Long's collapse, Vickie's rise...SmackDown's fall?

Long's collapse, Vickie's rise...SmackDown's fall?

WWE.com is pleased to report that SmackDown General Manager Theodore Long has awakened from his comatose state, nearly two weeks after suffering a massive heart attack on his wedding night to Kristal. No further details have been released regarding his condition, except that he remains under constant supervision in an Atlanta medical facility and, as one representative disclosed, "far from out of the woods. He still has a very tough road ahead of him."

Naturally, everyone is pulling for Long to make a full recovery. However, his absence has introduced the Friday night brand to a very real quandary: If the SmackDown roster were to gather around a crystal ball and attempt to predict the future of their brand without Long at its forefront, would the image be too opaque to form a definitive forecast?

Agreeing to answer that very question on the condition of anonymity, several SmackDown Superstars and Divas sounded off on what their futures could hold now that WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon has named Vickie Guerrero Acting GM in Long's absence. 

"I love Teddy. I mean, we've been tight for a long time -- well, before we were on SmackDown together -- but this is a business, and we've all got to eat, right?" asked one Superstar. "If Vickie can pick up the slack while Teddy recovers, then so long, Teddy and hello, Vickie. Basically, whoever keeps SmackDown on the upswing has my support; it doesn't matter who does it, as far as I'm concerned."

Another common thread brought up repeatedly was Vickie's relative inexperience, seeing as she had only four months under her belt as Assistant GM. Is that enough time to fully understand the day-to-day operations that Long managed, or should WWE brass have prepped someone more senior to take his place, on the off-chance misfortune might occur?

"Someone should have been ready to step in and take over," snipped one Diva. "If the president goes down, the vice-president steps in to fill the void. I'm telling you, if I lose money or my standing in the company, I'm pointing the finger at the people who didn't think to create a hierarchy behind Teddy. This is not a charity. We need someone who knows what they're doing to step up if Teddy isn't OK after what's happened."

One Superstar believes that such speculation is sheer overreaction. Citing Vickie's role when she joined SmackDown as his source for comfort that she'll take care of business, that Superstar said people who underestimate what a Guerrero is capable of are foolish.

"I think Vickie could do it long-term if necessary," stated the source. "She knows how to be tough when she needs to be. I remember when she was Chavo's [Guerrero] business manager last year; talk about looking out for your client. She was as shrewd as they come. I think, at that time, she could have gone a few rounds with Mr. McMahon."

It's a good thing that she didn't; otherwise, WWE's Chairman might never have named her as Long's temporary successor. Nevertheless, there's no denying that since resigning as Chavo's business manager, Vickie has taken major strides in turning over a new leaf, putting the success of the Friday night brand ahead of any personal goals. Yet that, claims one Superstar, is precisely what worries him.

"She's got a nose for business, but this new Vickie Guerrero seems soft to me," he explained. "I want someone who's going to rule with an iron hand, not someone who wants to be everybody's friend. We need a GM's GM, like Billy Beane with the Oakland A's, or the way Pat Riley was with the Miami Heat -- real hardnosed leaders. The last thing we need is a ‘player's coach' coming in and playing General Manager."

Likening Vickie to a player's coach isn't necessarily a valid point; some would argue that she has already demonstrated a firm understanding of how the business should be run. Communication is the key to unlock any disagreement or lockout in sports negotiations. Instead of saying she's "soft," perhaps the term should be substituted with "seasoning."

When WWE.com informed Vickie that her promotion as Acting GM didn't sit well with everyone on what has become her roster, she didn't demand to know the names or retort with scoffs or anger. If anything, she's confident that time will be her ally in turning her harshest critics into her most devoted advocates.

"I don't think the roster knows how to read me yet," Vickie said. "I'm just trying to help the show go on. My heart is still breaking for Teddy, and I think the best I can do is keep his good work going."

On her very first weekend on the job, she proved that, like Long, she isn't afraid to name marquee match-ups -- such as Finlay and Rey Mysterio at No Mercy this Sunday -- or make controversial decisions, like insisting that Hornswoggle abdicate his Cruiserweight Championship. According to her, such decisions aren't personal, just business.

"Hornswoggle is a McMahon now, which makes me worry for his safety. I removed the title from him so the other Superstars would leave him alone," she explained. "They could take advantage of his size or consider him a threat to their progression in this company because of the power his last name yields. Plus -- and this is no offense to Hornswoggle or anyone else -- but I'm not here to be everyone's friend; I'm here to do a job, and making tough decisions seem easy is what they pay me to do."

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