Showing their stripes: WWE refs Chioda & Patton

Showing their stripes: WWE refs Chioda & Patton

They have been in the middle of some of WWE's greatest rivalries and have raised their arms high for the crowning of a new champion more than any Superstar in history. They also wear stripes.

WWE referees Mike Chioda and Chad Patton have a combined 27 years of officiating bouts at every type of WWE event in some places that most people only dream of visiting. Since it's long past possible to keep track, 15,000-plus matches is likely an underestimate for these two veteran referees, especially given senior official Chioda's credentials. (PHOTOS)

"I've been here since the start of [Monday Night] Raw," explained a humble Chioda, just hours before the 821st edition of WWE's flagship program went live on USA Network. "I've done every Raw possible, maybe missed only a few along the way."

This fact is something very few individuals in WWE can boast. It's particularly impressive considering that 24 years ago, a young, well-mulleted Chioda began his career constructing the ring he now governs. Before three-counts, disqualifications and everything in between, Chioda was a stagehand unloading trucks and setting up the squared circle he is sworn to protect.

"It does take three guys in there to have a clean, controlled and fair match," Chioda added, defining the vital position he and fellow zebras fill. "Five guys if it's tag team."

It could be this very apparent wisdom or perhaps Chioda's performance in headline confrontations such as Shawn Michaels' collision with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV that inspire fellow referee Chad Patton.

While his senior counterpart has presided over The Rock's battles with Austin and WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan in addition to many other memorable encounters, Patton himself has called countless bouts in his nine years of vertical stripes. Only his start in this unique entertainment industry was slightly different from Chioda.

"I started out with the ring crew, putting up the stage," Patton explained. "Shortly after that, I started ring announcing. [One night], they put me on the spot in front of 10,000 people in Rosemont in Chicago. I was scared to death. I was terrible at it."

As he detailed, Patton was not as proficient on the microphone as Tony Chimel would one day prove to be.

"They stuck me with that for about six months and after I got fired as a ring announcer, they had an opening for a referee, which I was very thankful for," he added with a slight chuckle.

Not with regret, Patton pushed forward to the role that has snugly fit him for nearly a decade and will continue to do so for years to come.

"I'm going to be here till I fall over in the ring," Patton joked of his incontestable commitment. "Whenever the time comes to give up the stripes, hopefully there's something else in the business that I can contribute to."

Such a sentiment is one Patton shares with Chioda and their fellow WWE referees, who prove their passion each night. If it's one group of individuals in WWE who can literally never be counted out, it's these black-and-white garbed guardians of the ring.

Want to meet the other zebras? Get a handful of feed and check out WWE Magazine's "Third Man" feature, spotlighting refs from all ends of the squared circle spectrum.

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