Oli Davis rounds up the biggest professional wrestling news in this twice-daily WrestleTalk column…
Tonight’s episode of Monday Night Raw will see the beginning of the Superstar Shake-Up, a mini draft where several wrestlers will be traded between the two brands. Reading the headline ‘WWE announcer leaving Smackdown?’ might make you think – oh great. I can’t wait to hear David Otunga on Raw. Unfortunately, this isn’t a worked story.
Mauro Ranallo hasn’t been on WWE TV since the 14th March episode of Smackdown. Initially, WWE blamed his absence on travel issues. When Mauro missed the following week’s Smackdown, WWE said he was ill. It’s since come out that Mauro has been off television because of depression, which both the Wrestling Observer and Ranallo’s close friend Bas Rutten have blamed on the reported bullying attitude of JBL.
Ranallo has now updated his Twitter bio to not include any mention of WWE – similar to Eva Marie, who’s also reportedly done with the promotion. And CBS Sports are reporting he’s “not expected to appear on camera for the remainder of his WWE contract”. WWE’s only reply to these reports are that “Ranallo remains under contract with the company until Aug. 12, 2017.”
Mauro has tweeted that he’ll be returning to podcasting shortly and hopes to call MMA soon, accompanied with a quote from Buddha:
"Three things cannot be hidden: The sun,the moon,and the truth." -Buddha.
— Mauro Ranallo (@mauroranallo) April 8, 2017
About that ‘truth’. Mauro’s unfortunate story is slowly exposing the bullying culture embedded in WWE, specifically the actions of JBL.
JBL was reportedly legitimately angry with Ranallo when Mauro tweeted about winning the Wrestling Observer Announcer of the Year award last month. Because WWE is a very weird company, apparently there’s an unspoken backstage rule where you don’t publicise awards from outside your own promotion. It’s thought JBL’s response to this, particularly his burying of Ranallo on WWE’s Bring It To The Table show, was what triggered Mauro’s latest bout of depression.
This comes at the same time as the release of former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts’ book Best Seat in the House, which “talks extensively about being bullied by John Layfield for no apparent reason.”
In one story, Roberts recalls an incident in the early 00s where his passport was stolen while on a WWE tour of the UK, and wasn’t returned. This led Roberts having to go to the US Embassy in London, have his documents reissued, fly back to America and then travel across the country to catch up with the Smackdown crew. As he writes 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.”
Despite not being named by Robert as the theif, JBL responded to this on Twitter:
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
David Bixenspan is reporting on Deadspin that just because JBL didn’t take Justin’s passport, that doesn’t necessarily mean he wasn’t behind the torment, as John Hennigan – who wrestled in WWE as John Morrison – revealed: “JBL asked me and my partner [Joey Mercury] to steal [Justin’s] passport, and we didn’t.”
The most significant part of this story, though, is how JBL is a symptom of a problem, not the cause. As Roberts recalls, once he caught up with the Smackdown crew following the passport theft, he sat in the production meeting when, “[Vince McMahon] walked by me, he just whispered to me: ‘Don’t forget your passport! Ha-haa!’ and walked away. That’s when I knew there was no sympathy in that company. This stuff is encouraged.”
The Wrestling Observer notes “everyone knows how tight Layfield is with Vince McMahon…the belief across-the-board is Layfield’s weeding out those who can’t take it comes from above.” Simply getting rid of JBL isn’t the solution here. There’s a whole company culture that needs to be drastically overhauled.