WWE turns to Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff for new vision
By Mike Pankow
July 4, 2019
Vince McMahon has decided to shake things up again.
No, it’s not the annual Superstar Shake-Up that WWE likes to do after every WrestleMania. This time it appears to be really serious.
Last week, WWE announced Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff as Executive Directors of Raw and SmackDown Live, respectively. Heyman and Bischoff will report McMahon, WWE’s longtime chairman and CEO and the man that has the final say for most of the company’s creative.
The excitement behind the announcement has caused quite the stir among wrestling fans, many of whom have wanted WWE to improve its creative direction for a long time.
With ratings for its main programming going down, attendance at some live events struggling and the stock price dropping a bit, plus the emergence of All Elite Wrestling, WWE needed to do something to regain some momentum heading into the fall.
Raw has been the company’s flagship show for over 26 years after replacing Prime Time Wrestling on USA Network back in January 1993. That show has seen its peaks and valleys over the last two and a half decades with its heights coming during the Attitude Era the late 1990s and early 2000s while competing with WCW.
Heyman will guide Raw after having a successful run as head of creative for SmackDown in the early-to-mid 2000s with superstars such as Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero at the top of the brand. Heyman was the former owner of the original ECW, which helped revolutionize the business with its in-your-face hardcore style of wrestling, and in turn made both WWE and WCW up its game in the late ’90s.
SmackDown Live is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and has bounced around several cable and broadcast networks. However, SmackDown is heading into the most important stretch in its two-decade history as the show will begin airing on FOX on Friday nights starting in October.
Bischoff is tasked with running SmackDown after his very successful run with as President of WCW in the late ’90s, in which he brought in the New World Order (nWo), acquired many top WWE stars from the ’80s and early ’90s, and emphasized the cruiserweight division. Bischoff was the force behind WCW Monday Nitro going head-to-head with Raw and beating WWE in the ratings for 83 straight weeks.
Numerous reports have circulated that Bischoff has already been a part of some high-level meetings with FOX, which makes sense as he had to work with Turner Broadcasting and AOL/Time Warner for several years, so he knows the ups and downs of how to cooperate with a TV network.
FOX reportedly is looking for a more serious, sports-like feel for SmackDown and that will be Bischoff’s responsibility. FOX has invested over a billion dollars for the five-year deal.
For all of those forecasting gloom and doom for WWE, the company is still in great standing with WWE Network and some of the profit from its international shows in Saudi Arabia, Australia and the United Kingdom. NXT, which is run by WWE executive Paul Levesque (aka Triple H), is an extremely popular program with WWE fans with its old-school booking, fresh young stars and cool factor. NXT UK and 205 Live also are staples on WWE Network, producing quality shows on a weekly basis.
With Heyman and Bischoff back with WWE full time, it will be interesting to see if McMahon will eventually delegate more authority and step back a bit in the future. This could be the first step of that happening.
By the time WWE comes rolling into Chicago for Survivor Series weekend in late November with SmackDown Live, NXT TakeOver, Survivor Series and Raw running during a four-night span at Allstate Arena, the Heyman and Bischoff influence definitely should be evident all over the product.
Time will tell if it will be successful.