WWE's 10 greatest leaders
On Presidents Day, the citizens of the United States take time to reflect on the men who have led our country. In WWE, we’ve had Presidents, Commissioners, General Managers, Managing Supervisors, Chairmen and COOs. Much like our presidents, they’ve each brought a unique brand of leadership to the WWE Universe.
From banning reptiles from ringside to getting into Steel Cage Matches with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, every leader in WWE history has approached their roles in extremely varying degrees. In honor of Presidents Day, WWE Classics takes a look back at 10 of WWE’s greatest chiefs. ( PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)
In March 2001, a few months after his return to WWE, William Regal defeated Al Snow to become Commissioner. He put on the façade of a British gentleman when he took office, but was often very sneaky in his dealings.
Regal chose to defect to the WCW/ECW Alliance that summer, becoming their commissioner. When The Alliance was dissolved, the Englishman found that he couldn’t just waltz right back into his old office. It would be six years before Regal would find himself at the helm of Monday Night Raw, winning a Battle Royal for the General Manager position.
The former Intercontinental Champion let the power go to his head rather quickly. His victory in the 2008 King of the Ring Tournament didn’t help matters. Regal envisioned himself as a literal king, and when other Superstars or the WWE Universe disrespected him, the consequences were severe. To show everyone the power he wielded, Regal once attacked the director of Monday Night Raw in WWE’s production truck, ordering him to take the show off the air in the middle of a thrilling WWE Championship Match ( WATCH). The tyrannical Superstar was dethroned after a defeat in a “You’re Fired” Match in May 2008.
Sometimes, all it takes to become a General Manager in WWE is a little power. In John Laurinaitis’ case, it was “People Power.” The Executive Vice President of Talent Relations made a power play for the General Manager position after Triple H’s brand of authority led to a Superstar walkout of Raw.
Though “Big Johnny” saw himself as a man of the people, his personal dealings often got mixed into his business, much to the dismay of the WWE Universe. Whether it was his association with Kevin Nash, who was out to destroy Triple H, or his attempts to take the WWE Championship away from CM Punk ( WATCH), the WWE Universe saw “People Power” as little more than a disingenuous term designed to make Laurinaitis look good to his bosses.
Regardless of how the WWE Universe felt, Laurinaitis had the support of many Superstars, who backed him in his campaign to become GM of both Raw and SmackDown. He led Team Johnny into a showdown with Teddy Long’s team at WrestleMania, with the coveted position at stake. Thanks to Eve, Big Johnny walked out of The Show of Shows as the man in charge of both Raw and SmackDown.
It was the most shocking hire in WWE history. The sports-entertainment world was in shock on July 15, 2002, when Mr. McMahon introduced Eric Bischoff as the General Manager of Raw. Bischoff, who spent years as WCW’s president trying to put WWE out of business, met Mr. McMahon with a hearty embrace and handshake that seemingly put years of animosity aside in the name of business. ( WATCH)
Bischoff went on to innovate Monday nights as GM, introducing concepts that have stuck around for more than a decade. He is credited with the creation of Raw Roulette, not to mention the hellacious Elimination Chamber.
Leadership traits run in the McMahon family. When Mr. McMahon was looking for someone to take charge of SmackDown in summer 2002, he didn’t need to look much further than his daughter, Stephanie.
As General Manager, The Billion Dollar Princess quickly gave the blue brand its own identity, introducing the United States and WWE Tag Team Titles, exclusive championships that would only be seen on SmackDown. She showed her talent for negotiation, putting pen to paper on a blockbuster deal that made Undisputed WWE Champion Brock Lesnar exclusive to SmackDown, leaving Raw without a World Champion. ( WATCH)
Though McMahon was quite successful as SmackDown’s GM, a bitter dispute with her father led to her departure from office in October 2003.
Not many General Managers made decisions with their hearts. Vickie Guerrero was one of the few, and it, surprisingly, has led to a lengthy career in WWE. Starting out as assistant to SmackDown GM Teddy Long, Vickie was promoted after Long suffered a heart attack.
Not long after, Guerrero began dating Edge, who was obsessed with becoming World Heavyweight Champion. She soon began abusing her power to make sure that Edge either held onto his beloved title or remained the top contender.
Vickie is always on the Board of Director’s shortlist when a General Manager position becomes open. She’s filled in for both Long and Stephanie McMahon, and is one of just a few people to serve as GM of both Raw and SmackDown. Guerrero’s impressive resume, along with her “evidence” of AJ Lee fraternizing with John Cena), led to “The Queen Diva” being appointed Raw’s Managing Supervisor in 2012 ( WATCH). Back in charge, she’s doing everything she can to make Raw must-see television, with the hopes that she’ll be made General Manager on a permanent basis.
One of the longest-tenured General Managers in WWE history, Teddy Long was never afraid to take chances. There is no better example of this than his New Superstar Initiative. A staple of Long’s leadership on both SmackDown and ECW, it showed that the GM had faith in young, unproven talent to rise to the occasion.
Long’s New Superstar Initiative is responsible for the introduction of success stories like Sheamus, Kofi Kingston and Jack Swagger. You can’t say Teddy has a bad eye for talent.
In addition to his willingness to give rookies an opportunity, Long often showcased his favorite kind of bouts on his brands. If four Superstars found themselves quarrelling in the middle of the ring, it wasn’t long before Teddy came out and put them in a tag team match. It happened frequently enough that it became a trademark of Long’s. ( TEDDY'S 10 BEST TAG TEAM MATCHES)
After Tunney left office in 1995, the WWE Board of Directors went in a different direction with his successor. They wanted someone who had the experience of being an in-ring competitor and the strong-willed attitude required to stand up to even the toughest Superstars. They found the perfect man for the WWE’s presidency in Gorilla Monsoon.
Gorilla wasn’t afraid to make the tough decisions, including the controversial ruling to send the WWE Championship Iron Man Match at WrestleMania XII into overtime, allowing Shawn Michaels to defeat Bret Hart. But Monsoon’s willingness to get his hands dirty also had its downsides.
When Vader went on a rampage during a January 1996 episode of Raw, Gorilla got into the ring and backed down The Mastodon with a flurry of knife-edge chops, in addition to suspending him from action. That sent Vader into an uncontrollable fury, attacking the WWE President and putting him out of office, temporarily, with a vicious Vader Bomb. ( WATCH)
Longtime fans remember the stoic Jack Tunney, who served as WWE President from 1984 until 1995. Unlike those who followed him, Tunney preferred not to get involved directly in the affairs of Superstars, rarely appearing at Live Events and television tapings, instead making important rulings from his office at WWE Headquarters in Connecticut.
Although he didn’t make them in person, the impact of Tunney’s rulings was felt throughout the WWE Universe. Faced with some of the most confounding situations in WWE history, Tunney did his best to make the fairest decision.
He ruled that the WWE Championship could not be bought from another Superstar, as “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase tried to do. Tunney suspended referee Danny Davis for life as a result of his crooked officiating. But most importantly, Jack Tunney will be remembered for his groundbreaking December 1991 edict that all reptiles were to be banned from ringside, following Jake Roberts’ unleashing a king cobra on Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
Normally, WWE’s leaders are people with tons of experience on the business side of things and the ruthless attitude necessary to deal with Superstars on a daily basis. The last candidate you’d expect would be a happy-go-lucky ex-wrestler in flannel and sweatpants.
But that’s exactly what the WWE Board of Directors went with when they chose Mick Foley to succeed Shawn Michaels as WWE Commissioner. Despite his cheery exterior, Foley was tough but fair during his time in office.
Although some, like Edge & Christian, tried to take advantage of Foley’s good nature, the Commissioner always made sure it was clear that every Superstar knew who was in charge.
There is perhaps no greater leader in WWE history than Mr. McMahon. His vision took WWE from a regional territory to the global juggernaut it is today. But he didn’t just stick to the boardroom. Mr. McMahon has often gone toe-to-toe with the biggest and baddest Superstars when he felt the company was threatened.
His rivalry with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is legendary. The WWE Chairman went above and beyond the purview of his job to ensure that Austin’s brand of anarchy didn’t destroy what he built, stepping into his ring and battling The Texas Rattlesnake. ( WATCH)
Over the years, Mr. McMahon has shown that he’s willing to do anything the Superstars can, standing toe-to-toe with Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and CM Punk in vicious bouts.