Trigger/Content Warning (TW/CW): the following blog post contains mentions of workplace harassment. Reader discretion is advised.
This weekend, as most wrestling fans are aware, is the biggest and most important weekend of the year. Similar to the Comic Cons in San Diego and New York City, wherever World Wrestling Entertainment (the WWE) holds their annual WrestleMania event is going to be ginormous. In comparison to other sporting events, WrestleMania is very much like the Daytona 500 is for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR, or The Masters is for the Professional Golf Association (PGA).
A lot of independent wrestling promotions, or companies, have decided to take advantage of hosting events near this year's event site, Orlando, Florida, USA, all in lead up to WWE's WrestleMania, which takes place this Sunday evening.
However, as much as I will be tuning in to watch the spectacle of a blend between a bar brawl and a soap opera, there is a concern that needs to be addressed.
This is about the current health status of Mauro Ranallo, the play-by-play commentator for WWE's SmackDown Live and 205 Live's programming. Over the past few weeks, he has been missing in action in the build to this upcoming weekend. Original news stories have suggested that Ranallo "missed a flight" one week and "was home sick" the next week. What made me concerned was this past Tuesday, when associate commentator Tom Phillips did not announce Ranallo's whereabouts, giving me the impression that Ranallo may have been fired. To my relief, Ranallo has not been fired, but he was still out of action.
It turns out, despite initial claims previously reported, Ranallo has been battling a recent depression episode.
Ranallo has not been shy to discuss about mental health; he talks about his life as the "Bipolar Rock and Roller." On Twitter, where Ranallo can be found when he is not calling the action, he gives encouraging support to fans who are also struggling with mental illness or other disabling conditions. Ironically, Twitter may also be the place where Ranallo has caused some serious heat, or trouble, with a fellow WWE commentator.
Outside of the WWE, Ranallo is a respected commentator for his work in the fields of mixed martial arts, boxing, hockey, and other sports. However in the WWE, one of Ranallo's colleagues, former WWE champion John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL), has had some proverbial bones to pick with Ranallo. The kayfabe, or make believe, tension between Ranallo and JBL on WWE television may have gone off script to a real life problem for both men. In December 2016, JBL made it known that he had blocked Ranallo on Twitter, a move which seemed harmless at first, given that professional wrestling, or sports entertainment, is "all fake."
It's only been recent with the news that JBL has a real problem with Ranallo.
JBL is no stranger to ribbing, or playing jokes on, fellow in-promotion colleagues in the past. In fact, JBL is also known for bullying and hazing other wrestlers.
This time, has JBL gone too far with Ranallo? Or, has Ranallo overexposed himself for the precision of JBL's attacks?
Allow me to entertain you with my workplace harassment story.
In June 2012, I was working for the United States Department of Defense as an Accounting Technician. I worked on a team of people as diverse as the city of Cleveland itself, doing assignments on behalf of the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. I felt honored to have done this awesome work. What didn't feel so honorable was having to work with a former Army Ranger who served in the Middle East harassing me whenever he felt like it. One day in June 2012, the entire building I worked in had to evacuate as part of a fire drill. We went over to a set of unfinished apartments a couple of blocks east. As the crowd of over hundreds of folks began to swell inside a small yet echoing building, it became too much for my senses. I ended up having (what I thought at the time was) an anxiety attack (I would find out a few years later that I had, in fact, an autistic meltdown). Mr. Army Ranger found me sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth with the inability to verbally communicate. The next thing I hear is: "Vera, get up. Come on, get up, Vera," and a slight thud against my foot. Then another. I looked down, and saw that Mr. Army Ranger was using his foot to hit my foot as "encouragement" to get up. When I was unable to respond after six kicks, he left, only to return a few minutes later with our supervisor. The supervisor helped me outside so that my body could return to normal working status.
Shortly thereafter, I reported Mr. Army Ranger to our union, the American Federation of Government Employees, for his actions. After the AFGE completed their imvestigation, they concluded that Mr. Army Ranger had to be placed on another team. It infuriated our supervisor, as he was our only assignment certifier at the time on our team.
Eighteen months after the incident, I would end up quitting my post as Accounting Technician, due to increased hostility between the office and me. I did not file for worker's compensation; I chose to waive that option in favor for filing for both bankruptcy amd disability immediately.
I would like to think, since I walked out of my last job in December 2013, that some things have changed in the American workplace in regards to folks with mental illness and/or disabled conditions. But seeing as how a workplace bully has exacerbated someone's mental illness to the point of incapacitation being played out in a world where storylines are more bizarre than anything on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," it disappoints me that some folks refuse to acknowledge when and where to just stop.
If it comes out that JBL has, in fact, contributed to Ranallo's recent depression flareup, then JBL should be fined a hefty amount of cash, with a majority of that fine going to mental health non-profit organizations throughout North America. WWE's wellness policy should also cover harassment like they do with illegal substance abuse. Make this an opportunity to teach folks that bullying is wrong and that it kills. Seriously. Bullying kills people.
From what it appears, Ranallo may very well miss calling the action at this year's WrestleMania, which is a total shame.
Maybe JBL can show his remorse for his actions by sitting outside the commentary booth as well.