Monday, April 10, 2017

WWE needs to grow up: JBL and bullying

As of today, all indications are that Mauro Ranallo will sit out the remainder of his WWE contract with no hope of renewal in August. It's a far shot away from the enthusiasm he clearly felt for his WWE run when he joined the Smackdown announce team on its move to USA Network in January of last year.

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Before WWE, Mauro made no secret of his mental health issues. He dealt with them very publicly at times. I was already a fan of Ranallo from his days as the voice of Elite XC and Strikeforce as well as his amazing work as the American play by play commentator of New Japan's World Pro Wrestling (better known in the US as NJPW on AXS.) He was easily the biggest get for WWE on commentary since Joey Styles in 2005.

And it all came to an end weeks ahead of Wrestlemania and all reports were that JBL was the cause.

If this was the first report about John Bradshaw Layfield acting like a bully in the locker room it would be one thing. But JBL makes no secrets of his history with hazing and bullying. He and former tag partner Ron Simmons have even laughed about it at two straight WWE Hall of Fame shows.

Maybe in the 80s and 90s such things were still considered okay, but the world is a very different place in 2017 than it was in the Attitude Era. And let's be honest: for all the greatness of that time in wrestling, the horror stories far outweigh the highs of the ratings. And backstage, JBL was a key figure in torturing several workers, often to the point they quit the company and wrestling entirely.

The rumors of JBL's personal attacks on Ranallo (several of which could be seen on JBL's twitter before the rumors about the situation came to light) have snowballed in recent days as CBS Sports, Mauro's employer as the continued voice of Showtime's combat sports, have went on record that Ranallo would not be returning to WWE.

The release of former WWE announcer Justin Roberts book doubles down on these stories as he discusses frequent bullying from JBL during his twelve years with the company. JBL took to Twitter to say Roberts' claims were false, only for Johnny Mundo to in turn confirm the story as written.

In the heat of this, former WWE commentator and current ESPN Sports Center host Jonathan Coachman, a man that has regularly brought WWE workers onto the world's largest sports network, has announced he will no longer cover WWE product on Sports Center. Even if WWE manages to maintain their relationship with ESPN, the loss of a man so related to the WWE product only makes them look worse in public eyes.

And as I write this, more and more sports sites are picking up on the story.

At this point, WWE pretty much has one way to save face in this situation. It is time to release John Bradshaw Layfield from his contract. In a world where Jim Cornette and Bill DeMott have been excised from developmental for much the same behavior, WWE cannot afford to have an employee like JBL on the roster anymore.

His era is done. This kind of behavior, whether physically or verbally, has no place behind the scenes of WWE. And it is insane that a company that spends millions of dollars on the Be a Star campaign would ever let this continue for so long.

I am but one lonely wrestling blogger in a world of millions of wrestling fans. I have already taken to Twitter to let WWE know my WWE Network subscription is on its last month should JBL remain as a voice of Smackdown Live. I encourage everyone else out there to do the same. Let WWE know this kind of continued behavior will hurt their pocketbooks in the long run.

It's time for them to make the change. Or we will.

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