I remember, you know, we just didn’t go [home], we came off a TV and we did this and we had to go to Saudi might have come off some live events, probably that weekend into TV than in the Saudi. So we got to Saudi Arabia. And I remember like, you know, people weren’t really getting to sleep like you didn’t get in there at 9 10 o’clock. Okay, I’m getting ready to go right to sleep just slept a lot on a plane. Time Zones are different. I remember was about 125 degrees. And I remember we went out to the malls didn’t open till nine o’clock at night. And a lot of stuff, it was just not even colder. But it was maybe about 100 or 90 field 95 degrees at night or 100. So it was just, you know, the sun went down. And that’s when people went to work, construction and stuff like that their hottest time of the year. So I remember we you know, a lot of us didn’t get good sleep. We get to the arena. We’re there all day. Taker, I believe we went on it like midnight. And I remember going through the locker rooms it that like 9 10 o’clock, you know, the show was going on to show it for a while. Everybody was sleeping in the locker rooms passed out because of the jetlag everybody was tired, man. So I know we were exhausted. Totally going into midnight. I was Taker I’m sure it was. But you know, take and some people were always saying like, you know, Goldberg came out of dress room. It was hitting his head on it on the thing, but I was in the ring at the time. So and I didn’t see you know, they showed a little gash when he came out. But Goldberg was fine to me because when he came in the ring, he called the whole match back to me, you know, when he got in the ring, because Taker this phenomenal entrance. It was an awesome entrance. Of course, it takes like 10 minutes, which was you know, that’s one of the best entrances in wrestling my opinion. So, I mean, and he called me and he goes, Hey, let me call this back to you. And I’m like, okay, cool, you know, and he just gave it was one of the best spots, two spots and it was cool. I wanted to hear it too. So I made sure I had everything straight. Nothing changed before the match. Yeah, so everything was good until he hit that turnbuckle and in the post. You know, and then it just went on down from there, man.” 

On the Jackhammer that went wrong:

“That was scary, real scary man and you know if you watch that match back again when Taker at the finish on the end of that match he’s just sitting up looking around p*ssed like just kind of looked upset, you know, frustrated because I know Taker got jammed up a little bit too you know, it almost like he went out of character right there. You know, it wasn’t in his normal Undertaker character. He just had a lot on his mind. He was just looking around. I’m just sitting on the outside or ring going Oh, sh*t, man he’s p*ssed. Like they Oh, thank God, everything worked out. You know, like everything we got through that night. I remember trying to talk to gorilla going, what do I do? You know, what do I do, man? Do I stop it? He’s getting worse. He’s getting worse. He’s getting worse. Billy’s like standby Chioda I’m like, guys, let me know. He’s just he’s getting worse. Because he didn’t come off the rope. He was on that rope one time he wouldn’t come on from like, yo, yo, when he first asked me it’s like, I’m okay. I’m okay. But then he just started getting worse, you know, as the concussion really kicked in. And I didn’t hear anything from Gorilla at that point. I’m thinking holy sh*t. Like, I know, they paid us a lot of money to be here. I know. They paid the talent I think a lot of money. I think Goldberg got a couple million. This one got this. I got my 200 You know, you know, but it was like, you know, they paid us a lot of money.. I gotta finish this, like the old-school way. You know, and he did finish it barely, you know. And that man’s leader rang man, he’s the he’s the godfather of business. So anybody to be in there with? It would be Taker, that’s for sure.”

What is Mike Chioda grateful for?

“The beautiful mom and sisters I had in my life, my wife and my health.” 

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