Tonight, the landscape of WWE television will be drastically altered on the first of many upcoming LIVE editions of Smackdown as for the first time since 2011, we will witness the exciting occurrence of a WWE Draft. Superstars from RAW, Smackdown, and perhaps even NXT will find themselves pledging allegiance to one show and one show only for the foreseeable future, calling either Shane or Stephanie their highest-level boss and hopefully not being as overexposed as most stars have been the last four years. Because of this, I felt like an article of some kind was in order. But what kind of article should it be? Well, seeing as it is Tuesday, I felt like a Tuesday Top 10 would be a good idea. But instead of focusing on the draft itself, I decided to focus on another much-talked about element of the draft: the authority figures. When RAW and Smackdown were split up in 2002, each show for assigned a GM to book matches, maintain order, and abuse their authority as they damn well saw fit. Since then, a revolving door of bosses have found themselves on the position, and just yesterday, Daniel Bryan joined the club by being announced as the General Manager of Smackdown, while former GM Mick Foley was named the GM for RAW. Because of this, it feels like the perfect time to give the good (or at least entertaining) GM’s of the past their just due. So for this post, I’m counting down my Top 10 personal favorite WWE General Managers. Commissioners and developmental GM’s need not apply, so don’t expect to see Dusty Rhodes running NXT, Summer Rae running FCW, or Mick Foley’s previous run as a commissioner; its main roster GM’s or nothing.
#10. Booker T (Smackdown)
When first got into pro wrestling, Booker T was one of my immediate favorites, so when he made his return to WWE in 2011, I was completely excited to see what he would do after that bizarre run in TNA where his wife turned in a Worst Match Ever candidate that should have been avoided at all cost. After all, he we have a guy who’s up there in age and has six World Championships to his name, so he clearly had nothing left to prove. Only a few option remained: become a manager, put over young talent, become a commentator, or become an authority figure. Well, three out of four ain’t bad. After helping put promising up-and-comer Cody Rhodes over in a brief feud (I was in attendance for one of those matches!) and trying to help Theodore R. Long triumph over John Laurinaitis to gain control of both shows, Booker T would take over the shot-caller duties on the blue brand. Not a bad choice given the experience, wisdom, and longevity that the now-Hall of Famer has in the wrestling business. He’s only #10 on the list however, because out of everyone on the official list, he’s probably had the least noteworthy moments; the guy kind of got out-shown by Eve Torres, Teddy Long, and a Hannah Montana wig. But that’s not to take away from how good of a general manger he actually was as he handled himself pretty well and absolutely seemed like he belonged in the role.
#9. John Laurinaitis (RAW & Smackdown)
Whenever the phrase “People Power” is uttered and you hear that music straight off of a morning news broadcast’s stock reel, you know you’re about to be graced with the presence of a man once famous for carrying a skateboard and rocking a ridiculous blonde mullet, but who would evolve into being the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and General Manager of RAW and Smackdown. As well as the man who just made me try to sum up his character development with a run-on sentence. When he first appeared as a character on WWE television, he was just one of those yes-men CM Punk put on blast in his infamous pipebomb promo. But then he just kept showing up and soon, his hoarse voice and wooden stare would be inescapable on WWE television. He took over Monday Night RAW for months to much ridicule from CM Punk, before eventually being given the keys to Smackdown for a couple of months. His staff were no slouches either: the coffee-swilling David Otunga, the amazingly devious Eve Torres (who does NOT like her coffee cold), and the always-undecided Big Show were his associates, and made sure Laurinaitis was not made into a joke. Well, even more of a joke as people made him out to be; you’re kind of already waiting to become a meme when you ride a damn scooter to the ring. The reign of Big Johnny came to an end in a match with Big MATCH Johnny, but the era of People Power has not been forgotten.
#8. AJ Lee (RAW)
Anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows that I’ve made my feelings on the tail-end of the run of AJ Lee’s television character abundantly clear. But before 2014 happened, I saw her as one of the more entertaining characters on the show, and that all stems from her whirl-wind 2012, where she was one of only two women really getting any kind of attention in the company. She and Eve Torres (For someone who’s never officially been a General Manager, Eve is all over the early portion of this list, huh?) were crazy over as the most popular female face and the most despised female heel in the company. So how did WWE decide to capitalize on the momentum of these two? Did they book them in the feud of all feuds to refresh the then-struggling womens divison? Well, they teased it, but nope, they didn’t pull the trigger. What did they do instead? They made them authority figures. They made Eve an Executive Administrator for Big Johnny and an assistant for Booker T, while AJ Lee was given the keys to RAW during her on-screen wedding. What was going on in Vince’s brain with the women’s division in 2012? But you know what? AJ wasn’t a terrible GM. In fact, her hindered mental stability actually played to her benefit because you never knew what she would do, especially with colleagues she had an established history with. And even though I feel like she might have gotten her threads from Kohls, her suit game was admittedly on-point too. She lost her job due to fraternizing with an employee, and her job was given to another woman with a history of fraternizing with employees when in power. But we’ll get to her, trust me.
#7. William Regal (RAW)
William Regal is the longest reigning general manager in NXT history, and he must be applauded for the work he’s put into the third brand. But I’m not here to discuss that; nor am I here to discuss what he accomplished as the WWF commissioner during the Attitude Era either. Although I will say that it was the era of Regal’s career where we learned to never besmirch the royal tea. What I am gonna talk about was his short-lived run as the boss of Monday Night RAW. William Regal is considered by many, myself included, to be one of the best wrestlers to never hold a World Championship, and his credentials extend far beyond his skills on the mat. He’s untouchable on the mic, whether speaking or even rapping, and his ruthless nature and respectable demeanor made him the perfect choice to run RAW in the late-2000s to make keep all the little sunshines on the roster in-check. But his reign is perhaps best remembered for the fact that he did in fact abuse his authority on numerous occasions. First of all, he entered himself in the returning King of the Ring tournament and won. Then after that, he decided that fan insubordination would not be tolerated by either taking the ending to matches off the air or hitting the lights on them whenever he felt disrespected. That was some brutal decision-making, but it was something I’d never seen before…..except for the one time Eric Bischoff did it to insult Smackdown, but I definitely associate it more with Regal. Sadly, the Wellness Policy put an end to Regal’s reign far too soon, but his brief time in charge lands him here. Shocked no one took a leak in his coffee this time though.
#6. Stephanie McMahon (Smackdown)
Sasha Banks may call herself The Boss, but there’s one woman who’s been running things in WWE since before the former NXT Women’s Champion even graduated grade school. While she may be an evil boss with a mean pimp hand today (unless you’re Shane, in which case being slapped by Stephanie is the equivalent of a paper plane tapping your cheek), she was kind of the exact opposite during her time as the Smackdown General Manager back in 2003. Despite disappearing months prior as Triple H’s spoiled, easily-hateable ex-wife, kicking and screaming in her final appearance at the time, she returned as a fan favorite boss and RAW boss Eric Bischoff’s direct competition. And what a magical time it was for Smackdown, with Brock Lesnar‘s rise to prominence, the series of matches with the Smackdown Six, the breakthrough of John Cena (who need I remind you, Stephanie let smack that ass once), the reinstating of the U.S. Title, and the memorable (whether for the right or wrong reasons) rivalry between Torrie Wilson & Dawn Marie, among many other things. Did all these ideas come straight from Stephanie behind the scenes? I don’t know, but on-screen, she oversaw it all and made Smackdown must see television before her run came to as end at the hands of her father and a pipe. I can safely say that whoever ends up on RAW tonight better expect a completely different Stephanie McMahon than the one we got here.
#5. Paul Heyman (Smackdown)
Paul Heyman is an evil genius. Even his smile is evil. But don’t dismiss that genius part, as he was able to build up maybe the biggest niche product in wrestling history, ECW, into the #3 promotion of the 90s with a legacy so big, it’s spawn numerous reunions in many companies the world over since. Also, that chant just won’t die either; it’s like a twin brother of the “What?” chant. So when ECW folded, Paul Heyman joined WWE as a commentator, then as a manager, then as a General Manager once Vince McMahon choked his daughter out of a job. Vince probably wasn’t happy about Heyman accidentally getting him in a Buried Alive match by the end of his first night, but the rest of his brief tenure saw Paul Heyman’s Smackdown turn out a mostly solid product. And yes, he always referred to it as “Paul Heyman’s Smackdown”; say the whole thing, like APimpNamedSlickback. He was ultimately relieved of his duties after being drafted to RAW and quitting out of hatred toward Eric Bischoff, but having a boss like Paul Heyman certainly did shake up Smackdown for a bit. In case you’re wondering, Kurt Angle was named the GM afterward, but I’ll get at the Olympic Gold Medalist in the honorable mentions.
#4. Vickie Guerrero (RAW & Smackdown)
Taking nothing and making something out of it. Or as comedian Katt Williams said on It’s Pimpin’, Pimpin’, pulling a Kevin Federline. I don’t know if many cases of it compare to the character progression of Vickie Guerrero. When she got hired, she was known as one thing and one thing only: Eddie Guerrero‘s widow. What were they gonna do with her? It’s not like she’s a trained wrestler or anything. Well, as WWE has been known to do, they found something. And boy, did it work. After turning heel on Rey Mysterio, the legacy of the heat magnet known as Vickie Guerrero began. She’s become a GM for the first time in 2007, and soon ended up in a relationship with Edge that probably should have gotten her kayfabe fired. I mean, really; did WWE Board of Directors not watch Smackdown back then? I thought workplace fraternization was illegal; it was the thing that got AJ Lee fired from the GM position after all. But regardless, their run together was actually pretty memorable, and paved the way for more crooked Vickie GM runs between RAW and Smackdown, including one where she’s given Dolph Ziggler the same preferential treatment she did Edge. From her multiple stints as GM to her being able to get booed out of the building just be saying “Excuse Me!” as high-pitched as she possibly could, Guerrero became a star against all odds. May she come back for more nostalgia pops.
#3. Eric Bischoff (RAW)
Maybe Vince McMahon would be nice enough to give Dixie Carter an on-air job if he ever buys TNA; if he could put Heyman and this guy on the payroll despite having so much bad blood with both of them that this could be his theme song, he’d have nothing to worry about. Keep in mind Eric Bischoff beat McMahon in the ratings and made him change the way he did business to avoid going completely south and into irrelevancy during the Monday Night Wars. Despite all of this, the handshake seen round the world occurred in 2002 and Eric Bischoff was officially allowed to run roughshod over RAW as the boss with an over-inflated ego who love abusing his authority, sending his two big Samoan bodyguards to beat people down, and making it clear to Stephanie McMahon that he’s playing NO games. He’s the mastermind behind the Elimination ChamberElimination Chamber (in-universe, at least) and made us laugh out loud with his interactions with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Also, he probably has THE best theme song ever given to an authority figure who’s last name isn’t McMahon. Alas, all good (or evil) things must come to an end, and that rang true for Eric Bischoff‘s reign atop RAW, with his final regular appearance seeing him get his day in court before being dumped in a garbage truck driven by Vince McMahon.
#2. Steve Austin (RAW)
For a guy who’s entire character is based around the idea of rebelling against authority, Stone Cold Steve Austin was a guy who certainly made an impression when given the keys to the castle. Granted he already had a past stint as a CEO, so he already had some kayfabe working experience under his Smokin’ Skull belt buckle, but his reign as Co-General Manager of RAW probably surpassed that in sheer entertainment value. Much like his CEO stint, cans of beer and whoop-ass were allowed on the job in equal measure. At least that was the case for a little bit; while the office had no problem with his rampant alcohol consumption, they did take offense to his putting his hands on talent and instituted a rule banning him from doing so unless physically provoked, which some superstars did do, sometimes with reckless abandon. It was fighting to get this stipulation removed that resulted in Austin losing the position thanks to Pre-Drax, and eventually re-emerging as the Sheriff, complete with cereal-box badge. That didn’t last long, but his run as a fun-loving co-GM is one that I don’t think anyone is ever gonna forget, although you might want to forget some portions of it, such as him making Eric Bischoff puke over the crowd.
#1. Theodore Long (Smackdown & ECW)
You must be doing something right if you eventually become associated with a match type that you didn’t even create. When he started as the General Manager of Smackdown in 2004, I didn’t know how to respond because this was the heel manager with the loud suits who a year earlier was issuing White Boy Challenges for Rodney Mack and fighting against the illusion “Man” that’s held brothers and sisters down for so long (especially in WWE, where World Championship lineage only has about three or four black people in it, and that’s only if you count BOTH versions of the World Title). Now he suddenly turned face and would making favorable decisions on the Smackdown brand as the new GM. It was a new beginning for Teddy Long, and his story would have an incredibly long middle and end as he went on to become the longest-reigning General Manager of anything that WWE has ever had. Having been an on-and-off GM for both Smackdown and ECW for years, we grew very familiar with Teddy’s silly dance moves, the word “playa”, and his apparent adoration for Tag Team Matches. Even to this day when a disruption is obviously set to become a tag team match or a card is loaded with them, it’s impossible not to think of the former WWE referee. He’s the official president of tag team matches now, and no one is taking the crown. For leaving such an impression and being entertaining overall, I’m naming Teddy Long #1 on this countdown, playa!
+ Kurt Angle
Taking over for Paul Heyman after he quit, Angle used his time in power to attempt screwing over John Cena and Eddie Guerrero, get wheeled around due to a broken leg, and treat the Divas like dirt. But hey, he is the only Olympic Gold Medalist to hold the job.
+ Mick Foley
In 2003, Foley was RAW co-General Manager for all of three weeks. He then lost the position, took Randy Orton‘s loogie to the face, disappeared for a bit, and came back to help finish establish Orton as the Legend Killer.
+ Daniel Bryan
Remember when he was the interim General Manager for a week when the Authority were ousted? Yeah, he’s on here for that. Maybe with his upcoming run as Smackdown General Manager, he’ll make a revised version of my main list down the road.
Mike Adamle was actually awful at every aspect of WWE programming he was given: commentary, interviewing, and General Managing. But he was so accidentally funny with almost everything he did, I felt like it’d be fun to give him a mention here.
+ Triple H
Yeah, apparently he was deemed a General manager early for RAW early in his COO run. But since I just saw him more as a straight-up COO than as a General Manager, I decided to leave him off the list. By the way, where has that guy been on WWE television lately?
What do you think of this edition of Tuesday Top 10? Leave a comment or tweet me up @FearlessRiOT with your opinion or even to suggest a topic for the next edition.