Fan excitement for WWE’s “Superstar Shake-Up” distracted a bit from the ongoing controversy surrounding SmackDown & 205 Live announcer Mauro Ranallo’s apparent exit from the company, and the role a history of bullying & hazing allegations about his broadcast partner John Bradshaw Layfield may have played in his departure.
But the issue is raging on Twitter with the hashtag “FireJBL”, and new media outlets such as Sports Illustrated are still picking up the story. If WWE hoped it would dissipate completely in the excitement of Miz and Alexa Bliss moving to Raw, those hopes were officially dashed last night (April 11) at SmackDown in Boston.
While it wasn’t as evident on television, several videos like this one found their way online, revealing “Fire Bradshaw” chants broke out on multiple occassions throughout the show:
Fire Bradshaw chants, Boston is behind Mauro! #SDLive pic.twitter.com/m4SwIzdTkL— John O'Clock (@JohnOClockWWE) April 12, 2017
And one fan was asked to leave for his “JBL Bullied Me” sign:
A fan just got kicked out for holding a "JBL Bullied Me" sign. #SuperstarShakeUp #SDLive #JBL pic.twitter.com/FnZ1mM8gUD— The Fan's Podcast (@TheFansPodcast) April 12, 2017
Worth noting - it’s unusual for a fan to be escorted out rather than just having a sign WWE deems offensive confiscated, so there may be more to the story behind that video. The guy certainly seems to have the support of several fellow audience members, however.
For his part, Ranallo Tweeted a response to someone at the start of the broadcast, asking fans to support the wrestlers. He didn’t directly (or indirectly) comment on JBL, but Layfield wasn’t mentioned in the Tweet he was answering, either:
Please support the men & women who put their bodies on the line. I am gonna be fine. No one buys a ticket for an announcer. https://t.co/xMRCn1Z7sO— Mauro Ranallo (@mauroranallo) April 12, 2017
Reports from Dave Meltzer and others point to JBL being a “Vince McMahon guy” who’s fairly entrenched, so most observers are not expecting this fan movement to attain its goal, but you never know. Most people didn’t expect Bill DeMott to lose his job at the Performance Center, either, and he was forced to step down amidst hazing allegations in 2015.
One tangible benefit of the uproar was what seemed to be a more subdued performance on commentary from Layfield Tuesday night, even when speaking to or about past targets like Byron Saxton and James Ellsworth.
More as this story continues to develop.