Wrestling in 2019 continues to be a source of potentially massive business changing news, as WWE has announced that Paul Heyman & Eric Bischoff are now the Executive Directors of Raw & SmackDown respectively.
This morning, in an article on WWE.com, WWE has announced the creation of an Executive Director position for both Raw and SmackDown Live. The names announced for that position were Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff.
Paul Heyman, the former owner of ECW and current onscreen advocate for Brock Lesnar. Eric Bischoff, the former President of WCW and former onscreen GM of Raw. Both men have been involved in the wrestling business since the 80s and provided Vince McMahon with his biggest competition since the territory days.
Heyman, as head of ECW, created an edgy, violent and alternative product to both WCW and the then WWE. He was known for his ambitious creative vision that saw ECW grow rapidly. It grew so fast that it couldn’t keep up with its own growth. Extreme Championship Wrestling folded in early 2001 and Heyman joined WWE not long after as a colour commentator.
Bischoff is the man that led WCW to its greatest heights and was in power when its programming was at its lowest before they ultimately were purchased by the WWE in March 2001, marking the end of Vince’s war, thus truly ending the last of the territories. Bischoff would go on to become the onscreen GM of Raw. He served in that position as a character for many years and was involved in some of the most memorable storylines of that era.
These new director positions created for Bischoff and Heyman directly answers to Vince McMahon. The WWE press release was not extensive in details, but was sure to make it clear that this isn’t a work, or a storyline. The two are involved at the top of the creative direction for each brand and will play a major role in the production and direction of it going forward:
“In their executive roles, Heyman and Bischoff will oversee the creative development of WWE’s flagship programming and ensure integration across all platforms and lines of business. The creation of these roles further establishes WWE’s ability to continuously reinvent its global brand while providing two distinct creative processes for its flagship shows.”
While Heyman has worked in creative twice before in WWE, this marks a significant change in his position and power within the company.
Heyman was in charge of SmackDown in the initial brand split in 2002, overseeing the WWE Creative that helped make Brock Lesnar a major star; in addition, Heyman oversaw the likes John Cena, Eddie Guerrero and The Undertaker. Heyman also worked in Creative for the revived ECW brand in 2006. Both stints in the creative position did not last long, as Heyman clashed with Vince McMahon over the creative vision.
While there was no indication of when this role would begin and when it would start with the television, given the release, I would imagine it is quite soon. What this means for Raw and SmackDown, for Triple H’s role and for Vince’s role remains to be seen. If this position only answers to Vince directly, this is a significant change in direction from where they have been going for a long time.
It can’t be denied that the declining ratings and attendance that WWE needs a fresh perspective, and having Heyman and Bischoff heavily involved in creative and production might be exactly what they need.
As for what this means for Vince himself being involved in creative, I am not sure. This could be a sign that he is slowly moving away and certainly looks like a succession plan of sorts as he prepares for the launch of the XFL. However, Vince is known for micromanaging everything on his shows and I find it hard to believe that he still won’t be heavily involved.
Regardless, this is a bold move by Vince McMahon as we head towards move of SmackDown to Fox in the fall, where WWE will be in more homes than it ever has. It is of absolute importance that SmackDown being on Fox is a success for the future of the company and with the decline in ratings, it seems Vince is taking steps to try and fix it.
How Triple H factors into the creative side remains to be seen. I can’t see him having no input going forward, as he is still being groomed to take over for Vince when Vince ultimately passes the position to him. However, the wording of the press release was very specific in that they answered directly to Vince, with no mention of Triple H. I find this interesting, though it probably means nothing.
We have more questions than answers at this point. Will Heyman and Bischoff be able to avoid clashing with Vince? How will Triple H work with them? Will Vince be hands off, or will he still control the show the way he has previously? However, what is absolutely sure is this: Things are about to get very interesting in WWE.