The future of WWE creative just got a massive face lift as the company has named Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff as the executive directors of its flagship brands Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, respectively. In the blockbuster reveal Thursday, it was noted that WWE's new executive directors will report directly to chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, who will continue to lead the company's overall creative process.
The signing of two of McMahon's former biggest rivals from the 1990s comes at a time of great creative need for WWE as ratings for its main roster weekly shows, which currently air on USA Network, continue to decline amid the crumbling morale of fans and (according to reports) even performers. The timing is also key because of WWE's blockbuster deal with Fox will see SmackDown move to broadcast television to Friday nights in prime time beginning on Oct. 4. The deal is worth more than $1 billion over the next five years.
According to a WWE release, both Heyman and Bischoff will "oversee the creative development of WWE's flagship programming and ensure integration across all platforms and lines of business. The creation of these roles further establishes WWE's ability to continuously reinvent its global brand while providing two distinct creative processes for its flagship shows."
Listen to our instant analysis audio breakdown of the return of Heyman and Bischoff to WWE below and be sure to subscribe to the State of Combat with Brian Campbell podcast for WWE shows every Wednesday.
While the moves will be viewed partially as panic-induced, both hirings certainly raise expectations that WWE storylines and angles will reach new levels considering the experience of both full-time executives and the depth of the roster. The timing is also key because not only is the independent wrestling scene at an all-time high both commercially and in terms of critical response, but WWE now has legitimate U.S. competition thanks to the 2019 launch of All Elite Wrestling (AEW), which features the likes of former WWE stars Cody Rhodes, Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley (formerly known as Dean Ambrose).
There will be no plans at this time, according to Sports Illustrated (which first reprinted the news), for either Heyman or Bischoff to appear on screen or be introduced into storylines in their new roles. Bischoff, however, will work with executives from Fox in his new role. During Bischoff's time leading WCW, a significant portion of his job was working with executives from TNT.
Heyman, whose 30-year experience in pro wrestling covers nearly every job description, is currently the on-screen advocate for Brock Lesnar. He has also had an occasional hand in WWE's creative process over the last couple of years, though not on a regular basis. Heyman is a former SmackDown lead writer and WWE commentator whose greatest success in professional wrestling came as the the promoter and president of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) from 1993 to 2001 when the revolutionary mom-and-pop promotion served as both a rival and quiet partner to WWE during the Attitude Era.
It was during the same "Monday Night Wars" of the 1990s that Bischoff, as WCW president and an on-air talent, forced McMahon into producing what is considered the best run of content in company history thanks to the competition between promotions. One year after WWE purchased a floundering WCW in 2001, Bischoff made a much-celebrated WWE debut in a five-year run in which he served as on-screen general manager and creative team member behind the scenes.