John Charles Layfield (November 29, 1966) is an American retired professional wrestler and wrestling commentator and wrestling show host for WWE who currently signed under part time basis. Outside of his WWE work, Layfield is a financial analyst for Fox News. Layfield is best known by his ring names, Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw, Blackjack Bradshaw, Bradshaw and John "Bradshaw" Layfield (JBL), while working for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), where he was WWE Champion for 280 days.
Layfield's main gimmick as JBL – a wealthy, gladhanding, big-mouthed, fiery-tempered businessman – was based on Layfield's real-life accomplishments as a stock market investor. Layfield is a guest panelist on Fox News Channel's The Cost of Freedom, has appeared on CNBC, and has written a best-selling book on financial planning called Have More Money Now. (ISBN 0-7434-6633-0). Layfield also hosts a weekend talk radio program, syndicated nationally by conservative political views.
In WWE, Layfield won 24 total championships including one reign as WWE Champion, one reign as United States Champion, one reign as European Champion, seventeen reigns as Hardcore Champion, one reign as Intercontinental Champion, and three reigns as World Tag Team Champion with Faarooq as part of the Acolytes Protection Agency (APA). He is also recognized as the twentieth Triple Crown Champion, and the twelfth Grand Slam Champion.
Since December 7, 2012, Layfield and fellow WWE commentator Michael Cole, both notorious for their mouthy and aggressively opinionated gimmicks, have hosted their very own WWE YouTube series, The JBL and Cole Show.
Professional wrestling career Edit
Layfield signed a contract with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in late 1995 and debuted in January 1996 as Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw. His initial gimmick was that of a tough cowboy/mountain man. After victories, he branded his opponents with the symbol "JB" in ink, rather than being seared into the flesh. Managed by Uncle Zebekiah, the character fizzled out by the end of the year, perhaps remembered only for a feud with Savio Vega and a match with Fatu which he won in eight seconds.
Layfield then paired up with his storyline cousin Barry Windham to form The New Blackjacks, complete with the traditional "Blackjack" handlebar mustaches and short, jet black hair.
Windham's injuries piled up throughout 1997, so the team disbanded, and Layfield wrestled only occasionally on TV as "Blackjack Bradshaw", sometimes teaming with fellow Texan Terry Funk. He earned a shot at the North American Heavyweight Championship against Jeff Jarrett at No Way Out of Texas: In Your House and won by disqualification, but Jarrett retained the title because a title cannot change hands by a disqualification. In 1998, he wrestled as a mid-carder wrestling the likes of Marc Mero at Mayhem in Manchester, Kaientai (Funaki, Dick Togo, and Men's Teioh) with Taka Michinoku in a handicap match at Over the Edge, and Vader in a Falls Count Anywhere match at Breakdown.
In late 1998, Bradshaw teamed alongside former Nation of Domination member Faarooq to form the tag team Hell's Henchmen, managed by the Jackyl. After the Jackyl left the WWF, Faarooq and Bradshaw joined The Undertaker's new Ministry of Darkness under the name The Acolytes. The Ministry went on to feud with the Corporation. As part of the Ministry, Bradshaw feuded with Ken Shamrock. The two stables would soon unite as the Corporate Ministry, but disbanded after Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated the Undertaker at Fully Loaded. When the Undertaker went on hiatus in September, Bradshaw and Faarooq's dark gimmick faded.
On the May 31, 1999 episode of Raw is War, the Acolytes (still with the Corporate Ministry) won their first WWF Tag Team Championship by defeating Kane and X-Pac. On the July 5 episode of Raw is War, they dropped the titles to the Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff) before defeating the Hardyz and their manager Michael "P.S." Hayes at Fully Loaded for their second WWF Tag Team Championship. On the August 9 episode of Raw is War, they lost the titles to Kane and X-Pac.
The duo became fan favorites and changed their gimmick to cigar-smoking, bar-brawlers-for-hire. In jeans and t-shirts, Faarooq and Bradshaw became the Acolytes Protection Agency (APA), with a motto of "because we need beer money." The duo was often seen in the backrooms of arenas with a poker table and later a framed doorway comically in the middle of the often large, open aired hallways; they insisted that anyone entering the space use the door. Occasionally, if the "room" was destroyed in one arena, it was set up exactly as it was destroyed at the next arena, pushing continuity through time and space for comic effect.
The Acolytes earned a shot at the WWF Tag Title at the Royal Rumble against the New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn), but lost the match. Their next shot at the title was at Fully Loaded when they faced Edge and Christian. The Acolytes won the match by disqualification but did not become champions. After unsuccessfully challenging for the tag title in 2000, APA won their third WWF Tag Team Championship on the July 9, 2001 episode of Raw is War by defeating the Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray and D-Von). On the August 9 episode of SmackDown!, they lost the tag title to Alliance members Diamond Dallas Page and Chris Kanyon.
On the October 22 episode of Raw is War, Bradshaw defeated The Hurricane to win the WWF European Championship, his first singles title in the WWF. He lost the title to Christian on the November 1 episode of SmackDown!. At No Way Out in 2002, APA won a Tag Team Turmoil match and as a result, they challenged for the tag title at WrestleMania X8 along with Hardys and Dudleys, in a Four Corners Elimination match. The champions Billy and Chuck retained their title.
Shortly after WrestleMania, Faarooq and Bradshaw split due to the WWE Draft. Layfield was drafted to Raw where his Bradshaw gimmick had an increased emphasis on his Texas roots, which included him carrying a cowbell to the ring. Bradshaw joined the hardcore division after debuting on Raw and won the WWE Hardcore Championship seventeen times, with his first title win coming over Steven Richards. He renamed the title the Texas Hardcore Championship. It was also during this time that his finishing move was briefly renamed from the "Clothesline From Hell" to the "Clothesline From Texas" or the "Clothesline From Deep in the Heart of Texas". Jim Ross often called the move as such during his commentary, although the name eventually reverted back to the original "Clothesline From Hell".
In the hardcore division, Bradshaw feuded and exchanged the title with the likes of Richards, Shawn Stasiak, Raven, Christopher Nowinski, Big Show, Justin Credible, Johnny Stamboli, Crash Holly, Jeff Hardy, and Tommy Dreamer, before the title was unified by WWE Intercontinental Champion Rob Van Dam in August 2002. In September 2002, Layfield suffered a torn left biceps at a house show. He was out of action for six months until returning to the WWE roster.
Bradshaw returned on an episode of SmackDown! in 2003, which saw him and his old friend Faarooq saving the Undertaker from the hands of Chuck Palumbo and Johnny Stamboli. Layfield returned with a new look by cutting his long hair, returning it to its natural color, and going clean shaven. His new look would only be referenced once when, in a scripted segment, Faarooq asked him directly about it. Bradshaw insisted that he had already told the story to Faarooq, who rejected this claim. The duo would return to perform their regular segments, as they did before the brand extension, such as playing poker, drinking beer, and bribing superstars of their money. Unlike before, they would not attack or protect other superstars at the employment of other superstars as none would hire them. At Vengeance, Bradshaw won a bar room brawl match which featured Faarooq and a variety of mid-card superstars and other WWE employees. The duo wrestled tag teams such as the Basham Brothers (Doug and Danny) at No Mercy and The World's Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) at No Way Out. At WrestleMania XX in 2004, they unsuccessfully challenged for the WWE Tag Team Championship in a fatal-four way tag team match. The gimmick continued on-and-off until the March 18 episode of SmackDown! until losing a tag team "You're Fired" Match to Tag Team Champions Rikishi and Scotty Too Hotty for the tag team title. General Manager Paul Heyman, frustrated by an insult by the APA, told Faarooq that if he did not win the aforementioned match, then "You're Fired". After the match, Bradshaw led Faarooq back to Heyman's office to state they had not been fired, but had resigned. Then Heyman cleared up the misunderstanding and pointed out that he said that if they did not win the titles, then he told Faarooq "You're fired." His reason for saying this directly to Faarooq was because it applied only to Faarooq because "WWE Management" still saw a lot of potential in Bradshaw. He left them after telling Bradshaw to think about his own future. Faarooq shouted after Heyman that he was not fired because they (Faarooq and Bradshaw) had quit. But Bradshaw hesitated. Faarooq took Bradshaw's hesitation to mean that he would not resign, and so Faarooq promptly disbanded the APA and left.
Bradshaw then proceeded to become a heel persona complete with a suit, cowboy hat, and tie as he began his first main event push. He began referring to himself as John "Bradshaw" Layfield, or JBL. His finishing move's name was part of the overhaul, becoming the Clothesline From Wall Street until he later changed it back to its original name. His first promo was on the border between Texas and Mexico, where he hunted for incoming illegal immigrants in order to win a "Great American Award", which granted the winner number one contendership to the WWE Championship. He won, thanks to the then-SmackDown! heel general manager Kurt Angle, and immediately challenged Eddie Guerrero for the title. The storyline leading up to the match was that JBL caused Guerrero's mother to have a heart attack at a house show when he threatened her and grabbed her by the shoulder. At Judgment Day, JBL defeated Guerrero via disqualification in a match for Eddie's WWE title. A title cannot change hands by DQ, so Guerrero retained the title. JBL controversially won the WWE Championship from Guerrero in a Texas Bull Rope match at The Great American Bash. The initial decision of Guerrero's victory was reversed by then-General Manager Kurt Angle, awarding the match and the title to JBL; the replay showed that JBL touched the fourth corner before Guerrero. JBL won a rematch in a steel cage two weeks later, again with Angle's assistance.
After claiming he would not be defending the title at SummerSlam, the Undertaker challenged JBL for the title. Around this time, JBL hired Orlando Jordan to help him in title matches. At SummerSlam, JBL won the match by disqualification. After the match, Undertaker chokeslammed JBL through the roof of his limo. JBL wore a halo complete with his cowboy hat on top for the next few weeks to sell his "injuries". SmackDown! General Manager Theodore Long then booked a Last Ride match for the title at No Mercy. JBL retained the title with some help from Heidenreich. Though JBL held the title for many months, most title matches were won controversially. At Survivor Series, JBL defeated Booker T to retain his WWE Championship by hitting Booker in the face with the title belt when the referee was knocked out. JBL defeated Eddie Guerrero, The Undertaker, and Booker T in a Fatal Four-Way at Armageddon after a run-in by Heidenreich, who incapacitated the Undertaker, allowing JBL to take advantage and hit Booker with the Clothesline From Hell to get the pinfall victory.
During JBL's time as WWE Champion, he employed a "staff" to work for him. The stable was named The Cabinet. At its peak, the stable contained Orlando Jordan, who was JBL's "Chief-of-Staff" and Doug and Danny Basham, who were his "Co-Secretaries of Defense" until "quitting" the Cabinet on the June 16, 2005 episode of SmackDown!. Amy Weber was also a member, being JBL's image consultant, but later left WWE. WWE explained Weber's absence by saying that JBL "fired" her after an episode of SmackDown! taped in Japan. That episode saw Weber accidentally shoot JBL with a tranquilizer gun. Jordan is the only member not announced to have left the group, though mention of the term cabinet went on hiatus after SummerSlam and Orlando was released from WWE in May 2006.
JBL's luck continued in early 2005; at the Royal Rumble, he snuck past both Big Show and Kurt Angle in a Triple Threat match when he pinned Angle after the Clothesline From Hell. He once again emerged with his title intact from WWE's first-ever Barbed Wire steel cage match at No Way Out against Big Show. JBL won the match when Big Show chokeslammed JBL off the top rope through the ring. JBL managed to crawl out from under the ring apron before Show could make it to the floor, winning the match by escape. On the next episode of SmackDown!, JBL had a "Celebration of Excellence" in which he and his Cabinet celebrated the fact that he was the longest-reigning WWE Champion in ten years, a party which was broken up and ruined by The Big Show and newly-crowned number one contender John Cena. JBL was aggravated consistently by John Cena to make him retaliate as John Cena could then strike back. Cena failed to convince Layfield to do so.
JBL lost the WWE Title to John Cena at WrestleMania 21. pinning JBL to become the new WWE Champion. Layfield's unbroken nine-month reign was billed as the longest in a decade, lasting 280 days. On the April 28 episode of SmackDown!, JBL defeated Big Show, Booker T, and Kurt Angle in a four-way elimination match to earn a rematch for the WWE title, but lost to Cena at Judgment Day in an "I Quit Match".
On June 12, Layfield appeared at the WWE-promoted ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view as an anti-ECW "crusader." In the course of the night he attacked The Blue Meanie. WWE capitalized on the situation by resigning Meanie to a short-term contract. On the July 7 episode of SmackDown!, Meanie was reunited with his old Blue World Order associates Nova and Stevie Richards and he defeated Layfield with the help of the World Heavyweight Champion Batista, who was drafted to SmackDown! a few weeks after Cena was drafted to Raw.
Layfield and Batista then met in a match at The Great American Bash for the World Heavyweight Championship. JBL won the match by disqualification but a title does not change hands by disqualification, so Batista retained the title. At SummerSlam, Batista defeated Layfield in a rematch. JBL lost another rematch with Batista on the September 9 episode of SmackDown! in a Texas Bullrope match.
On the September 16 episode of SmackDown!, JBL lost to Rey Mysterio, which was the beginning of a long feud with Mysterio that lasted almost eight months. He hired Jillian Hall to "fix" his career. At No Mercy, JBL defeated Mysterio in a rematch.
In early 2006, JBL started a feud with The Boogeyman who scared him many times in the new year. The two had a match at the Royal Rumble, which the Boogeyman won. His next opponent was Bobby Lashley, whom Layfield defeated at No Way Out. On the February 24, 2006 episode of SmackDown!, he suffered a broken hand at the hands of Chris Benoit in a six man tag team match, and WWE.com announced that he underwent successful surgery. Layfield returned and feuded with Benoit, defeating him for his WWE United States Championship at WrestleMania 22. During this time, Jillian Hall remained at the side of JBL until the April 21 episode of SmackDown! when JBL fired Hall, due to a mistake she made during a JBL/Benoit steel cage rematch the week before as well as her lack of putting together an "appropriate" celebration for him.
JBL, while still United States Champion, challenged for the World Heavyweight Championship. JBL tried to weaken then champion Rey Mysterio in the weeks leading up to his title match as Mysterio faced off against any opponent of JBL's choosing. Mysterio was defeated by Mark Henry and squashed by The Great Khali in non title singles matches before facing Raw's Kane in a match, that went to a no-contest. This was leading to their title match at Judgment Day, which Mysterio won and retained the title by pinning JBL after a frog splash. On the May 26 episode of SmackDown!, JBL lost the US Title to Bobby Lashley. He also lost another attempt at the World Title against Mysterio, stating beforehand that he would quit SmackDown! if he lost that match. When he did lose, the crowd at the arena began to sing "Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye".
At One Night Stand, Layfield announced that he would take Tazz's place as the new color commentator for SmackDown!. He made his debut as a heelish color commentator on the June 16 episode of SmackDown!.
JBL returned to the ring on November 13, 2006, in the main event of a WWE house show in Dublin, Ireland. JBL teamed with Mr. Kennedy and King Booker against the Brothers of Destruction (Kane and The Undertaker), and Batista. On the December 22 episode of SmackDown!, JBL cut a promo berating Theodore Long and cursing out the fans for cheering during the Inferno match at Armageddon five days earlier.
On the October 12, 2007 episode of Smackdown!, Layfield was announced as one of the options WWE fans would be able to vote for to be the special guest referee at Cyber Sunday for the World Heavyweight Championship match between Batista and The Undertaker. He lost the vote to Stone Cold Steve Austin. At Cyber Sunday, he issued a heated altercation towards those running alongside him, ultimately receiving a Stone Cold Stunner from Austin. After this, he became physical as a color commentator, attacking both Batista and The Undertaker in the middle of a match as revenge after he was speared by Batista and later chokeslammed by The Undertaker after taunting them consecutively, in events leading up to the pay-per-view.
JBL was present at the SmackDown announcer's table during the WWE Championship match between Randy Orton and Chris Jericho, at Armageddon. During this match, Orton whipped a charging Jericho over the announcer table where JBL was situated, and in the heat of the match, Jericho "pushed" JBL out of the way. Minutes later, an infuriated Layfield applied his boot to the head of Jericho while he looked set to win the match. This interference led to a disqualification victory for Jericho meaning that Orton retained the title.
On the December 17, 2007 episode of Raw, JBL announced that he would resume his role as an active wrestler, in response to a challenge made by Jericho. On the December 21 episode of SmackDown!, JBL gave his farewell address from SmackDown, officially marking his return to Raw on December 31. Jericho was disqualified in their match at the Royal Rumble. The duo battled in a rematch on the February 11 episode of Raw, which Jericho won.
On February 18 on Raw, JBL interfered in the scheduled steel cage match between Mr. McMahon and his storyline illegitimate son, Hornswoggle. After Vince whipped Hornswoggle with his belt, JBL attacked Finlay from behind and handcuffed him to the top rope. After Mr. McMahon left the ring, JBL proceeded to beat Hornswoggle by throwing him against the sides of the cage. JBL later revealed to McMahon that Hornswoggle was Finlay's storyline son, not McMahon's. On March 29, JBL inducted the Brisco Brothers into the WWE Hall of Fame. On March 30, JBL defeated Finlay in a Belfast Brawl at WrestleMania XXIV.
JBL's first championship bid since returning to the ring came by challenging Randy Orton for the WWE Championship and participating in a Fatal Four-Way Elimination match at Backlash that also included John Cena and Triple H. JBL was eliminated first in the match by tapping out to Cena's STF, thus renewing their feud from 2005. Cena defeated JBL at Judgment Day and then at One Night Stand in a First Blood match. He managed to defeat Cena in a New York City Parking Lot Brawl at The Great American Bash.
JBL would continue to pursue the World Heavyweight Championship. His next on-screen rivalry with CM Punk, who was, at that time, the World Heavyweight Champion. During the feud, JBL criticized Punk's straight-edge beliefs, saying he could challenge Punk to a contest Punk could not win which was revealed to be an alcohol-drinking contest on Raw. Punk, instead of drinking a shot, said that he followed his own rules, before throwing the drink in JBL's face. JBL finally got his match for Punk's championship at SummerSlam. Despite dominating for most of the match, JBL would lose the match after Punk landed the Go To Sleep on him and getting the pinfall. On September 7 at Unforgiven, JBL faced Batista, Kane, Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho (replacing the then champion Punk who was earlier attacked by Randy Orton) in a Championship Scramble match for the World Heavyweight title. Jericho went on to win the match and the World Heavyweight Championship. On October 5 at No Mercy, JBL was defeated by Batista in a Number One Contender for the World Heavyweight Championship match.
In November 2008, JBL had an on-screen short rivalry with Shawn Michaels. Michaels had lost his family's personal savings due to the global financial crisis and would become Layfield's employee. After failing to secure JBL the World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena at the Royal Rumble. Michaels agreed to take part in an "All or Nothing" match at No Way Out on February 15, 2009, Shawn won the match, after his wife (who was watching in the audience) punched JBL in the face and Michaels planted the Sweet Chin Music. This ended any employment links between the two with Michaels still receiving the full payment owed to him and end the feud.
On the March 9 episode of Raw, JBL defeated CM Punk to win the Intercontinental Championship, thus becoming the tenth Grand Slam Champion and twentieth Triple Crown Champion. He held the title for one month, losing the Intercontinental championship at WrestleMania XXV against Rey Mysterio in 21 seconds. After the match, JBL grabbed a microphone and he said "I quit!"; the next day he announced his retirement on his WWE Universe blog.
Layfield made his return to WWE on the March 7, 2011 episode of Raw as Michael Cole's choice for special guest referee for his match against Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania XXVII. He cut a promo claiming he was starting his "journey back to the main event at WrestleMania", before being interrupted by Stone Cold Steve Austin just as he was about to sign the contract. After a brief argument between the two, Austin hit Layfield with the Stone Cold Stunner and signed the contract to be the special guest referee. On March 31, 2012 Layfield inducted his former tag team partner and real life best friend Ron Simmons into the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame. On July 23 Layfield returned as a face with Simmons at Raw 1000 as the APA, after being called for protection by Lita. After a Clothesline from Hell, Lita defeated Heath Slater.
Starting at Night of Champions Layfield returned as a face for the first time as his JBL persona, and sporadically filled in as color commentator, replacing Jerry Lawler, who suffered a heart attack during the Raw episode preceding Night of Champions. Layfield later re-signed with the promotion and returned to the Smackdown broadcast team on a full-time basis, alongside Josh Mathews and eventually Michael Cole. JBL also played an assist in Kofi Kingston in the 2013 Royal Rumble, handing him his announcer's chair for Kingston to "pogo stick" back to the ring to avoid his feet touching the floor so he could avoid elimination. Since April 1, 2013, JBL has become the third commentator for Raw alongside Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler. JBL is also part of the commentary team at WWE Pay-Per-Views and commentated at WrestleMania 29. He eventually turned back into a heel persona on commentary table after caught defended Triple H decisions as parts of new corporate storyline. On September 12, 2013, JBL was named Commissioner of NXT, replacing Dusty Rhodes.
At the 2014 Royal Rumble PPV, Layfield wrestled in his first WWE match in nearly five years when he was a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble match. Having been on commentary the whole broadcast, JBL left the commentator's table when his number (#24) came up. He was quickly eliminated by Roman Reigns, and resumed his role as commentator for the rest of the broadcast. On May 12 2014 episode of Raw, Alicia Fox took JBL's hat during her meltdown after she lost to Paige. On the May 26th episode of Raw, JBL was attacked by The Wyatt Family, receiving Luke Harper's discus clothesline in the process. In July, Layfield was retired as NXT General Manager. On the January 19, 2015 edition of Raw, JBL, along with Ron Simmons, the nWo and The New Age Outlaws attacked The Ascension. On the March 30 episode of Raw, Layfield, along with Booker T and Michael Cole, were attacked by Brock Lesnar after Seth Rollins refused Lesnar his WWE World Heavyweight Championship rematch.