This week’s episode of SmackDown was markedly different. Instead of the usual four-man announce crew, only Tom Phillips and John Bradshaw Layfield were there to call the action. Phillips mentioned it in passing that color commentator David Otunga was filming a movie, and the usual play-by-play announcer, Mauro Ranallo, was unable to make the show due to the blizzard in the northeastern parts of the United States. The show went off without a hitch, with Phillips and JBL able to perform their duties without any issues.
According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Ranallo’s absence was not due to the weather. Host Dave Meltzer wrote that while WWE claimed Otunga was filming a movie and Ranallo was held back by the weather, “at least half of that was true, since Otunga was out filming a movie.” Co-host Bryan Alvarez asked what he meant, and Meltzer replied that he could not talk about it.
This led to much speculation that Ranallo, who is a known sufferer of bipolar disorder, was having either a manic, or a depressive episode, and was therefore unable to work. This theory is supported by the fact that Ranallo’s Twitter, which is usually very active with a lot of tweeting and retweeting, was noticeably silent. In fact, Ranallo has not tweeted since March 13, when a fan said he was excited to see him. Ranallo simply replied that “snow may stop that from happening.”
Others have speculated that Ranallo received offers from the UFC to be a commentator for them. UFC commentator Mike Goldberg is no longer with the company, and many suspect that UFC may have poached Ranallo to be their new play-by-play announcer.
When Ranallo was absent from the latest SmackDown, shots were fired against him. Former WWE commentators Taz and Josh Matthews criticized Ranallo for missing shows, saying that they once drove with Michael Cole for two days in dangerous conditions to make it to a SmackDown taping.
Taz also had more to say, claiming that it was not professional to miss shows.
“You can not miss a show. You can’t. You can’t miss a show. When you miss a show — in no order of preference — you get heat with the locker room, you get heat with your boss, you get heat with your broadcast colleagues. It’s just not a regular job. You are there once a week, and you are making a lot of money with a massive, massive platform. You’ve got to be there. You’ve got to make the shot. No matter what happens. Mauro is from Canada, okay, so he’s well-versed when it comes to weather and snow. People knew the storm was coming for days.”
While refraining from commenting himself, former WWE announcer Jim Ross retweeted Taz’s comments.
Because Ranallo’s contract is supposedly running out, many suspect that he has stopped caring since he is on his way out. Others have noticed he had become a lot more flustered in recent weeks, often flubbing lines or getting names wrong. He constantly called the Elimination Chamber match “Hell in a Cell,” and has repeatedly referred to WWE Superstar Curt Hawkins as “Chad Hawkins.” Many also feel that the presence of Phillips at the announce table is throwing Mauro off his game. Phillips is seen as a replacement for Ranallo and a “message,” although it is much more probable that he is there to learn and eventually replace either Ranallo or play-by-play announcer Michael Cole.
Regardless, many do not wish to see Ranallo go, as he is highly thought of by many fans who enjoy his unique way of calling action.
[Featured Image by WWE]