Mauro Ranallo has made it official — his time with WWE is over after 16 months.
Ranallo, 47, made the announcement public on Saturday in a statement to Newsweek. He also denied online reports that his exit from WWE was caused by bullying from his on-air SmackDown LIVE partner John “Bradshaw” Layfield.
“WWE and I have mutually agreed to part ways. It has nothing to do with JBL,” Ranallo said.
He remains under contract through August 12, according to a WWE spokesman.
Ranallo, who signed with the company in December 2015, hasn’t appeared on WWE television since March and was absent from WrestleMania. One week later, he removed all mentions of WWE from his Twitter account.
Rumors quickly began to swirl that backstage hazing was the root cause of Ranallo’s exit. Many pointed to a March 13 episode of the WWE Network show Bring It To The Table in which Layfield scolded an absent Ranallo on air. One night later, Ranallo missed his first episode of SmackDown LIVE and never returned.
The aftermath turned ugly as fans began to spread the hashtag #FireJBL on Twitter and chanted the phrase in unison at WWE live shows. Layfield’s involvement in the rumors was further escalated upon the release of former WWE announcer Justin Roberts’ memoir “Best Seat in the House,” which brought back to life stories from over a decade ago of hazing, including one involving a stolen passport that was linked to Layfield.
“Admittedly, I took part in locker room pranks that existed within the industry years ago,” Layfield told Newsweek in a statement. “WWE addressed my behavior and I responded accordingly, yet my past is being brought up because of recent unfounded rumors. I apologize if anything I said playing ‘the bad guy’ on a TV show was misconstrued.”
WWE also released a statement to Newsweek regarding the recent accusations of a bullying culture within the company.
“As part of our commitment to creating an inclusive environment, in April 2011, WWE launched our anti-bullying campaign, Be a STAR, which encourages young people to treat each other with tolerance and respect.” a WWE spokesperson said.
“As a publicly traded company, that mantra carries forward in our corporate culture. As such, we fully investigate any allegations of inappropriate behavior including the recent alleged situation with John Layfield (aka JBL), despite no formal complaint having been submitted.”
WWE replaced Ranallo as the lead play-by-play announcer on SmackDown LIVE with Tom Phillips. The company also signed Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross to a two-year deal on March 31.
Ranallo remains the voice of Showtime Championship Boxing and last weekend called an MMA card in Japan for RIZIN.