Unfortunate Update: "Old School" Mentality Of Pro Wrestling Needs To Go
Mauro Ranallo is a professional combat sports broadcaster, beloved by fans and quite good at his job. He was an MMA commentator for years, hosts a fantastic combat sports podcast with former MMA fighter Bas Rutten, and has called pro wrestling action all over the world, including with New Japan Pro Wrestling. When he was hired as the main analyst on WWE SmackDown, I for one was pumped. The excitement he brings to each match and deep knowledge of wrestling history was a refreshing change from Raw and Michael Cole's schilling (his fault or not, we still have to listen to it).
Then they announced his partners and all the excitement drained. David Otunga is harmless, he just does not really add anything. No, the big problem to me was and still is JBL, John Bradshaw Layfield. One of the last of the "Old School" of backstage wrestlers, he constantly bullied Cole on Raw, and when moved to SmackDown continued to do so to Ranallo. This seems to have triggered the latter's bipolar disorder. His infractions, as reported on earlier by our own Jude Terror?
However, things may have taken a more serious turn when Ranallo acknowledged winning an award as best commentator from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. JBL, who prides himself on being "old school" about the business, was unhappy that Ranallo acknowledged the award because of an unwritten wrestling rule that says wrestlers who aren't John Cena aren't supposed to mention awards not given by WWE itself. Other notable backstage wrestling offenses include improperly shaking hands with The Undertaker, wearing the wrong color tie, and other petty infractions stemming from the industry's carny roots that could lead to massive backstage heat, poop in a gym bag, or even an appearance in the dreaded "wrestler's court." Possibly in response to JBL's thoughts on the award, Ranallo subtweeted, "Jealousy is a hell of a drug." JBL then reportedly went on WWE talk show Bring It To The Table and complained about the award, also making fun of Ranallo's announcing skills.
Since this incident, this week Ranallo has removed all references to last weekends Wrestlemania and WWE in general from his personal Twitter page, and it seems he was either fired or quit.
It should have been JBL, as Gavin Sheehan has also mentioned.
Backstage politics will always be a thing in wrestling, but the "old school" mentality is dead. Kayfabe went out the window a long, long time ago, the company has its own reality show (multiple!) on both cable and the WWE Network that allow access never thought possible even 10 years ago. Xavier Woods hosts videos of a multitude of wrestlers and backstage personalities playing video games on his YouTube channel UPUpDownDown breaking character constantly. Hazing is never cool, no matter the profession, and that JBL not only gets away with it backstage but in front of cameras is beyond ridiculous. While he may not have known about Ranallo's disease, that does not clear him of any wrong-doing here either. Now the company may be out its best on air talent since Jim Ross was out there (although they also just resigned him to a new 2 year contract).
The WWE needs to make this right, and fully let people know that now that the leader of Wrestler's Court as its know is gone, so are the bullying tactics of the past. That is how they can truly Be a Star.