There have long been stories about SmackDown LIVE announcer John Bradshaw Layfield and his role backstage at WWE. His reputation as what some would call a pranskter and locker room enforcer, and others would call a bully who hazes people, has come back into the discussion recently because of two separate stories - one current, and one from a few years back.
JBL commented on both earlier today (April 7).
Mauro Ranallo’s been absent from the blue brand announce desk for a month, and the company’s been silent on the matter other than having Tom Phillips, who’s taken over play-by-play in his absence, commenting Ranallo was “out sick” on the March 21 broadcast. After Tweets from Mauro seemed to confirm speculation he was dealing with issues related to his mental health, his friend Bas Rutten confirmed Ranallo’s bipolar disorder as the reason for his absence.
Rumors have pointed to negative comments from JBL - while in character on screen and backstage - as something that triggered whatever specific issues with which Mauro is dealing. Approached on Twitter about the situation, Layfield said he wouldn’t comment on “internet stuff”, and wished Ranallo well:
@JoeCroninJCS No Joe, and I won't-I shouldn't commenting on Internet stuff. I play a heel. I sincerely wish Mauro nothing but the absolute best.— John Layfield (@JCLayfield) April 7, 2017
Some older incidents have also come up thanks to Justin Roberts’ new book, Best Seat in the House: Your Backstage Pass through My WWE. During a recent reddit AMA (ask me anything), Roberts answered a question about some of the stories he told about JBL in his book by saying:
He terrorized guys.
It's funny because people are bringing this up now because of the stuff going on now and the book release, but this was like 2003-2004; it was a long time ago.
He terrorized me, and a lot of guys. He'd make life hell for a lot of guys. He chewed Miz and Morrison out after they won the titles for not celebrating enough.
He was eventually let go back then, and when he came back he was a lot better, but he was mostly only showing up for TV. Even now, it comes across on commentary with how he is with Byron.
One of the specific stories Roberts tells in Best Seat in the House was from a United Kingdom tour where his passport was stolen the night before the crew was set to fly back to the States. It was never returned and he needed to go to the U.S. embassy to have it reissued so he could fly back home. As he said in the book, “Stealing a passport out of someone’s bag is a pretty evil rib and not giving it back means it’s no longer a rib.”
Layfield responded to that specific situation in another Tweet:
I won't answer Net rumors-but I didn't take Justin Roberts passport. Could have been anyone/he was hated by the whole crew. He's an idiot.— John Layfield (@JCLayfield) April 7, 2017
While JBL may not have been the person who took his passport (Roberts talked in the AMA about the then-World champ’s “group”, which he says consisted of “Bob Holly, Kid Kash, and Orlando Jordan was like JBL's stooge”) the rest of Layfield’s Tweet does make it sound like he’d be capable of some other things he’s accused of in Best Seat in the House. Such as:
JBL would throw my bags down the street…he typically referred to me as dipshit and numbnuts despite my always trying to do a great job…every day I saw him, he asked me why I was still alive and told me to go kill myself.
Guess he was just playing a heel.
Most of these rumors and stories are technically hearsay, but as they’re delivered over a long enough period of time and from enough different people - and in Roberts’ case, via first-person account, they become harder and harder to dismiss completely.
It’s certainly a situation a company like WWE, involved in promoting anti-bullying campaigns, doesn’t want getting mainstream attention. Thus far, it’s stayed within the wrestling media. Will it stay in our corner of the internet, or continue to pick up steam? Does JBL responding, and in the manner he has, help or hurt?