In the WWE, rumors of backstage bullying are nothing new. And in a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything, former ring announcer Justin Roberts openly talked about what he feels is a culture of bullying in WWE, with former World Heavyweight Champion and current SmackDown Live announcer John Bradshaw Layfield, or JBL for short, as the alleged ringleader.
Justin Roberts had worked for WWE as a ring announcer from 2002 to 2014, and since opting not to renew his contract with the company, the 37-year-old Roberts has moved on to the independent scene, serving in a similar capacity for ECW legend Tommy Dreamer’s promotion House of Hardcore. He has also become one of the more recent wrestling personalities to work on his own autobiography, having released his book, Best Seat in the House: Your Backstage Pass through My WWE Journey, on April 1.
It was that book he was promoting when he took part in a Reddit AMA on Tuesday, as he answered a variety of questions from Reddit users all over the world.
Wrestling Inc. published some of the highlights of the Justin Roberts AMA, primarily his accusations of backstage bullying against JBL, and how he was one of JBL’s many victims back when he was one of WWE’s top main event wrestlers.
“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.”
— WrestlingINC.com (@WrestlingInc) April 5, 2017
Among others, JBL’s bullying victims in the WWE locker room also allegedly included The Miz and John Morrison, who were supposedly picked on by the big Texan for “not celebrating enough” after they won the WWE Tag Team Championships. And while Roberts suggested that JBL has mellowed down since returning to WWE as a commentator, he believes that he still comes about as a bully whenever he interacts with fellow announcer Byron Saxton.
WWE rumors suggesting that The Miz was previously picked on by JBL have been well-documented prior to the Justin Roberts AMA. WhatCulture related one story where JBL would supposedly keep riding The Miz for his background as a star on MTV’s The Real World, running him down in on-air promos and suggesting backstage that the then-WWE newcomer didn’t know how to wrestle. More than a decade after those purported incidents, The Miz has become one of WWE’s more successful active wrestlers, and had recently enjoyed a long and well-received run as the company’s Intercontinental Champion.
Justin Roberts also noted that JBL’s acts of bullying during his time as a wrestler weren’t a one-man operation; Roberts claims that JBL “had a group” of other wrestlers which he led in “terrorizing” other WWE Superstars, especially newer competitors. Roberts alleges that the group also included Bob Holly, Kid Kash, and Orlando Jordan, who have since retired and/or left WWE.
“(JBL) had taken my passport out of my bag, and the next tour I guarded it with my life. On the flight back, Orlando Jordan told me he would watch my back and I should go to the gift shop. I didn’t take his advice. I also remember being told I had to bring beer to the guys on the plane, but I got out of that, luckily.”
In professional wrestling organizations, the WWE included, “ribbing” is a generally accepted part of backstage culture – while oftentimes not tantamount to outright bullying, this refers to the act of pulling a prank on one’s fellow wrestler, sometimes in the spirit of fun, sometimes in an attempt to haze a younger and/or newer competitor. According to Justin Roberts, ribbing can often be severe enough to be considered bullying, and WWE hasn’t done much, if at all, to control such behavior.
“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 (WWE Chairman) Vince (McMahon) and (WWE vice-presidents) Kevin (Dunn) and Hunter (Paul “Triple H” Levesque) like to entertain themselves and it still happens.”
— With Spandex UPROXX (@WithSpandex) April 1, 2017
Aside from his candid tales of alleged backstage bullying, Roberts also touched on a couple of interesting WWE-related rumors – why Daniel Bryan was briefly fired in 2010 over the violent Nexus “invasion” angle, and whether Justin flipped off announcer Michael Cole at ringside on his final night in the company. Regarding the first rumor, Roberts said that WWE’s creative team was pleased with how Bryan, while in character, choked him with his necktie, but had to give in to a sponsor who was upset with this violent gesture. As for the second rumor, Roberts denied ever flipping the bird at Cole, even if it was Cole himself who supposedly orchestrated Roberts’ release from WWE.
Rumor or not, backstage bullying is a serious accusation to make against WWE wrestlers past or present, and Justin Roberts did soften the blow by telling one Redditor that he was treated “awesome” by most of his co-workers. But he added that he felt mistreated by his higher-ups, which is the main reason he wouldn’t consider working for WWE again if given a chance.
[Featured Image by WWE]