10 Wrestlers Who Had Creative Control In A Company
In pro wrestling, not every performer necessarily has a say in what they do on screen. Many wrestlers are told what to say, what moves they’re allowed to do, and how their storylines play out — if they’re even given storylines at all. But this isn’t true of every wrestler, as many end up getting a degree of creative control backstage.
Wrestlers can end up having a say backstage for a variety of reasons. Some of the performers below were trusted veterans who showed a great understanding of what makes quality wrestling shows, while others were big stars with the clout required to determine what happens to them in the ring.
10Dusty Rhodes (WCW)
National Wrestling Alliance star Dusty Rhodes signed to Jim Crockett Promotions (later known as WCW) in 1984, and was quickly made head booker of the company. While at the helm, Rhodes delivered a classic 1980s storyline as he feuded with World Champion Ric Flair and the newly created Four Horsemen.
Rather than book himself as a triumphant champion, Dusty had himself chasing the title via a booking trope that would be called the “Dusty Finish,” where an apparent win for the hero would be reversed in order to keep the story going.
9Daniel Bryan (WWE)
It was a struggle for Daniel Bryan to show that he could be a star in WWE, as fans spent 2013-2014 basically demanding that the company realize his potential. As a result, it may come as a surprise to fans when they heard that in 2020, Bryan was reported to have a surprising amount of creative control over his character and storylines on SmackDown.
So far, there seems to be little ego involved, as Bryan has apparently proved willing to put over underutilized talent like Cesaro.
8Shawn Michaels (WWE)
Infamous for his backstage politicking in the 1990s, Shawn Michaels exercised creative control numerous times over the course of his career. The most egregious instance had him changing the finish of his challenge for British Bulldog’s European Championship at the UK pay-per-view One Night Only in 1997, so that he won the title in Bulldog’s home country.
On a more positive note, Michaels had an extreme amount of creative control over his WrestleMania XXIV match against Ric Flair, which would be Flair’s retirement match (at least in WWE). HBK wanted this match to be a “love letter” to Flair, so he was insistent on taking the reins on how the bout played out. It paid off, as the result was a highly acclaimed match.
7Ric Flair (WCW)
One of the biggest stars of 1980s wrestling, Ric Flair found himself succeeding Dusty Rhodes as head booker of WCW in 1989. At first, it was a marked improvement, as Rhodes’ run started to peter out near the end creatively, and Flair himself had major, classic feuds with Terry Funk and Ricky Steamboat during this period.
However, some people backstage began to believe that Flair was favoring himself in his booking decisions and he was removed from the position soon after.
6Kevin Sullivan (WCW)
While Ric Flair booking himself at the top of the company at least made decent business sense, Kevin Sullivan of The Varsity Club stable found himself with the head booker gig in the 1990s, and seemed to book himself into a lot of major angles.
Sullivan led two heel stables — The Faces of Fear and the Dungeon of Doom — to feud with Hulk Hogan, and ended up wrestling Mr. T in his only match for WCW at Starrcade.
5Brock Lesnar (WWE)
The year 2012 saw the surprise return of Brock Lesnar, who had left WWE in 2004. Before long, Lesnar would spend the 2010s as a bit of a blight upon WWE’s main event scene, thanks to his winning top championships but only working limited dates.
As a huge draw for the company, Lesnar had a lot of creative control over who he fought and how. Recently, Jon Moxley (f.k.a. Dean Ambrose) told a revealing story of their WrestleMania 32 disappointment where Lesnar called the shots, shooting down all of Mox’s ideas.
4Kevin Nash (WCW)
Kevin Nash came to WCW as part of the nWo invasion storyline, but had a surprising amount of backstage pull. In February of 1999 — after the legendary “Finger Poke of Doom” — WCW boss Eric Bischoff was feeling burned out on devising WCW storylines, and handed the booking responsibilities to Nash.
Fans have criticized Nash’s run as WCW booker, accusing him of booking himself too strong, along with questionable creative decisions like referring to the Cruiserweights as “vanilla midgets” in kayfabe, and unmasking Rey Mysterio Jr.
3Tommy Dreamer (Impact)
After having a couple of runs over the years when it was called TNA, ECW alum Tommy Dreamer returned to Impact Wrestling in 2018, and was brought onto the creative team the following year. So far, he’s been a fun addition, with his biggest spotlight on the show being a match with Rich Swann for the world title that portrayed him as a sympathetic veteran rather than an egomaniac putting himself in the main event.
Fans can also see Dreamer’s work at play in the build to the 2021 Hardcore Justice PPV, which he put together as the kayfabe Executive in Charge of Wrestling (or ECW).
A tag team legend alongside his partner Jado in the Japanese wrestling scene, Gedo found himself becoming head booker of New Japan Pro Wrestling in the early 2010s simply because someone backstage noticed he had a great mind for wrestling psychology.
Since then, Gedo has been running creative for NJPW, bringing the promotion to new heights of success in the 21st century thanks to strong booking, with long-term storylines and tremendous payoffs — all while playing a heel manager on screen.
1Hulk Hogan (WCW, WWE, TNA)
One of the biggest stars pro wrestling ever produced, Hulk Hogan found the wrestling business bending to his will in the 1990s and beyond. While Hogan came to WCW in the summer 1994, by winter, he was defending the World Title against his friend Brutus Beefcake in the main event of Starrcade.
In WWE, he refused to put over Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Randy Orton. When he came to TNA in 2010, he had much-publicized backstage control, populating the roster with his friends and making his daughter an authority figure for the Knockouts Division.