In 2001, Silverman upgraded himself to first class while traveling on a plane with WWE Superstars. Seat upgrades on plane rides were only reserved for top names in the company at the time, but Silverman was unaware of that unwritten rule.
On the latest episode of Grilling JR, host Conrad Thompson recapped a 2001 report from the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer about the incident. Meltzer said Silverman was “ribbed unmercifully” and ordered to buy beers for everyone on the flight.
Responding to the report, Ross confirmed that Silverman quit WWE due to the way he was treated on the plane.
“We had some guys on our roster that were kind of bullies and they were very competitive. I don’t know what motivated them. I think what motivated them is that they knew that Silverman was not going to fight back and he was being bullied, and that was wrong. Billy did a nice job as a referee, he always did, but that was unnecessary. I was sorry, he was a good referee, as a matter of fact, Conrad, and you lose a piece out of your toolbox, so to speak,” Ross said.
Silverman worked for WWE between 1986 and 1997 before returning for another short run with the company in 2001. He also refereed for WCW between 1997 and 2001.
Jim Ross worked as WWE’s Head of Talent Relations when Billy Silverman quit his job as a referee.
The 69-year-old admired Silverman’s work but felt there was nothing he could do to convince the former official to stay in WWE.
“I always felt badly about that scenario, but what are you going to do? If he would have come to us when he landed and would have expressed himself, that was no option. He was gone, he quit. So, I don’t know, and some people will take exception to that. ‘You should have brought him back.’ But, quite frankly, at that time it probably was better for him to take a little bit of a sabbatical considering this whole scenario,” Ross said.
PW Torch’s Wade Keller reported in 2001 that Billy Silverman “made himself a target” due to his reluctance to give up his first class seat. He added that “verbal ribbing” from JBL is what ultimately led to Silverman quitting.
Please credit Grilling JR and give a H/T to Sportskeeda Wrestling for the transcription if you use quotes from this article.