Mauro Ranallo, the lead announcer for WWE’s SmackDown Live, has been off WWE television for a month now, with speculation running rampant about the true cause of his absence. On Friday, Ranallo removed all references to WWE from his Twitter profile, and WWE has since issued the following statement to both CBS Sports and SB Nation over his potential departure:
Mauro Ranallo remains under contract with WWE until August 12, 2017.
WWE seems to make no indications that Ranallo will be back on television, and the CBS report went further, citing a source saying that Ranallo simply isn’t expected to be back with the company.
Ranallo has often touted as the company’s best television announcer. In fact, Ranallo’s status as the top announcer may be what led to his potential departure from the company.
Ranallo was the winner of the 2016 Wrestling Observer award for the best announcer in pro wrestling and mixed martial arts, which Ranallo touted on his social media accounts. According to the Observer’s founder and lead writer Dave Meltzer, those in WWE took Ranallo’s touting of the award as a negative, and fellow WWE announcer John “Bradshaw” Layfield even heavily criticized Ranallo — his own broadcast partner — on one of the WWE Network’s programs.
Ranallo, who has bipolar disorder, has long been vocal about his battles with mental illness, including mentioning that his absence from WWE television was potentially related to the illness.
Text from the since deleted tweet: [H/T Cageside Seats]
I’m deeply touched by your tweets of support. My doctor wants me to stay off social media for now but I wanted to thank you.
Because of Ranallo’s extended absence — he missed this year’s WrestleMania event in Orlando — Layfield has drawn more and more scrutiny on if he was potentially the cause of Ranallo missing all of these shows. Meltzer has been particularly critical of Layfield, especially following the release of a tell-all book from former WWE announcer Justin Roberts. Roberts detailed several incidents of bullying spearheaded by Layfield, including one instance where Roberts had his passport stolen during a WWE tour of Europe.
Layfield hasn’t publicly said much on the issue, but he did respond to the claim from Roberts’ book specifically.
I won’t answer Net rumors-but I didn’t take Justin Roberts passport. Could have been anyone/he was hated by the whole crew. He’s an idiot.
Meltzer expanded on Layfield’s past bullying in his latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, stating that several people told him similar stories detailing similar bullying by Layfield over the years, with the belief that Layfield is “weeding” people out of the business if they can’t handle it.
Layfield’s defense on Twitter over the situation with Ranallo appeared to be that he plays a heel (villain character) on television, but Meltzer isn’t buying that Layfield’s comments on Ranallo were all part of the “entertainment portions” of WWE programming.
The situation obviously puts WWE in a tough spot. Even if Layfield’s antics are an “accepted” part of WWE culture, the company losing their top announcer and the lead voice of one of their television programs to those antics would leave a bad mark, especially for a company that does tons of PR work with children and the anti-bullying campaign “Be a Star”.
Ranallo has done little to comment on the specifics of the situation publicly, but he has been thanking fans for support on his Twitter page.
If he is done with WWE, Ranallo is expected to return to covering mixed martial arts and continuing his work as a boxing commentator.