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Former NXT announcer on McAfee/Cole incident at WrestleMania: Yelling at people ‘part of the corporate culture’ at WWE

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Pat McAfee and Michael Cole made peace and went on with the show at WrestleMania 35 last Sunday (April 7). But combined with a lot of other reported backstage chaos from WWE’s Show of Shows, the new addition’s tale of being “yelled at like I’m a f***ing child in front of people” by the head of announcing has stirred up the conversation about what life is like for WWE employees/independent contractors.

It’s also brought back to the discussion the idea that there’s a corporate culture of bullying at WWE, something which has come up before and led to the resignation of NXT head coach Bill DeMott in 2015, and Mauro Ranallo’s exit from main roster commentary in 2017. Which isn’t something a company who routinely sends Superstars to anti-bullying rallies as part of their corporate philanthropy mission really wants in the conversation.

Nevertheless, it seems McAfee’s story may have done just that. Alex Del Barrio, who was hired as a member of the NXT announcing team from Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling promotion back in 2015 and released by WWE in 2016, tweeted about his experiences in response to the former NFL All-Pro’s. And they sound similar:

“Cole is a straight shooter, but he has a ridiculous and irrationally non-sensical temper.

I got yelled at for taking a selfie at the Axxess set (which was the same live event set for house shows) I got yelled at for being scruffy on the plane to Mania.. Even though other announcers flew on the same plane in shorts and a t-shirt when I was in a suit and tie (and I shaved when I got to the hotel before rehearsals)

I was yelled at in an announcing training session for saying ‘skinning the cat’ because it was an ‘insider term’. And we don’t use those on broadcasts...we do..and it’s gymnastics terminology used in wrestling....I was yelled at for buying a Whataburger after a show at #nxtjacksonville.... I was yelled at for not doing my new NXT pre-show music contest even though I was told by production (Berkley) that he wanted to wait until the following week until he had more music in the computer, but I was yelled at for not doing it.

I was only yelled at by Cole once. These were by other announcers who had it filtered down to them because the culture created. They look for the smallest things to criticize, berate and bully. If they like you, they look the other way. If they don’t they find ways to get you in trouble and cause this stigma about you within the company until you’re ultimately gone.

Cole I would argue has hired good talent, is underrated as a PXP guy when the reigns are taken off and when he wants to be an EXCELLENT teacher...but he also has a stupid temper, is fake when it comes to building a real culture of “team” and fosters a culture of not trusting anyone and being constantly afraid of losing your gig at every turn. There are several other stories from other folks in his circle that have more direct interaction with his temper. This McAfee story doesn’t surprise me AT ALL.

I want to add one more thing here that I think is important...I’m usually pretty good at dealing with “yelling” I was an athlete in HS, not a good one, but i didn’t mind the yelling if it was supported by coaching and honest criticism in order to help me improve. So I don’t want it to come off like I was sulking in the corner every time someone said or did something to me. Not like that at all, I’m just someone that speaks my mind and will always stand up for myself, especially if you’re just being a jerk for no reason.”

In response to supportive and critical feedback to his first thread, Del Barrio (who now works for local TV and radio in Texas, as well as independent wrestling promotions in the state) also tweeted about Cole:

“He’s the most defensive person ever... until he’s on headset....I was on headset at the Rumble and hearing him call Vince ‘sir’ was surreal considering the way he carries himself.”

But clarified he thinks Cole is just a product of the environment:

“Lol at all the people who think my thread is a knock on Cole. The dude is the hardest working guy at WWE outside of Hunter... my point is that his temper is part of the larger corporate culture. People get fired for non sensical shit at every level and dept. there. So anyone in management there feels obligated to act that way. They want you to walk on eggshells there. That all filters down. That leads to backstabbing and people making shit up about you to get you in trouble.”

The Ranallo situation brought similar stories - mostly from new AEW hire Justin Roberts. Will Roberts or others follow Del Barrio’s lead here, or will this just blow over like previous incidents?

Stay tuned.