Latest Backstage News On JBL’s Departure From SmackDown

John "Bradshaw" Layfield

JBL announced Friday night via Twitter that he’s stepping away from his weekly broadcasting role on SmackDown LIVE to dedicate more time to at-risk youth and communities in Bermuda. He will continue his relationship with WWE by appearing on marquee events, such as Tribute to the Troops and WrestleMania.

Here is JBL’s statement:

“After much consideration, I will be stepping back my weekly role as Smackdown Announcer to dedicate more continuous time on the work I have done since 2010 with at risk kids and communities. My new schedule will allow me to continue to be a part of the WWE family and also continue my work that I feel is the most important thing in my life. I will continue my 20+ year relationship with WWE and will appear on such marquee shows as Tribute to the Troops, WrestleMania, amongst others.

“With the help of Beyond Sport, I founded Beyond Rugby Bermuda in 2010–which has been recognized as one of the world’s best charities for work with at risk, gang focused, youth intervention. Beyond Rugby Bermuda won the 2014 NACRA Fair Play Award out of 7,000 programs and 17 countries for its work with at risk kids. I was named as a Beyond Sport Global Ambassador–an organization backed by all major sports leagues in the U.S.

“I’m proud to say that in addition to being Smackdown’s longest reigning WWE Champion, I inspired WWE’s Tribute to the Troops over 10 years ago. WWE has been my partner in all my philanthropic works and this new deal with WWE ensures that will continue. WWE has made my dreams come true and helped me become a global name. And now, WWE is helping me use that name to make a difference.”

According to a report by Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated today, this was planned out far in advance, even before the bullying accusations with Mauro Ranallo came to light. His decision to leave began 11 months ago when his contract expired last October. At that point, he put in his notice with the company.

Barrasso noted despite pressure from some of WWE’s Board of Directors, Vince McMahon refused to fire JBL during Ranallo’s exit, expecting the story to eventually die down. While JBL was never punished for any of his alleged actions related to the bullying story, WWE was able to work things out with Ranallo, bringing him back into the fold in June as the Lead NXT Announcer.

Another reason for JBL’s departure was the travel. Despite WWE wanting to bring him in on the Sunday before SmackDown LIVE, JBL began changing his travel day to Tuesday, so he would arrive just in time for his duties related to commentating. He was able to do this for two months before being confronted about it.

WWE policy is to have everyone in town the night before a television event so there are no last minute issues, which meant he had to be there Monday. Living in Bermuda, however, meant JBL had to fly on Sunday to ensure with his connecting flights that he could get to town the night before.

Showing signs of simply being burned out from the travel it was again noted that JBL’s exit was his own decision.