source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter
WWE Intercontinental Champion John Bradshaw Layfield, 42, has been telling people backstage that he will likely be retiring from the ring by May. His back problems that caused him to originally retire in 2006 have resurfaced and his retirement from WWE appears imminent. Layfield is not listed in the May house show bookings that have been released.
As noted earlier, Layfield recently claimed he would be doing something historical that would shock the wrestling world at Wrestlemania XXV. Regarding his claim, it’s been speculated that JBL will retire as the Intercontinental Champion, something nobody with the exception of Trish Stratus as WWE Women’s Champion at the 2006 Unforgiven pay-per-view has ever done.
In a strange pairing, Layfield will be teaming up with Vladimir Kozlov against the team of Undertaker and Shawn Michaels next week on Raw. It’s interesting to note that in a blog post yesterday, Jim Ross actually speculated on a Layfield vs. Kozlov feud. While this is only speculation, Dave Meltzer believes the strange pairing could indicate a quick Kozlov/JBL break-up, allowing JBL to go to his home state of Texas at WrestleMania XXV as the babyface and face “The Moscow Mauler” with the Intercontinental Championship on the line. It would cast JBL in the right atmosphere for a retirement ceremony/moment.
Considering CM Punk is already tied to the Money in the Bank Match, he will definitely not be facing JBL at WrestleMania — so there’s not many candidates left. With the exception of Kozlov, the highest slotted candidate not already accounted for on the lineup at “The 25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania” is Rey Mysterio. However, nothing has been done to even start anything in that direction, and time is running short. Following next week’s show, there will only be two weeks left to build towards WrestleMania.