WWE: Today’s Authority Figures Are Detrimental to Storylines

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Authority figures have featured prominently in WWE storylines for decades. But the way in which they’re booked these days does a lot more harm than good.

WWE have this strange obsession with authority figures in non-wrestling roles on their wrestling programming. These authority figures have become part of all the top storylines. Every time a big star comes along and is about to reach the top of the roster, these authority figures come into play to act as their ultimate foil.

Instead of that rising star going up against, you know, the current top wrestler on the roster.

This entire obsession with authority reeks of ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin syndrome. WWE’s writers seem hell-bent on recreating the Austin-McMahon rivalry with every single top storyline, with the vain hopes of recreating the magic they had with that one. It does, in essence, act as the archetype or template for all top storylines in today’s current WWE.

And it’s a terrible idea.

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‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin’s meteoric rise to the top wasn’t just because of his own popularity or the writing at the time. It was because of era-specific circumstances that Mr. McMahon was capable of becoming the perfect authority figure.

Up to that point, Vince was mostly known as an on-screen commentator; his status as owner of WWE wasn’t widespread knowledge. So when the Montreal Screwjob happened, and Vince’s power and influence became common knowledge, it set up the perfect circumstances for which WWE could capitalize on.

Vince’s real-life screwing of Bret Hart enabled him to become a perfect authority figure that walked the line between scripted and reality ever so carefully. Even though his on-screen character was an over-the-top characterization of his real-life self, few people watching knew that.

To most fans, the on-screen authority figure that Vince was playing was, in fact, Vince McMahon using his authority to get what he wanted, usually at Stone Cold’s expense.

Everything about that rivalry was era-specific. Because of its context and what happened behind the scenes, it could only be successful once. Yet WWE seems adamant on re-creating that unique storyline with every major feud these days, especially on RAW.

We see the authority figures on both RAW and SmackDown (but more so on RAW) every week. The storylines clearly center on them, with their corporate gibberish, talk about non-wrestling-related subjects, and their tendency to say and do things that harm the wrestlers with whom they’re sharing the screen.

This is especially true of Stephanie McMahon’s character, who has been doing this for a good three years. As an authority figure, Stephanie berated both people that opposed her and her supposed allies.

She has done this with little to no explanation as to why or any follow-up. Which leads us to the biggest reason why today’s authority figures in WWE are terrible: they never get their comeuppance.

Go back to virtually any segment from the Attitude Era, or even during the mid-2000s. What you’ll notice is that in these segments, it’s the wrestlers looking good once they’re done and NOT the authority figures.

The authority figures, whether it’s Vince or someone else, is intimidated by the wrestlers on their show, and in some cases, they’re even attacked by those wrestlers when they get insulted or screwed by those authority figures. This was because the wrestlers were the stars of the shows, and those in power were simply supporting characters.

Nowadays, the opposite is true: WWE have gone off the deep end in terms of turning the show into a strange sit-com where the show’s card is reflective of its real power structure, with the Authority at the top. Simply put, the authority figures are the most important characters on WWE programming, especially RAW.

This has led to a serious problem in WWE, in that the actual wrestlers aren’t getting over with the audience. The current and up-and-coming stars of WWE are presented as secondary to the authority figures on the shows.

When someone like Seth Rollins or Sami Zayn, or even Bayley says something that might undermine Stephanie McMahon’s authority, even in the smallest of ways, she emasculates the men and simply buries the women for daring to question her in any way, shape or form.

Now, all of this would be fine, if it led to some kind of retribution on the part of the WWE superstars. But this rarely happens, if ever. One might make the argument that Stephanie did get her comeuppance when she went through a table at WrestleMania 33, but that small spot doesn’t make up for over three years of emasculation of wrestlers.

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But otherwise, you don’t see them harming the other wrestlers’ characters. On the contrary; Shane, for example, shows considerable guts in storyline terms by wrestling against A.J. Styles, despite not being a trained wrestler.

However, even though SmackDown’s authority figures aren’t as overbearing as their RAW counterparts, they’re still part of a larger problem. There’s an overemphasis on authority figures in general in WWE, and they rarely figure into storylines in a wrestling-centric sort of way. What this means is, storylines with authority figures in today’s WWE are too real.

Years ago, when Austin, the Rock, the Undertaker, or another top WWE star got screwed by whoever was in charge, they’d get their revenge. These moments of revenge are among the most popular and memorable moments in WWE history.

Stone Cold Steve Austin driving the beer truck and dousing Vince McMahon in beer. Kurt Angle doing the same with a milk truck. Undertaker and Kane breaking Vince’s leg after he flipped both of them off. The Rock shoving Vince’s head up Rikishi’s ass.

All of these moments were prime examples of why wrestling was so popular and beloved in its heyday: the wrestlers that were being undermined and had their careers screwed with by the authority figures got their revenge and stood tall in the end.

Fast forward to today, and everything is once again different. Throughout the year, the authority figures reign supreme and rarely have their power undermined. Most episodes of RAW will have at least one segment in which an authority figure will insult or emasculate a wrestler, with little to no follow-up later in the show or the following week.

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It’s as if these moments that feature the on-screen authority figures are only there so that Stephanie McMahon and her fellow power-brokers can be on TV. There’s little storyline follow-up to these appearances, making them both insignificant in storyline terms, but significant in terms of the harm they cause. Ultimately, it seems like WWE’s writers have gone too far in embracing the ‘corporate culture’ that has infected WWE. From Stephanie’s boardroom language to there being an obvious chain of command and authority that no wrestler, no matter how popular, can question, this culture permeates in the company in every respect.

The problem with this is that people don’t tune into WWE to see this corporate, sterilized nonsense. They want to see wrestling, no matter how ridiculous it might be. That means having things be unrealistic and not in tune with how the real world works. In reality, if you cross your boss, you’re likely to get demoted, punished, or fired.

It shouldn’t be that way in WWE, which is all about suspension of disbelief. In WWE, authority figures should act as foils for the top stars, yes. But they should also be secondary players to bigger rivalries involving wrestlers.

Ultimately, the role of the authority figure (if they’re the heelish sort), is for them to be defeated in a high-profile match and use their power to help get the audience to cheer for the hero of the day.

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They should not be the central characters on WWE’s regular shows. Alas, WWE’s writers seem to think otherwise when it comes to how they script the authority in this crazy promotion.