WWE announced just today that Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff have been hired as Executive Directors of Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, respectively. These are corporate positions within the company, meaning they are legitimately running the two shows now and we shouldn’t expect to see this play out as an angle on television.
Unless they choose as much, of course.
The reaction so far seems to be mixed. On the one hand, Vince McMahon is clearly trying something to get WWE out of its creative doldrums. On the other, he’s going back to the well again, reaching far back into the past in the hopes of recapturing its glory.
Meet the new bosses, same as the old bosses.
There’s at least some reason for optimism, however. In Heyman’s case, for all the obvious reasons, like the fact that he’s stayed close to the business and has already been working creatively with many of the top talents on the WWE roster. He knows what he’s doing, and if he’s given the freedom to run with his ideas, we’ve seen what he can do with that in the past. His reign over SmackDown years ago was great fun.
Bischoff, on the other hand, is apparently being brought in to help with the move to FOX. PW Insider reports he’ll be working directly with the network as WWE comes on board later this year. He is, after all, a TV guy just as much as he’s a wrestling guy.
But he is also a wrestling guy and I’m cautiously optimistic about his new role if only for the following quote. This is from a chat for Inside The Ropes Live on how he would make the current brand extension work:
”After going through my own experience, and then having been a part of the WWE’s experience, the advice that I have would be to be as disciplined as you can possibly be at keeping the brands distinct. If you don’t make them feel completely different, it won’t work. And part of that is creating stakes. Part of that is... it’s gotta feel real. It’s gotta be believable, or nobody’s going to buy into it. But don’t let the talent start transitioning back-and-forth, because you’ll dilute the concept. They won’t feel like two brands, they’ll just feel like two different shows, which is what they already feel like. Because the WWE does such a great job of producing such a phenomenal show, it doesn’t feel... it’s almost too perfect. There’s no grit. It needs to feel a little gritty — at least one of them. They don’t both have to feel gritty, but one of them has to feel a little edgy, a little dangerous, like something is going to happen that you wouldn’t expect on one show because it’s a little less sophisticated. That’s the magic!”
The guy clearly gets it.
Of course, none of that will matter if he’s not allowed to execute his vision. Vince McMahon is still the big boss, and all decisions still run through him. But the initial impression here is that Raw and SmackDown will be to Heyman and Bischoff what NXT is to Triple H. That’s certainly been a good thing for the so-called developmental brand. You’ll note NXT television feels different than either main roster program.
This could crash and burn like many other projects involving these two, and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge any skeptics for taking that viewpoint, but there’s also reason to think this could be a success.
Here’s to hoping.