Everyone is excited about the brand split and draft coming in July. WWE is changing in a big way and change is always an exciting prospect. The fans against the brand split still have excitement for the early stages. A draft is the most foolproof concept in creating compelling television. The roster is extremely talented with huge depth in NXT and there is genuine reason to be optimistic about the huge move WWE is making. The most important piece of the puzzle heading into the experiment will be finding out who the General Managers are. Shane made the claim that he will be running both Raw and SmackDown this week, leaving speculation as to whether anyone else will be involved.
Shane and Stephanie McMahon are currently running Raw together, but it is still unclear however who will run the show. The internet rumors have circulated claiming neither of them will run Raw. WWE has to hit a home run with the GMs of Raw and SmackDown, as both need to be credible enough to command respect and generate interest. We will look at some of the realistic options out there. Eight of these names would fail in the position and the other eight could thrive in creating success for the betterment of WWE.
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16 Fail: Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon’s on-air work has been superb and he would be considered the greatest authority figure in WWE history. The chairman of the board tapping into his evil side to portray a villainous boss generated huge success for the company. McMahon’s character was a home run but he doesn’t belong on television anymore at the age of 70. His recent appearances on television felt a bit awkward, as seeing the elderly McMahon take a Superman Punch from Roman Reigns was strange.
We don’t need to see him as a character anymore and he should continue to stay behind the scenes. McMahon would be the laziest and most uninspiring choice. The brand split should create interesting stories and new things. Vince is the antithesis of both of those things. WWE needs to move forward and a stale choice would send the precedent that nothing is new about the brand split. The oldest McMahon is a horrible possible General Manager for either show.
15 Thrive: Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon
The only McMahon family members that should be considered for a General Manager role are the ones currently serving in similar positions. Shane McMahon and Stephanie McMahon are feuding over who will hold more power on Raw and SmackDown with the changes coming up. Shane’s return has made him one of the most exciting facets of the “new era” and fans love seeing him back in WWE. There’s no doubt Shane-O-Mac has to be a main player in the General Manager position for one of the shows. This past week Shane made it clear he wants to be running Raw and SmackDown and we sincerely hope this is true.
Stephanie is a polarizing figure among wrestling fans but you can’t doubt her talent. No one in WWE gains the heel heat or demonstrates her elite character work. Most heels are great wrestling characters but Stephanie is a great television character in general. The debate will be if the McMahon siblings each fill the General Manager spots of separate shows or continue to work together on one of them. The latter seems more likely with this storyline having more potential to go further.
14 Fail: Hulk Hogan
WWE wanted to make Hulk Hogan a part of the family in 2014 due to his historical significance in the company. Everyone associates Hogan as the first name that comes to mind with WWE, but a controversial sex tape destroyed his standing. His ambassador role was taken away due to Hogan using racial slurs in the sex tape and offending many lifelong wrestling fans. Hogan won a lawsuit against Gawker for leaking the tape and is holding out hope for a WWE return.
The temptation of bringing Hogan back will always be there for Vince McMahon. Both men working together as promoter and talent were the biggest factors in the WWE taking off in the 80s to become the powerhouse brand we know today. McMahon needs to avoid bringing back Hogan by breaking all ties. Hogan’s bad reputation will follow him for the rest of his career and a global company like WWE needs to stay far away from his drama.
13 Thrive: Mick Foley
Mick Foley is one of the rare retired wrestlers to have already thrived in an authority figure role. Following his retirement in 2000, Foley entered a commissioner position for WWE. Most wrestlers flounder in the role due to doing too much. Talents are used to having to get over on camera, but a General Manager role requires a perfect middle ground. The job requires entertaining but not overshadowing the actual in-ring performers. Foley did tremendous work understanding the gig.
Wrestling fans still hold a great deal of adoration for Foley’s legacy and he is greeted with a huge pop every time he appears in WWE. The upcoming WWE Network reality series, Holy Foley. should add extra incentive into bringing Foley on television on again. You can’t ask for more in a General Manager than name value, successful experience at the job and other tie-ins to benefit the company. Foley deserves to at least be in the conversation for the position on Raw or SmackDown.
12 Fail: John Laurinaitis
John Laurinaitis' recent appearance on Raw. where he was petitioning for a General Manager role on either show. seems like a fake out and we can only hope it is. Big Johnny has a bit of irony associated with him for playing an obnoxious heel character after years of being a hated backstage figure. While that is a funny bit to showcase on television once in a while, Laurinaitis gets old very quickly. WWE can’t risk destroying the brand split with a poor choice like him to run a show.
The character and wrestling strengths of Laurinaitis could be served as an assistant for one of the General Managers, but a larger role won’t benefit anyone. WWE has found the best role for Laurinaitis backstage with the occasional television appearance for laughs. You can’t mess around with options that could fail miserably and Big Johnny falls under that category. People Power should not be returning anytime soon.
11 Thrive: William Regal
William Regal has thrived in the past as a commissioner for WWE around 2001. The well respected veteran is one of the best technical wrestlers of his generation, but Regal never got to show his character work until he assumed an authority figure position. Regal’s comedy delivered outstanding entertainment on a weekly basis. Between Chris Jericho urinating in his tea and Tajiri becoming his wacky assistant, Regal delivered quality content in the position.
The current NXT weekly show on the WWE Network features Regal working as the General Manager. There’s less comedy involved and he plays more of a straight character with little depth other than wanting to run a good show. That’s another depth to the General Manager role that can be very effective in creating success. Regal has both sides of the spectrum down that would make him a perfect General Manager in either character the show would require of him. WWE values Regal and he could easily get the job if WWE is looking to present SmackDown under a new era alongside Shane.
10 Fail: Teddy Long
Teddy Long was technically the most successful SmackDown General Manager when looking at longevity. Stephanie McMahon, Kurt Angle and Paul Heyman were all fired or replaced within a relatively short time period. The shocking choice of Long to run SmackDown ended up lasting years with him playing a simple face character that didn’t get involved too much. Everyone remembers the joke of Teddy booking tag team matches on a weekly basis any time multiple parties were involved and WWE even made a joke about it in his recent Raw appearance.
Long's recent promo showed he can’t be a full-time television character anymore as he stumbles on his lines on live television. Teddy was competent enough to succeed as a GM during the times of taped television and SmackDown not being a hot product. The times are changing and SmackDown desperately needs to be a must-seem program, but that isn’t something that can happen under the General Manager reign of Long.
9 Thrive: Steve Austin
Steve Austin is arguably the most popular wrestler in WWE history and fans still absolutely adore the legend. The crowd response is usually unbelievable when Austin makes a rare appearance in a ring these days and the success of his podcast proves there is still interest in him. WWE needs to send a message that the brand split will be important for both shows and a star like Austin returning would cement that.
No one would complain if the sound of the glass breaking plays and Stone Cold is named the GM of Raw or SmackDown. The legend still possesses the charisma to thrive in the role. WWE employed him from 2003-2004 to work a storyline with Eric Bischoff as they ran Raw together. Austin was gold and proved he could deliver in an authority role. There are no negatives associated with hiring Austin to run one of the brands and it would benefit the early stages of the brand extension.
8 Fail: Linda McMahon
The other three members of the McMahon family have been mentioned but Linda McMahon is by far the worst option of the four. Linda achieved on-air fame during the Attitude Era when the McMahon family drama played out for a good few years. Linda was not bad as a straight laced character doing what’s right for the betterment of the company. It was desperately needed in the context of the story.
Linda just doesn’t have the natural charisma or personality to shine on a wrestling show the way Vince, Stephanie and Shane can. The only times we still need to see Linda on WWE television are sitting front row during the Hall of Fame or big WWE shows with the McMahon grandchildren. We should be safe as Linda has not been a character on WWE television in almost a decade. The matriarch of the McMahon's is not the right choice for a General Manager unless you want fans to tune out in droves.
7 Thrive: Daniel Bryan
Everyone loves Daniel Bryan. The ultimate underdog became the most popular fan favorite of the past decade. Fans believe in Bryan and respect his word. That would make him a massive success in the General Manager role. Bryan is a huge proponent of the brand split and wanted to work solely on SmackDown at the end of his career to help the show before injury ruled him out. The talk of SmackDown being about change and what the fans want makes Bryan the best man for the job alongside Shane.
The recently retired Bryan is still experimenting with new passions in his new life, but his love for wrestling will always be there. A role of appearing on television once or twice per week to play an important role in helping the future is ideal for the world of Bryan. The dream of starting a family in the near future means Bryan may want to return to WWE for the steady paycheck and SmackDown could benefit from having him as a General Manager.
6 Fail: Vickie Guerrero
The WWE career of Vickie Guerrero was one of the most bizarre success stories in company history. Eddie Guerrero’s widow was originally hired to take part in the Chavo Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio storyline but ended up getting a long tenure in the company. Vickie held authority figure positions in multiple situations for WWE and did a good job at generating heat. Fans loved to boo Guerrero and her character was among the most despised heels of all time.
That is definitely a sign of success, but it could be argued she delivered the “go away heat” and fans just wanted her gone rather than hoping to see bad things happen to her. Vickie decided to leave the business for other career pursuits and it would be best for WWE to avoid bringing her back. Guerrero didn’t hold much pro wrestling talent and kind of lucked into getting booed due to being inept at cutting promos. We need a credible General Manager and Vickie just doesn’t fit the part.
5 Thrive: Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle’s free agency and the brand split are coming together at the right time to bring the legend back to WWE. Wrestling’s only Olympic gold medalist created a legacy as one of the most popular stars in company history, but has been away for almost a decade now. Angle made the jump to TNA in 2006 and has yet to return in any capacity. The rumor mills have reported that WWE is afraid of Angle suffering a career ending injury or worse given his various ailments, though Angle says that he will be back.
The General Manager position could provide a nice middle ground for Angle to return without WWE risking his health. Angle did a great job in the GM role on SmackDown in 2004 during an injury and it would be a huge surprise to see him return in the position. Fans adore Angle’s sacrifices for their entertainment and will treat him like gold. That would make SmackDown a must-watch show, if it’s the only place you can see Angle running the show.
4 Fail: Eric Bischoff
The argument can be made that Eric Bischoff was the best choice for General Manager during the original brand split. Everyone remembers the shocking moment of Bischoff making his WWE debut and it set up the perfect start to the extension. Bischoff was a stellar heel but that was during his prime. The aging process has not been very kind to Bischoff and he most recently looked like a shell of his former self in TNA.
Bischoff returning would be a very bad look of WWE relying on someone past his prime that doesn’t have it anymore. The only things Easy E can offer to the wrestling business these days are contributing to the WWE Network or DVD production about the history of WCW. Bischoff has a personality and skillset that Vince McMahon respects but hopefully it doesn’t sway him to hire his former enemy once again. The business has passed Bischoff by and there’s no place for him as a General Manager in the WWE.
3 Thrive: Triple H
The talk of SmackDown representing change and tapping into what the diehard fan wants could be creating the role of Triple H bringing NXT to the main roster. NXT has blossomed over the past few years with impressive growth and outstanding content. Triple H is the man behind NXT and plays a heroic face, booking what the fans want. It would be a drastic change from his Authority heel character, but it may be necessary to show that true change is coming on SmackDown.
Finn Balor, Bayley, American Alpha and a few other NXT stars are ready for the main roster. The open spots needed for the two shows could see Triple H become SmackDown General Manager and select all of his stars. NXT could truly start to carry over to the main roster with Triple H as the helm. It would also go a long way in getting fans used to Triple H when he eventually replaces Vince McMahon as the most powerful man in the company.
2 Fail: Ric Flair
The legends with strong connections to WWE all likely have dreams of becoming one of the GMs, but it may be a realistic option with Ric Flair. Charlotte recently kicked her father to the curb and this could be due to wanting him in another role like GM. Flair is one of the best talkers in the history of the industry but he has no business playing a General Manager on WWE television.
We have seen Flair go off the script and say ridiculous things in his old age. Flair got Jim Ross fired for having a few drinks and sabotaging a WWE 2K video game panel. A more recent incident saw Flair tell Natalya to “kill herself” during a heated promo involving Charlotte. It showed Flair can’t operate with a live microphone and both shows being live means there’s no place for him to have any speaking role. Triple H and Vince McMahon are extremely loyal to Flair, but they can’t risk him messing up Raw.
1 Thrive: Paul Heyman
The best choice for a General Manager that no one is talking about has to be Paul Heyman. WWE uses Heyman primarily as the advocate for Brock Lesnar, but we only see Brock a handful of times per year. Heyman’s promos are second to none and WWE could benefit greatly from having him on television in a full-time capacity. We have seen Heyman attempt to manage other wrestlers on the roster following Brock’s return but it wasn’t the right role.
Heyman’s best bet could be running Raw and using his amazing personality to add more excitement to the show. Lesnar is a big enough star and works in such a limited role that he doesn’t need Heyman at this stage. Everyone would win from having Heyman return to the authority figure position that he has excelled at in the past. No one is a better realistic option to thrive as a GM and can help make the brand split a huge success more than Paul Heyman.
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