Veteran referee Mike Chioda, who was one of several employees released by WWE in April due to budget cuts, became the latest on-air talent from that group to find a new employer as he made his AEW debut on Wednesday’s episode of Dynamite.
Chioda was introduced as the referee for Cody Rhodes’ TNT Championship defense against Scorpio Sky, with his nameplate specifying that he has “33 years of officiating experience.” As noted by Ringside News, it was this veteran status — and the “healthy” paycheck that came with it — that seemed to be the main factor behind WWE’s decision to let him go after over three decades of service.
Although it’s still unclear whether or not Chioda has signed a long-term contract with AEW, the publication added that the company has been criticized in the past for its refereeing, with its in-ring officials oftentimes accused of being inconsistent or lax when enforcing the rules. Per a previous Ringside News article, another ex-WWE referee, Jimmy Korderas, recently described AEW officiating as a “big fail,” pointing to a tag team match at last month’s Fyter Fest pay-per-view where the official “did absolutely nothing except stand there and wait for the finish.”
Chioda’s AEW debut came two months after he spoke to the company’s inaugural World Champion, Chris Jericho, on his Talk Is Jericho podcast and opened up about his release from WWE amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As quoted by Pro Wrestling Sheet, Chioda said he missed six months of action after undergoing surgery for a torn bicep and torn rotator cuff and was ready to return in time for WrestleMania 36, which was taped toward the end of March. However, he found himself shocked to receive a call just a few weeks later informing him that he was being let go.
“I actually signed a new contract in the middle of March. My contract was up. I actually got a little bump in pay. And then I got a phone call on Tax Day. April 15th. It took me by complete surprise.”
Chioda also told Jericho that he wasn’t sure whether he had any “heat” with management, given how he was legitimately sidelined for six months and wasn’t even too active on social media in recent years.
With his appearance on this week’s Dynamite, Chioda became the second ex-WWE performer from April’s batch of releases to appear on AEW programming in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, Matt Cardona — formerly known as Zack Ryder — debuted for the promotion in a segment where he saved Rhodes after he was attacked by members of The Dark Order.