One of the most newsworthy events that transpired on World Wrestling Entertainment's tour of Iraq last week took place nowhere near any of the cameras that were filming the tour. I was stunned at hearing the following story over the weekend and initially chalked it up to being just an urban legend, but as it turns out, it was completely accurate.
Retired WWE announcer (and current WWE.com personality) Joey Styles punched out former WWE champion JBL in Iraq during an altercation between the two, busting JBL open under the eye.
No, that is not a typo.
As the story was initially explained to me (and all versions I've heard since have matched the original report I was conveyed), JBL made Styles something of a target because it was Styles' first tour of Iraq for the company and was hazing the former ECW announcer.
I was told JBL was trying to bully Styles with a lot of condescending comments and actions, including allegedly spilling a drink on Styles on purpose. JBL was more or less pulling a lot of the shenanigans that a lot of of the performers in the company can't stand but deal with since he has the political stroke of being a tenured veteran.
Several days into the tour, JBL (who by all accounts, had been drinking) did something that caused Styles to physically retaliate in defense. A number of wrestlers stepped between them and held the two apart. When JBL broke free, he went towards Styles, who "nailed him perfectly with a pretty good shot" according to one witness, laying JBL out, busting him open and blackening his eye.
There were no further incidents between the two on the tour after that.
There were a number of performers who pointed out to me that the story was something of karma coming back to bite JBL in the rear because his antics had caused Smackdown talent Palmer Cannon to quit the company during a European tour (and Cannon wasn't the only victim of JBL's hazing over the years) as well as the famous 2005 ECW One Night Stand beating of the Blue Meanie during the PPV closing brawl inside the ring.
At last night's Raw in Philadelphia, the story was the talk of the day among wrestlers, who were amazed by the incident. I was also told JBL was acting completely subdued at the taping, something absolutely out of character for him, as he knew the story was making the rounds. Styles, meanwhile, was trying to downplay the incident to those who brought it up to him at Raw.
It was considered doubly embarrassing for JBL among the wrestlers since he was so involved with setting up the Iraq tours.
In a strange way, some theorized the incident would get Styles over with Vince McMahon because it showed his "toughness" and could pave the way for his return to TV. I have no idea whether Styles' cameo last night was part of any direct result of the "Iraq Punchout", as it was termed to me.