WWE’s Head of Talent Relations holds a great deal of power and influence within the company, so just who is John Laurinaitis?
The man formerly known as Johnny Ace has worked with WWE in a variety of roles for more than two decades, and remains someone with considerable influence. But how did John Laurinaitis get to where he is today, and how did a wrestling career built in Japan take him to the Head of Talent Relations in WWE, not once, but twice.
John Laurinaitis’ journey in the world of professional wrestling began back in 1986 where he wrestled across number of NWA territories, including Mid-Atlantic and Championship Wrestling from Florida. After initially wrestling alongside his brother Marcus, who was billed as The Terminator, the star known as Johnny Ace joined forces with Shane Douglas.
The duo, known as the Dynamic Dudes were managed by Jim Cornette and appeared in Jim Crockett Promotions which would later become WCW.
During this period, Johnny Ace also began competing for All-Japan Pro Wrestling, who he joined permanently in 1990 after the promotion cut ties with the NWA.
Laurinaitis enjoyed huge success while in Japan, teaming with the likes of Kenta Kobashi, and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. By the time the star hung up his boots in 2000, he did so with a total of 12 Tag Team Championship wins on his resume.
John Laurinaitis Joins WWE
After calling time on his in-ring career, the now former tag team star briefly joined WCW where he became a booker. However, this run proved to be short-lived as WWE acquired the company in early 2001. As part of the switch, Laurinaitis became a road agent with WWE.
Within three years, Laurinaitis replaced Jim Ross in the Talent Relations department before rising to the top of that particular division. Although he was later replaced by Triple H, Paul Levesque. The former Johnny Ace received some criticism for his time in this position for how he handled WWE’s developmental promotion Ohio Valley Wrestling, and call-ups to WWE’s main roster.
In 2011 Laurinaitis became an on-screen authority figure, often drawing the ire of the likes of John Cena and CM Punk. In fact, Punk referenced him during his infamous ‘pipebomb’ promo, where he aired his grievances with WWE. He hit out at Laurinaitis as the following:
“Glad-handing, nonsensical, douchebag yes-man” who would “tell Vince McMahon everything he wants to hear.”
At WrestleMania 28, Laurinaitis would head up ‘Team Johnny’ in a battle with his SmackDown counterpart Theodore Long. The winning team’s General Manager would gain control over both brands in the company. Laurinaitis’ team of David Otunga, Dolph Ziggler, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, and The Miz would defeat Team Teddy. Laurinaitis, therefore, gained overall control of both brands.
John Laurianitis would compete at the Over The Limit pay-per-view in 2012 in a match against John Cena, and picked up the unlikely win after interference from Big Show.
Laurinaitis would be fired from his on-screen role by Vince McMahon at the No Way Out event in June 2012. Cena would defeat Big Show in a cage match where the stipulation was that if Cena won Laurinaitis would be fired.
After leaving his on-screen role, Laurinaitis was relieved of his duties as an executive and returned to being a road agent.
For the next nine years, the veteran continued to work backstage, while also making occasional on-screen appearances.
In March 2021, Laurinaitis was back in the news after being named Head of Talent Relations once again. This led to him being mentioned on Friday Night SmackDown in May 2022 after Sasha Banks and Naomi famously walked out during an episode of Monday Night Raw.
John Laurinaitis Personal Life
John Laurinaitis comes from a wrestling family, having performed by alongside his brother Marcus early in his career. While the star’s other brother Joe, found fame as Road Warrior Animal, one half of the legendary Road Warriors.
In September 2015, Laurinaitis got engaged to Kathy Colace, the mother of Nikki and Brie Bella. The pair were married a year later. The union making Laurinaitis Bryan Danielson’s father-in-law.
Interestingly, Laurinaitis is also credited for the popularising ‘the cutter’ as a finishing manoeuvre. The veteran dubbed the move the Ace Crusher during his own career, while it was later adopted by Diamond Dallas Page and perhaps most famously Randy Orton, as the RKO.