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John Layfield bullying and harassment allegations

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki

Layfield in 2006 in Iraq

In April 2017, a scandal arose concerning John Layfield, better known by the ring name John "Bradshaw" Layfield (commonly abbreviated as JBL), a professional wrestling color commentator and retired professional wrestler employed by WWE, the largest wrestling promotion in the world. He has been accused of severe bullying and harassment towards many of his colleagues, occasionally of possible sexual nature; he had previously admitted to carrying out hazing in WWE, and had refused to apologize for it.[1][2]

Although it was two separate accusations of bullying, one regarding fellow WWE commentator Mauro Ranallo and the other involving former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts, that brought major attention to Layfield's behaviour in 2017, according to The New York Post, Sports Illustrated, The New Zealand Herald, The Huffington Post, and The Wrestling Observer, accusations have been around since Layfield joined WWE in 1996.[3][4] The accusations are supported by many former WWE employees, with Layfield having reportedly bullied both backstage figures, and wrestlers themselves, particularly people that were new to WWE.

The accusations caused severe backlash from media and fans, as did WWE's decision to ignore the issue altogether and to not punish Layfield, instead turning him into a babyface (or "good guy" in professional wrestling terms) for the first time in thirteen years so he would appear more sympathetic to audiences, and editing out chants and signs by live audiences expressing their disapproval for his alleged actions. It also unveiled bullying within WWE on a larger scale, with WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, a close friend of Layfield, not only being reportedly aware of Layfield's attitude, but also encouraging it and being directly responsible of bullying himself.[5]


The April 2017 controversy regarding Layfield's alleged bullying was spurred on by two main allegations of bullying against Mauro Ranallo and Justin Roberts.[6] However, Sports Illustrated noted that Layfield already "has been accused for years of being a locker room bully",[6][7] while Deadspin wrote that "backstage tales of Layfield's hazing and bullying have long been legion among hardcore wrestling fans."[8] Dayton Daily News described that "YouTube has dozens of interviews where former [WWE] performers discuss harassment, bullying and taking real blows from Layfield while wrestling him in supposedly choreographed matches."[9] Le Journal de Montréal listed Mark Henry, Matt Hardy, René Duprée, Daivari, and Ivory, among others, as wrestlers who in interviews described Layfield as a bully.[10] Jimmy Noonan, WWE's former head of security also considers Layfield to be a bully, one of many in WWE according to him.[11] According to The Sun Layfield's reputation is well known among fans, stating that "Every long-time wrestling fan knows that the former WWE Champion has a reputation as a locker room bully."[3][4][12]

Mauro Ranallo[edit]

Layfield's fellow WWE commentator Mauro Ranallo, who suffers from bipolar disorder and is a mental health advocate, has been absent from WWE commentary since March 2017,[13] reportedly due to depression. One alleged reason for the illness (supported by Ranallo's close friend, UFC Heavyweight Champion and fellow mixed martial arts commentator Bas Rutten) was being bullied by Layfield.[14][15][16] On WWE's Bring it to the Table show, Layfield had mocked Ranallo for tweeting about winning the "Best Announcer" award from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.[8][16][17] Layfield had also scolded Ranallo both on television and online for being absent from WWE commentary.[9] Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer has stated that "many previous" commentary partners of Layfield have contacted him about having "suffered [the] same" with Layfield.[18]

Former UFC champion Pat Miletich has accused Layfield of strong-arming Ranallo and has expressed that he wants to confront Layfield for what he has done.[19] According to Rutten, Ranallo is under a NDA which prevents him from revealing details related to his harassment.[20] By April 10, Layfield began blocking anyone on Twitter who expressed their support for Ranallo.[21] In addition, Layfield began blocking various members of the media covering his alleged bullying over the years as well as people who follow Ranallo (including WWE employees).[22] On April 22, Ranallo released a statement to the Newsweek magazine, that he and WWE "have mutually agreed to part ways", despite being under contract, while declining reports that his departure was caused by bullying from John Layfield.[23]

Justin Roberts[edit]

In April 2017,[24] former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts published an autobiography in which he described various bullying incidents of "pure evil", some committed by Layfield. According to Roberts, Layfield "would verbally abuse guys, force them to drink and even force guys like Palmer Canon to quit mid-tour". As for the abuse suffered by Roberts himself, Layfield would constantly tell Roberts to commit suicide, asking him every day why he was still alive. Roberts has said he has done the same to Tony Chimel.[25] He also screamed[26] at Roberts no matter where he sat on WWE's tour buses, and often threw Roberts' luggage "down the street". There were also incidents of Layfield and Chris Benoit supposedly violently trying to enter Roberts' hotel room, and Layfield forcing Roberts to join the 'heel' tour bus so he could be scolded.[27] Roberts also detailed an incident of his passport being stolen during a WWE European tour by unknown persons, resulting in Layfield declaring, "I didn't take Justin Roberts passport ... he was hated by the whole crew. He's an idiot."[28]

However, former WWE wrestler John Morrison (then known as Johnny Nitro) recounted to Deadspin how Layfield told him and Joey Mercury (then known as the team MNM) to steal Roberts' passport on an overseas tour. MNM considered following Layfield's suggestion as they themselves were being bullied, having their ring robes' sleeves being cut off, but decided not to steal the passport. Deadspin then reported Morrison suffering "torment on and off for several years" until he "shoved" Layfield in 2009.[8]

Roberts issued further comments through an "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit, stating that Layfield "terrorized him" and "a lot of guys".[20] Roberts also pointed to Layfield's treatment of Byron Saxton on commentary as a more recent example of Layfield's bullying nature.[29]

Michael Mizanin[edit]

Layfield himself, in 2010, admitted to conducting past hazing in WWE in order to discover who was "too soft", with Michael Mizanin, better known by his ring name The Miz being one of the recipients; then said, "I'm not going to apologize for it. I don't give a shit." In that interview, he also declared there was "no place for" hazing in 2010's "corporate" WWE.[30][31] At another point Layfield commented on the situation as this; "Did I haze [the Miz]? Hell yes, I hazed him! Look, a lot of people want to talk about me, and did I haze people? Yes. Absolutely. I make no apologies for that whatsoever."[11] Mizanin was reportedly disliked by most of the older wrestlers at the time of his debut due to his reality television background and Layfield reportedly threw Mizanin's ring gear out of the locker room regularly, forcing him to change in the halls and bath rooms.[32] According to Justin Roberts, Mizanin and his tag team partner John Morrison were "chewed out" backstage after winning the tag team championships because they were not "celebrating enough for his taste."[33][34]

Matt and Jeff Hardy[edit]

The brothers Matt and Jeff Hardy reported that Layfield had encouraged them to buy six bottles of beer and drive their car home while throwing the beer bottles at road signs. The brothers did not go through with the challenge and when admitting it to Layfield were met with severe anger and resentment. They also stated that after their next match someone had stolen their bags, with clothes, money, credit cards, and everything else in the room was gone, after which Layfield came in and asked them if something was wrong.[11] Matt Hardy also went on to say that Layfield had instructed them to damage the car of wrestler Don Callis (to who Layfield referred to as "Monkey Boy") by inserting toothpicks into the keyholes and break them off so that Callis would be incapable of getting in his car.[20]


Professional wrestler Mike Bucci, formerly known as Simon Dean, spoke about Layfield harassing and terrorising him and several other people while in Iraq, "Everything [Bradshaw] did- he would drink and just terrorize people. It was horrible. I was just like, 'What does he get out this?' There were overseas trips, just all night on the bus, yelling at people and treating them like shit. Because he would sleep all afternoon. In the daytime he could sleep on the bus because nobody could say anything; they were all afraid, but at night time he's yelling at 'em."[11]

Wrestler René Duprée described Layfield harassing him daily while he worked for WWE, claiming that Layfield would regularly hurl degrading insults at him such as "faggot", and saying that his last three years with WWE were miserable for him. He also expressed that Layfield's behavior would have been interpeted sexual harassment had he been homosexual.[11] In a WWE-published autobiography, WWE wrestler Adam Copeland, better known as Edge, recounted how Layfield had interrupted his shower and started touching his buttocks, with the description "soaping my ass"; Copeland was new to the company at the time.[6] Layfield is also known to have touched the buttocks of wrestler and mixed martial artist Steve Blackman at an airport several times and continuing to do so after Blackman had repeatedly told him not to, which eventually prompted Blackman to punch Layfield in the face.[11] Layfield has been involved in at least one other physical altercation, with Joey Styles, who at the time was employed as's Director of Digital Media Content, punching Layfield in the face after he had pestered him and others for days in Iraq. Reportedly, many other wrestlers on the tour were appreciative of the event.[35] Robert Szatkowski, better known by his ring name Rob Van Dam has backed up the Styles incident and added that he believes that Layfield is an unsympathetic bully and that the incident probably bruised Layfield's ego.[36] Szatkowski also stated in an other interview that, while Layfield did not ever do anything to him personally, he did see Layfield harass Duprée "a lot", and added that he believed that Layfield would mistreat pretty much anyone whom he believed he could get away with mistreating.[37]

Amy Weber, who worked as Layfield's on-screen image consultant in 2005, has also accused Layfield and others of harassment, something which drove her to quit WWE.[38][39] In 2007, The Wrestling Observer reported that Layfield had "went off" on Carl DeMarco, who was the president of the Canadian arm of WWE at the time, because DeMarco proposed to have Vancouver host The Great American Bash. The same report also stated that Layfield held people like Charles Robinson and Chris Kay in contempt.[40] Charles Robinson was a former WCW worker, a rival company to WWE during the Attitude Era and was hazed and underwent "ribbing" that included being dragged out without a shirt and taped up and gagged in the TV area.[41] Layfield reportedly hazed Mark Henry, usually putting his gear in plastic bags and leaving them in the showers.[32]

According to Shawn Daivari, Muhammad Hassan was constantly bullied by Layfield, although Layfield was not the only one who did so against Hassan.[20] Lisa Moretti, a wrestler best known as Ivory, has characterized Layfield as being a "mean bully" and described him beating up new young wrestlers in the ring without the cameras being on, legitimately hurting them for no recognizable reason. She also described Layfield as being very concerned about hierarchy backstage, making younger people carry his bags, but also "sucking up" to new people like Brock Lesnar when the company has decided to make them into a "star" and always wanting to attach himself to important people. She described the behavior as "gross politicking", which according to her is common in WWE.[20]

Brian Heffron, better known as The Blue Meanie who said that Layfield legitimately attacked him from behind during a match at ECW One Night Stand in 2005, with Meanie needing 12 stitches after the resultant fight.[42] In 2001, referee Billy Silverman, who worked for WWF (the previous name for WWE) after WCW, described "all-day hazing": being forced to carry alcohol and transport it on flights and through customs while working for WWF, with Layfield, thinking he was "the head policeman of the WWF", being "the biggest instigator of all". Silverman said he complained to management, who told him to "just do it, it's okay, don't worry about it, it will all be good". In the end, Silverman tore his back muscles from "carrying the huge bags with liquor in them" and "left the tour". Silverman also described "being verbally abused and threatened with physical violence" by Layfield during a plane trip. Silverman eventually quit WWF due to the hazing.[43]

Underlying issues[edit]

Meltzer has reported that Layfield is very close to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, and that the "the belief across-the-board [within WWE] is [that] Layfield's weeding out those who can't take it comes from above."[8] VICE Sports described WWE's situation as "a crisis of its own making" and stated that Layfield's "decades-long reign of terror behind the scenes" is the result of the WWE's "carny-rooted" culture with "crude rituals of masculinity and dominance" that the company needs to move beyond in the modern day.[44] Bubba Ray Dudley supported the assessment that Vince McMahon encouraged Layfield's behavior, stating that Vince McMahon had specifically told Layfield to beat Dudley in their match together.[11] Former WWE broadcaster Rich Brennan has expressed that Layfield was incredibly hard to work with and that nothing could be done because of his close relationship with McMahon. "JBL was difficult to work with as a broadcast partner, there's nothing you can do about it because that's Vince's guy. With this whole thing going on (Mauro Ranallo situation) I don't know but it seems like he's entrenched there. He basically violates all the rules when it comes announcers in how we are trained to be announcers because he can."[45]

On the April 10, 2017 edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Meltzer, who had talked frequently in the past about the bullying culture from the people in charge of WWE, stated, "This is a company that is part of the Be a Star Alliance and whose talents go to schools and talk against bullying. And I believe most of the talents who do that are very concerned and real about the subject. But this is still a subject that is strong within the company and this incident really showed that. What’s notable is the industry has really evolved. In talking with a few people who spent a few years in WWE, but then went on to work in entertainment television, we noted how the WWE mindset is like nothing else. For those who cover pro wrestling somewhat closely, nor just do stories on it rarely and also do other sports, the reaction I’ve always gotten is they’ve never seen anything like it. The actual subject is the company hired somebody well known to have a mental health issue, and has worked for years to educate people on that subject and be almost a public spokesperson for it. It’s a company that has a strong public stance against bullying, yet people who have worked and do work for the company one after the other will tell you internally it’s very different. The belief across-the-board is Layfield’s weeding out those who can’t take it comes from above. I think the other aspect is knowing people who have known Ranallo for years and essentially being told exactly how this would probably play out right before it did also makes this situation so upsetting."[46] Meltzer also stated on the April 24 edition of WON that his connections in the company described the situation being that Ranallo, being different, made him the butt of jokes. Meltzer explained that one of his sources described it as "the smart guys being intimidated because they usually could get away with being the smartest in the room", but Ranallo had a great memory of knowledge of certain subjects that either left people in awe or feeling threatened. He was tabbed as "weird" and the production room was filled with people who according to the source were "emotionally still in high school"; Ranallo was in the position of being the "weird kid in school". In addition, Ranallo was outwardly bipolar, so that environment in the long-term was going to be problematic for him.[47]

Justin Roberts stated that Vince McMahon mocked him and joked about his passport being stolen (ostensibly by Layfield): "I was sitting in the production meeting, Vince [McMahon] is running the meeting, and when it ends, he's the first to leave... I was sitting there, and as he walked by me, he just whispered to me: "Don't forget your passport! Ha-haa!" and walked away. That's when I knew there was no sympathy in that company. This stuff is encouraged... They like humiliating people. They like laughing at people. The way wrestling is entertainment to us wrestling fans, humiliating people was just entertainment to the bosses."[11] Roberts said that Paul Levesque, better known as Triple H – Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative for WWE and McMahon's son-in-law – "loves to see people get humiliated".[48]

WWE has won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic 19 out of 35 years. Some notable years include in 2011 for repeatedly making fun of Jim Ross's weight, repeatedly making fun of Mickie James' weight in 2009, and in 2015 for telling Charlotte Flair to read a scripted promo about the passing of her brother Reid and then lying saying that it was Charlotte's idea. Charlotte and Reid's father Ric Flair mentioned that Charlotte was not in a position to say no to the angle, fearing that WWE might take it out on her.[49]

According to the Pro Wrestling Insider on April 15, 2017, Layfield "is well liked by the biggest power brokers in the company and it is unlikely that he will be fired for events which they knew were happening and allowed to happen".[50]

BleedingCool reiterated that Layfield actions are in line with so called "old-school" wrestling locker room culture.[51] Sporting News described Layfield as part of an "old guard" of WWE which considers hazing a part of the wrestling business.[52] Former WWE wrestler Stevie Richards has also stated that Layfield is an important figure in a much larger problem in WWE. "When it goes back to the bullying stuff there, it starts right at the top. It's a systemic culture there, it's not an isolated thing with JBL doing what he's done all along, and continues to do. It has to have some sort of approval or some sort of nod or lack of a head shake saying "you can't do that". So he's a symptom of the real problem, I believe, in wrestling."[5]


As a result of the alleged bullying, WWE fans have responded angrily,[8] with many fans against Layfield calling for him to be fired by WWE.[53] #FireJBL was being tweeted nearly 500 times an hour, and some WWE fans said they cancelled their WWE Network subscription in protest of Layfield's continued employment.[54] On the April 11, 2017 episode of SmackDown Live, Layfield (on camera) was suddenly acting as a babyface by constantly cheering on the babyface wrestlers, along with being "overly nice" to Byron Saxton throughout the entire broadcast, going as far as wanting to shake Saxton's hand at the beginning of the show, much to the chagrin of Saxton. This is speculated by fans and reporters as a publicity stunt for Layfield and WWE's way to make Layfield look like a "nice guy", and to "hush up" all allegations against Layfield.[55] The crowd was heard chanting "fire Bradshaw" and "We want Mauro" throughout,[56] though this was seemingly muted during its television broadcast.[57] During the show Layfield was also booed heavily by the audience and a fan who carried a sign that said "JBL bullied me" was escorted out of the arena.[22][58]

Le Journal de Montréal described fans being aware of the hypocrisy of WWE's public campaigning against bullying despite WWE management being seemingly blind or even encouraging to bullying behavior within the company.[10] CraveOnline wrote that "considering that the WWE has its own anti-bullying initiative, the Be a Star campaign", the lack of an official WWE response to allegations of Layfield's bullying "would inevitably bring into question the WWE's sincerity when it comes to putting an end to such behavior."[59] Stevie Richards has accused WWE of using their Be A Star campaign solely as a publicity tool, stating that it is not a genuine effort on their part.[5] Layfield's behavior has also been condemned by filmmaker Adi Shankar, who called for Layfield to be fired from the company.[60] Former co-workers of Layfield, such as Chris Masters have also called for WWE to fire him.[61] Former WWE wrestler Alberto Del Rio has also criticized the company for allowing harassment backstage,[62] but he added that Layfield had personally always treated him with respect.[7] Former wrestler Kevin Nash has defended Layfield's behavior, stating that Layfield is a "man's man" only out to advance other talents, and stating, "Don't be a bitch."[63] Fellow WWE commentator Jerry "The King" Lawler has expressed that Layfield "is the same person on commentary as he is in real life, and that if you are close to him, he's a fun guy to be around, even if he sometimes comes of as crude and loud". Lawler has predicted that Layfield will not face consequences for his actions.[64]

WWE has been criticized for not responding to the controversy and ignoring the issue[36] and have been accused of trying to cover it up and "sweep it under the rug".[65][17] The situation received comparisons to the 2015 Bill DeMott misconduct allegations concerning abuse of trainees at WWE's performance center which resulted in DeMott resigning from WWE.[4][11] Sports blog Deadspin and sports journalist Dave Meltzer critized Jonathan Coachman, a former WWE worker and current ESPN reporter, for ignoring the situation.[4][66] Coachman had earlier denied the existence of bullying in WWE in a tweet to Meltzer.[67]

On April 13, the website Paddy Power set up a poll special on whether Layfield would be employed by WWE after July 2017.[68][69] By April 14, the majority of betters believed that WWE would keep Layfield employed despite the allegations.[70]

On April 15, 2017, The Young Bucks did a comical video where they mocked Layfield for blocking them on Twitter after they had expressed their well wishes to Ranallo, hoping that he would recover from his depression.[71]

The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported on April 13 that the WWE were attempting a settlement to propose to Mauro Ranallo to not talk about the issue.[72][73][74]


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