This part isn’t fake.
John Bradshaw Layfield, also known as “JBL,” is an analyst on WWE broadcasts, where he can be heard tooting his own horn as the longest reigning champion in SmackDown history. He’s a mouthy talking head whose script portrays him as a bully — both when he jostles with fellow commentators and when he gets involved with wrestlers in the ring.
It comes off as entertainment, a performer playing a role like any other on the show. But a former employee has accused Layfield of being a serial real-life workplace bully who harasses fellow announcers and wrestlers.
Layfield’s alleged behind-the-scenes harassment leaked into the public recently when Layfield attacked a fellow broadcaster for missing a “SmackDown” broadcast.
Mauro Ranallo, who signed with the company in December 2015, failed to appear at WrestleMania 33 on April 2 and also missed the following week’s SmackDown broadcast. WWE claimed he missed SmackDown because of bad weather. That turned out to be false.
WWE backtracked and said Ranallo was suffering from bipolar disorder, allegedly triggered by Layfield’s harassment. Layfield tweeted at Ranallo, calling him out for missing the event.
“I made the show, everyone made the show, everyone,” Layfield tweeted at Ranallo in messages that have been deleted. “Maybe he shouldn’t have bashed me if he wasn’t going to show up.”
The alleged public bullying first started in March, when Layfield was upset with Ranallo tweeting about a poll naming Ranallo the best announcer in wrestling by the Wrestling Observer. Layfield blocked Ranallo on Twitter and went on the WWE Network show “Bring it to the Table” in March and teased Ranallo about being named the winner.
Layfield backpedaled on Twitter recently and said he wishes nothing but the best for Ranallo.
Ranallo’s contract ends in August. He has disappeared from the air and he’s rumored to not be returning to his post, CBS Sports reported.
Another announcer, Justin Roberts, who worked for WWE from 2002-2015, said in a recent Q&A that Layfield made “life hell” for wrestlers and WWE personnel by bullying them behind the scenes.
Roberts said Layfield and his crew would mess with him, and offered an anecdote about how Layfield once took Roberts’ passport from his bag. When the passport went missing, Roberts was stuck at an airport in Manchester, England, and had to fly to London to retrieve a new passport from the U.S. embassy. Roberts accused other members of Layfield’s group of trying pull similar airport pranks.
Layfield denied Roberts’ claims on Twitter.
Although Layfield denied taking Roberts’ passport, he didn’t exactly rule out being involved in the incident. Layfield asked John Hennigan, who at the time went by “Johnny Nitro” in WWF, to steal Roberts’ passport, but Hennigan didn’t, Deadspin reported.
Roberts said he is not alone and there is a history of Layfield — some of which he happily admits — attacking his colleagues and WWE talent.
“It’s the mentality there,” Roberts said in the Reddit AMA. “The higher-ups don’t see it as bullying, they laugh it off and encourage it because they just find it funny. Obviously the locker room has changed, but Vince [McMahon], Kevin [Dunn, WWE VP] and Hunter [Hearst Helmsley aka Triple H] like to entertain themselves, and it still happens.”
There are countless other stories about Layfield harassing WWE employees. Here are some of the events that involved bigger personalities:
- In 2013, Mark Henry said Layfield bullied him when he was younger. Henry said Layfield would fiddle with his luggage and throw his wrestling gear into the showers with the water on.
- Matt Hardy, part of the popular “Hardy Boyz” tag team with his brother Jeff, said Layfield told the brothers to drive drunk and throw their beers at street signs. When they didn’t, Layfield allegedly told them to go to hell and they found their bags missing from the locker room.
- More recently, The Miz — one of WWE’s most popular stars — was insulted and hazed in front of wrestlers in the locker room. Layfield proudly admitted it. “Did I haze the Miz? Hell yes!” Layfield said, according to WrestleZone. “A lot of people want to talk about me and my hazing. Yes, I did. I make no apologies about it whatsoever.”
It sure looks as if WWE has a problem on its hand — a problem that’s been around for quite some time. Fans have grown tired of Layfield’s behavior, too, and the hashtag #FireJBL had made the rounds on Twitter after the alleged harassing of Ranallo as fans threaten to cancel their WWE Network subscriptions unless Layfield is let go. On this week’s episode of SmackDown, fans chanted, “We want Mauro” and “Fire Bradshaw” as the source of their ire sat ringside calling matches.
WWE has yet to comment on the alleged bullying by Layfield.