As a wrestling fan, I try to stay out of the negative side of the business as much as I can. But this backstage story that has dominated the dirt sheets as of late, and has even permeated onto the sports news scene, is just too big to ignore – and very close to home for me. Just to bring you up to speed, in case you don’t know, former Smackdown Live announcer Mauro Ranallo has decided to part ways with the WWE after allegedly being ridiculed and bullied backstage by his co-announcer on Smackdown Live, JBL, John Bradshaw Layfield. JBL had apparently made some inappropriate comments towards Ranallo regarding his workmanship in the WWE, his popularity with the fans and on the internet, and even allegedly made remarks regarding Ranallo’s well-documented history of bi-polar disorder and depression. And although Ranallo recently came out and said his sudden and immediate departure from the WWE had nothing to do with JBL, there are numerous sources that can counter that and other past WWE employees who can back up and substantiate the claims of JBL’s bullying antics as a main source of Ranallo’s leaving the company.
You see, for as long as JBL has been with the WWE, he has had a reputation of being a prankster and a bully towards members of the locker room and other WWE staff members. From members of the WWE’s female staff and performers, to other mid-card wrestlers, and other on air announcing personalities. Former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts has come out as saying that JBL was nothing but a pest and bully to him throughout his WWE tenure. Former ECW and RAW announcer Joey Styles also had a very public altercation with JBL regarding his bullying tactics. Dave Meltzer, the acclaimed pro-wrestling journalist, has hinted that JBL may have bullied and tormented former ring announcer Lillian Garcia after she took some time off to deal with the sickness and death of a family member and even for some surgery she had to repair and in ring injury.
But announcers are not JBL’s only targets as he has been known to or accused of bullying, hazing, intimidating and harassing (even to a sexual nature) some other WWE employees, including wrestlers. Mike Mizanin (professionally known as The Miz), Mark Henry, Matt and Jeff Hardy, Mike Bucci (aka Simon Dean), Shawn Daivari, Lisa Moretti (aka Ivory), and a host of other wrestlers have previously publicly spoken about JBL’s bullying of the WWE locker room, as has former head of WWE security Jimmy Noonan. Wrestlers like Renee Dupree, Adam Copeland (known as Edge), Steve Blackman, and others have even called JBL’s bullying and harassment sexually abusive and inappropriate beyond compare. One infamous example of JBL’s bullying that was caught on camera was his public beating of Brian Heffron (known as The Blue Meanie) when he deliberately and maliciously bloodied and injured him at the 2005 ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view event.
Former WWE on air talent Amy Weber also has admitted that she left the company after being hazed and sexually harassed by JBL and others during her short time with the company. Other WWE personnel who have suffered at the hands of JBL include WWE referees Charles Robinson and Billy Silverman, as well as personnel like Chris Kay and Carl DeMarco, the president of the Canadian arm of the WWE at the time.
And JBL’s mistreatment of WWE personnel is only going to continue as he has a very close relationship with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, who has been said to be a fan of JBL’s tactics and has even encouraged his bullying behavior. WWE’s Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, and husband to Stephanie McMahon, Paul Levesque, is also said to be a huge fan of JBL’s bullying and hazing. Stephanie McMahon, the Chief Brand Officer for the WWE, has also been accused of turning a blind eye to the numerous accusations. With the support of these prominent, high-ranking officials within the WWE, it shows an underlying and systemic problem within the WWE to encourage and ignore such a serious problem. And that is just a sad state of affairs considering that the WWE has an anti-bullying campaign, Be A Star.
How can a company that sponsors and advocates an anti-bullying campaign be at the center of such a huge and long-lasting controversy turn a blind eye and even encourage this type of behavior? Instead of coming out against or even dissuading JBL’s bullying tactics, the WWE has chosen to ignore the problem altogether and are even taking steps to cover up the incident. When fans show up with #FireJBL signs at live WWE events, especially television tapings, the event staff have been ordered to remove the signs or escort the fan out of the arena altogether. When chants of “Fire JBL” have been heard at televised WWE live events, the technical and audio personnel have been ordered to mute the sounds of the crowd so as they are almost inaudible on TV. When people on social media have questioned the WWE’s actions, inquired to the controversy surrounding JBL, of have shown support for Mauro Ranallo, they have been blocked and unfollowed by JBL and other WWE personnel – even if they are other professional wrestlers or journalists. The WWE is even making an attempt to reach an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) settlement with Ranallo to keep him silent about the situation. For a company running an anti-bullying campaign to show so much ignorance and support of a known bully… it’s baffling and astounding.
For the WWE to let JBL get away with his kind of bullying and even encourage it on a man who has been known to suffer from a mental disorder… it’s bloody disgusting. And it hits home for me on a deep, personal level. I suffer from a mental disorder that went undiagnosed for several years, a condition that saw me even attempt suicide at one point because I could not deal with the issues at hand. Yes, over the years I learned to self-cope with my disorder, but I didn’t have to suffer through it at all had I received the help I needed years earlier. But forget about my problems; now my youngest son has been diagnosed with the same mental disorder that I was diagnosed with. (In fact, if it wasn’t for my son being diagnosed I would have never been diagnosed myself.) Seeing my son struggle with a disorder that he has trouble controlling, knowing what it is like to feel the same way and do nothing about it – it’s a horrible feeling. And to have an insensitive jerk poke fun or make light of your situation, it’s downright sickening.
And to see someone as notorious as JBL is with regards to bullying, hazing, intimidation, and harassment get away with something so egregious in a public manner is insulting and disappointing as both a fan of the WWE and a human being in general.
I’ve seen some people try to get the WWE to acknowledge and change the bullying culture that is pervasive in the WWE corporate structure by bringing signs to WWE events, chanting for the removal of JBL from the commentary team, and even state that they would boycott the WWE product by unsubscribing to the WWE Network or refusing to buy WWE merchandise, but in all honesty, as long as JBL has the backing and support of Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Paul Levesque, nothing is going to change. The best way possible to make any kind of change in this situation is to hit the WWE in a pocket so deep that they would be forced to address the situation – their corporate sponsors.
If you really want to send a message to the WWE that there is no place for the actions of JBL in today’s world, that his kind of attitude is an antiquated and barbaric mindset, then please write, call, or tweet the following sponsors of the WWE to pull their advertising from WWE events and programs to force the WWE’s hand in this matter.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
By making your voices heard about how you feel about the situation to the WWE’s corporate sponsors and letting them know that you do no support this kind of behavior and neither should they, by hitting the WWE in their corporate pockets, only then will you enable the kind of change you are hoping for… that we are hoping for.
I would also like to include a video here on the same subject by one of the wrestling YouTube personalities I highly respect and who has similar feelings towards this situation that I do: Brian Zane from Wrestling With Wregret.