Welcome to Planet Kayfabe. Desperate times cause for desperate decisions. On Thursday, Vince McMahon did the equivalent of Mr. Burns telling Smithers to scour the Negro League to play on his company softball team by naming former ECW head, Paul Heyman and former WCW President Eric Bischoff executive directors of WWE television. New positions created for them. Heyman will be in charge of Raw; Bischoff in charge of Smackdown. The Heyman hire isn't a bad one at all. The Bischoff decision I find to be baffling in 2019, but I will share my thoughts on both hires and if anything will really change since Vince McMahon is as hands-on as he has ever been. Both will be directly reporting to McMahon.
As of this writing, the reports are that these are only backstage roles, but now there are advertisements out there picturing Heyman and Bischoff asking what they have in store for Raw and Smackdown.
It's 2019 and Eric Bischoff is back in WWE and in a position of power. This is actually his first real position of power in WWE since his GM role was just a gimmick. This hire I found to be much more odd than Heyman. Paul Heyman is often credited as a wrestling creative genius. If you have listened to him talk about wrestling it is easy to see why. Eric Bischoff, on the other hand, is a smart guy and very well spoken, but he has admitted himself on his own podcast, 83 Weeks, that his strength was more in the television business and working with network executives than coming up with wrestling storylines and booking.
Paul Heyman, I understand because he has been working with WWE since 2011. He is there, he is in touch. He has always been a forward thinker (so, no, do not expect Raw to suddenly become 1997 ECW) and Heyman keeps himself educated on wrestling trends outside of the WWE. It is a great position for Heyman assuming Vince gives him the freedom necessary to really turn the show around. I also feel that Vince McMahon lucked out here. It seems like Vince McMahon, who I feel is completely out of touch with the wrestling world and has increasingly only gotten more out of touch since the death of WCW, has only gone back to what he knows worked in the past. Look at Extreme Rules. The low attendance of Stomping Grounds was a fairly big story in wrestling. To stop the bleeding what does he do? Bring back The Undertaker on Raw. Now, to pop Extreme Rules, the short-term solution is to put a guy that made his WWF debut almost 30 years ago to face off against the owner's son in a tag match.
As I've said many times in the past, the WWE has relied too much on nostalgia in the 2010s. Now with overall viewership reaching historic lows Vince McMahon turns to Undertaker, Goldberg, Triple H, his son Shane and other Attitude/Monday Night War era stars on-screen and now backstage he turns back to Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, and Bruce Prichard because this is all he knows. If you need more evidence that Vince is out of touch look no further than him putting 64-year-old Eric Bischoff in charge of a wrestling show in 2019. I'm sure all the guys who used to work for TNA like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe are thrilled...
The big question is are they really in charge or are they just there to fall on the sword if ratings continue to fall? Suddenly if Smackdown is a ratings failure on Fox it will be positioned as Eric Bischoff's failure and not Vince McMahon's. If you are optimistic that things will change, let me cool you down right now. Vince is still in charge of WWE. He has shown no evidence of relaxing his power -- quite the opposite, actually. He is more hands-on and micromanages more parts of the on-screen product than ever. Until Vince is gone nothing is really going to change.
Heyman has been in a similar position in the mid-2000s and it fractured his relationship with Vince until he returned in 2011. Heyman was told he was in charge, but everything he did was changed by Vince. Bill Watts had a similar position in the 1990s and lasted about a month until he said: "f*** this" and left because he was told he too would be in charge when he really wasn't. I almost feel like this week we should start the timer to see who leaves the position first. It wasn't too long ago that Road Dogg got tired of being bitched at by a crazy 74-year-old and left his post.
Like I said earlier, Bischoff is a smart guy, but his last real success in wrestling was over two decades ago now. I see a lot of people saying this is good because Eric "knows the business" and he doesn't. He knows what the business was in the '80s and '90s. Unlike Heyman, Eric doesn't follow current-day WWE and he sure as hell doesn't follow wrestling outside of WWE and isn't really in touch with what the current generation is into. With the rumor being that these two will be authority figures on television as well, I am absolutely not looking forward to a Smackdown product where Eric Bischoff is both handling real issues backstage and writing himself into the show on camera. I enjoy Eric as an on-screen persona, but the last thing WWE needs is another white-haired dude with a gut from the '90s on television. Again, if the name "Bischoff" gets you excited because you remember all the good times -- remember this: TNA.
It is strange that Paul Levesque, Triple H, wasn't hired for this position instead of Bischoff. Levesque is obviously in touch with not just the WWE product but wrestling outside of WWE. He knows everyone there. He knows the ins and outs of WWE. He has proven himself with NXT and he is Vince's son-in-law so you know he's not just going to get sick of the position and then leave the company. I can't imagine that Hunter is thrilled about having to answer to Eric Bischoff on the main roster at times. Yeah, Hunter still ranks above him in the company, but Raw and Smackdown are their main shows. Why is a guy that hasn't had success in the genre in 20 years suddenly getting Smackdown after being out of wrestling entirely for 6 years and not Levesque who is younger, has fresh ideas, understands the current talent and has held an executive position in the company throughout this decade. Its not like there is some trust issue and Vince needs to get to know some new employee. He's Vince's f***ing son-in-law. This Smackdown deal is WWE's biggest television ever. Wouldn't Levesque be the perfect guy to start this new era for Smackdown and begin his influence on the main roster?
Of course, it all boils down to how much power these two will really have. The current advertised main event for Raw is Seth Rollins vs Baron Corbin even though they are f***ing wrestling at the PPV anyway. Unless within the next month you suddenly see Matt Riddle main eventing Raw instead of Baron Corbin I'm going to say that Paul Heyman doesn't have the power necessary to really turn the show around. Heyman will probably have less freedom than Bischoff since Raw is, as Heyman himself puts it, Vince's baby. The show is still going to go the way Vince wants it as long as he is in charge. Until no Vince, there is no change.
Regardless of how I feel about the news, this is huge news. I just feel that its a bunch of noise, smoke, and mirrors until I see that these two have actual power. However, I don't want Bischoff to have actual power. I'd be much more at ease with WWE hiring back Eric Bischoff if he was just going to be the on-screen GM of Smackdown instead of running the show.
To put it simply, Heyman is the type of guy who will listen to the audience, give them what they want, not over-expose a talent, cut back on scripted promos and push the type of talent that younger fans are into and not just rely on the names of the past to pop short-term interest. Bischoff is the type of guy who if the ratings remain low, or go even lower on Fox, he will make a call to Hulk Hogan and put him on TV.
I know all you 90's kids are excited but take a step back to think about this. The future of the business is not you. WWE's audience continues to get older and older. Kids and especially teens are not watching WWE. Do you think Eric Bischoff is the guy to lead Smackdown on Fox and tap into people born after 2003? No, he isn't and if you forgot how bad things can get take a quick look at TNA before he came and after they left. Before Bischoff, TNA was a fun little alternative to WWE that was slowly growing an audience. After Bischoff? Essentially a dead brand. No, it's not entirely his fault, but he was in charge did nothing to improve TNA television and thrust them into the mainstream consciousness of the 2010s.
The good news is Raw may actually improve if even Heyman has a little final say. Unlike Vince or Eric, Paul isn't the type of guy who when things are struggling he's going to call up his buddies Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer to have a hardcore match on Raw. He's the type of guy to find a 2019 solution for a 2019 problem. Remember this much, Heyman was the guy who 10 years ago said if you were a wrestler over 40 in TNA he'd cut their f***ing head off and only focus on youth. WWE in 2019 is a lot like TNA was and like how WCW was towards the end. The 2010s focused too heavily on nostalgia and "fantasy matches" and putting titles on guys from the '90s (and Brock Lesnar) that most of what WWE has right now is just the same old die-hards who grew up watching those guys in their prime. However... still, even if Heyman is the guy to attract Raw to an entire untapped younger generation of fans it is going to take a massive relax of power by Vince McMahon to allow it to happen and I just don't see that happening at all.
Thank you for reading, everyone. It certainly is a fun time to be a wrestling fan. It seems like every day there's some big new story. This story is pretty big even though Vince being out of touch is nothing new and if Vince thinking Eric Bischoff would be a massive blow to WWE if he went to AEW or if he thinks that 64 year old, been out of wrestling for many years and didn't keep up with all the changes Eric Bischoff is the guy to lead Smackdown on Fox after signing their biggest television deal ever, then he is way more out of touch than I thought.
Follow me over on Twitter @PlanetKayfabe I'll be back here next time on NoDQ. Next week is Independence Day in the US so I might be a bit late on my post, but I'll try to get something up. If I don't then call me an asshole on Twitter.