The last time that Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff were both part of WWE, they were on-camera general managers. Now Vince McMahon is going to have them run the shows for real.
WWE.com announced Thursday that Heyman and Bischoff have been named executive directors of Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, respectively.
More than 20 years ago, these two men ran promotions that opposed WWE. Heyman was the owner of Extreme Championship Wrestling, and Bischoff was president of World Championship Wrestling. The time is now fondly looked back upon as the Monday Night War.
And in the midst of fledgling ratings and frustrated networks, McMahon has brought his former rivals on to right the ship as another potential war brews on the horizon.
All Elite Wrestling is poised to take the fight to WWE. Who better than a pair of tried-and-true generals to ready WWE’s defenses? Here’s our analysis of why Heyman and Bischoff might be the right men for the job and how one man can thwart the entire enterprise.
Paul Heyman – Executive Director, Monday Night Raw
Paul Heyman is widely regarded as one of the most creative minds in pro wrestling history.
During his time as owner of ECW, he drew the blueprint for an edgier, riskier product that WWE would co-opt and mold into the Attitude Era.
As the head writer of SmackDown in the early 2000s, Heyman’s roster was low on name value wrestlers. Heyman oversaw a SmackDown product that was often overlooked in favor of McMahon’s baby, Monday Night Raw. And despite that, he took what he had and turned SmackDown from the forgotten stepchild into the A-show.
Bottom line, Paul Heyman knows how to fight up from the bottom.
And at this point, Monday Night Raw is as close to the bottom as it was during the days when Eric Bischoff nearly drove it off the air.
Raw is a tame, uneventful show that desperately needs new life injected into it, and Heyman may well be the right guy at the right time. Today’s wrestling talent is famous to wrestling fans but not to the rank-and-file television viewer.
Heyman faced much the same challenge when he was writing SmackDown. His roster was supremely talented. It boasted names like Edge, Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guererro, and Kurt Angle. Big names to wrestling fans but without a history of proven drawing power.
By the time Heyman bowed out as a backstage presence in WWE, many of them had become world champions and WrestleMania headliners.
The Raw roster faces a similar issue. Aside from Heyman’s buddy Brock Lesnar, the show just doesn’t have “names.” But what it does have is supremely talented athletes brimming with potential to be engaging characters.
Eric Bischoff – Executive Director, SmackDown Live
In the mid-to-late 1990s, WWE very nearly died. And the man who very nearly killed it? Eric Bischoff.
Bischoff, like Heyman, had an uphill battle to wage when he started as president of WCW. He had a product nobody watched. A product that everyone thought was an absolute joke.
But what Bischoff lacked in terms of the crummy product he’d been handed, he made up for with a unique vision for that product. And he also had Ted Turner’s deep pockets to fund that vision.
Today, Bischoff is inheriting one of the flagship shows for a product that nobody watches and that even hardcore wrestling fans regard as a joke. Whether Bischoff still has a unique vision is yet to be seen. The good news for Bischoff this time around is that he doesn’t need his billionaire boss to dig too deep into his wallet.
The new executive director of SmackDown is already inheriting at least half of what is already the largest talent roster of any wrestling promotion on the planet.
For all the checkmarks in Bischoff’s column, however, there’s one question that hasn’t been answered yet. How much can Bischoff really impact the current state of professional wrestling?
In spite of having been part of WWE programming in the early-to-mid 2000s, Bischoff hasn’t had a behind-the-scenes role in running a wrestling company since his final stint with WCW in 2000. There might be some ring rust to shake off.
But the idea of Bischoff, the man who led the charge for WCW during the Monday Night War, running a segment of WWE is an exciting one.
Indeed, both Bischoff and Heyman have a lot going for them. There’s only one thing that might trip them up.
Vince McMahon – Out-Of-Touch Billionaire/Chairman, WWE
As part of their new roles, Heyman and Bischoff will answer directly to Vince McMahon.
This shouldn’t be terribly surprising. McMahon has been the final say on all things WWE since the Johnson administration. The Andrew Johnson administration.
He’s old, you see.
One of the primary complaints from former writers and executives (and even some wrestlers, like Jon Moxley) is McMahon’s insistence on being the last word about everything.
There are many horror stories about Raw scripts being completely finished. Locked and loaded and ready to go. Only for Vince, at the last minute, to force the team to write the show as it unfolds.
The prospect of Heyman and Bischoff running Raw and SmackDown is undeniably exciting. There’s a very good chance that they could make these insanely boring shows relevant again.
Vince McMahon has appointed two of his historically biggest enemies to oversee his product. But in the end, McMahon may prove — as he has so many times before — that he’s his own worst enemy.
All images courtesy of WWE.