Everyone has had that boss that they would love to deck, even if just once. The difference between your job and a pro wrestler’s is that your boss would most likely have you arrested while a wrestler’s boss would put him into a handicap match or hit you in the back with a chair. Authority figures in pro wrestling are interesting characters as they play up various aspects of what we loathe in our own bosses while also allowing us that ability, at least tangentially, to see them get their comeuppance eventually. For the most part authority figures are heels within the wrestling world, and the few face ones are usually shown to be more submissive to the more overpowering heel, with the Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis feud being an example of this.
Over the years there have been many authority figures in wrestling, usually with the goal of making the faces' lives hell while pushing their cohorts and other heels, aping the occasional issues behind the scenes concerning backstage politics. A face authority figure can win the crowd over in a matter of seconds as they will give them the matches that they want to see or will stick it to the heels that have been running amuck in the promotion.
So this list is designed to look at the best authority figures in pro wrestling history. These are the men and women who could generate any reaction that they wanted from the crowd, whether it is boos or cheers, these people are the ones that make the audience put a little bit of themselves and their emotions into the storyline. The entries were ranked on a criteria including how memorable they were, how they were received by the audience, storylines involved in, among other things. So please read, enjoy, and let us know what you think down in the comments section. How would you have ranked these differently? Are there other authority figures that you felt should have made the list or that one of the entries should be ranked differently?
16 John Laurinaitis
Starting off the list is former Raw GM and owner of one of the gravelliest voices in all of wrestling, John Laurinaitis. After years of wrestling around the world wearing a shock-blonde mullet as Johnny Ace, Laurinaitis would eventually become an on-screen lackey for Vince McMahon, getting his first real exposure as an authority figure during the John Cena/CM Punk feud of 2011. Soon Laurinaitis set his sights on Cena for failing to beat Punk initially and made it his goal to make the face of the company suffer. The two would feud for a while before Laurinaitis was eventually “fired” as part of a match stipulation at No Way Out in 2012.
15 Vince Russo
While Vince Russo had been head booker of WCW for a few months, he had never actually been shown on-screen outside of his arm to represent his “Powers That Be” persona. Eventually he would become a fully on-screen authority figure as the leader of The New Blood. Unfortunately, Russo would draw heat from the crowd for all of the wrong reasons as many fans blamed him for the faster decline in quality of WCW programming that occurred during his tenure as head booker for the promotion. Things like having David Arquette and himself win the World Heavyweight Championship did not help his cause either.
14 Theodore Long
Let me holla at you playa about Teddy Long, the former Smackdown GM. After being a manager and then referee, Teddy Long would become the General Manager of Smackdown in 2004. Bouncing between being a heel and face depending on the situation, fans could always expect something from Teddy that would completely alter what was happening on the show, usually in the form of a tag team match. Long has the distinction of being one of the longer running authority figures in the WWE that was not named McMahon, which is quite impressive when you think about it and look at the names that came before him.
13 Tod Gordon
The founder of Eastern, and later Extreme Championship Wrestling, Tod Gordon is up next on the list. As an authority figure, Gordon played a likeable face to the rabid Philadelphia fans by constantly battling Bill Alfonso and giving fans the matches that they wanted. Unfortunately, Gordon would be removed from his behind-the-scenes role after it came to light that he was a part of a potential backend deal with ECW that would send certain wrestlers over to the opposing promotion as part of a cross-promotion invasion storyline.
12 Jim Cornette
Possibly the most brutally honest person in all of wrestling, Jim Cornette has played a number of authority figures throughout his long career. He would play authority figures for different promotions including Ohio Valley Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and TNA. It was his time as TNA Commissioner that was particularly notable as he would have “staff meetings” where he would hold the roster accountable for things that they were or not doing right and make declarations for the week like LAX being made to wrestle again and firing Earl Hebner after his role in the “Orlando Screwjob.”
11 Ric Flair
Being one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, most felt that Ric Flair could play an authority figure well, especially after he led The Four Horsemen for years along with hosting his Flair for the Gold interview show at various WCW shows. Flair would be the on again, off again President of WCW in the later years of the promotion, usually playing up the heel aspects of his character in order to help his friends out and stick it to those he had feuded with before. He would eventually become the babyface Co-Owner of the WWE in order to act as a balance against Vince McMahon before ultimately being removed from the position after losing a match to Vince for sole control of the promotion.
10 Triple H
Now while some might argue that Triple H should be higher on the list due to his work in The Authority, I feel that he still has a bit ways to go before becoming part of the upper echelon of wrestling authority figures. Right now he is still more of a wrestler than an authority figure; he just wears a suit more than he did before. I feel that once he moves more into his power position after fighting, he will quickly climb the rankings as a heelish owner, but as of right now he is still in-between roles it seems, though I do not feel that it will be much longer before he segues fully into his corporate role.
9 Shane McMahon
From being the heir apparent to the WWE empire to the on-screen owner of WCW, Shane McMahon has worn quite a few hats over the course of his wrestling career. Similar to Triple H in that Shane would settle a lot of his disputes inside the ring, Shane proved to be good on the mic as well as being able to put on decent matches with incredible spots. Shane has segued away from the wrestling business in favor of sitting on the Board of Directors of International Sports Management, which has or had such high profile clients as Rory McIlroy and Ernie Els.
8 Jeff Jarrett
After the fall of WCW and being blacklisted from the WWE by Vince McMahon, Jeff Jarrett decided to start his own promotion with his father Jerry. As TNA owner, Jarrett would continue to play up his heel character, though now in a position of power. Yet as the years went on, Jarrett’s character evolved to where he could play either side of the fence depending on the situation which improved greatly in comparison to his previous characters who were for the most part pretty bland outside of his women beater and “Chosen One” gimmicks.
7 Vickie Guerrero
Over the last few years there have been fewer heels in pro wrestling that have been able to draw heat from a crowd like Vickie Guerrero. By shrieking two little words, Guerrero has been able to get on the bad side of an audience with ease ever since she became the General Manager of Smackdown. She would use her power to benefit her storyline husband Edge and later boyfriend Dolph Ziggler, earning both of them World Heavyweight Championships at one point or another. Yet when the relationships spoiled it was very true about hell having no fury like a woman scorned as she would take any opportunity she could to get back at them.
6 Stephanie McMahon
The billionaire princess is next on the list at number four. Apparently the apple did not fall far from the tree as Stephanie is almost a mirror image of how her father ran the company as Mr. McMahon. With a voice that could crack glass and a glare that could kill, Stephanie McMahon is an incredibly capable heel authority figure. With a persona that comes off as friendly at first glance, fans have come to expect the other shoe to always drop with Stephanie as she tends to strike at a moment’s notice, usually at the expense of some poor superstar who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
5 Paul Heyman
While Todd Gordon may have been an exuberant proponent for extreme wrestling, Paul Heyman was a borderline zealot. As the literal and on-screen owner of ECW, Heyman could control the audience and his wrestlers with even the shortest of promos. Heyman was there to give the fans what they wanted, which was usually over-the-top chaos inside and out of the ring, and the fans ate it up. Even up until the very end, Heyman tried to give fans what they wanted and sell them on the product, even if he could not feasibly afford it.
4 Mick Foley
After being the hardcore legend for years, Mick Foley would become the Commissioner of the WWE, there to keep the wrestlers in check as well create matches that fans wanted to see. It would be Foley who would famously announce that the first ever Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match would take place between the Dudley Boyz, Hardy Boyz, and Edge & Christian, he would also occasionally fire heel wrestlers only to hire them at the end of the night as a lesson for them that it might be better to change their ways. Foley would later become another authority figure, this time for TNA, acting as a large shareholder for the company, before he ultimately turned on Jeff Jarrett and became TNA Champion.
2 Eric Bischoff
After he became President of WCW, Eric Bischoff made it his goal in life to make Vince McMahon’s life as miserable as possible. From giving away match results for WWE matches to hiring WWE talent to work for WCW, Bischoff was very much the evil authority figure he played on-screen. He only exaggerated those ideas when he became the leader of the NWO, becoming one of the most despicable characters in all of pro wrestling. He would carry those attributes over to the WWE when he became the Raw General Manager and later TNA. Hey, when a formula for a character works, use it to your benefit.
1 Vince McMahon
Was it any surprise that Vince McMahon is number one on the list? While starting his career as an interviewer and commentator, Vince’s life would forever change after the Montreal Screwjob and trying to explain it away by saying that “Bret screwed Bret.” Now the most hated man in pro wrestling, Vince would up the ante by taking on top face Stone Cold Steve Austin, effectively helping turn the tides of the Monday Night Wars and allowing McMahon to reap the financial benefits and become a certifiable billionaire. Though he would play a face every once in a while, it was usually as an outside observer to what was happening in a given storyline, though fans are always ready to boo him, especially when he utters the famous last words towards a superstar, “YOU’RE FIRED!”