Ranking Every WWE SmackDown Live General Manager From Worst To Best

Where do Kurt Angle, Paige and Daniel Bryan rank? We find out ahead of SmackDown 1000...

As a rule, all authority figures in wrestling are just pale knockoffs of the measured, snide Vince McMahon of 1998-01, and the deranged, megalomaniacal Vince of 2002-06. McMahon's unfiltered performances as wrestling's Mr. Burns-meets-Beelzebub will never be equalled by anyone, save for the grossly-underappreciated Dario Cueto of Lucha Underground. As such, the authority figure trope is as played out as flip-phones, and could really afford to be stuffed into suspended animation for a generation or so.

SmackDown has had authority figures for much of its lifetime and, to be fair, it's not exactly a murderer's row of noble heroes and primo villains - it's usually just been an arbitrary non-wrestler that exists to make matches during a show that's already 20 minutes deep because there conveniently was unoccupied space for impromptu matches (sounds like poor planning). But that problem isn't exclusive to SmackDown, to be fair.

For fun, though, let's take a gander at the general managers that have presided over SmackDown through the years, adding a little perspective to the relevance of the role based on their individual performances. It would be unfair to compare the following names to the unhinged brilliance of Vince that was noted earlier, but as we'll see, some of the GMs in question did manage to carve out nice niches for themselves.

10. John Laurinaitis (2012)


Anything Big Johnny was doing on SmackDown by this point, he was already doing better on Raw in the same time frame. Also, the idea of each show needing a GM in 2012 was patently absurd, seeing as the brand split was dead and bloated by the end of August 2011, anyhow. There really wasn't much use for Laurinaitis needing to gain control of a show that the part-timers skip as a rule.

The only fun part of Laurinaitis' 10-week run as SmackDown headman was him mocking Teddy Long's dance that one time, and admittedly, it was was pretty danged funny. Otherwise, the focus was on his inane feud with Cena, which gave us *that* Over the Limit main event. Laurinaitis made for a decent evil boss, but as far as SmackDown goes, it was terrain not worth conquering.

9. Stephanie McMahon (2002-03)


Frankly, given a choice, I prefer the Stephanie of the modern age that would domineer Raw with consequence-free belittling of the supposed stars around her. I'm not saying that was a *good* version of Stephanie, but I preferred it to the earlier incarnation of SmackDown GM Stephanie, whose mic work was far more comparable to primordial sludge than what we'd see in future years.

Lowlights included Stephanie playing the benevolent and heroic boss that championed Zach Gowen, and later tried to fight her father at No Mercy - a feud that didn't exactly earn her any Gargano-esque sympathy from the crowds. Stephanie was fine as the spoiled shrew of a wife and daughter that would get the upper hand, only to get her comeuppance at the end. Nobody bought Stephanie as a bold and fearless heroine.

8. Booker T (2012-13)


Again, why exactly did SmackDown need a GM in this time frame? "Okay, your job is to take all the guys that aren't too valuable to be oversaturated from working a second show, and put them into matches. And don't advance any plot points - that's only for Raw, where the audience is larger." So yeah, Booker kinda had his hands tied there.

Trying to recall any memorable moments with Booker on top is an exercise in futility, but that can also be a good thing. Booker wasn't immersed in the angles as an ass-kicking troubleshooter, nor as a corrupt official, so in his role, he just had to be crowd-pleasing, making matches that fans wanted to see. That's a step up from Stephanie's eye-rolling earlier run, and it didn't detract from the shows, so alright.

7. Shane McMahon (2016-present)


He worked in tandem with Daniel Bryan and only wore his special Commissioner pants to overrule his goat-faced friend when the storyline needed him to. This entry still counts! I'll fight you, I swear...

Shane isn't a GM by title, instead, a Commissioner that oversees all that the GM does. But I had to include him, otherwise the list would have only nine names. And besides, his tenure as SmackDown's commish is long enough to warrant some consideration.

Most of Shane's memorable moments have come in feuds that conveniently kick up in time for Survivor Series or WrestleMania, as well as taking high-risk bumps that he would've done in his relative youth. Shane's been more hands-off in his position since there was a bonafide GM there to handle the regular operations, so he can't get much more than a benign rating or an incomplete, really.

6. Daniel Bryan (2016-18)


This is an interesting case because it was quite apparent that the job did nothing for Bryan. The man was deprived of doing what he loved most, actually wrestling, and had to spend his Tuesday nights watching others do it instead. So many social media comments made his displeasure clear, even when phrased in sardonic and jokey tweets.

Where Bryan shined in the role was not so much as an on-screen authority, but as the co-host of Talking Smack, where he got to freeform a little bit with his authoritative powers in mind. When he was speaking in his own voice, Bryan could be very entertaining in the role, even if it wasn't suited for him. Still, he was preferable to those previously listed, even if he would've rather been wrestling.

5. Kurt Angle (2004)


Yeah, his time as Raw GM has been about as smooth as a Slip N'Slide on top of a rock pile, and not the best representation of Angle as a speaker. It certainly pales to his four months presiding over the blue brand, whilst recovering from injuries post-WrestleMania XX. He may not have been the best evil authority figure, but he served well in the role.

Sitting in a wheelchair for a good part of the run, the bald-headed, suit-wearing Angle reminded some of a less-stately Professor X (kinda hard to imagine Angle as Captain Picard, though). Mostly, Angle was good for verbally jousting with John Cena and Eddie Guerrero, while letting Luther Reigns do his dirty work. A great forgotten moment came when Vince fired Angle (facilitating Angle's return to the ring), with McMahon ending up wildly swinging a crutch at Kurt's head like an absolute madman.

4. Paige (2018-present)


Moreso than the prior examples on the list, Paige seems to have taken to the GM role with aplomb. The position was an opened window after the door sadly closed on her wrestling career, and she's making the most of the spot, bringing some genuine interest and gravitas to a spot that others preceding her had seemingly taken for granted.

In kayfabe, she was viewed to have handily won the Superstar Shake-Up over Kurt Angle back in April (to be fair, Angle may have been distracted by the glory of his WrestleMania victory), and in general, she has just the right amount of involvement as a character (not overbearing, not infrequently-seen). Hopefully, the role continues to be a fit for Paige, and who knows - maybe she'll get that second lease on a wrestling life one day like Bryan did.

3. Paul Heyman (2003-04)


This wasn't even Heyman's finest run as a conniving slimewad, but it's Heyman, so it's golden, no matter what. He wasn't above catching a beating in the role, whether Chris Benoit and John Cena were torturing him with a bar of soap, or a crazed Vince McMahon stood on the verge of clawing his face apart, and Heyman always added his own confident oomph to such physical moments.

It was a sad day when Heyman was removed from his spot during the 2004 Draft because his interactions with any and all talents could always provide a boost to tomorrow's stars. Few on-screen performers have demonstrated that sort of consistent magic touch through so many years, and Heyman's bluster was in seemingly endless supply.

2. Vickie Guerrero (2007-09, 2011, 2013-14)


It took a little while for Guerrero to find her groove in the role, but she eventually would in a manner few would have predicted. Earlier on, it was a bit awkward seeing her on WWE TV, and her 2006 heel turn was weird because at the time, nobody wanted to boo Eddie Guerrero's widow. It wasn't until she demonstrated her talents as a comic foil that we began to value her a little more.

Her shrill screams, piercing scowl, and Marcy D'arcy-esque cackle put her on even ground with performers that were known for their strong comedic chops. Her getting the proverbial (or even literal) pie in the face always made for good TV. And she was an obvious team player, letting so many others earn points by dunking on her. Vickie will go down as one of wrestling's greatest overachievers.

1. Theodore Long (2004-07, 2009-12)


The presence of multiple people on this list would cause Long to begin quivering, for he knows it's well within his vested powers to put together a tag team match at the drop of a hat. And the odd-person out from the preceding nine could go one on one with The Undertaker, potentially. These were some of the common cliches of Long's terms as SmackDown overseer, but that was why we loved him.

Long's years as a manager showed that he was an effective, authoritative speaker, and when he needed to get serious, he could verbally spar with the best of them. Sure, we know him better for his joyous dancing, his unique phrases, and his tag team match fetish, but as an overall authority figure, Long was well-rounded and flexible, and he added plenty to SmackDown over the years.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.