John “Bradshaw” Layfield has been in WWE for over twenty years. JBL began as a wrestler in 1995, using the Bradshaw name for most of his run, then he became JBL in 2004 leading to his only WWE Championship reign. Following that, he became an announcer for most of the last decade. However, his run as an weekly television announcer on WWE Smackdown Live is over after JBL posted a message saying he was “stepping back” from his weekly role on Smackdown.
Layfield noted that he wants to focus on his charity work in Bermuda and wrote the following on Twitter:
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.
JBL has had a few start and stop instances as an announcer in WWE, but has been in the position full time since 2012 working on Raw, Smackdown and Pay-Per-View events. When the 2016 brand split happened, he was a part of the Smackdown announce team with Mauro Ranallo and David Otunga.
Earlier this year, Mauro was removed from the announce team amid speculation that he was bullied by JBL. There was also JBL getting upset about Ranallo winning a “Best Announcer” award. When Ranallo returned to WWE as part of NXT a few months ago, he claimed his absence wasn’t due to JBL.
For the last four months, the main Smackdown announce team has been Tom Phillips on play by play with JBL serving as somewhat of a heel analyst and Byron Saxton has been called the “insider” for some bizarre reason. It was reported by Pro Wrestling Sheet that JBL told WWE back in May that he wasn’t going to re-sign with the company. As JBL noted in his message, he will still have some role in WWE with Tribute to the Troops and WrestleMania as well as other events.
As for who might replace JBL on Smackdown commentary, that’s not known at this time, although it’s likely somebody will be there rather than having a two man team with Phillips and Saxton. It’s something WWE may announce in the coming days or perhaps the organization wait until Tuesday night’s Smackdown and we can all find out who the third announcer will be.
Jerry Lawler could be a temporary replacement while they figure it out since Lawler is in his late 60s. I think Renee Young should be considered for the spot just to add a different voice to the team although I don’t know if Saxton or Renee would want to do heel announcing.
While JBL gets a lot of heat from fans for the Ranallo situation, I always thought he was a pretty good heel announcer. While he’s not on the level of a Bobby Heenan or Jerry Lawler in their prime as heel announcers, he knew how to get stories over. What he’s doing for underprivileged kids is admirable as well. Good luck to him in his future.