With WWE set to re-establish the infamous brand extension, there’s been a lot of on-air talk about who should run the reinvigorated SmackDown. This isn’t exactly a new thing, as “Who’s in charge?” storylines have long been a WWE obsession, with the company accruing a staggering variety of authority figures over the past couple decades.
Of course, not all leaders are created equal. Some WWE authority figures have legitimately led their shows to new heights, while others have dragged the whole operation down with them. Here are the best, and worst, bosses in WWE history…
Note: I’m including Raw guest hosts on this list, but only up until May 2010. At that point, they became Raw guest stars and no longer had general manager powers. So, if you’re wondering why The Muppets or (on the other end of the scale) Perez Hilton aren’t on the list, now you know.
#10 Worst: Jonathan Coachman
Jonathan Coachman wasn’t an offensively bad Raw General Manager, but he was the earliest example of a trend that would become an epidemic in WWE – the inept authority figure who’s put in charge for no justifiable reason. Why the hell would a B-string announcer, most famous for being bullied by The Rock, be put in charge of WWE’s flagship show? Same reason they gave the job to Mike Adamle and a friggin’ laptop, I guess. The Coach has done alright for himself since leaving WWE, and seems like a swell guy, but he earns his place on the worst list for being the first to lower the bar.
#10 Best: Vickie Guerrero
Vickie Guerrero is a tough one. On the one hand, she was the worst kind of general manager – unqualified, inept, biased and front-and-central in a lot of really bad, regressive “comedy” segments. That said, she was also in her share of great segments, too, and I have a lot of respect for Vickie for somehow making a character that was set up to fail an absolute heat-magnet. It was a bit of a toss up whether Vickie should be on the good or bad side of this list, but ultimately, she made me laugh more than I cringed.
#9 Worst: Eric Bischoff
I try to keep rankings like this at least a little objective, but Eric Bischoff lands on the worst list largely because I just don’t care for the guy. Putting that aside, Eric Bischoff as general manager of Raw made perfect sense. It was one of the few good decisions WWE made following their purchase of WCW! Unfortunately, Bischoff’s three years as GM came off as one long, creepy Vince McMahon wank session. When Eric wasn’t being made to look like a scum-of-the-earth loser, he was making out with Stephanie or assaulting Linda. It was weird. Bischoff had his moments as GM, but like most WCW talent, he was wasted and ultimately discarded to feed Vince McMahon’s ego.
#9 Best: Shane McMahon
Shane certainly stirred up some excitement when he returned earlier this year, but since WrestleMania, his run as GM has been merely okay. He just sort of sloughs into work, and rolls with whatever his craziness his dad and sister throw at him. It’s not exactly the revolution we were promised. I like Shane, and the audience is still behind him, so maybe he’ll end up doing something truly memorable. The jury is still out for now.
#8 Worst: Donald Trump
Yup, The Donald became the storyline owner of WWE back in 2009, but like a lot of Trump-related things, his reign was short and rather unremarkable. Trump didn’t even rule Raw for an entire episode, immediately selling it back to Vince, but during the couple hours he was in charge, he did institute the concept of the weekly Raw guest host. If anybody tells you Trump isn’t dangerous, there’s your chilling evidence to the contrary.
#8 Best: AJ Lee
Say what you want about WWE’s sometimes questionable characterization of AJ Lee, but she was on top of her game as a performer in 2012. This 5-foot pixie had the land of wrestling giants wrapped around her little finger based on charisma alone, and her hot streak culminated with her being appointed general manager by Vince McMahon himself. As Raw GM, AJ was a bracingly different face, but unfortunately her reign didn’t last long, and ended in an abysmal “scandalous” storyline, which required multiple John Cena makeout sessions. Poor girl. Still, the fact that AJ became GM at all was an accomplishment that shouldn’t be undersold.
# 7 Worst: Tiffany
Tiffany (aka Taryn Terrell) eventually grew into a darn solid worker while in TNA, but she began her career in WWE on an inauspicious note. When Teddy Long was briefly ECW general manager back in 2008, Tiffany randomly showed up as his assistant, which eventually led to her being left in charge when Teddy got his SmackDown gig back. Yup, the blood-soaked, industry-changing phenomenon created by legit genius Paul Heyman breathed its last burbling breath under somebody who had “stood beside Teddy Long for six months” as the sole point on her resume. But it was WWE ECW, not the real thing, and it was hard to dislike Tiffany, even if she spoke every word like she was a high school valedictorian. None of it really mattered, but Tiffany being the last ECW GM felt like one of WWE’s typical sour, sexist jokes, which wasn’t fair to the audience or Tiffany.
#7 Best: John Laurinaitis
Okay, let’s be honest – John Laurinaitis was hot garbage when he started as Raw general manager. He could barely string two words together, and his segments were almost lethally dull. That said, toward the end of his reign, when he was rolling down to the ring on a People Powered scooter with sexy secretary Eve Torres and a coffee-slurping David Otunga by his side, he somehow tapped into some sort of weirdly amusing anti-entertainment. I was never as much as a Team Johnny fanatic as some folks around these parts, but the guy had an ace or two up his unassuming sleeves.
#6 Worst: Corporate Kane
Man, what to say about old faded-slacks Corporate Kane? He was just tiresome. The guy failed at nearly every task assigned to him, but then there he was ever week, ready and raring to screw everything up again. The whole thing reached it’s nadir when Kane was actively undermining the Authority’s golden boy Seth Rollins every week, with no comeuppance whatsoever. Was DOO Kane supposed to be an insider jab at corporate culture? A dire warning about the dangers of unionization? I’m not sure what the gag was, but I sure as heck wasn’t laughing.
#6 Best: Mick Foley
Mick Foley didn’t make a huge mark as WWF Commissioner, but he was a likable leader, because of course he was. Mick Foley could run over your dog in a lovable way. He also had a unique approach, bringing absolutely zero ego to the gig. Even your rare good-guy authority figures like William Regal can get a bit up their own ass about the whole thing, but Foley just wanted to make sure everybody was having a nice day.