I Want To Talk A Little Bit About Authority Figures

These guys have been around for years but are really becoming a problem as of late. Let’s go back to the past for a bit here because I like doing that. Back in the late 80s, there was one authority figure in the WWF and his name was Jack Tunney. You young whippersnappers might have heard of him and if you ever see him I’d recommend a pillow on standby. He was an old man that occasionally gave a speech from his office about something or other and even on occasion came to the ring. He was a suit but he was THE suit. No one questioned him and arguing with him was usually a waste of time. In short, he was the boss.

Flashing forward (and I’ll be skipping some of the names in here due to a lot of them being pretty worthless) we had Gorilla Monsoon who was a very popular old commentator who was the voice of the WWF in his day. He became commissioner after retiring because Vince guaranteed him lifetime employment and he needed something to do. He didn’t do much, but he was an intimidating presence and a guy that was almost universally loved.

Then it starts to go downhill for a little while.

We got Commissioner Slaughter who might have been more worthless than a jobber in a squash match. Slaughter was pushed around and often beaten up by various people with no one really taking him seriously at all. He was around for the Shawn Michaels DX days and that’s about all he did: fight DX, with a win/loss record that would make him jealous of the Brooklyn Brawler. The next authority figure was a little more successful and realistic.

Around this time, Vince McMahon was revealed to be the real life owner of the company in an angle about Jim Ross of all people. Vince began feuding with Austin over what Vince and Austin thought should be the image of the champion and therefore the company, moving into a two year long rivalry that launched the company to undreamed of heights. Along the way, there was still a Commissioner, but it was Shawn Michaels. HBK had the job for about two years and didn’t do much. Then we got into the more active ones, such as Foley and Regal.

Also during this time, various McMahons and McMahon spouses (HHH) had and lost power with people stepping down from power and people winning control of the company in matches and all that jazz. This is where you can start seeing the problems that would plague the company and was really hurting WCW at the time (among other things) but we’ll get to that in a minute.

After that, the Brand Split happened and each show had an owner (Ric Flair on Raw, Vince on Smackdown) and then a GM. Smackdown started off with a lot of changes at GM, ranging from Stephanie to Paul Heyman to Kurt Angle to Teddy Long to Vickie and now back to Teddy. Raw has been a little more insane. Eric Bischoff held the job for about three and a half years and since then (December of 2005), there have been 8 GMs.

That brings us to today with HHH as the COO and Johnny Ace as the suit that runs around doing whatever. We’ll come back to this at the end.

I promise there’s going to be a point to this in the end.

Let’s take a look at WCW for an example of what NOT to do. Back in the early days, there wasn’t really any boss figure. The matches just kind of happened and someone booked them but it wasn’t really thought of. Then WCW came up with the stupidest of all their boss related ideas (up to that point): they had the REAL bosses of the company appear on TV as the bosses. In other words, actual business executives playing business executives. If you think about this, you can instantly see the problem: these guys have no idea how to act in front of a camera. We have no idea who they are and we don’t care about them, so why should they be on TV? Because WCW is stupid, that’s why.

So after having Nick Bockwinkle for Commissioner for a few years (despite having no connection to WCW after having been in the AWA for years and years and years), we had no boss for awhile until we got to the NWO era, which is where things got smart again. Eric Bischoff, the actual boss, was made into the on-screen boss. For people like him and Vince or in the present HHH, this is smart as they know how to be on TV and act like a TV person. It makes sense and the fans are going to react better. Also it helps knowing they could actually fire someone and aren’t just an actor.

Anyway, things go downhill after that as the Commissionership, the CEO spot and President of WCW become more or less titles which could be defended and won or lost in matches. This became a real problem as they would change almost month to month and no one had any idea who was in charge half of the time. Also at the end of the day, people stopped caring because everyone made matches anyway. Towards the end you had Russo and Bischoff plus others that were in the spots I just mentioned, making something like 3-5 bosses at once. That takes us to TNA, which is easier to talk about as it’s been around for less time and has had fewer bosses for the most part.

Before there was just TNA and it’s management which like WCW’s old days was some unseen force that made things happened. That’s perfectly fine. Jim Cornette was made the representative of TNA management in 2006 and held the job on and off for about three years. Jeff Jarrett and Dixie Carter had some authority in there for the most part too, Dixie being on screen rarely.

Now we get to modern TNA, which shows the problem for the most part. At the moment, Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Karen Angle and the Network are allowed to make matches. That’s four total (three for the main roster) matchmakers. Who is in charge more than anyone else? There’s really no way to tell and it gets a little complicated. Sting wants to bring back Dixie Carter and there was a Network Representative recently in the form of Foley. In short, it’s too much and it gets too complicated quickly.

Ok so now let’s summarize this. Authority figures are an important part of wrestling, but they need to be done right. They need to not be actors but rather someone that knows how to work a wrestling crowd. It gets dull when you have a guy that has no idea what to say out there trying to sound important. Also, for the love of sanity, stop talking about behind the scenes stuff and convincing boards of directors to give you power. TNA has been really guilty of this lately. I can’t count how often Hogan and Bischoff have been granted power by the Network and we’re just told about it. Yes that’s realistic, but that’s not the point of wrestling. Wrestling is over the top and insane, not based in reality. If you’re going to change power, show it happening.

That brings me back to WCW: there’s such a thing as changing too often. Raw did this over the last few years, changing GMs all the time. It gets annoying in a hurry as it makes the power seem weak, as it can be taken away and replaced all the time. You also don’t want to have matches all the time to change the authority figures. If you can’t keep track of who the boss is, how important can they seem?

Most importantly of all, don’t have a ton of people in power. Have preferably one and at most two. WWE is doing things pretty well now with HHH as the boss and Ace as only kind of a boss. People are fighting for HHH’s power in the form of the Conspiracy and it makes it look valuable that he wants to defend it. Now I know that kind of goes against what I said about not changing it immediately, which is what I mean as HHH doesn’t need to lose the job already.

Authority figures can be important and great additions to the show, but they need to be done right.

1 comment

  1. Adam King says:

    Another example is the Invasion, which had a flood of authroity figures. Toward th eend you have Vince, Mick Foley, Shane, Stephanie and William all with the supposed authority to make matches and rulings.