The 10 Best Authority Figures in WWE Since 2000
Authority figures have been a staple of WWE programming dating back to the days of federation president Jack Tunney. They serve the purpose of booking matches, making important storyline decisions and occasionally kicking ass themselves.
Since 2000, WWE has presented a number of extraordinary general managers, executives and owners who have helped propel storylines forward and create sympathetic fan favorites, all while becoming essential on-screen characters themselves.
With William Regal earning attention lately for his superb work as NXT general manager, enjoy this look back at the 10 best on-screen authority figures of the last two decades.
10. Shane McMahon
Shane McMahon has proved over the course of his on-screen life with WWE to be effective as both a babyface and heel authority figure, providing fans with fair and just matches at one turn and embracing the crooked, megalomaniacal ways of his father at another.
McMahon has excelled as the spoiled brat who sets up unfair matches involving talent that has wronged him. He has also proved effective as the babyface who sticks it to manipulative heels.
If he is so adaptive, why does he rank at the bottom of the list?
His last few runs became too much about him and not nearly enough about the talent he is working with. He was shoved down the audience's throat to the point that the fans would have rather seen him get off the television than settle any storyline or get his comeuppance.
That is not what any performer sets out to do at any time in pro wrestling and it certainly hurt Shane-O-Mac's effectiveness as an authority figure. Is he still great from time to time? Sure, but not enough to warrant a spot any higher than this.
9. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
When he was serving as co-general manager with Eric Bischoff, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin drew criticism for the fact that his character appeared to be eating into valuable television time that could have been better used to get a new crop of stars over.
While there is merit to that argument, hindsight shows us how entertaining he was as the babyface antagonist to Bischoff, which earns him a spot on this countdown.
Was Austin always fair and just? Oh hell no, thanks to his desire to pay back the heels who had gotten over at the expense of the hard-working heroes. What he was, though, was the balance to Bischoff's brazen partiality.
Was he over the top when it came to drinking beer and punishing heels? Absolutely. Did it make for great television during a down period for Raw? You bet your ass.
8. Triple H
Triple H brought something different to the role of authority figure in 2013 and beyond.
Not only was he an official who made decisions in the name of what was "best for business," but if a popular babyface stood in the way of achieving the desired goal, he could rip off the suit jacket and throw fists like the former world champion he was.
The Game was essential to Daniel Bryan's journey to the WWE Championship in 2014 and enjoyed one last run at the top of the company as champion himself in 2016 when he feuded with Roman Reigns.
While he still pops up on television on occasion, his days as an active competitor are behind him, making him a more traditional power-broker now.
7. Vickie Guerrero
Vickie Guerrero came from out of nowhere to become a central figure on SmackDown during the mid-to-late 2000s and beyond, embracing the role of abrasive heel GM who incited thunderous jeers for her high-pitched voice and blatant bias.
Guerrero was unabashed in her favoritism toward her own personal goals, often setting on-screen beaus Edge or Dolph Ziggler up to succeed by any means necessary. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn't, but as the general manager of Raw or SmackDown, she had ample opportunity to see to it that her lover was well taken care of.
Vickie is probably greater than her position on this countdown indicates. She got heat unlike the majority of the heels actually competing in the ring were ever able to and became a genuine MVP of WWE's television product.
It is a testament to those ahead of her on the countdown that she is not ranked further up the list.
6. Stephanie McMahon
Stephanie McMahon was a powerful woman in wrestling at a time when they largely didn't exist.
During the height of the Attitude Era, when women were heavily sexualized and often utilized as damsels in distress for male Superstars to save, she rose to prominence as an authority figure who had no problem standing toe-to-toe with The Rock, Steve Austin, Mick Foley or The Undertaker and telling them how it was.
She was vile, vindictive, manipulative and one of the most hated heels in wrestling history, but there was always something cool about seeing her succeed in a role immortalized by her father and typically reserved for men.
To this day, there are few authority figures who command the attention she does. Either way, she has been involved in some of the most memorable moments and matches, whether as part of the McMahon-Helmsley Era early in the new millennium or as the SmackDown general manager at the height of the brand extension.
And don't forget her role with The Authority, where she famously hammered home the "B-plus player" line in reference to Daniel Bryan.
5. Teddy Long
The moment his theme music played over the sound system, heels knew SmackDown general manager Teddy Long was about to book them a not-so-pleasant date...with The Undertaker! Or, perhaps, a multi-man tag team match.
Whatever the case may be, Long thrived as the impartial general manager of SmackDown throughout the mid-2000s, sticking it to heels like JBL, Booker T and Randy Orton while doing what was necessary such as when he had to strip Batista of the world heavyweight title due to injury.
An on-screen performer who exceeded every expectation in that role, Long became a beloved character on SmackDown and helped use that role to strengthen an already-considerable Hall of Fame resume.
Today, Long is a fixture among the internet wrestling community, which still touts his Undertaker match bookings and his flare for tag teams in ode to the great authority figure.
4. William Regal
If the top three of this list was not so stacked, William Regal would have a very real argument for the top spot. That's how good and enduring he is as an authority figure on WWE television.
A double-tough Brit who made a name for himself by punishing opponents with stiff forearms and brutal European uppercuts, he first proved he could defend himself. As a proper Englishman who carried himself with dignity, he excelled in the role of the commissioner in 2001, working as Mr. McMahon's puppet and booking matches that flew in the face of fairness.
That he could mix it up on behalf of the chairman certainly helped.
Years later, when he became general manager of Raw, he went as far as to shut down the show, drawing the kind of heat fans had not seen out of a heel since the days of the territories.
When he became general manager of NXT, he brought dignity, respect and fairness to the role, booking matches in the best interest of the brand.
His ability to be a comedic heel, a dastardly bad guy and a respected veteran across those three stints highlight a performer who is adaptable but also knows his place. He rarely overshadows the talent, understanding their importance to the show while doing just enough to remind the viewer and his crop of Superstars that he is the boss.
Regal will always be great because of the seriousness with which he approaches the role.
3. Mr. McMahon
Somewhere around the time that he revealed himself as The Higher Power in the summer of 1999, the evil Mr. McMahon persona became a caricature.
Previously rooted in reality, it became an over-the-top spoof of a megalomaniacal businessman whose only interest was entertaining himself, often at the expense of the business he swore to defend.
Beginning in 2000 with his love affair with Trish Stratus and throughout the next decade, he would flash ridiculous facial expressions, book matches with God and make life a living hell for any Superstar who so much as sneezed in front of him.
He even booked a match against his daughter, striking her down days before her wedding to Triple H in an "I Quit" match that remains one of the greatest examples of his ability to manipulate a crowd in modern wrestling history.
So hated by fans when a heel and beloved by them on the rare occasions he confronted a villain, McMahon continued to cement his status as one of the truly great on-screen characters of all time, even if he never met a line or boundary he didn't want to obliterate while doing so.
2. Mick Foley
In 2000, Mick Foley became the new commissioner of WWE, introducing a true babyface authority figure to the show for the first time.
Equal parts comedic and serious, he walked a fine line and knew exactly when to flash either side. From his hilarious backstage interactions with Kurt Angle, Edge and Christian to his appropriately tense encounters with longtime rival Triple H, he found success in a role he was seemingly born to play.
While his initial run in that position wrapped up in December 2000, he would return a few more times over the years as an on-screen authority figure for the company. While each time was entertaining, none quite lived up to the excellence he exhibited showed during that initial run.
The fact that his stint as an authority figure was so short-lived in comparison to the others in the top five should serve as proof positive of his greatness in that particular spot.
1. Eric Bischoff
From the moment Eric Bischoff stunned the world by walking out onto the Raw stage in 2002, it was clear WWE had struck gold in its search for a new on-screen authority figure not named McMahon.
Bischoff embraced the role, becoming a smarmy, disingenuous bad guy who booked against those who opposed his position of power and often rewarded the most hated wrestlers on the Raw roster. Hell, he even handed Triple H the World Heavyweight Championship rather than making him earn it.
He stole talent from SmackDown, sexually harassed Linda McMahon in the summer of 2003, made life a living hell for Shane and even manipulated his nephew, Eugene, in a particularly tasteless storyline in 2004.
Whether good or bad, Bischoff made the most of the material given to him and firmly established himself as the premier authority figure of the century.