By Captain Scarlet
Authority figures have been around in wrestling for decades, mainly stemming from wrestling's attempt to appear credible compared to boxing. Authority figures were generally benign, just there to sort out matches and problems, not really the focus of the show. Eric Bischoff combined his role as President of WCW with the nWo storyline, and appeared on many WCW shows with Hulk Hogan, being a complete dick and stirring up the crowd. Vince McMahon’s role versus Stone Cold came later, but was much more important. He took part in promos, storylines, matches and was the focus of Stone Cold for years. It was a storyline that worked – the blue collar champion versus the entitled boss. However, it is a storyline that wrestling has tried to copy far too much for years.
The idea of a heel authority figure running the show and keeping down the faces is played out. The crowd doesn’t care, they’ve seen it a hundred times before and just want it to go away now. TNA has had a lot of heel authority figures over its lifetime, from Don Callis, to Eric Bischoff, to Dixie Carter herself. They've also had general face authority figures, such as Hulk Hogan, Jim Cornette and most recently, Kurt Angle.
Although I enjoyed some of Dixie's shtick as the heel boss, and thought she did a good job, there was little NEW stuff she could do in that role. The same goes for Kurt; he was a good boss for Impact in the Jim Cornette mold, wanting matches to be fair, rather than constantly going after the heels. But again, there was little new stuff he could do in that role. He was just re-treading ideas that have been played out over the last decade in TNA (and to a greater extent, WWE). Removing him from power has left TNA without an authority figure, and it actually feels good.
My main problem with authority figures over the years has been their use as a heat magnet, rather than gaining heat for the wrestlers themselves. The McMahon versus Austin storyline worked because it added heat to Austin – he was already over when it began, but the storyline pushed him over the top and turned him into the major star that WWF needed to compete with WCW. The storyline went on for a long time, with various wrestlers being used as surrogate heels by McMahon to get rid of Austin. But people were into Austin, REALLY into him. They loved him, and hated McMahon, so whatever twists and turns the storyline took, it would be over.
Wrestling has taken that template and tried to fit it over every new star they have tried to make for years, desperately wanting to trap that lightning in the bottle again. But as we’ve seen with many ideas in wrestling, things don’t work that way. You can’t set out who will and who won’t get over, then make the audience react according to that plan.
Although having wrestlers make their own matches seems odd, I would rather watch that than yet another authority figure segment where it gets set up. It wastes time and concentrates the promo on someone who isn’t a wrestler, while giving the audience a nasty sense of déjà vu. Most of the challenge matches are being set up between the heavy hitters, which makes sense because they have the stroke within the company to do this type of stuff.
Also, the BDC don’t want to take over. They don’t want to be the authority and run TNA; they want to control the World Title, which they see as their property, and destroy anyone who opposes them. This is much more interesting than wanting to take over the company, another storyline that has become played out and boring. A chaotic atmosphere in wrestling is better than a regulated one; it creates the potential for new storylines and more excitement. As it stands, the wrestlers run TNA. There isn’t somebody in charge sorting out the cheating or the beat downs; they do it themselves.
As usual, I’m not saying we get rid of something completely. Under the right circumstances, any storyline that has been worn out can work. Authority figures can return into TNA at some point, but right now it’s just so nice to watch the show and see wrestlers doing promos about each other, sorting out title matches and everything else. We don’t have a long, rambling opening segment setting up the rest of the night. If there is an opening segment, it goes by very quick and is used to build heat on the wrestlers rather than a figure (or figures) who don’t take part in matches.
The shows tend to flow together pretty well – even the bad bits zoom by and don't drag on – plus we don’t have multiple updates on what the authority figure is going to do. EC3 being removed from Dixie hasn’t hurt him the slightest; in fact he’s become even more hated since he’s stood on his own two feet and been given the chance to get himself over.
Authority figures can work in storylines, they can add to a show, but like many things in wrestling since the Attitude Era, they have become a shortcut. Instead of being used to elevate talent, authority figures are being used to create new stars, and it’s not working. The "evil boss" version of Vince McMahon was boring well before he stopped doing it, and he was a master at playing that character. Why bookers think they can recreate magic with other people, I don’t know, but it hasn’t worked, especially in TNA. The new era of no authority figure on DA is a breath of fresh air compared to the last few years, and something TNA needed. I just hope it continues for a good long while.