WWE | Pro Wrestling

It’s Time to Ditch the On-Screen Authority Figure

John LaurinaitisRAW last week was a terrible, awful show for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons to me was the shoehorning in the return of the Anonymous General Manager. It really messed with the flow of the show, and the payoff for it was just brutal in its execution, even if I wouldn’t have minded it if Hornswoggle was revealed to be the man behind the computer in a better fashion.

This week’s show, however, was actually pretty awesome for several reasons as well. It had great wrestling, a solid opening segment and a kitschy marriage proposal that helped hammer home how great a performer one Daniel Bryan is. Did anyone notice what was missing from the show? Yep, there was no interim general manager this week. I don’t want to say that made all the difference, because shows have been awesome in the past with a GM in place (usually that GM being John Laurinaitis… miss you Big Johnny). However, it’s amazing how much smoother the show was with a main event already in place and barely any shenanigans involving a wrestler needing to have conflict with someone in charge.

That all being said, haven’t most of the complaints about most WWE and Impact programming been tied to on-screen authority figures? Even Ring of Honor is languishing thanks to a largely pointless Kevin Steen vs. Jim Cornette feud. Taking away the universally respected Mr. McMahon character during the height of his feud with Austin and cult favorites like Laurinaitis, William Regal and Vickie Guerrero, the general manager position has done more to muddle the stories rather than enhance them. I mean, how many times can Teddy Long punish a heel by putting him in a match with “DA UNDATAKA, PLAYA” or by making a tag match among four or more bickering wrestlers in the ring? His shtick got old quick, and so did most guys who filled the role. Even Mick Foley wasn’t immune to overexposure.

After seeing how well the show went Monday without a GM, I think it’s about time WWE goes back to a prolonged period of time where the only on-screen authority figure makes sparse appearances, back to a simpler time when the position of commissioner was filled more for honorific purposes by guys whom Vince McMahon wanted to repay for loyalty. It wasn’t often we’d see Jack Tunney, Gorilla Monsoon or Sgt. Slaughter, but when we did, that meant it was all about to go down. The sparseness of those appearances forced wrestlers to interact with each other and not use conflict with a suit as a crutch.

Would the exchange between CM Punk and Big Show last night to open the show have been as effective if it didn’t lead to their excellent match to close the show? Even if the performances were the same, Punk taking his frustrations out on a proxy for Show rather than Show himself isn’t nearly as satisfying a conclusion. The most effective villains are the ones who face the fire themselves. Again, McMahon was an exception, but at the same time, he put his money where his mouth was and competed regularly in the ring. Furthermore, Long as a babyface authority figure was totally useless because he was the guy who was normally set up to give comeuppance, not receive it. The guy hasn’t wrestled for Lord knows how long, and he’s not someone who should be getting in the ring, taking bumps or doing any kind of offensive maneuvering to anyone.

Basically, the general manager has become a tired, overused story trope that should be retired for the time being. If you use anything too much, it’s going to lose its effectiveness, and the last thing WWE needs right now is ineffective storytelling. They’re moving the show to three hours this coming Monday, and bad storytelling will make it seem like three years. That’s not the kind of programming you want to show your audience EVERY Monday.

I hope someone in WWE noticed the improvement in quality from last week to this week and makes the leap that maybe part of it had to do with the lack of authority figure bogging it down. Fans want to see wrestlers interacting and clashing with each other. They don’t want bureaucracy. The best way to avoid that and give the fans what they want is eliminating the temptation of having the GM come out and play magic elixir.

Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric’s work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

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