Bullying: The latest scandal rocking WWE’s public image
The recent stories of friction between Mauro Ranallo and John “Bradshaw” Layfield
dominated many websites, but the issue remains largely unaddressed by the company who has a history of backstage bullying and hazing.
Ranallo, who is pretty much no longer the Smackdown announcer and reportedly not appearing again till his contract runs out in August, can’t technically address the situation as he is still under a WWE deal. The popular announcer is currently on sick leave, battling depression, and has been off WWE television for over a month now.
While nothing official was announced, the reason Ranallo is out is because of the alleged bullying by fellow commentator JBL. JBL has a history of being one of the “leaders” when it comes to backstage shenanigans and was only silenced when he tried to pull something funny against guys who are legitimate bad asses in real life. Think of people like Steve Blackman and you get the idea.
The Wrestling Observer is reporting that WWE is trying to find a settlement with Ranallo that will prevent him from talking about the situation once he is no longer on a WWE deal.
Justin Roberts, the former WWE ring announcer, recently published his book which also details several bouts of bullying and hazing, specifically mentioning JBL. Layfield took to Twitter to counter these claims, calling Roberts an idiot who was disliked by many in the WWE locker room.
ESPN this week conducted an interview with Justin Roberts and briefly touched on the situation. Roberts didn’t pull any punches. “The overall culture there definitely starts above JBL, and that culture exists in many different forms. You see it on TV, you hear about it, you see it behind the scenes, so it’s really just something that comes from high up and trickles down,” Roberts said.
Roberts also said that if you’re a big fan and you work for WWE, you’re bound to get abused more. He mentioned that if you do good work, people will give you hell for it because there are some very insecure individuals backstage who can’t be happy for anyone else backstage.
Fans also lashed out at Jonathan Coachman of ESPN for not reporting the news of Ranallo. Coachman sided with his company and his former employer, saying they don’t report on rumors and then following the backlash, decided to no longer be part of the WWE reporting on ESPN. Coach is a good friend of JBL and did not say anything bad about him. Fellow ESPN employee Peter Rosenberg also called the whole thing a “witch hunt” and sided with JBL. Rosenberg is also on the WWE books and has his own WWE Network show so saying otherwise would have been the end of him in the company. When Eric Bischoff, the former WCW President who worked for WWE as Raw General Manager was asked about bullying and this specific incident, Bischoff pretty much toed the company line and said that he was always respected backstage and Bradshaw was good to him during his time there.
This week on Smackdown, WWE security ejected a fan who held a sign that read “JBL bullied me” after he refused to hand it over. Fans even chanted “Fire Bradshaw” during the show but so far, everything has fallen on deaf ears. The more WWE trie to hide it, the more it will eventually backfire.
The last time WWE had to publicly deal with a case of bullying and harassment was a few years ago when former developmental talent ganged up on Bill DeMott, the former head coach of the WWE Performance Center. WWE sided with their coach, but he eventually resigned amidst more allegations. He was replaced by Matt Bloom, a highly respected former WWE Superstar who has steered the ship away from any rough seas following DeMott’s departure.
Websites such as Yahoo.com, the New York Post, Sports Illustrated, and many others all featured the bullying allegations and wondered how long will WWE try to cover it. That seems to be the million dollar question at the moment and judging by how WWE has so far tried to deal with the situation, it looks like there is no end in sight.