On March 20, 2018, the WWE Universe witnessed the impossible happen yet again when Daniel Bryan was cleared for an in-ring return. Bryan has been out of the ring nearly 3 years at that point, with fan anticipation for his eventual comeback growing stronger each day. Now that it can finally happen, everyone who calls themselves a wrestling fan is naturally overjoyed, not to mention bowled over by the sheer amount of possibilities for where Bryan’s career could go next.
That said, for all the positives, there is one small catch to Daniel Bryan’s epic comeback that WWE has apparently yet to think about. In order for the most popular wrestler on the scene today to make a full-time return in the ring, he’ll need to vacate his position as the General Manager of SmackDown Live, which he has held since July of 2016 to great acclaim. Obviously, most people would rather see Bryan in the ring than as an authority figure, but WWE nonetheless needs someone to book the matches and run the show on Tuesday nights.
As per usual, the rumor mill is already rampant about who could potentially be the next SmackDown GM, and each great suggestion seems to come with two or three terrible ones. For our take on the situation, keep reading to learn about 8 people who could replace Daniel Bryan as SmackDown GM, and 7 who definitely shouldn’t.
15 SHOULD: Brie Bella
This first suggestion may be a little out there, but it’s not being made without due logic. In fact, the reason Brie Bella should be considered as a potential replacement for Daniel Bryan should almost be obvious—she’s the man’s real life wife, and every speech he makes about his career relates to her in some way. Were it actually Bryan’s choice, Brie would be his first suggestion about who to replace him, and there’s no real reason he would be wrong to do so. Sure, Brie wasn’t the best wrestler around, but she was competent enough on the microphone, and all a GM has to do is give scripted comments once in a while. Having a female authority figure that actually mixes it up with the talent a little could greatly benefit the women’s revolution, as well, and give the Raw counterpart Stephanie McMahon someone to brawl with in the inevitable brand wars.
14 SHOULDN’T: Triple H
Believe it or not, while Triple H is WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events, and Creative and the senior producer of NXT behind the scenes, he hasn’t actually had an on-screen title since the whole COO thing a few years back. In any era of General Managers and Commissioners, it’s not clear if he really has any power any more…and that’s exactly how it should be. Let’s face it, whenever Triple H is made an on-screen authority figure, his egomania reaches it’s most insane heights, as his character can’t help but place himself in the main event scene and challenge for World Championships. Because Triple H is way past the point in his career when he should be doing this, and any efforts at such would feel like stealing the spotlight, he should just resist temptation altogether and ignore the SmackDown GM slot opening.
13 SHOULD: William Regal
Considering NXT serves as the training ground for future WWE superstars, it only makes sense that the developmental brand’s authority figures should likewise be viewed as getting groomed for the future. Already an expert ring technician who has largely retired from the ring, the only upward mobility William Regal has left in sports entertainment is to graduate from NXT’s General Manager to playing the same role on Raw or SmackDown. Of course, it’s not like Regal needed any fine-tuning in this role, either, as he already achieved great success as both WWE and The Alliance’s Commissioner during the Invasion era. Regal’s posh sophistication and expert professionalism would make him a perfect authority figure even to a fan who had never seen his already impressive work in the field, making him an easy pick for the position. On top of it all, his call up would mean the NXT GM role is open, and that job could go to someone entirely new, a truly exciting idea.
12 SHOULDN’T: Booker T
With all due respect to the incredible career of Booker T, not every charismatic wrestler is necessarily capable of transitioning to an authority role. It turns out the five time, five time, five time, five time, five time WCW Champion was one of the superstars not quite up for the job, as evidenced by the fact he oversaw SmackDown for almost an entire year from August 2012 to July 2013 without ever making much of an impact. Sure, not every authority figure needs to be Vince McMahon taking on Steve Austin, but they should all have a definable presence and character that adds to the overall show. Booker didn’t have it back then, and five more years of gradually turning into a self-parody on the commentary booth probably didn’t help him find that quality. That said, his name value alone means WWE might think about giving him another shot, and there’s even a chance he could pull it off.
11 SHOULD: Theodore Long
At 70 years old, already in the Hall of Fame, and well into his retirement, it might be a little hard for WWE to convince Theodore Long he should make a return as SmackDown’s General Manager. That said, if they somehow find a way to get him back, Long will surely be just as good in his role as a fun loving, easy going authority figure as he was for longer than almost anyone else in the modern era. In many respects, Long was one of the people to define what a wrestling General Manager even is, making him more than capable to fill the role regardless of his age. Granted, were this to happen, it probably wouldn’t take much time for Long to decide he wants out of the game again, so he would probably need to be an interim GM if anything. Or, knowing Teddy’s own proclivities, he may somehow turn the job into a tag team affair.
10 SHOULDN’T: Mick Foley
Having helped define the modern authority figure through his role as WWE Commissioner in the early 2000s, Mick Foley’s name always comes up when discussing General Managers and the like. The mere fact he was fired from his post as the Raw GM barely a year ago hardly precludes him from consideration for the gig on SmackDown—if anything, a full year is long enough that certain people in the company already think it’s about time he came back. Let’s hope they resist that urge, though, because Foley’s value as a performer in any variety has rapidly diminished with his every comeback. When it was initially announced the Hardcore Legend would be GM on Raw, most fans were simply confused, and continuing the charade of his relevance would only lead to more head scratching. It was also cement the idea that SmackDown is inferior to Raw, picking up scraps the main brand disposed of long ago.
9 SHOULD: Dario Cueto
Okay, so from a technical and legal perspective, it may be impossible for Dario Cueto to become the General Manager of SmackDown. On the other hand, the idea of WWE hiring Luis Fernandez-Gil as a different character with similar qualities would be perfectly in line with the company’s practices, while also fitting in the confines of the law. For those unaware, Cueto is the role Fernandez-Gil plays on Lucha Underground, an unabashed fan of violence and destruction who used his mysterious fortune to create the company in kayfabe. In Lucha Underground’s latest season, the Cueto character apparently met it’s end, freeing up Fernandez-Gil for any other acting or wrestling opportunities in the near future. From day one, his performances were cited as perhaps the best part of the vanguard independent company, and it could very easily be adapted to the WWE Universe should the McMahon’s be looking to try something new.
8 SHOULDN’T: Jonathan Coachman
Always looking for mainstream attention wherever they can find it, the second Jonathan Coachman’s job at ESPN lead to WWE superstars appearing on the top rated sports network, it was inevitable Vince McMahon would want him back. Unsurprisingly, the second the Coach’s contract with ESPN ended, WWE took him back as the lead announcer on Raw. However, fans who remember Coachman’s history with the company are well aware his ambitions have extended a bit further than the announce booth in the past. At times, Coach ascended the ladder to a point where he was the second or third most powerful authority figure on Raw, and it makes sense he would strive for that same glory on SmackDown Live. That said, it’s questionable whether or not he would deserve it after his long hiatus from the company. Promoting Coach in this position so quickly would feel like a desperate cash-in on his outside fame, so it should probably be avoided.
7 SHOULD: Eric Bischoff
Based on their long and tumultuous history, it’s always up in the air whether or not Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff are able to get along at any given point in time. On the off chance they’re actually on good terms these days, there could actually be no matter choice for the GM of SmackDown Live than the former WCW executive. Think about it—no one has spent more time, effort, or energy competing with Raw in the history of WWE than the guy who developed Monday Nitro. Granted, the whole brand wars concept only comes up on an irregular basis, but it’s not like Bischoff isn’t just a fantastic authority figure in general. At 63, Bischoff’s getting a little old for a regular gig, but he might just have it in him for one last big role, and WWE should give him the chance before it’s too late.
6 SHOULDN’T: Vince McMahon
More so than anyone else on this half of the list, WWE must resist the temptation to put Vince McMahon in charge of SmackDown Live at all costs. The issue here isn’t whether or not the company CEO would do well in the role, or if that he deserves the honor, but simply that it wouldn’t make any sense whatsoever. The entire point of the whole Commissioner/General Manager idea is that Vince was trying to delegate power to his children and decrease his own involvement in the show, and returning in one of these roles would entirely defeat the purpose. The plus side is that there’s very little chance of McMahon feeling like an egomaniac in this manner and giving himself the job. As intended, Vince truly has been lessening his on-screen presence in a major way of late, and it doesn’t feel like that would change just because he needs a new authority figure quick.
5 SHOULD: Paul Heyman
Generally respected as the best microphone worker in WWE today, if not all time, there’s nothing Paul Heyman can’t accomplish simply by talking. For the past four years, his primary method of showing off this skill has been acting as the advocate for WWE Universal Champion and official “Beast Incarnate” Brock Lesnar, which may well be the role he was born to play. However, it’s a well-known rumor that Lesnar may be leaving WWE for a return to UFC in the near future, or in the very least greatly diminishing his presence in the ring once WrestleMania 34 is over. That frees Heyman up for a return to an authority role, which would allow him to bring the same grandiosity he gives Lesnar’s matches to every superstar on the roster who interacts with him. The only question is if he’ll want to stick around in WWE without Brock giving him leverage with management.
4 SHOULDN’T: Jeff Jarrett
Less than a full month ago, the name Jeff Jarrett would never have crossed our minds when writing this list, only for Vince McMahon to once again remind everyone anything can happen in the WWE Universe. After decades of powerful animosity, Double J was suddenly inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame, and based on Kurt Angle’s induction last year, this could well be the first step to him becoming the next SmackDown General Manager. Jarrett certainly has experience in the authority role as the founder and President of Total Nonstop Action for many years, not that WWE would acknowledge it. Of course, the mere fact he’s officially a “legend” now theoretically qualifies him for the role, even if he’s not suited for it in the slightest. For whatever reason, Jarrett’s just not good at getting sympathy as a boss, and his heel work isn’t suited for the power, making him an awful choice for the gig no matter how WWE would have him play it.
3 SHOULD: Shawn Michaels
Since losing to The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI, the “Heart Break Kid” Shawn Michaels has largely remained true to his word and retired from the sports entertainment business. Once in a blue moon, HBK will show up to referee a special match or give an impactful speech, but he hasn’t had a full-time role in the industry for nearly seven or eight years. Considering Michaels was one of Daniel Bryan’s most integral trainers, it would make perfect sense the leader of the Yes Movement would pick him as his successor. There’s also the fact HBK’s role as Commissioner during the Attitude Era was one of the most popular authority runs in WWE history. Reviving his never ending feud with Triple H by siding with the Game’s brother-in-law against the his wife could also lead to an interesting dynamic, so long as it doesn’t lead to any rehashed, overdone matches. Unfortunately, history has also suggested Michaels doesn’t like working Tuesdays, so this may not be all that likely.
2 SHOULDN’T: Hulk Hogan
Whether one happens to agree with the names mentioned on this list or not, it’s very existence should be proof WWE has a whole lot of options at their disposal to become the next SmackDown GM. Unfortunately, rumors are suggesting they’ve ignored these great opportunities to instead pick the worst possible person for the role, Hulk Hogan. News has been spreading for some time that Vince McMahon is ready to forgive the man who helped build his company in the 1980s after he was caught making racist comments. No matter how one feels about that incident, though, putting the Hulkster in an authority role is absolutely not the way to bring him back. Total Nonstop Action tried doing this over a decade ago, and the all too obvious outcome was Hogan stealing the spotlight in a manner that often didn’t even make sense. The same thing would happen in WWE, so we really hope this rumor is just talk.
1 SHOULD: The Rock
Truth be told, there’s pretty much a 0% chance of The Rock becoming the General Manager of SmackDown Live, even if he did name the show with his catchphrase almost 20 years ago. Not that WWE officials wouldn’t immediately jump on the idea if there was any chance it could. In fact, Vince McMahon and company bend over backwards to do whatever The Great One wants whenever he actually has space in his busy schedule to stop by the old stomping grounds. Of course, the reality is that as the most overworked and highly paid actor in Hollywood, The Rock genuinely just doesn’t have the time to fly around the country each week with SmackDown. He already has another TV show in Ballers occupying his time, in addition to countless movie roles that keep extending his legacy as a mainstream sensation. Still, it never hurts to dream, and The Rock as SmackDown GM is too enticing a thought to completely rule out.