From the file marked "headlines I never expected to write," WWE.com is reporting that WWE head referee Mike Chioda has been suspended for 30 days for a violation of the Talent Wellness Program. In other words, he failed a drug test. James Caldwell at PWTorch.com is under the impression that Scott Armstrong will will take over as head referee for the next month while Chioda is suspended.
Chioda's most recent high-profile match was a month ago as the referee for the John Cena vs CM Punk main event at Money In The Bank in Chicago. I didn't notice if he worked any matches at Summerslam last night.
The site that shall not be named for spyware reasons is reported that there may be one other suspension not yet named publicly by WWE, and is working on confirming it.
For those not familiar with the Wellness Program, only marijuana and alcohol positives aren't punished by suspension, instead leading to a $2,500 fine of the person who failed. Anything else on the banned substance list, including synthetic marijuana substitutes, are punished with suspension. The first strike is punished with a 30 day suspension, the second strike is punished with a 60 day suspension and the third strike gets you fired.
Prescription medications can be exempted on a case by case basis, except for muscle relaxers Soma and Miltown, which have been banned outright. Soma has been a favorite of many wrestlers with pill problems for years, and Miltown is a chemically similar drug that hit the market earlier. Since other, more modern muscle relaxers are much more effective as muscle relaxers when used as directed while also being much less likely to cause intoxication, there was no legitimate reason not to ban Soma and Miltown.
Jason Powell noted at ProWrestling.net that Mike Chioda is the first referee he knows of to be suspended under the policy. He's definitely the first referee to be suspended since WWE changed the policy effective November 1, 2007 to allow for all suspended talent to be publicly named.
Chioda is the longest tenured referee in WWE, with 22 years on the job. Jack Doan would be the next one behind him, as he started a few years later. Gorilla Monsoon had originally hired Chioda to work as a member of the ring crew five years earlier, and Gorilla's son, Joey Marella, trained Chioda when he was ready to transition to being a referee. he roles were still related, as the referees are in charge of the ring crew.
As I alluded to earlier, this is probably the most unexpected Wellness Program suspension that I can remember. While there are plenty of drug-related issues in wrestling that we don't hear about, it's still surprising to hear that the head referee whose name never really comes up in any way other than "Mike Chioda is a good referee" has been suspended for failing a drug test.
I suppose that in the coming days, we'll find out more details about this, possibly including the banned substance that Chioda tested positive for and the possible other suspension.