When Laurinaitis (WWE’s real-life Vice President of Talent Relations) emerged as an on-screen character during CM Punk's tremendous work/shoot angle last summer, few could have expected him to stick around as a long-term character.
Indeed, Laurinaitis, who retired as an active wrestler years ago, came off as awkward and uncomfortable on TV, even a little camera-shy.
His promo work wasn't terrific either, with him often botching or forgetting his scripted lines. Certainly, when thrown in with superb talkers like CM Punk and John Cena, he looked hopelessly out of his depth.
Fast-forward nearly a year later, and John Laurinaitis continues to thrive on WWE television as a haughty, pompous corporate drone only interested in serving the best interests of himself. At a time when the Raw product is struggling and the company is facing dwindling ratings, the heel GM has emerged as one of the few consistent highlights on the show.
How did this happen?
First of all, Laurinaitis is simply a great character. Sleazy, arrogant and full of himself, he embodies everything a heel authority figure in wrestling should be. No wonder the fans boo him so boisterously every week on TV.
He plays a character very similar to the one Vince McMahon did during the Attitude Era—a boorish, domineering boss who despises not getting his way—although manages to imbue it with enough originality and funny, quirky mannerisms to be fresh and new.
He also performs comedy a lot better than Vince ever did—it’s difficult not to smile when the grinning, wide-eyed GM rides out on Raw in his scooter to his ridiculously ostentatious music, seemingly under the delusion he is absolutely adored by the WWE universe.
There is another reason he greatly succeeds as a character: The executive has shown an admirable willingness to take extreme punishment to get an angle over.
Most notably, he endured an extremely tough beating from John Cena in a singles match for almost 20 minutes at the Over the Limit pay-per-view, before The Big Show ran in to save him. Laurinaitis certainly deserves a ton of credit for his tremendous effort here. It was a performance reminiscent of Vince McMahon’s heyday, when he was suffering through weekly beatings at the hands of Steve Austin—much to the delight of fans everywhere.
Sidekicks David Otunga and Eve Torres also greatly aid the heel GM’s act.
In fact, Otunga’s evil law character, stemming from his real-life legal training at Harvard Law School, is one of the most enjoyable aspects of WWE television at present.
Torres, too, is over as the GM’s fiercely loyal female sidekick, with the Diva Search winner soaking up vociferous boos on Raw every week. The fans love to hate her, and her association with a despised character like Laurinaitis is a big reason why.
Of course, Laurinaitis’ character is far from perfect. He receives far too much airtime, and his role on WWE television has arguably become overbearing.
I mean, come on, out of everyone in the company John Cena could face, they put him in a programme with an aging, long-retired wrestler?
Surely an up-and-comer like Cody Rhodes, Tensai or Dolph Ziggler could have taken on Cena at Over the Limit instead? How exactly did Laurinaitis benefit from getting the rub from Cena?
But this minor matter aside, Laurinaitis continues to do a great job on WWE television, justifying management’s faith in him and their decision last year to make him a permanent on-screen character.
Long may his reign over Raw and SmackDown continue.