Ever since Mauro Ranallo stopped appearing on WWE television and word got out he was leaving the company, speculation for his reasons have pointed squarely at his broadcast partner John “Bradshaw” Layfield, also known as former WWE Champion JBL. JBL has a long and documented history of playing ribs on employees backstage that often bordered on the cruel, so it made sense. Amidst Ranallo’s silence on the whole matter, even more rumours (all unsubstantiated) arose that the WWE was trying to pay of Ranallo’s camp with a settlement so that Ranallo and his entourage would not speak publicly of any bullying that JBL may have done to force Ranallo out. Of course, everyone knows that Mauro Ranallo has been a long time sufferer of bipolar, a mental illness that affects one’s moods and personality, causing severe lows like depression or severe highs (the manic side). Many speculated that JBL’s constant abuse forced Ranallo into depression and thus caused his departure from the company.
On April 22, Mauro Ranallo finally spoke to the media about his departure, in an exclusive interview with Newsweek magazine, and quite simply stated “WWE and I have mutually agreed to part ways. It has nothing to do with JBL”. While an admission that JBL’s ribs had nothing to do with his departure should have ended the debate online, it did the exact opposite. In fact, it strengthened the rumours that WWE had, in fact, reached a settlement and had paid Ranallo off to say such comments.
But to insinuate that would imply that the very man everyone had been backing or championing was in fact a lesser person than they gave him credit for being. As it would be a direct violation of his own principles that made him so remarkably well liked in the first place.
For those who are unaware, Mauro Ranallo is also a very prominent mental health awareness advocate. He consistently works in very public forums to spread awareness and to end the stigma attached not only to mental illness but the very people who suffer from it. To accept money to stay tight lipped on a subject that affects the very nature of his being – being a mental illness sufferer and an advocate for the subject – would go against any work he has undertaken to date or would continue to do in the future. Ranallo is a highly sought after MMA and combat sport announcer, he is not in any financial duress. More money would not be a necessity he desperately needs, at least not to the extent of destroying his own character of the work he has accomplished so far in his career in helping with mental illness.
But another nail in the coffin in the argument came on Friday, when Mauro Ranallo’s business manager, Frank Shamrock – yes, that Frank Shamrock, estranged brother of former UFC/WWE Superstar Ken Shamrock and himself a former UFC Champion – was interviewed on the podcast The Two Man Power Trip and spoke on the entire situation. He confirmed his part as Ranallo’s business manager (“…besides being one of my very close friends, he is also my client, so we manage his brand and his business as well, so we saw him through the whole WWE thing…”) and when asked if it was the reported ‘bullying culture’ that WWE allegedly still employs backstage, Shamrock said the following:
“I don’t know if it is so much culture as it is just different folks. Where Mauro is super intense and super focused and to him that is the most important thing and that doesn’t have the same value over there. As it is in other companies, they may be interested in messages and other brands but it really is just different people. I love what WWE does. The storytelling, the messaging and how they impact the world with their product. I don’t see Mauro straying far from wrestling itself because that is how he got started and is his first love and it goes for every work environment that you want to be treated well and want to be acknowledged and you want to shine at what you do and the machine over there is not built for that, the machine is built differently. Wrong mechanic, wrong machine.”
In other words, more likely than not, the only rumours that were true were the ones that Vince McMahon was just not a fan of Ranallo’s brand of storytelling for his company, and Mauro Ranallo was not a fan of the micromanaging WWE does with it’s broadcasters. As someone who shares the same illness as Mauro Ranallo, I can attest that something like the constant buzzing of Vince McMahon in one’s earpiece during the duration of a broadcast would cause far more anxiety than simple ribbing from a heel character. This wasn’t Ranallo’s first foray into the world of heel and face characters of professional wrestling – that he was quite prepared for. The way WWE produces it’s broadcasters was another beast altogether.
Like Shamrock reiterated, it was simply a case of neither side fitting in with each others styles. Ranallo worked for NJPW because New Japan presents itself more as legitimate combat – Ranallo’s intense calling like it was a legit MMA or boxing match worked with the straightforward match style of NJPW. But in the WWE, where broadcasters are asked to fill in the blanks and put putty in the cracks of a story or angle, Ranallo often fell short. No fault on Ranallo, as that’s just not his style. Unfortunately for the many fans of Ranallo on Smackdown Live, this wasn’t what the WWE asked for when they hired him. And for every fan who loved Ranallo on WWE programming, there was many who found his style of broadcasting distracting. Again, different style of show.
Sometimes in the world of pro wrestling, fans seem to want a more sinister or convoluted mess of a truth instead of accepting a more boring or cordial resolution. In this case, it seems that both sides simply didn’t fit each other’s styles and both agreed to move on. The internet, wanting a martyr to get rid of JBL, found one in Mauro Ranallo. But like Frank Shamrock said, it was never about being bullied or picked on. It was just something far more simple. Wrong mechanic, wrong machine.
For the complete interview with Frank Shamrock, where he discusses his client’s departure from the WWE, check out the podcast link below: