Coming out of SummerSlam 2013, Triple H had turned heel with a clever 21st century twist of being the Chief Operating Officer who just wanted to do what was "best for business". He wasn't evil; he just had a better understanding of what fans really wanted than the fans themselves.
This set him, his wife and McMahon heiress Stephanie, their chosen champion Randy Orton and eventually even the returning Batista, who those same short-sighted fans didn't appreciate, up as the perfect foils for the ultimate underdog - Daniel Bryan.
His quest to overcome the faction that dubbed themselves The Authority was epic pro wrestling storytelling, both in a traditional, babyface beats heels sense and also in in an innovative, Reality Era way that made so-called 'smart' fans question what was real and what was scripted. It provided great moments like the fan revolts in Seattle and Royal Rumble, Occupy Raw and especially WrestleMania 30.
But as WWE begins the kayfabe process of finding a new general manager for its Monday night flagship - a character who will be ineffective at best and a waste of television time at worst - and an idle champion has his titles threatened by the soap opera tactic of threatening his wife's employment rather than by a pro wrestler stepping up to claim his throne, we have to ask if The Authority's time has already passed.
The main problem I see with a WWE where Steph and Hunter rule the on-screen roost is that it neuters everyone except the babyfaces who are feuding with them.
Doesn't Orton look like a fool for not demanding his rematch for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship? Especially given that he lost it without being pinned or submitted?
As has often been pointed out, why do the collective bad guys of the mid-card trot out to do The Game's bidding when it runs counter to the motivations that have been established for them - often on the very same show!?!?
Bryan's injury is a golden opportunity for a heel who's ready to take the next step, like Intercontinental Champion Bad News Barrett or Cesaro, winner of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, to proclaim themselves the most dominant man on the roster based on their recent accomplishments. But they can't, because it doesn't jibe with The Authority's kingmaking powers, and Creative can't/won't extend their storytelling to integrate anyone outside of the existing Beard/Shield versus Authority/Evolution narrative.
Look at Damien Sandow. Here's a character that actually has a fully formed story with the faction and their battle against the now-champ, he was the man who refused to enter the ring to fight Bryan during the Occupy Raw segments. But even when they take the step of having him proclaim outrage, and then would only need to explain his surrounding antics as punishment, they can't even do that.
With The Authority as the top heels, every other heel looks weaker in comparison. And when the rest of the roster is feuding with watered-down bad guys, even the good guys can't shine.
(I will give WWE credit for keeping the Bray Wyatt/John Cena program and Brock Lesnar in separate or parallel stories, but I chalk that up more to the charisma of the men involved than to anything that proves the entire roster can flourish with shoot/storyline blurring power figures in the main event)
The other problem, much like the infamous "walk out over unsafe work conditions" that marked Hunter's first on screen run as COO is that injecting too much real life human resources action into the product makes a lot of the necessary mechanics of pro wrestling storytelling look even more ridiculous.
Why is a month old shove from Brie Bella now grounds for termination when months of physical altercations between Bryan and Triple H were legitimate in the run up to 'Mania, even when the fact that latter was not an active competitor was part of the story?
If The Authority is the end all be all of power, why do they need General Managers? And why not just strip Bryan of the belts, or make him defend them or lose them this Sunday?
How can Daniel and Brie not be 'best for business' when the WWE promotes them all over their Network and makes them the centerpiece of their reality show, Total Divas?
Many of these questions can be explained away, but the writers and/or the powers-that-be haven't chosen to do so.
A lot of them can also be overlooked, especially in the short-term, for a good story. But as time passes and angles drag on, the logical inconsistencies pile up and take some viewers out of the program.
Everything, in pro wrestling or in any form or genre of fiction, is cyclical. We've had other power mad authority figures battling other rebellious outlaws, and we'll have them again.
But especially when a specific trope or type of character dominates the main angle on television for a long time, it becomes necessary to mothball that storytelling device. The Authority angle has served its purpose. Now for the sake of Daniel Bryan, the rest of the roster and the fans, it's time to put that concept back on the shelf.
It's simply what's best for business.