Professional wrestling is violent by nature, and yet the laws of society dictate that the superstars of WWE leave their day job in the ring. For the most part, they do, and concerted charity efforts have been made by the company to curb violent behavior and bullying in general through the Be A Star campaign. Unfortunately, not everyone in the business seems to have gotten the message, with reports of backstage bullying and hazing having run rampant for decades.
The scariest part of this trend is that not only does Vince McMahon have to know about it, but the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has recently reported he also basically condones, if not encourages, it. That said, McMahon himself doesn’t have the time to bully each and every wrestler he has problems with; plus, his position in business means he couldn’t be particularly harsh should he get involved. However, McMahon does have plenty of conduits both verbally and physically, and when it comes to bullying, it would appear John Bradshaw Layfield gets to serve as McMahon’s avatar.
For the most part, JBL and WWE have denied these accusations, generally claiming the stories we’re about to detail were exaggerations at best. Other times, they ignored the situation entirely and pretended it didn’t happen. While the world may never know for sure exactly what goes down in the WWE locker room, many fans have chosen to believe these stories, and JBL’s lack of a legitimate defense has been rather damning, to say the least. To decide for yourself how serious the problem is, keep reading to learn about 15 WWE superstars who were allegedly bullied by JBL.
15. The Miz
Having bragged about his desire to be a WWE superstar during his many appearances on The Real World, there’s no denying The Miz wanted to be a pro wrestler throughout his entire media career. Regardless, some wrestling insiders held the belief his non-linear path into the business was a sign he might not deserve his early success, with JBL and Chris Benoit chiefs amongst his detractors. In all fairness, Benoit looked like the worse abuser in this case, kicking Miz out of the locker room for months simply because he ate chicken near someone else’s bags. Even so, JBL was entirely complicit in ensuring Miz remained kicked out and the victim of harsh treatment, later openly and proudly stating, “Hell yes, I hazed him!” Being one of the few times JBL was honest about his behavior, it’s interesting to note he genuinely believed hazing The Miz did him a favor, as it ingratiated him to the business and helped him become a better heel. On the other hand, he also claimed he stopped this practice years ago, and yet…
Considering bullies typically only pick on people lower than them on the totem pole, think about how long ago it must have been that JBL saw Edge as a worthy target. It must have been right around the time Edge made his WWE debut in 1998, although he didn’t publicly reveal anything until the release of his 2004 autobiography, Adam Copeland On Edge. In the book, Edge details a time JBL approached him while he was taking a shower and gently rubbed his backside with soap. According to Edge, and longstanding rumors, this was pretty much normal behavior for Bradshaw when approaching rookies, feeling it “weeded out prima donnas.” Whenever questioned about the incident, Edge strangely repeats the deflection “no knuckles disappeared,” presumably implying there was no penetration, but it still sounds shockingly close to a sexual assault. How exactly this would separate the men from the boys so to speak is absolutely beyond our comprehension, and the fact it was potentially just another day at the office (slash shower) for JBL makes it especially disturbing.
13. The Hardy Boyz
For all the excitement surrounding Jeff and Matt Hardy making a dramatic comeback in recent months, overcoming a bevy of drug problems, wouldn’t most fans probably prefer said personal issues never caused them to leave WWE in the first place? Regardless of how one feels about the Hardyz, no one should wish drug abuse or alcoholism on anyone, and yet suspiciously, before they met Bradshaw, they both claimed to be completely sober. As detailed in their joint autobiography The Hardy Boyz: Exist 2 Inspire, early in their WWE careers, Bradshaw demanded the Hardyz drink one six pack each and throw their empty bottles at road signs while driving home from a show. Knowing this was a surefire way to catch a DUI, the Hardyz refused, and Bradshaw responded by angrily telling them to “go to hell” every time he saw them, for months on end. During this time, they also had their gear stolen and hidden throughout the arena, although nothing was ever lost, and JBL’s exact involvement in this was merely implied.
12. Palmer Canon
There’s no reason to feel bad if you don’t remember the short tenure of UPN representative Palmer Canon, who appeared as a second-string authority figure on SmackDown for all of seven months from late 2005 to 2006. A mixture of the Right to Censor and ECW’s Network, Canon was a parody of overbearing political correctness and fast became one of the more hated characters on the show because of it. Despite his growing screen presence, he abruptly left WWE during a European tour, blaming serious hazing by just about everybody, the worst of it coming from Chris Benoit and JBL. The full circumstances are not known, but apparently, a good deal of the roster was drinking at a foreign bar, and JBL had been harassing Canon all night long. This eventually caused Canon to get in a cab and straight up leave the country likewise completely severing ties with the WWE Universe. Reports also indicate Rey Mysterio tried to talk Canon out of quitting, to no avail. The question then becomes whether Mysterio felt bad about whatever JBL did, or if he was trying to convince Canon it was normal, and we’re worried about the answer.
11. Chris Masters
Introduced as “The Masterpiece” and focusing his character almost entirely on his impeccable body, it makes sense that Chris Masters would turn some heads when he suddenly lost nearly 60 pounds in a few short weeks. The weight loss was directly related to Masters having gone to rehab to battle an addiction to painkillers, which should have made it extra clear he shouldn’t have been mocked for it. Unfortunately, not everyone is keen to such social clues as these, including Triple H and, of course, John Bradshaw Layfield, both of whom repeatedly mocked him on and off camera for having the audacity to slim down. For what it’s worth, Masters mostly laughed off their comments, even JBL’s particularly harsh statement, “He looks like he escaped from a concentration camp,” again adding absurd racism to his insults. Another element worth noting is that while Masters claims he and Triple H were friendly backstage, on the contrary, JBL was a regular perpetrator of hazing and bullying — a fact everyone else on this list would seem to confirm.
10. Billy Silverman
To help give an idea of just how long JBL’s bullying has been in the news, look no further than the story of WCW referee Billy Silverman. Like most former WCW employees, Silverman made the jump to WWE during the Invasion, although he may have been the shortest-tenured employee to do so. It was only a few weeks before Silverman walked away from the career he’d aspired to have for decades, and the man himself almost solely blames JBL as the reason he quit. Specifically, Silverman notes an incident where Bradshaw, with the threat of violence, demanded that Silverman smuggle liquor across the Canadian border. Apparently, it was retaliation for Silverman having the gall to upgrade an airline ticket to first class at his own expense. At the time, there was great tension between the WWE employees and incoming WCW talent, and Silverman wasn’t alone in taking abuse because of it. Strangely, most of the wrestling press seemed to side with JBL and WWE, but the times have clearly changed enough that these stories all deserve a second look.
9. René Duprée
As though being a bully, in general, wasn’t bad enough, John Bradshaw Layfield decided to go for an awful behavior trifecta by adding both racism and homophobia to the mix with his treatment of René Duprée. Believe it or not, though few fans may remember him today, Duprée once made history as the youngest tag team champion in WWE at only 19 years old. That said, he left the company for good aged 23, at least in part due to the fact JBL allegedly called him a “French f*****” every single time they crossed paths. For whatever reason, the behavior apparently got worse after Duprée split from La Résistance to be a solo act. Billed from Paris, France, Duprée was actually a French-Canadian from New Brunswick, but either way, the nickname was obviously wildly offensive and inappropriate. WWE is the absolute only place in the world where a person can use that kind of language on the regular and still be given a live microphone on a weekly basis.
8. The Blue Meanie
The more JBL’s bullying becomes an issue in the wrestling news, the more people will inevitably stand beside him, often claiming we have little definitive proof about what these wrestlers claim. To quell that mindset, go watch ECW One Night Stand 2005, where the whole world got to witness Bradshaw legitimately beat the hell out of The Blue Meanie in an open display of bullying. The script called for a tame brawl between just about everyone on the Raw, SmackDown, and ECW rosters, so JBL used this distraction to specifically target Meanie, leaving him a bloody mess. It would later be reported that JBL had been miffed over comments Meanie had made years earlier, calling Bradshaw’s poor behavior the only bad thing about his time in WWE. Meanie would additionally explain that said behavior included another pleasant nickname — this time “fat f***.” In a rare instance of making good, once Meanie explained the situation to agent Johnny Ace, his pay for the night was doubled and Bradshaw was (very mildly) chastised. Putting it all behind them, in recent years, The Meanie and JBL have surprisingly become friends, and remain such to this day.
7. Justin Roberts
Following in the footsteps of Howard Finkel and Tony Chimel, lifelong wrestling fan Justin Roberts had exactly the right gravitas to announce WWE superstars as they walked to the ring. Unfortunately, though, the years he spent living his dream job were heavily marred by the treatment he received backstage from a number of superstars, including Jamie Noble, Chris Benoit, Triple H, and by the far the worst offender of all, you guessed it, John Bradshaw Layfield. Immediately after leaving WWE, Roberts began writing a memoir of his time there called Best Seat In The House, also detailing the abuse JBL and others unleashed upon him. Most terrifying amongst his accusations was JBL conspiring to have Roberts’s passport stolen, exclusively referring to Roberts as “dip****” or “numbnuts,” and telling Roberts to kill himself every single day. With regard to the passport incident, Roberts also believed Vince McMahon was completely aware of the harassment, making a joking reference to it before the plan was set to take place. Roberts’s book goes into greater detail about JBL’s behavior in general, and to put it bluntly, he just doesn’t seem like a pleasant person to be around.
6. Mark Henry
Everyone has heard that bullies don’t pick on people bigger and stronger than them, so how the heck did John Bradshaw Layfield harass someone known as “The World’s Strongest Man?” Well, although Mark Henry was already a star in the weightlifting world upon making his WWE debut, he had never wrestled before and had absolutely no pull in the industry, making him an easy target for alleged jerks like JBL. Henry also had an affable, happy-go-lucky nature, which apparently offended JBL to the point of stealing his gear or luggage and throwing it into the showers on a regular basis. While not entirely specific, Henry also hinted at some kind of verbal abuse by claiming JBL was always picking on him, whatever that exactly means. In contrast to most people on this list, Henry surprisingly took it all in stride, coming to an understanding that this was JBL’s bizarre way of showing affection. Others in wrestling have also used this concept to defend JBL and bullying in general, but most see it as a non-excuse that only serves to make him look worse.
5. Steve Blackman
On the long list of wrestlers regular folk shouldn’t mess with, Steve Blackman sits pretty close to the top, making it somewhat surprising John Bradshaw Layfield would try and do just that. The outcome, on the other hand, was a lot closer to what people might expect, and we’ll get to that in a second. First up, the bullying, which has been detailed in Bob Holly’s autobiography The Hardcore Truth and backed up by several others during interviews. In short, JBL was up to his usual homophobic antics by repeatedly calling Blackman various gay slurs and patting him on the backside, apparently emboldened by alcohol. Blackman warned JBL twice to knock it off, the second time telling him he’d “knock his teeth out” if he kept it up. Sure enough, JBL didn’t stop, and Blackman beat the hell out of him in an airport. Blackman only stopped the beating when his legs were caught in some nearby luggage, later claiming JBL would have wound up in intensive care had the bag failed to save him. Obviously, JBL never bothered Blackman again, refocusing on smaller, weaker targets.
4. Amy Weber
Most of John Bradshaw Layfield’s punishment is inflicted upon rookies he feels didn’t earn their spot, and he was hardly alone in feeling that way about women who entered the WWE Universe via the Diva Search. Even so, one might think JBL would look out for his own, namely Amy Weber, who didn’t win, but still earned a WWE contract. Weber’s connection with JBL began instantly upon her official hiring, appearing as his image consultant, and by extension, holding that role in relation to all of The Cabinet. Unfortunately, this onscreen closeness did nothing to protect Weber from JBL’s worst tendencies, which were apparently at their worst on an airplane during a tour of Japan. On bad advice, Weber believed no one would care if she took an Advil and fell asleep on the plane, two things the other wrestlers apparently wouldn’t accept. Furious over this perceived front, JBL allegedly poured a Bloody Mary on her as she slept. Earlier on the tour, the wrestlers discovered a photo of Weber at a Japanese strip club and taunted her with it relentlessly. Fed up with the treatment, Weber quit WWE as soon as the plane landed, never to return.
3. Charles Robinson
To WCW fans, Charles Robinson was Lil’ Naitch, Ric Flair’s protégé and an incredibly memorable referee. However, to WWE fans, or at least to WWE wrestlers during the Invasion, Robinson was just another WCW outsider coming in to take their spots. While certain refs like Billy Silverman were unable to make the transition, Robinson has remained with WWE to this day, but the full story makes it seem far from worth the punishment he put up with. According to Silverman, the punishment he received was nothing compared to the pure torture John Bradshaw Layfield and others inflicted on Robinson. The most terrifying story of all, and perhaps the scariest on this list, alleges that a group of wrestlers led by JBL stripped Robinson of his clothing, placed a gag in his mouth, and paraded him through the halls for the other WWE superstars to point at and laugh. No matter how much one loves WWE, absolutely no job is worth that kind of treatment. JBL also allegedly forced Robinson to smuggle liquor across the Canadian border, as he had done to Silverman, with the added insult of pouring it out after he pained to do so.
2. Mauro Ranallo
In barely over one year, Mauro Ranallo became millions of WWE fans’ new favorite announcer. Prior to signing with the sports entertainment giants, Ranallo was gaining international recognition for his great work in MMA and Japanese wrestling, making him one of the most sought after announcers in the world. Awarding Ranallo for this status, fans of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter named him the Best Wrestling Announcer two years in a row. At the same time, those same fans voted JBL into the Worst Wrestling Announcer category, thus beginning bullying so severe it allegedly caused Ranallo to quit the company. This story is still ongoing, and the full details aren’t yet clear, but what we do know is that Ranallo has suffered from depression and bipolar disorder since he was a teenager, and many are speculating JBL’s treatment backstage caused these conditions to flare up in the worst way. Ranallo himself has been quiet on the issue, but his friend and podcast co-host Bas Rutten has strongly hinted on Twitter that the rumors are true. As of this writing, all WWE has said on the matter is that Ranallo is still technically employed, which pretty much tells us nothing.
1. Joey Styles
In cases with serial bullies like John Bradshaw Layfield, a little bit of retribution can go an incredibly long way. While not everyone likes resorting to violence, sometimes it’s the only thing that works, and mild-manner announcer Joey Styles knew that when JBL was up to his usual tricks during a 2008 tour of Iraq. Unsurprisingly, JBL spent almost the entire tour drunk, apparently using his inebriation as an excuse when he harassed Joey Styles every possible opportunity he could. What exactly happened between them isn’t clear, but it eventually annoyed Joey enough that he furiously knocked Bradshaw to the ground with a single punch. Shocked that a small announcer had so summarily shut him up, JBL allegedly spent the rest of the tour sulking in his hotel room, refusing to talk to anybody until they went home. Does this make up for all the other abhorrent things JBL has done? Not even close. But at least it’s a start, and since WWE apparently will never fire JBL, maybe fans should start rallying for the company to re-hire Styles to keep him in line.