01st Jul2019

Opinionated: Heyman & Bischoff – What Could They Bring to WWE in 2019

by Chris Cummings

heyman-bischoff

So, fans of WWE (and wrestling in general) will likely have heard the latest news that Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff, two mainstays of pro-wrestling for decades, have been given brand-new roles in WWE as Executive Directors of Raw and Smackdown Live respectively. These, as far as news has told us, aren’t on-screen roles, but will give Heyman and Bischoff control over their respective brands and the two men will be responsible for overseeing the creative output of each show.

This is huge news and has been greeted with more positive than negative by fans. I’m in the camp that says “yay, something new to help shake things up and possibly improve the overall WWE product” and so should everyone else be.

2019 pro-wrestling is a very different animal to the animal that growled and prowled when Heyman and Bischoff were in charge of ECW and WCW respectively in the late 90s. Not only is it harder to shock people in today’s world, but the ways you can try to shock people have vastly, and rightfully so, decreased. Many of the angles and promos you heard and saw on Monday Nitro or ECW Television in the 90s just wouldn’t work in 2019. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a real edge to the product, it doesn’t mean things can’t feel fresh, contemporary and unique, and I’m definitely hoping that both Bischoff and Heyman can bring that to the table with their new roles.

Now, what could Paul. E and Easy E do to change things up and make both Monday Night RAW and Smackdown LIVE must-watch TV, what can they do to create shows that not only look and feel different to what those shows are NOW, but look and feel different from each other, providing two very distinctive programs that have completely separate identities? I thought I’d ponder this for a bit, while looking back on these two wrestling behemoths’ careers at the same time.

Eric Bischoff has been involved in pro-wrestling since his days in the AWA in the late 1980s and his wrestling knowledge and experience, along with his vast knowledge and interest in television production, led to him being the Executive Vice President of WCW. He was in charge of one of the big-two promotions in the world of wrestling in the 90s. He was responsible, in many ways, for the boom period of wrestling that saw television ratings and popularity of the wrestling products hit an all-time high. Eric helped bring us the likes of the New World Order, easily one of the hottest and most memorable angles in the history of the business. He brought us Goldberg who was, at that time, an absolute monster when it came to both crowd reaction and ratings for WCW. Eric brought in Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and others and turned WCW, at one time the number-two promotion in wrestling, into the number one promotion in wrestling. He created a mainstream exposure for professional wrestling unlike anything that had been done prior. It was pretty damn unbelievable. His vision and his desire to be the best really pushed WCW to the pinnacle of Sports Entertainment at the end of the 1990. It was something to witness, that’s for sure.

Paul Heyman, well, Paul E had a different route. Beginning his career as a wrestling photographer and eventually a fast-talking heel manager, Heyman, as Paul. E Dangerously, was a staple of WCW television in the late 80s and into the early 90s. Managing the likes of Steve Austin, Rick Rude and others, he was a smash-hit. Following his departure from WCW, Heyman started on the road that led to him running one of the most radical, influential and iconic wrestling promotions of all time, Extreme Championship Wrestling. ECW. Throughout the 90s and into the start of the 00s, Heyman and his band of merry extremists went on a rampage of hardcore wrestling, technical wizardry, lucha-libre, bad language, heavy drinking and punk rock ideals. ECW was an underground hit and also the birthplace to many names we know and love from the wrestling industry. Guys like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and Chris Benoit made their names in North America in ECW. The likes of The Dudley Boys, Rob Van Dam, Taz and Tommy Dreamer were mainstays who went on to further fame in WWE later. It was something special, and by hiding the negatives and accentuating the positives of his wrestlers and performers, Heyman created something that was unlike anything before or since. Revolutionary, for damn sure.

Eric and Paul both went on to careers in WWE once their tenures in their respective promotions ended. Heyman did commentary for WWE for a while before writing for Smackdown during one of the shows most exciting and memorable times. Over the last number of years, we’ve all seen Heyman as an on-screen character, portraying the “advocate” for his “client” Brock Lesnar. Heyman has also worked with talent backstage and provided feedback and creative ideas as a consultant. Eric followed his WCW career by appearing on WWE television as a General Manager, a role that is remembered fondly by most fans. He ran his own production company called Bischoff-Hervey Entertainment and worked as an executive producer for TNA for a couple of years. Recently, Eric has been knocking out some great episodes of his podcast along with Conrad Thompson, giving his feedback and thoughts on the wrestling business, both current and past.

It’s obvious that both Bischoff and Heyman still have a love for pro-wrestling and there aren’t many folks around who have the experience and diverse backgrounds that these two men have. This news was something I couldn’t help but be really psyched about. I’m a fan of both of these guys and the legacies they’ve left behind. They’ve both been vital in creating some of the biggest moments in wrestling as well as promoting WCW and ECW to notoriety during their respective eras. Sure, you can talk about the failures, mistakes and mishaps along the way, but to ignore and gloss over the good stuff is ignorant to say the least. You may think it ignorant for me to ignore the bad parts, but this isn’t what this article is about.

If I was to choose two guys to take on the roles of Executive Directors in WWE, to be the creative minds behind the two flagship shows in WWE, I would choose these two fellas. The long-standing rivalry between the two men won’t hurt either and should help create a genuine competitive feel as we head into an era where Raw versus Smackdown could actually feel legitimate for once, could actual have an air of authenticity about it. The radical thinking of both men, yet the very different outlooks and thoughts on what wrestling shows SHOULD be could result in two very, very different television products, and that’s exactly what WWE needs right now.

So, let’s look at what Heyman could bring to the table. His work in ECW and as a writer in WWE showed that Paul likes to have a “variety show” feel to his production. Providing fans with plenty of wrestling, yet giving enough of the other stuff, the crazy stories, the wacky characters, the interesting yet modern and relatable elements, to keep everyone happy. When you watched ECW you could enjoy a five-star technical wrestling encounter, you could see a smash-mouth chair-swinging cheese-grater-to-the-head hardcore match, you could see gangsters, hillbillies, luchadors, strippers, metal-heads and even guys with neck braces that talked about their genitals all the time. There was, for all intents and purposes, something for everyone who tuned in. This followed on to his Smackdown work, with the presentation feeling grittier and the emphasis on top-notch in-ring action front and centre. This could surely pass on to his work now. He hides people’s flaws very well, focusing instead on highlighting what makes them stand out in a good way. If someone can’t cut a promo, I think we’re likely to see them shut-up, or have a mouth-piece walk to the ring with them. If someone can’t wrestle very well… well… squash matches, bodyguard duty or taking a back-seat to those who can could be in the plans. Heyman managed to take a guy like The Sandman, a mediocre wrestler who didn’t have the body or good-looks to take him to the top of most promotions, and with a cigarette, a can of beer and a Singapore Cain, he became one of the biggest stars that ECW ever had. Hide the negatives. Highlight the positives. Heyman could really help the WWE product if he put this philosophy into action.

Bischoff has gone on record to say that he thinks WWE’s product is “too perfect”. We all know that WWE is overly produced now, the insistence on over-branding everything, or having flashing lights everywhere, and the same tepid camera angles every night, ever week, year after year, has gone on to create something of a stale product. If anyone knows television production, it’s Eric, and his knowledge of pro-wrestling, and well as being clued-in to the fans thoughts of modern-day WWE, should really push Eric to wipe the slate clean and do something new with the whole look and feel of Smackdown LIVE. He isn’t without his incredible ideas too, and with the immense and wonderfully talented roster of men and women at his disposal, Eric could build a show that is full of exciting action that feels more genuine, looks more violent and sounds more off-the-cuff. Being responsible for some of the most influential and memorable angles in wrestling history can only be a good thing too. Could we see a huge new faction in WWE? Could we see the building of new stars into absolute killers who take the world of Sports Entertainment by its balls and swing? It could happen.

Imagine a RAW with a raw edge, a focus on in-ring technical matches yet with a strong reliance on well-built characters that the crowd can relate to. Imagine a Smackdown LIVE that has a more sports-centric feel, with a toned down production that feels more old-school. I think, if these guys are allowed to go out and do their own thing without too many restrictions, we could be in store for something unique and extremely interesting. We won’t be getting a WCW look versus an ECW look here. These men have moved on just like the times have. I do think, however, that many of the concepts and ideas that they’ve utilised in the past could come into play again. This surely can only be a good thing for the fans, for the wrestling industry, for WWE and for the longterm future of everything pro-wrestling. We could very well be in store for the new boom period. Stranger things have happened…

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