Former WWE Champion John "Bradshaw" Layfield announced Friday night that he is going to be "stepping away" from WWE SmackDown to focus on charitable endeavors instead.
"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."
That leaves Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton on the SmackDown announce desk, a spot Layfield had sat in since the July 2016 WWE Draft. By Layfield's post, it's assumed the change is immediate, but WWE has yet to comment publicly on the change.
The 50-year-old came under fire earlier this year for allegations of bullying former broadcast partner Mauro Ranallo. While he was never punished or admitted wrongdoing , Layfield did make a statement after Ranallo left the company.