John Bradshaw Layfield, who is known in the WWE as JBL, publicly announced his departure from his current role as a SmackDown Live television commentator this past Friday evening.
Layfield stated on social media that he will now be entirely focused on working with at-risk youth for his Bermuda-based charity, but will remain part of the WWE family.
Sources close to the situation informed Sports Illustrated that the decision for Layfield to exit the WWE began 11 months ago when his contract expired last October. Layfield put in his notice well before rumors and allegations were hurled in his direction during Mauro Ranallo’s sudden disappearance from the WWE.
Upon further review, Layfield was not the primary person of interest behind the Ranallo situation, which has allegedly been resolved with his return to the company, nor was he ever disciplined by the company for anything related to Ranallo.
WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, exhibiting the same stubbornness that helped turn his company into a global juggernaut, refused to cave to public pressure to fire Layfield, especially after Layfield served as the scapegoat in the Ranallo situation that was far more centered on Ranallo’s frustration with the culture and climate toward bullying that he believed McMahon had built within the company.
WWE is a publicly-owned company, and certain members of the Board of Directors were appalled that Layfield kept his high-profile on-air position after stories emerged he was one of the leading bullies for years in the WWE locker room and a catalyst for the Ranallo situation. Yet McMahon refused to acquiesce to pressure calling for Layfield’s departure. McMahon instead correctly gambled that the story would simmer, which was greatly aided by Ranallo re-signing with the company to broadcast NXT.
Travel was another issue for Layfield. WWE arranged for him to arrive each week on Sunday, yet he would not be on air until Tuesday’s SmackDown Live. Layfield, on his own, began changing his travel so he would arrive in time solely for his responsibilities on SmackDown each Tuesday. He did this for nearly two months until he was confronted about it, and while company officials believed Layfield was simply burnt out from travel, he surprised executives when he put in his notice shortly after being confronted.
Layfield’s departure came on his own accord, and leaves WWE with a broadcast position to fill starting this Tuesday on SmackDown.