Image Credit: WWE
WWE fans in the UK made their voices heard during the taping of SmackDown last night, with them loudly booing commentator JBL and leading a chorus of “fire Bradshaw” chants during the show.
JBL, the ring name of former WWE Superstar and current SmackDown commentator John Charles “Bradshaw” Layfield, became the subject of controversy after his former co-commentator Mauro Ranallo parted ways with the company, amid reports that he had been the victim of bullying backstage by his co-host. Ranallo, who has bipolar disorder, was absent from TV for a number of months, with him even missing WrestleMania 33 as speculation continued to mount regarding the cause of his absence.
Several reports claimed that JBL’s treatment of Ranallo backstage had led to his hiatus, and though no verified facts pertaining to the situation have emerged, multiple outlets began publishing accounts from former WWE Superstars and personnel who strongly criticised JBL’s behaviour behind the scenes. Though Ranallo told Newsweek his departure from WWE had “nothing to do with JBL,” calls for the commentator to be fired from the company intensified, leading to a heated moment during WWE’s visit to London’s O2 Arena on Tuesday evening (May 9).
Prior to each broadcast of RAW and SmackDown, the commentators have their untelevised entrances before they begin announcing the shows. While the announcers are typically greeted with applause, JBL was instead met by raucous boos before he took his seat at the commentary table. The UK crowd then erupted into chants of “fire Bradshaw,” none of which were heard during the TV broadcast (SmackDown is usually broadcast live, but was pre-recorded this week as a result of the time difference between UK and USA).
The WWE has stood by JBL’s side during this controversy, with the company abstaining from releasing a public statement addressing the reports of backstage bullying. JBL has also retained his position as one of the WWE’s top announcers, sitting alongside Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton.
Watch the video of London’s reaction to JBL below: