The presence of authority figures has grown immensely since their sporadic use in the Golden Era of professional wrestling. Back in the 80s, Jack Tunney would take the mantle as the then WWF’s president and would “oversee” some huge moments of the time. The most notable moment of Tunney’s tenure was when he stripped Ted DiBiase of the WWF Heavyweight Championship after Andre the Giant handed him the belt in exchange for a large sum of money.
Since that time, the role of an authority figure has grown to a character of their own with them actively being involved in storylines, even sometimes having matches, and having a babyface or heel alignment which Tunney most certainly did not.
There have been a plethora of authority figures over the years, so without further ado, let’s take a look at who I think are the five greatest WWE authority figures of all time.
1. Mr. McMahon
Arguably the greatest authority figure to ever exist. When Vince McMahon proclaimed “Bret Hart screwed Bret Hart” following Survivor Series 1997, the groundwork for what would become Mr. McMahon was set, and after over twenty years, wrestling fans worldwide are still talking about him.
Stemming from the fallout of the “Montreal Screwjob” at Survivor Series, the character of Mr. McMahon emerged and WWE fans everywhere rallied in support of Bret Hart and grew severe hatred for the wicked owner of the company. This only intensified further when McMahon’s attention was attracted by one “Texas Rattlesnake.”
McMahon’s most famous feud is undoubtedly against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Arguably the greatest Attitude Era feud, the two fought countless times both inside and outside of the ring to the joy of fans all around the world. This feud saw McMahon hospitalised only to be attacked by Austin dressed as a nurse, a segment with the single greatest use of a bedpan in history and McMahon entering and winning the 1999 Royal Rumble in order to thwart Austin’s WrestleMania hopes. Who could also forget the “Greater Power”, when the hooded figure was ripped back for Vince’s iconic voice to shout “It’s me, Austin! It was me all along, Austin!”
Vince would later prove that he could get to anyone, as Austin would turn heel at WrestleMania X-7 after aligning himself with McMahon in order to dethrone current WWF Champion The Rock. As Jim Ross himself said, “Austin has just shaken hands with the devil himself”.
To this day, Mr. McMahon is the blueprint for a villainous authority figure. If Mr. McMahon appears on RAW or SmackDown it will be followed by cheers, then boos, and the chant of “You screwed Bret!”, if RAW or SmackDown happen to be emanating from Canada. There will never be another character like Mr. McMahon and he goes down in history as possibly the best authority figure to ever be created.
2. William Regal
Where some authority figures are ruthless heels a la Mr. McMahon, and others are beloved babyfaces, William Regal stands out as the ultimate in between as an authority figure.
Regal has been NXT General Manager since 2014 and he has constantly proven himself to be a no nonsense, business first general manager. Any time a wrestler crosses the line or tries to weasel their way out of a match, just like Johnny Gargano did on NXT very recently, Regal becomes the voice of authority and makes the wrestler an ultimatum they cannot refuse.
On the February 10th, 2021 edition of NXT, North American Champion Johnny Gargano made his entrance in a wheelchair accompanied by Austin Theory, and his wife Candice LeRae. He made a statement that he could not compete in his title match tonight, but Regal soon came out and said that he had been declared fit to wrestle, though if he felt he couldn’t then he could vacate the championship.
Regal is a true neutral authority figure, he makes no allegiances and puts the brand and fans first.
3. Eric Bischoff
That smile, that damned smile. When Mr. McMahon took to the stage of Monday Night Raw in 2002 and declared Eric Bischoff as the new RAW General Manager, a shower of boos reigned down upon them both as Bischoff appeared with the smuggest grin on his face before he and McMahon hugged it out on the entrance ramp.
The man who once ran the company that fought against WWE was now running their flagship show. On his debut he even took shots at WWE’s version of WCW during the Invasion angle which he called “watered down” before he would mention how he created the NWO, and list off every talent that he poached from WWE “just because he could.” It’s safe to say that the head of WCW now running RAW was the biggest heel move that McMahon ever pulled off.
Even before he appeared on RAW, he took the authority character and brought a realism to it. On WCW Monday Nitro, which was shown live, opposed to the taped RAW, he would reveal the results of RAW’s main event on Nitro. In that same promo from 2002, he mentions how when Alundra Blayze, the then WWF Women’s Champion, jumped ship to WCW, and, under his instruction, brought the championship with her and literally binned it on live television.
As manager of RAW, Bischoff constantly favoured the heels, even “declaring war” on WWE Champion John Cena, putting him into matches against the likes of Chris Jericho in order to try and take away his title. Bischoff’s reign of terror would go on until 2005 when Vince McMahon would hold a “trial” where they relayed all the immoral things he did as general manager, of course finding him guilty and having John Cena Attitude Adjustment him into the back of a garbage truck before being driven out of the arena.
What made Eric Bischoff completely unbearable as an authority figure was his arrogance, his “I’m the best” attitude, and most of all, that he ran the enemy company during the Attitude Era.
4. Mick Foley (WWE Commissioner)
When Foley lost at WrestleMania 2000, he would retire from in-ring competition, but he’d soon be promoted to the position of WWE Commissioner, and boy was it hilarious. Foley is a natural comic, and his role as commissioner saw him give some of the best comedic moments of his career since the Attitude Era.
Every week Foley would say the same “I’m thrilled to be here in…” followed by a cheesy thumbs up, making awful jokes, and being, as Foley himself described, “a role model for nerds”. One of the best comedy gags that occurred in his role as commissioner was that his office would randomly change location, ending up in ludicrous rooms such as closets or just in the middle of a hallway — it’s absolute comedy gold.
Mick Foley is genuinely one of the nicest people in wrestling, and his role as commissioner felt completely genuine as he was just a fun loving, positive leader that was a pleasant change compared to Mr. McMahon from years past.
5. The Authority
Just how hated did The Authority become in the 2010s? What started as the duo of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon harkened back to the days of The Corporation as the McMahon-Helmsley era slowly grew into a stable which had a total of 15 members throughout its tenure including the likes of Randy Orton, Batista, and Seth Rollins.
The Authority were the masterminds behind the break up of The Shield, the hottest stable in the WWE at that time, when Seth Rollins betrayed Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose to join the “King of Kings”. Both Triple H and Seth Rollins would also feud with Sting, who was making his first ever appearance in WWE.
They also had a lengthy feud with Daniel Bryan which saw Triple H hit Bryan with a Pedigree so that Randy Orton could cash in his Money in the Bank contract at SummerSlam 2013. The feud continued into 2014 as Triple H once again hoped to deny Daniel Bryan a world title. At WrestleMania 30, Bryan would have to face off against Triple H for a spot in the main event against Authority member Randy Orton and a returning Batista who had won the Royal Rumble. Bryan ultimately overcame the odds by winning the World Heavyweight Championship, and leading the crowd in the greatest “Yes!” chant ever.
While not the last authority figure that would appear on WWE television, The Authority marked a point in time when fans were genuinely becoming sick of the villainous authority being at the centre of every story, and the amount of boos and sneers that rained from the crowds during their tenure felt more genuine than most of the other reactions, and for that reason alone they deserve a spot on this list.
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