Late December 2018, Raw opened with The McMahon-Helmsley faction breaking the fourth wall to let viewers know that change was coming immediately.
Breaking: WWE names Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff as Executive Directors.
Heyman is set to become Executive Director of Raw, while Bischoff will fill the same role for SmackDown Live. Both will report directly to WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. https://t.co/SIjW3G8v8T
— Justin Barrasso (@JustinBarrasso) June 27, 2019
It did indeed promptly arrive, half a year later. There were few highlights in between: Kofi Kingston’s rapid ascension to the top of the card and coronation as World Champion. Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey, and Charlotte Flair main eventing WrestleMania. Brock Lesnar pretending the Money in the Bank briefcase was a boom box.
2019 hasn’t been kind to WWE fans.
Then Thursday’s news dropped out of nowhere. The “what year is it” jokes write themselves, but depending on how he handles this, Vince McMahon deserves credit. For someone who has been an absolute control freak with his product and so reluctant to step outside the box, this represents a major milestone for the company.
Paul Heyman presided over the most successful era in SmackDown history, there is no question about his credentials. However, Raw in 2019 is far from the product that SmackDown was in the mid 2000s. The three hours on Monday nights have proven impossible to fill, the show has trended away from actual wrestling, and the product has grown incredibly stale. While Heyman’s has an undeniable eye for talent and putting together compelling storylines, he has a tough challenge ahead of him, especially with Raw facing far tougher competition on Monday nights than SmackDown ever did.
It is the hire of Bischoff that seems far more questionable. His tenure with TNA was uninspiring at best, and his great work as Raw GM was purely as a TV personality. Still, he expertly navigated WCW’s time on Turner, and is reportedly respected by execs on Fox, where SmackDown is headed in October. He faces far less pressure than Heyman, with a show that would be fortunate to bring in 3 million viewers on Friday nights.
The question now becomes how quickly will these changes be implemented, how long will they last, and how much autonomy will Heyman and Bischoff be given?
Professional Wrestling is an industry in which hell constantly freezes over. To see the top three writing spots in WWE be occupied by the 2001 heads of WWF, WCW, and ECW is shocking, but far from surprising. It’s notable that Triple H didn’t get the Raw or SmackDown post, a move that has been expected, especially given his results in running NXT. Yet, in the AEW era, this seems to be the first sign that Vince is taking his competition seriously.
Whether or not Heyman and Bischoff are given the creative freedom they were promised, time will tell us if Vince is taking his own company seriously as well.
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The Scrap’s Sanjay Vemuri lives in the DMW area and has been a passionate WWE fan for many years. Make sure to follow Sanjay on Twitter (@BlameSanjay).