It should come as no surprise that the news has just been made official — Mauro Ranallo has left WWE. But contrary to what had been speculated since he first took an absence from his job on the SmackDown Live announce team, he claimed his decision wasn’t due to colleague John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL)’s alleged bullying.
In an emailed statement to Newsweek, the 47-year-old Ranallo confirmed his departure from WWE, saying that it was a mutual decision coming from both sides, and not connected in any way to JBL’s behavior.
“WWE and I have mutually agreed to part ways. It has nothing to do with JBL.”
On the March 13 episode of the WWE Network show Bring it to the Table, JBL was openly critical of Mauro’s behavior on social media, particularly his decision to tweet out the fact he had won the Wrestling Observer’s “best announcer” voting. Ranallo missed the next day’s episode of SmackDown Live and hadn’t been seen on television since. This led to many fans accusing JBL of verbally bullying Ranallo to the point of triggering a bout of depression, especially since the veteran MMA, boxing, and pro wrestling announcer has been very open about his long-term battle with bipolar disorder.
Earlier this month, CBS Sports wrote that Mauro Ranallo was likely leaving WWE, having removed all mentions of the company from his Twitter account, as well as several WWE-related posts. Sources familiar with the issue told CBS Sports that Ranallo was expected to sit out the remainder of his WWE contract, which began on December 15, 2015 and was scheduled to end on August 12 of this year.
Although Ranallo had gone on record to say that his decision to part ways with WWE didn’t have anything to do with JBL, bullying allegations against the 50-year-old wrestler-turned-announcer had ramped up in the weeks since Mauro first stopped appearing on WWE television and pay-per-view. Earlier this month, former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts released his autobiography, Best Seat in the House, which included several accusations against JBL, who supposedly told Roberts on repeated occasions to “go kill (himself),” and asked some other wrestlers to steal his passport as a prank.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter had also reported extensively on the matter, going far beyond covering the possibility of Mauro Ranallo leaving WWE. The publication also cited stories from recently-returned WWE wrestlers The Hardy Boyz and ex-WWE talents such as Palmer Cannon and Don Callis that painted a picture of JBL as a notorious backstage bully. On this week’s issue of the newsletter, Dave Meltzer wrote about an unnamed non-wrestler who was scolded by JBL for missing shows, despite the fact that the non-wrestler had recently undergone a minor operation, while also having a terminally-ill relative.
Meltzer did not name the person, or even their gender in his report, but WrestlingNews.co wrote that based on the clues Meltzer had included, he may have been referring to another former WWE ring announcer, Lilian Garcia, who had left the company in 2016.
In the light of Mauro Ranallo leaving WWE, JBL issued his own statement to Newsweek, confirming that WWE had spoken to him about the bullying and hazing allegations, while still stressing that his comments against Ranallo on Bring it to the Table were part of his villainous on-camera persona.
“Admittedly, I took part in locker room pranks that existed within the industry years ago. WWE addressed my behavior and I responded accordingly, yet my past is being brought up because of recent unfounded rumors. I apologize if anything I said playing ‘the bad guy’ on a TV show was misconstrued.”
A WWE spokesperson also prepared a statement for Newsweek, maintaining that it took the JBL bullying allegations seriously and looked into the matter.
“As part of our commitment to creating an inclusive environment, in April 2011, WWE launched our anti-bullying campaign, Be a STAR, which encourages young people to treat each other with tolerance and respect.”
“As a publicly traded company, that mantra carries forward in our corporate culture. As such, we fully investigate any allegations of inappropriate behavior including the recent alleged situation with John Layfield (aka JBL), despite no formal complaint having been submitted.”
With the departure of Mauro Ranallo, that leaves WWE’s SmackDown Live announce team down to three men — JBL, Tom Phillips, and Byron Saxton. Ranallo has since returned to MMA commentary, though he did leave open the possibility of calling professional wrestling matches at some point in the future.
[Featured Image by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Time Warner Cable]