Former WWE official Mike Chioda has opened up on what Gorilla Monsoon meant to him, both when he started out in the wrestling industry and later on in the Hall Of Famer’s life.
Gorilla Monsoon became one of the top competitors during the 1960’s and 70’s, whilst he was working inside the squared circle. However, quite possibly he earned more notoriety after his competitive retirement when he moved to the commentary booth.
Becoming an iconic voice and forging a legendary partnership with Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, the legacy of Monsoon lives on after his death with the position near the curtain backstage now known as ‘The Gorilla Position’, where he could often be found watching shows during his later years.
Mike Chioda recently appeared on Stories with Brisco and Bradshaw, where he discussed how Monsoon advised him to become a referee for longevity along with other sage advice.
Gorilla Monsoon always taught me and always gave me words of wisdom. I remember I was in the ring with The Brooklyn Brawler, Barry Horowitz, and Gorilla pulled me aside. He said ‘Hey, I thought you wanted to be a referee. I told you the refereeing is the longevity in this business.’ He then said ‘Guys can go out there and have a good 5 or 10 year run, there’s not many guys who will have a 20 or 25 year run as a wrestler. The longevity in this business is going to be refereeing.’
He goes ‘I don’t want to see you in there acting like you are one of the boys, because you are not one of the boys. If you want to learn how to bump as a referee, that’s fine.’ I said ‘Yes sir, yes sir.’
Then he always told me never stooge on anybody. ‘If you have to stooge on anybody to further your position, you’re not doing your damn job right.’ Then he goes ‘Then you need to get another job.’ That was the one thing I always remember from Gorilla, don’t stooge on anybody, for what reason. Just go in there, do your job right, you don’t have to worry about Barry or anybody to enhance your job. He gave me so many words of wisdom and has just been a great guy.
At this time Chioda became friends with Joey Marella, who was Monsoon’s son and also a referee with the company. One of Marella’s most notable match was being the third man for the WrestleMania III encounter between Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant, as well as being in the middle for Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog at Wembley Stadium for SummerSlam 1992.
Marella passed away following a car accident in July 1994 whilst travelling between shows. Chioda recalled how he found out that the crash he had passed with Tony Chimel actually involved his colleague and friend.
There were times like when Joey passed in a car wreck, coming home from a 17 day tour of Maryland. That car wreck, me and Tony Chimmel passed it, we didn’t even know that it was Joey in the car. I get the call at 6 in the morning from Gorilla at my house. It was devastating to me, it crushed me totally, we just passed by our friend in the car accident at like 4 in the morning. We didn’t even know it was him. It just crushed him [Gorilla] and everything.
The incident seemed to bring Gorilla and Chioda closer, which meant the pair ended up spending a lot more time together.
Then he said come home off the road for a while. I used to take Gorilla, he had a couple of things [wrong] with him. He was diabetic, fighting diabetes. I used to take him to the bakery and do his chores. We used to go on the weekends to places, he would buy my mum a bunch of stuff from the bakery. I used to run all the places with him.
He would always carry about $10,000 in his pocket, cash. It would never be less than 10 grand. I would drive to his house, do some chores and spend some time with him and help him out, say hi to Mrs. Gorilla. That family was a big impact to me in this business, I’m glad the right person like Gorilla Monsoon taught me well.
Gorilla Monsoon moved away from WWE commentary in the mid-90’s, when he became the on-screen company president. He was also inducted in to the WWE Hall Of Fame in 1994, and sadly passed away on 6th October 1999.
Chioda also recently spoke of the time he handed WWE Chairman Vince McMahon the keys to a truck, where the inebriated owner ended up performing doughnuts.
With thanks to Inside The Ropes for the transcription.