WWE Raw General Manager John Laurinaitis's 5 Worst Real-Life Decisions
John Laurinaitis' portrayal as a heavily disliked, bumbling authority figure didn't come about as a happy accident.
For starters, he's the one person in the company given the responsibility of firing people personally. Even though it's not usually his decision, this has garnered him much animosity from wrestlers.
He's also made a number of baffling moves behind the scenes in his role as head of talent relations and previously as a road agent/producer in both WWE and WCW. Some of his mistakes have become legendary.
If you're not familiar with his history, then prepare for your mind to be blown.
No. 5: The Swimsuit Models
Gaye Gerard/Getty Images
In 2006, Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis suddenly hired two bikini models straight out of a catalog. These two models were 20-year-old Victoria Crawford (now Alicia Fox) and 19-year-old Barbara Blank (now Kelly Kelly).
While models with no wrestling experience had been recruited into the company in the past via the Diva Search competitions, they sent feelers out to various modeling agencies as opposed to ordering hot models out of a bikini catalog.
Naturally, there was plenty of speculation about what the end game was. When the models were sent to developmental promotion OVW to try to learn how to wrestle, it was reported that the wrestlers were ordered not to have carnal relations with either of them.
Mikey Batts was fired shortly thereafter as punishment for an unnamed disciplinary issue. Maybe the two situations were unrelated, but the instructions given to the developmental wrestlers still say a lot, don't they?
No. 4: Green with Envy
Finlay & Hornswoggle (Photo by Andrea90 at Wikimedia Commons)
Northern Ireland native Dave "Fit" Finlay was one of the most underrated wrestlers in the business for much of his career, which started in 1974 when he was 16 years old.
He came to WCW in the U.S. in 1996. In 1999, he was thrown into the promotion's new hardcore division. WCW being WCW, the table that was to be broken during one house show match was made of formica instead of the usual safer particle board.
Finlay went though it, it shattered, and shards stabbed him in the leg, severing nerves and paralyzing him below the knee. He became a road agent/producer and assumed the same role in WWE when they bought out WCW's assets.
Having been in ring shape when training some of the Divas, he decided to come back and convinced his bosses in WWE to use him. Now known simply as Finlay, he was introduced with vignettes at the end of 2005 and debuted shortly after the start of the new year, looking like the best wrestler in the world.
For whatever reason, John Laurinaitis was really negative on Finlay wrestling, even though a Finlay was a brilliant player/coach for younger wrestlers in addition to being entertaining to watch. I don't know if it was jealousy or what, but he wanted Finlay sabotaged.
Sabotage came in the form of a leprechaun named Little Bastard (indy wrestler Dylan Postl, who had worked as Shortstack) who lived under the ring and assisted Finlay. Finlay being Finlay, he made it work, using Little Bastard as a weapon who he discarded under the ring.
Laurinaitis failed, as the leprechaun (who was eventually renamed Hornswoggle) actually enhanced Finlay's act. Finlay was a WWE mainstay for the next four years until Laurinaitis eventually got his way and Finlay stopped wrestling in 2010.
No. 3: Overhauling Developmental
John Laurinaitis enjoying a brewski and sushi (Photo by Masanori Horie)
At the beginning of 2007, WWE had two developmental promotions: Danny Davis's Ohio Valley Wrestling based out of the Louisville, Kentucky area and Joe Hamilton's Deep South Wrestling near Atlanta, Georgia. One day, WWE representatives showed up at the Deep South training center, were in shock over how badly they felt it was being run, and they immediately ended the affiliation.
This left WWE with a bunch of developmental wrestlers who didn't have a place to work and train. Booker T saw an opening and made a pitch to get the new developmental opening.
He had opened his Pro Wrestling Alliance school and promotion in 2005 and gotten good reviews for his efforts. He upgraded his facility and secured TV production equipment so he could take over Deep South's spot. In addition to the infrastructure being in place, WWE would have an active main event level wrestler training the developmental talent on his days off.
Meanwhile, then WWE road agent/producer Steve Keirn made his own pitch to Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis. He would open his own school and promotion in Tampa called Florida Championship Wrestling. With so many current and former WWE wrestlers in Tampa, they could drop by and help out when needed.
Laurinaitis went with FCW, angering Booker T to the degree it was a major sticking point that led to his departure from the company. When FCW opened in June that year, Laurinaitis was promoted to Senior Vice President of Talent Relations.
There was one big problem: FCW had to be built from scratch. Several months went by before they could run shows and shoot TV school, as there were no restrooms in the building.
To make things worse, WWE dropped its affiliation with OVW in February 2008, moving all developmental talent to FCW. With 60 developmental wrestlers in FCW, they weren't getting nearly enough ring time both in the school and in front of fans.
Eventually, Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer revealed why Laurinaitis was so gung-ho about FCW: He loved the party scene in the area, so any business trips to FCW would be also be very pleasurable for him, because really, that's what's important, isn't it?
No. 2: The World's Biggest Brainfart
Randy Orton battles The Undertaker in SATAN'S STRUCTURE. (Photo by WWE)
(Yes, I know I covered this in my "5 Things You May Not Know About Hell in a Cell Matches" slideshow, but it's not like I can't skip it here.)
Randy Orton feuded with The Undertaker throughout 2005 in a series of great matches. During the feud, Orton's father, "Cowboy" Bob Orton Jr., joined in to accompany his son and interfere in his matches.
The feud was set to culminate in a Hell in a Cell match. In the weeks before the match, Bob tested positive for Hepatitis C, a blood-borne liver illness. He explained that he tested positive as a teenager, never developed any symptoms, and pretty much forgot about it that day.
Vice President of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis was made aware of the diagnosis. He was also aware that The Undertaker and both Ortons were going to bleed in the match, which they did. Still, for whatever reason, he didn't mention this to The Undertaker.
Not long after the match, The Undertaker spoke to the company doctor involved in the case, as they were good friends. The doctor told 'Taker what happened, and he was furious.
Thankfully, he tested negative for Hepatitis C. Somehow, Laurinaitis went unpunished for this dangerous error in judgment, though Cowboy Bob was fired.
If you're wondering how this can't be the number one ridiculous Laurinaitis moment, that's because it didn't become the defining moment of his career like what you're about to read in the next slide did.
No. 1: That One-Legged Guy
Take a guess which one-legged wrestler WWE contacted first. Just guess. (Steve Chamberland photo by TBO.com)
In early 2003, rookie "Tenacious Z" Zach Gowen was making a name for himself on Midwest independent wrestling scene. It wasn't hard for him to stand out: He was a pretty good high flier who only had one leg.
While he lost his left leg to cancer as a child, he was a good athlete and became proficient at various flips on a trampoline, even when he he didn't have his prosthesis on. He started training at current Ring of Honor manager Truth Martini's wrestling school after he turned 18 and started wrestling (again, without his prosthesis) a couple weeks before his 19th birthday.
In early 2003, he made a couple appearances for TNA, but like many wrestlers who made a shot or two with TNA, he didn't have a contract. With his buzz increasing, WWE talent scouts wanted to sign him before TNA did and told John Laurinaitis (who was being groomed to replace Jim Ross as Vice President of Talent Relations) to sign the one-legged guy they had been hearing.about.
Laurinaitis made some calls to try to find the one-legged guy. A native Floridian, he spoke to some friends who directed him to Steve Chamberland, a big, burly one-legged wrestler who lost the limb in question in a motorcycle accident and wrestled with his prosthesis on.
So yes, not only did he get in touch with the wrong one-legged guy, but the wrong one-legged guy was the complete opposite of Zach Gowen and nobody had ever heard of him.
Nowadays, the urban legend is that Laurinaitis signed Chamberland to a WWE contract. I'd love to confirm that to put the cherry on top of this story, but according to a contemporary report from PWTorch.com, it never got that far.