Who’s in charge around here? That cry could be aimed at WWE at present. We currently have an abundance of authority figures on our screens, each with varying degrees of responsibility and respect.
We have Triple H and Stephanie, ‘The Authority’, running roughshod over Daniel Bryan, including organising phony cops to handcuff Daniel Bryan and delivering a (way too long) beat down on the guy. Triple H has also used his power to add himself into the title picture at Mania (should he get past Bryan).
We have ‘Corporate’ Kane trying and failing to throw his own authority around with the Shield. Poor Brad Maddox (with hits ‘extra medium’ size waistcoats) seems to have disappeared from our screens, even though he is still meant to be the RAW GM.
Over on Smackdown Vickie Guerrero is General Manager, and even turned up on RAW on Monday to make a Diva’s match for WrestleMania, and we have JBL as the GM on NXT, even though I believe he has only been there once and never seems to know any of the talent when they are mentioned on RAW. Then of course there is the spectre of Vince McMahon in the background, looming large over them all.
One thing is for sure we don’t need this many authority figures, but do we need any at all? Obviously the wrestlers need someone to complain to, someone from whom they can demand their title shot when they feel they are being side stepped by the champion. Someone for the champion to complain to when he has to (shock horror) defend his title. But when they start to take a strong on screen presence, they are taking the limelight away from the stars they are meant to be managing.
Back in the boom period we had the fictional WWF president Jack Tunney presiding over things, very much the good guy he would sail the WWF ship steadily in the face of those nasty heels like the Undertaker and Ric Flair. He would right wrongs at the first opportunity, such as his Tuesday Night in Texas pay per view as a rematch for Hulk Hogan against the Undertaker after Flair interfered in their first match. Often unseen, or with enough presence to illicit the correct amount of reaction, it would be left for the commentators and wrestlers to paint the picture.
In 1997 the President’s role changed to commissioner and Sgt Slaughter took the role, but he still had to answer to Vince McMahon, who after the Montreal screw job developed his character to be the nasty Mr McMahon and spearheaded the attitude era with his feud with Steve Austin.
When the brand split in 2002, both Smackdown and RAW have be inundated with various General Managers and reincarnations of the McMahon / Austin story line. Various heels have been at the helm, such as John Laurinaitis, Vickie Guerrero, and even Eric Bischoff. We’ve had face characters do the role, we’ve even had the mystery GM, who would communicate his thoughts through emails to Michael Cole, usually in the middle of a promo and generally to the annoyance of the fans in attendance. Eventually it was revealed to be Hornswoggle.
One of the more insulting stories is when we go through periods of having celebrities coming in to do the role. They will come in and outsmart the dumb ‘old wrestlers, while we all join in and laugh at their expense, even though we are meant to have invested our own time and interest in these guys previously.
When left to her own devices, Vickie Guerrero is the best at what she does. One heel GM calling the shots, interrupting someone with a well-timed shrill of ‘Excuse Me’ to illicit some serious heat, making the match then leaving. When she becomes involved in some silly power struggle with someone like Brad Maddox it muddies the waters and the impact is lost.
It’s a case of too many cooks spoil the broth. It doesn’t look like Triple H and Stephanie will be stepping aside from our screens any time soon, so unless they get rid of some of their ‘backroom staff’, the issue of over crowding on the management side looks set to continue.