John Laurinaitis out as WWE VP: A Look Back at an Era of Awkwardness
John Laurinaitis mercifully resigned from his post this past week, as the now former WWE VP of talent relations singed off on an eight-year run as one of the most powerful men in WWE's front office and atop their glass ceiling.
Laurinaitis had some big shoes to fill upon assuming the WWE's most thankless position of evaluating, scouting, signing and, of course, releasing talent. And fill them he did, because those shoes are now ruined.
Once upon a time, Laurinaitis' predecessor, the habitually under-appreciated yet tragically loyal Jim Ross, was at the helm of an administration that oversaw a developmental territory stockpiled with hot young prospects.
Among these prospects, then competing in Ohio Valley Wrestling, were Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Batista and John Cena.
Ross was also responsible for what, on paper, could easily be considered the single greatest professional wrestling roster ever constructed shortly following the extinction of WCW in 2001.
While far from the dream roster that it could have been, the WWE's postwar roster was nothing to sneeze at, as names such as Diamond Page, Rob Van Dam and Booker T, along with Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash migrated to the WWE to stand alongside established WWE stars such as Steve Austin and the Rock.
Vince McMahon's curious disdain for Jim Ross is one of pro wrestling's most overtold tales. Some have suggested that Ross' acumen for professional wrestling rivals that of McMahon's, and in many ways, may even exceed it.
So when Vince McMahon made the impromptu decision to replace Ross in 2004, a less threatening, less knowledgeable and more spineless individual was the ideal choice to work alongside McMahon in handing the all-too-important duty of cultivating WWE's present and future stars.
Enter John Laurinaitis.
Laurinaitis was a welcomed addition to WWE's northeastern front office. He just looked the part. A tall, all-American male with a winning smile, Johnny Ace was far from the cowboy hat-wearing Oklahoman that Jim Ross was. And unlike Jim Ross, his accolades didn't enrage Vince McMahon, as he had no accolades to begin with.
Laurinaitis could have easily gotten by on a legacy of maintenance, and he did for a while. In fact, just as he was entering his new position, Jim Ross' aforementioned prospects had ripened and were primed to take the WWE to new heights.
But WWE's transition from present to future became much more awkward once a mass exodus of former world champions began plaguing the WWE roster.
As the roster suddenly thinned, debilitating flaws of Laurinaitis became exposed with every two-week notice. Beneath the surface, WWE's once-loaded developmental territory was now watered down with a disorganized cluster of green wrestlers who, like Laurinaitis, looked the part but were clearly not ready for prime time.
With the exit toll of former world champions and big stars in the WWE reaching embarrassingly high levels, Laurinaitis' job security began to come into question.
There were no more John Cenas, Randy Ortons or Brock Lesnars to bridge the gap between present and future, because now there was no Jim Ross recruiting them.
Laurinaitis' most significant recent accomplishment behind the scenes was convincing CM Punk not to leave the WWE, and even that effort took help from WWE power brokers in addition to a new contract, apparently filled with perks.
One of the tricky parts of being vice president of talent relations is constructing a deep enough roster to be able to pick up the slack if a John Cena gets injured or if a Jeff Hardy quits.
It's a trick that Big Johnny is still trying to figure out while languishing in WWE purgatory as a figurehead producer on borrowed time.
Jim Ross has since been utilized in a consulting role—quietly, of course—as he occasionally works with WWE's developmental talent, now located in Championship Wrestling.
The WWE salvaged what they could out of Laurinaitis through his rather productive authoritative heel character. Laurinaitis' only potential for a future with the WWE may be in front of a camera, awkward as he is.
However, as noted Laurinaitis detractor Triple H gains more power as the heir to the throne, Laurinaits' tenure with the WWE could be coming to an end in more ways than one.
Follow Big Nasty on Twitter @ThisIsNasty. Tweet him your thoughts on Big Johnny's departure using the hashtag #JohnGone.
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