“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” That was the famous line uttered by the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her band of merry misfits revealed the all-powerful wizard to be nothing more than an average, unassuming man. He was without any real power, simply using the guise of the curtain and a booming voice to pull the strings, control everything around him, and make everyone think he was more than he was. In some ways, the gimmick of the Anonymous Raw General Manager (ARGM) was the same.
Behind the guise of a computer screen, emails, and the voice of Michael Cole, the anonymous GM ran the show for just over a year, using the protection of anonymity to get away with things he/she otherwise wouldn’t have. In the end, much like Dorothy discovered the wizard’s true identity, Santino Marella discovered that of the anonymous GM, doing so two years after the angle first began, on the 1,000th episode of Raw.
Only unlike the wizard’s reveal, which proved crucial to driving home the point of the story, WWE‘s own proverbial unmasking left much to be desired. For over a year, (June 2010-July 2011), the mystery behind who was behind the screen was one that intrigued and captivated fans. From the catchphrases to the red herrings, everyone tried to figure out where the character dropped clues and where they were merely directing people off their scent. As the angle stretched from weeks into months, with each new email that was sent, anticipation grew for the eventual reveal.
But like too many WWE angles, what started with a bang ended in a whimper as they let the angle die without answering the burning question, only to resurrect it a year later when people had stopped caring. Even still, WWE could have used the moment to make a shocking, unexpected reveal that could have been used as an angle that summer. Perhaps the Anonymous Raw General Manager was a returning legend, or even a big name current wrestler, or someone about to make a huge debut from another company.
But this was WWE in the 2010s, a time where angles with huge potential payoff were dropped or ignored for head-scratching reasons. It happened with the NEXUS, it happened with the reveal of Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son, and it happened when the ARGM was revealed in July 2012 to be none other than Hornswoggle. The same Hornswoggle who was revealed to be McMahon’s son. Much like that reveal, Hornswoggle as the ARGM equally bombed, so much so McMahon later apologized to Jerry Lawler for involving him in it. Once again, WWE had failed to take a promising angle to fruition, instead bringing things to an unsatisfactory end and doing so long after the angle lost its popularity anyway.
A potential big angle was passed on in exchange for comedy. Though in some ways, it was fitting given the original decision to make Hornswoggle the Anonymous Raw General Manager was suggested as a joke. According to former writer Kevin Eck, one of the writers joked that it should be Hornswoggle because of just how badly the payoff went to him being McMahon’s son. The writer acknowledged it was ridiculous but believed it to be so ridiculous that McMahon would go for it. And he did, greenlighting the plan for Hornswoggle’s reveal and character transformation into a W.C. Fields-esque mob boss straight out of yesteryear. Only Swoggle never fit the role and the angle was quickly dropped, making one wonder if WWE had missed the mark on something that could have been big. After a year-plus long saga to unmask the individual sending the emails and running Raw, perhaps things would have been better off if WWE never revealed the man behind the curtain at all.
It All Begins – June 21st, 2010
After Vince McMahon fired Bret Hart due to the chaos caused by the recently debuting NEXUS, the chairman announced the appointment of a new GM. Only this time, that individual was opting to remain anonymous as not to draw the ire of NEXUS. It was announced that the GM would manage via a computer and that Michael Cole would be the mouthpiece, there to read off the GM’s instructions. Every time the computer dinged, it signaled an email from the GM. That first night, the computer was quite active, creating both a title match for later in the show as well as announcing that all seven members of NEXUS had officially been hired and would have the opportunity to address the WWE Universe.
In the ensuing weeks and months, the Anonymous Raw General Manager continued to run roughshod over Raw, causing chaos and intrigue every time an email was sent. From the get-go, people tried to figure out who was behind the emails, analyzing every word the GM uttered and every decision that individual made. The emails referenced popular catchphrases, teasing who was behind the computer with slogans from DX, Vince McMahon, the Rock, Steve Austin, and more. At points, the GM seemed to favor NEXUS but didn’t like guys including Hart, Chris Jericho, John Cena, and most notably, Edge. And while that would appear to have cut down the list of possible suspects, of the names considered, one stood above the rest due to the fact he was the guy reading off the messages from the GM and largely had the most to gain from the man’s anonymous nature.
Michael “And I Quote” Cole and the Emails
“Can I have your attention, please. I just received an email from the anonymous Raw general manager, and I quote…”
From the beginning, Michael Cole was the mouthpiece for the Anonymous Raw General Manager, but his role in the gimmick didn’t fully develop until later on. Initially just there to read the emails as they came in, Cole started to become power-hungry and as the mouthpiece of the GM, found himself turning heel and becoming arrogant. Much like the GM himself, Cole was able to hide behind the computer screen and claim to simply be the messenger.
Cole became famous for the catchphrase he would utter prior to reading one of the GM’s emails, always making sure to say, “And I quote,” to reiterate the words he was reading were not his especially in the face of one of the GM’s enemies. Revealing Cole as the ARGM would have felt anti-climatic in some ways but would have also caused people to facepalm. Of course, it was him, they would have said. He was reading the emails and hiding in plain sight all along!
Well, Cole wasn’t the Anonymous Raw General Manager, but in the end, he may have been the biggest beneficiary of the gimmick. As the GM’s mouthpiece and “official voice of the WWE”, Cole began to found himself at the center of several of Raw’s biggest angles. He delighted in reading the GM’s emails and instantly got heat for the way he did so, claiming his Cole miners loved it. Cole also had allies in the Miz and Jack Swagger and found himself fighting his fellow commentators as he fancied himself as the best man in the booth. By the time 2011 rolled around, he had carved himself out a brilliant spot in the broadcast, even as the GM angle had largely lost its steam.
Cole ended up feuding in the ring with Jerry Lawler and even created himself a protective glass box that he brought to Raw to protect him from his enemies, of which there were many. While this all could have been done sans computer, Cole was the face for frustrated wrestlers to associate with the name. As a result, the commentator commanded massive heat and was able to parlay that into perhaps the best gimmick of his extended career.
While Cole was the main man behind the computer, he wasn’t the only one to read the GM’s emails as nearly everyone who sat on commentary, from Josh Matthews to Jerry Lawler and even CM Punk, took their turns being the voice of the anonymous GM.
The Anonymous Raw General Manager Feuds with Edge
While the Anonymous Raw General Manager angle itself ended up falling flat in its reveal, along the way, there were some truly entertaining moments. One such one was early on in the angle in August-September 2010, when the ARGM seemed to target Edge.
The GM would become known for some common traits. For example, he seemed to really dislike when matches ended via interference or cheating. As such, the GM was known for appointing special guest referees and banning a wrestler’s stablemates or tag team partners from ringside. Showing such a dislike for that kind of behavior, the GM even went so far as to restart matches he believed ended unfairly. Edge was someone who ended up the victim of this more than once including for two weeks in a row at one point. Known as the Ultimate Opportunist, Edge often used less than legal means to score cheap wins but to that point, he’d not really been called on it. The ARGM, however, didn’t let Edge’s cheating ways slide and after weeks of causing the Rated R Superstar stress, things all came to a head on an episode of the Cutting Edge on September 27th.
Edge brought the Anonymous Raw General Manager and his podium on as the special guest, providing him with a mic the same way he would anybody else. The interview began with Edge acknowledging the two don’t have the best relationship but he said despite that, he equipped the GM’s computer with a voice translator to ensure his identity was not unfairly revealed. Then Edge began to ask the GM some questions, including why he was such a spineless coward for hiding behind emails and a computer screen. The GM claimed that if the truth came out, it would change everything, a comment that at the time offered optimism for where the angle was headed. Edge called the GM a liar, to which the GM asked why Edge didn’t like him.
At that point, Edge realized he was arguing with a computer, a pointless endeavor in his mind. Believing Raw went downhill with the appointment of the ARGM, Edge tried to leave saying he would only talk to a person but the GM stopped him, putting him in a match against John Cena right then and there.
Dominating most of the match, Edge emerged victorious until the Anonymous Raw General Manager once again refused to uphold the results due to Cena’s foot being under the rope, thus not a legal pin. In the restart, Edge ended up tapping to Cena, much to the GM’s delight. Following the match, Edge and the GM exchanged ‘words’ before Edge destroyed the laptop in a fit of fury. But that wouldn’t be the end of it. The GM returned the following week with a huge announcement, trading Edge to SmackDown.
Edge would later return to Raw and in December 2010, won the Slammy for Meltdown of the Year for his work in destroying the ARGM’s first computer. He was the first to attack the computer though he wouldn’t be the last as months later, Austin in his one-night stint as guest GM, poured beer and ran over the computer several times with an ATV.
An Unsatisfactory End – July 9th, 2012
Throughout the one-year plus saga, the Anonymous Raw General Manager established himself as a law and order kind of leader that often made decisions the fans didn’t like. In addition to restarting matches he believed ended unfairly, the GM, who proved to be an ultimate heel authority figure, would often impose or threaten punishments such as stripping wrestlers of their titles or handing out suspensions when wrestlers interfered in matches. This was to prove to the wrestlers that actions had consequences and the GM certainly enacted those consequences when the occasion called for it. But he was also vindictive and used his power to punish his enemies such as when he made Edge defend his spot in the 2011 Royal Rumble in retaliation for Edge destroying the GM’s computer months prior.
The GM cleverly used his power to cause friction among just about everyone in the locker room as wrestlers couldn’t trust who was pulling the strings. Enemies were made into allies and allies were turned into enemies as the GM puppeteered dissension among Raw’s ranks. Wrestlers became so frustrated with how the show was being run they began demanding things of the GM, such as when CM Punk staged a sit-in until he got what he wanted, which was a #1 contendership for the title.
During his tenure, the GM booked championship matches frequently, for both PPV and TV, announced the creation of Money in the Bank and the PPV’s debut in 2010, and made several enemies along the way. By the end of the angle, the GM and the man behind the mic had even started to get booed by the fans. Now, this was largely due to the heat Cole had but there was also a sense that the angle, like many before it, had long since run its course. As 2011 began, many just wanted WWE to reveal the person behind the computer and put an end to the mystery that had once been so captivating.
On July 9th, 2012, fans got their wish. With the GM having mysteriously vanished by July 18th, 2011, WWE decided to bring it back for the 1,000th episode of Raw. There, Santino Marella got word the individual was in the building and made it his Sherlock Holmes’ quest to find him. After the GM made the main event for the night, Marella was able to find his man hiding under the ring. He pulled out Hornswoggle, who confessed to being the ARGM all along.
Two years later, WWE briefly brought back the Anonymous Raw General Manager again, this time to take over after the Authority was removed from power following Survivor Series in 2014. While Cole happily reprised his role, the angle didn’t last long and was soon forgotten about by the time 2015 hit and Triple H and co were back in charge of running the show.
But maybe just maybe, there’s hope in the ARGM’s last go around as it was never confirmed if Swoggle was once again sending the emails or if it was someone else entirely. So maybe just maybe, Hornswoggle’s reveal was a red herring as he, for whatever reason, took the credit and blame for the GM’s year of terror. Maybe one day, WWE will reveal the true man/woman behind the curtain, one that inspires the kind of reaction this angle was set to get if it had been executed properly. Or just maybe, the GM will remain anonymous, a decision that perhaps should have been made nearly eight years ago.
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