The entire professional wrestling world is a buzz after it was announced last week that the WWE has appointed new Executive Directors of its Raw and Smackdown shows. As was widely reported earlier this year, the company signed record-setting $2.4 billion TV contracts, which keeps Raw on USA and sends Smackdown to Fox. Ironically, Vince McMahon’s former competition during the Attitude Era will now have direct input on his product. Paul Heyman, the brilliant mind behind the ECW promotion that revolutionized the presentation of the industry in the United States, and current on-screen manager for Brock Lesnar, will be involved with the writing of Raw. Eric Bischoff, former executive producer of World Championship Wrestling at the only time when the WWF was on the short end of a wrestling war, will be the head of creative for the Smackdown show.
The announcement seems sudden, as the rumor mill didn’t surface any talks of this scenario previously, which makes you wonder if this decision was made based on the still lackluster ratings across the board for the company. I’ve written previously in-depth about the series of fundamental structure problems of the product so there’s no reason to repeat that, but what exactly will Heyman and Bischoff bring to the table?
According to the article on WWE.com, Heyman and Bischoff will oversee the writing of each show and will report directly to Vince McMahon. That already could stop this overhaul before it starts, as Vince’s micromanaging of the scripts is supposedly one of the reasons for the lack of continuity on a weekly basis. The bottom line is, if Vince is simply going to discard Heyman’s plan for Raw the same way he does with the current writing then nothing will actually change for the Monday night brand. Obviously, it will be a similar situation if Bischoff doesn’t get an opportunity to use his philosophy for Smackdown. Essentially, Vince will have to relinquish a noticeable portion of the control of his programming if these new roles will be effective, but I’m very skeptical if that will actually happen. One of the many reasons for his success if that McMahon put so much work into his organization and even at 73, it’s doubtful that he will allow others to take any direct credit for the possible success of the company. On the flip side, it’s also very possible that McMahon will take a step back from his sports entertainment empire in an attempt to right the wrong of the XFL from nearly two decades ago. While the potential success of another secondary football league has as much of a chance as another Dixie Carter wrestling company, Vince might be determined to dedicate as much time as he possibly can to the XFL project. Still, I’m very skeptical that McMahon suddenly decided that his stamp of approval isn’t the best choice for his audience.
Another aspect of this situation is that it might be a smoke screen in an attempt to skew the perspective of the audience and spin the narrative of the television shows. It’s been widely discussed that for over two decades the McMahon family was presented as the villains to the viewers, and thus when their real-life chosen stars get a push at the expense of others, the crowd rejects it. The point being, did the audience boo Roman Reigns mercilessly a few years ago because of him as a performer or simply because they knew he was being pushed because Vince wanted him to be the top star? Basically, if the crowd assumes that Paul Heyman, a figure known for his innovation in the business, was the mind behind a particular decision then maybe they will give it a chance before they reject it? I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but why exactly was this announcement made so publicly on the WWE website? If it was reported online and garnered steam to become a story then that’s a different situation, but clearly, management wanted people to know that at least in theory, Heyman and Bischoff will determine the direction of the TV shows. Even if the newly-created roles are legitimate, it’s very possible that it was made public in an attempt to spin the narrative of the product.
What’s the status of the writing team?
Assuming Heyman and Bischoff will have legitimate influence on their respective show, the other part of this equation is, will both of them be effective in the role of a TV producer? It makes sense for Heyman to have the direction of the Raw brand, not only because that’s where Brock Lesnar is featured, but Heyman is already in the loop, assisting with occasional segments, such as the promos Ronda Rousey did during her run in the company. Aside from that, the former leader of ECW has always seemed to have an intriguing take on the industry regardless of the time frame. Quite simply, Heyman has been ahead of the curve for the majority of his career so it will be extremely interesting to see what plans he has for the flagship show. Furthermore, how he manages the three-hour format could be another way he puts his spin on the program. If anyone can set up a show to be successful in a three hour time slot, it might be Paul Heyman. Considering his praise for some of the younger talent on the roster, perhaps the next series of NXT call-ups will have more substance on the main roster than just a pop for their debut without any plan after that. More than anything, it would be great if Heyman’s suggestion would include the elimination of the 50/50 booking that led to a stale product, the illogical aspects of the show, and potentially a push for talent that are actually over with the audience.
Reportedly, Eric Bischoff’s involvement is directly related to the Fox deal and his experience within the television industry. On the surface that makes sense, but how does that translate on screen? Taking nothing away from him, he was more or less the only promoter to put Vince McMahon on the ropes, but in the grand scheme of things, Bischoff’s success was relatively short. Keep in mind, the prime of WCW’s run in the late 90s was roughly three years before it collapsed and shut down. As far as branding Smackdown as a TV commodity, Bischoff could bring something effectively to the table, but as far as the actual booking of the product, can he really make a difference?
Regardless of if Heyman and Bischoff legitimate make decisions on the directions of the programming, there are still fundamental problems within the WWE structure. With the over saturation of WWE content, is it realistic for either of them to brings something new to the WWE landscape? Along the same lines, with the numerous hours of television and network specials, is there necessarily a right way to shift the product? Even with the change of direction, I still think the concept of a brand extension is too convoluted for the general public, but maybe it’s something that can be done right in the modern era. Hopefully, this new concept of executive directors will lead to better use of stellar talent that haven’t fully been given the opportunities to get over as much as possible with the audience. Until recently, Samoa Joe floundered at various times during his WWE tenure, which shouldn’t happen with a performer of his caliber. The argument could be made that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn could be used better on TV. Eventual NXT call-ups like Adam Cole and Matt Riddle might be better positions for success with Heyman’s booking style.
That being said, this decision basically confirmed that the quality of the WWE product has to be improved because this move wouldn’t have been made if the ratings were better. Plus, this that improvement probably wouldn’t have been a priority if All Elite Wrestling didn’t generate a lot of buzz the past few months, which is why competition is an important aspect of the industry.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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