On-screen authority figures have been part and parcel of the professional wrestling industry since time immemorial and WWE, being an upscale professional wrestling promotion, has not been an exception to the rule.
At first, WWE used to have on-screen "President" figures. This tradition started from the foundation of the promotion in 1963 and continued until 1997. While Jack Tunney is the most well-known and memorable of these presidential figures, personalities such as Willie Gilzenberg, Hisashi Shinma and Gorilla Monsoon monitored the position with great success.
Vince McMahon's real-life ownership of WWE was first acknowledged in 1996 and soon the landscape of authority figures in WWE altered. The "Presidents" were ceremonial characters with not much influence on the direction of storylines.
However, the new breed of personalities who replaced them were more effective. They were reasonable as faces and discriminatory as heels. Due to their antics and active participation in storylines, they became more prominent than ever, championing their motive and even entering the ring on certain occasions.
Here is a list of the top five authority figures in WWE history.
#5 Former WWE General manager Eric Bischoff
In 2001, WCW finally lost to WWE and the Monday Night War was over. Eric Bischoff's last gasp attempt at saving the promotion by endeavoring to purchase it, proved to be unsuccessful. On July 15, 2002, Eric Bischoff debuted on Monday Night Raw as its general manager, a moment that astonished the audience and persists to be as fascinating as it was back then.
The former WCW boss remained the GM of Raw for a period of three years. Bischoff exhibited to the audience for the first time the Raw Roulette and the Elimination Chamber, of which the latter came to be a perennial feature in WWE's annual event list. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2021.
#4 Former SmackDown Manager Teddy Long
Teddy Long started as an errand boy for the likes of Tommy Rich before becoming a member of the WWE crew. It was only later that he gained some prominence as a referee and a manager. In WWE, he acted as a referee from 1998 to 2002 and then went on to manage the likes of Jazz and Mark Henry for the next two years. In 2004, Long was installed as the Smackdown General Manager, and there commenced a journey that remains relevant in the present day, albeit through meme culture.
Teddy is best known for his "Holla Holla Playa" catchphrase. He also had an obsession with subjecting superstars to tag team matches and one vs one fight against The Undertaker. Teddy Long smashed several ceilings as an authority figure. He was the first African-American authority figure in the history of WWE, and the longest-serving general managed in the history of Smackdown.
#3 Former WWE Commissioner Mick Foley
Mick Foley is three of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time as Foley, Mankind and Cactus Jack. He has also amassed considerable acclaim as an on-screen authority figure. Foley's first stint was as the WWE Commissioner, in which he strived to be a hero of nerds.
His reign at the top of WWE in the early years of the 21st century was crazy and chaotic, with his office receiving a similar uncertainty. Instead of having a permanent office, Foley based his work out of closets, boiler rooms and other improbable locations.
Foley's second stint as an authority figure was from 2016 to 2017, with him serving as the General Manager of Raw. This stint, which mostly involved him disagreeing with the heel Stephanie McMahon, was not as celebrated or stormy as his commissioner days.
#2 NXT Manager William Regal
During his career as an active WWE superstar, William Regal was known for his villainous activities and his strong in-ring presence. He handled the position of General Manager of Raw, but it was not that regime, encompassing feuds with the likes of Triple H, that provided him with a spot on the list. Since his retirement, Regal has won unanimous praise over his portrayal of the General Manager of NXT.
Regal took on the role in 2014 and continues to hold the position to great effect. In a call-back to the presidential era, he commands the utmost respect of the roster and acts as a matchmaker without becoming an active part of the storylines. When he does become a part of the narrative, like his recent beatdown by Karrion Kross, the impact is enormous.
#1 WWE owner Vince McMahon
Remarkable is the fact that no one in WWE has been able to play the villainous authority role as brilliantly as the real boss of the promotion. Following the infamous Montreal Screwjob, Vince McMahon switched from the commentary booth to an active governing role, and WWE altered forever.
Becoming part of multiple extraordinary storylines, including one where he acted as the ultimate hurdle to Steve Austin, he became the definitive evil boss. He still acts as an authority figure to this date, although he rarely appears on television and when he does, it is as a more fan-friendly version of Mr. McMahon.
WWE has often tried to replicate the narrative, with The Authority vs Daniel Bryan being the biggest great success story. However, the replication of Vince McMahon as an evil, cruel and demoralizing chief has been impossible. The prospect of a WWE authority figure surpassing the success of Vince McMahon? "No Chance In Hell."