COMMENTARY – With the news this week that Mauro Ranallo has left WWE and will no longer be part of SmackDown Live’s broadcast team, professional wrestling has lost one of the best in the business today.
According to Fox Sports, news about Ranallo’s departure has been swirling for weeks amidst rumors that he was engaged in a battle with color commentator John “Bradshaw” Layfield, who was accused of bullying the 47-year old Canadian.
Ranallo has now addressed his exit from WWE while also putting to bed any rumors about why he left the organization in a statement sent to Newsweek. He swore it has nothing to do with Layfield and the swirling allegations between the two commentators.
“WWE and I have mutually agreed to part ways. It has nothing to do with JBL,” Ranallo told Newsweek by email. A WWE spokesperson confirmed Ranallo’s exit and said he will remain under contract through August 12.
Per Newsweek.com, professional wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer reported in the April 3 issue of his Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Ranallo’s sudden hiatus was at least in part triggered by backstage hostilities with Layfield, a retired wrestler who has come under scrutiny by former employees, including ring announcer Justin Roberts, in the past for his alleged hazing of WWE talent.
Layfield spoke heatedly about Ranallo on the March 13 episode of Bring It to the Table, a panel show that airs on WWE’s over-the-top streaming service, WWE Network. Layfield scolded Ranallo for acknowledging the results of a fan-voted poll naming him announcer of the year in 2016. Ranallo subsequently missed the March 14 episode of SmackDown Live , stoking internet chatter that Layfield’s remarks were responsible for his absence. In a statement to Newsweek, Layfield said he was just playing up his character as a bad guy.
In this case, I think Layfield’s real persona was revealed. As one of the “boys” backstage, Layfield admitted he has been part of several incidents over the years while in the business.
“Admittedly, I took part in locker room pranks that existed within the industry years ago,” Layfield told Newsweek in a statement. “WWE addressed my behavior and I responded accordingly, yet my past is being brought up because of recent unfounded rumors. I apologize if anything I said playing ‘the bad guy’ on a TV show was misconstrued.”
Bullying in wrestling is nothing new to this business. Whether it was a neophyte learning the ropes on the road with veteran superstars like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and Dick Murdoch or John Cena unwilling to work with some talent in years past or politicking for Nikki Bella to retain the Divas Title, it exists even today. Randy Orton used to use his “position” to keep other wrestlers down (Kofi Kingston) and Goldberg, for all his popularity, was known for being hard to work with and someone who would not lose matches.
Different forms, same results.
The JBL-Ranallo situation, whatever fans and WWE personnel want to call it, is just another example. It could also be inferred JBL is the new Mr. McMahon character, adding commentary to on air events that have no relation to matches in the ring. While it seems like Roberts wants to be the “tell all” former employee, Ranallo wants to remove himself from the situation. Both have an impact on how the company will move forward.
In Ranallo, WWE loses its best play-by-play man and the best to come around since Jim Ross.
WWE issued a statement about the “situation,” trying to defuse any more speculation.
A WWE spokesperson said: “As part of our commitment to creating an inclusive environment, in April 2011, WWE launched our anti-bullying campaign, Be a STAR, which encourages young people to treat each other with tolerance and respect.”
In the end, Ranallo left the company, JBL is still working backstage and on Tuesday nights and nothing was resolved. All it proves is bullying is still an issue in this business and will never be eliminated from the equation. As long as JBL and the “boys” still have a say backstage, the problem will continue to escalate into something potentially bigger.