Before becoming a referee for AEW, Stephon Smith was seriously considering leaving the wrestling business 2023

It is often believed that a professional wrestler’s retirement is never permanent. Apparently, this also applies to referees.

Last week on the “AEW Unrestricted” podcast, AEW referee Stephon Smith stated that he was prepared to leave professional wrestling before deciding to attempt a new job as an official.

Smith wrestled for over a decade in promotions like Ohio Valley Wrestling, the NWA, and IWA Mid-South before becoming a referee. In 2018, Smith’s final year on the independents, he stated that he was “sort of depressed” about his career.

“It wasn’t moving as quickly as I would have liked,” he continued, “so I attempted to quit wrestling cold turkey. Just remark, “You know what, this is my final performance.” Really, screw it, I’m not telling anyone. I’m simply done.’ And, you know, the business kind of automatically drags you back in.”

Smith began refereeing instead of performing in the ring because it was less stressful, and in 2019 he landed a position with WWE’s developmental “NXT” brand. The referee finally departed WWE in 2021 to return to the indie scene, seeking to attract the attention of AEW. Smith stated that he sent an email to AEW inquiring about employment prospects.

“AEW reached out to me again to perform ‘Dark’ in Orlando, and that’s how everything came together,” Smith added. “It just so happens that I did a few bouts, and Tony Khan, being at the forefront of this thing, was simply walking up to me and asking if I could be in Atlantic City. And from Atlantic City answered to my employment as a full-time referee for AEW.”

From its start, All Elite Wrestling has been renowned for its enormous surprise appearances at PPV events, tournaments, open challenges, battle royals, and sometimes even when least anticipated. Throughout the years, Tony Khan has frequently hinted at major additions and has delivered the majority of the time.

A former member of the WWE main roster or NXT roster can arrive at any time and alter the company’s whole landscape. Even top-tier independent talent has unexpectedly appeared on AEW programs and has since advanced their careers. Some of the biggest stars in professional wrestling have debuted for All Elite Wrestling at some of its biggest events to date. Despite the fact that several of these debuts have been significantly more than mid-card, this list highlights the coolest debuts we’ve witnessed in AEW yet.

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