By Haydn Gleed, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@haydngleed)
Well, well, well, nobody saw this coming. Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff are now the executive directors of Raw and Smackdown respectively. If you had told me a year ago that not only would there be a competitive alternative to WWE with deep pockets and Heyman and Bischoff would be the most powerful people under Vince McMahon then I would have laughed in your face.
It doesn’t take a great mind to say that this is a bizarre move for many reasons. Heyman and McMahon have notoriously not always seen eye to eye over the years, particularly when Heyman found himself under the creative charge of Vince. Spookily, I’ve recently been watching episodes of Smackdown from 2002 and 2003 to see whether the era of the “Smackdown Six” was as good as we remember for a piece that I’m writing. Heyman clearly knew how to tap into what fans wanted. For years, people argued that Heyman was a genius, but some claimed he could only appeal to a niche audience in ECW. He disproved that by having a product that was universally praised while being at the creative helm of a WWE flagship show. But the fact remains that this occurred nearly twenty years ago. Does Heyman still have his finger on the pulse of popular culture or what wrestling fans want in 2019? I’m hopeful and willing to keep an open mind at this point.
Eric Bischoff coming in from seemingly nowhere is the one that really surprised me. When I saw the press release I was convinced that it was a storyline piece of news. It goes without saying that his run with WCW between 1994 and 1997 goes down as one of the most extraordinary runs of any executive of a major company with the complete transformation of the operation of an organization behind the scenes, but WWE doesn’t need that. Despite its booking and onscreen main roster problems, in terms of infrastructure of an organization WWE is top class, so he’s been brought in to deal with the creative side of things and that hasn’t been a strong point of his.
Members of the pro wrestling media often get told that we are too negative and never look at the positives. To a small degree, I will concede that, so let’s try to look at a major positive of this move since all I’ve really read and heard are the potential negatives. Heyman and Bischoff are not two individuals who could ever be considered yes men. There are times to concede but there’s a way of giving in without being a suck up. Although this does add another layer of bureaucracy between creative and Vince McMahon, it’s also a layer that has the passion, belief, and sales pitch ability to put over anything that they feel is best for the product. They do not strike me as the type of people who will only pitch to Vince what they think he wants to hear. Based on everything I know of of these men, they will pitch the best ideas that they feel will benefit the product. Ultimately, as much as we would love to know that Vince trusts his writing team and will go along with something against his own judgement that the writers believe in, we know that doesn’t happen. Hopefully Vince trusts and believes in Paul and Eric to some degree and the writers now have someone batting for them and their ideas.
People have been speculating about what this means for Paul “Triple H” Levesque. It could simply be a case of him having too much on his plate already. So is it the right time for him to step up to a more major role in the company at the moment? It’s really difficult to say but this is certainly an interesting development. This is definitely something to keep an eye on.
-While we are on a positive kick, despite the rest of the show being hard to watch, I will give a massive thumbs up to whoever is writing the Bayley/Alexa Bliss/Nicky Cross storyline as well as Bray Wyatt’s Funhouse puppets making easter egg appearances. They are all that’s keeping me going with the WWE main roster at the moment.
-Moving away from the craziness of WWE power structure to the craziness of twitter and more specifically Seth Rollins. His original tweet sounded like something that professional soccer players in the UK get asked to tweet out to their followers following a loss. It was so corporate and totally against the grain of what any rational person with a mind of their own would say. Will Ospreay’s response was funny and if Seth had just responded with something witty or even not responded at all that would be the end of it, but the response he did give was just so patronizing and condescending it took me aback.
Is Rollins really that delusional or stuck in the corporate bubble that he can’t see that there are more ways to be successful in the pro wrestling industry than work for WWE in the United States? To judge success purely on finances and your bank balance shows a characteristic flaw and was really the most shocking and damming tweet of the exchange. Fair play to Ospreay, though, whose bank balance has surely grown thanks to the “Little Guy” t-shirts he is now selling.
The strange thing is, wasn’t it Seth Rollins who was scripted to deliver a speech in December about how much the booking of Raw sucked and that led to Vince McMahon promising big changes on the air? Funnily, if this spat between Rollins and Ospreay were a work and they worked for the same company, it would be more interesting than 90 percent of what is currently on Raw or Smackdown.
-ROH will be presenting the Best of the World pay-per-view tonight and I’m lukewarm on this event. Despite handing over the keys of my ROH audio reviews for now, I still watch the product every week despite how much of a struggle it is to watch the television show. It just feels that so much of the focus for ROH is on their pay-per-views and Honor Club events/house shows that the television show comes in a distant third. The ROH TV title changed hands somewhere other than the television show. By pure definition, the TV title should only really change hands on TV unless it’s a big storyline or push. I don’t even think we’ve seen Shane Taylor on TV since he won aside from backstage promos, and Jeff Cobb did the verbal equivalent of shrugging his shoulders while saying he’s going after something better. This is just one of the many storylines that go nowhere and neither the title nor the wrestlers gain much coming out of it. It feels to me that since former ROH creative team members BJ Whitmer and Christopher Daniels left along with The Elite members, the exhibition style presentation has increased and matches with emotional investment and storylines has been toned down. Don’t get me wrong there is an audience for that, but it’s a niche audience.
With that being said, as a standalone show I’m sure Best of the World will be an exciting event with lots of great matches. That has never been a flaw in Ring Of Honor. Despite very little time invested in telling a story, I’m sure Matt Taven against Jeff Cobb will be a lot of fun as will a number of other matches on the card. Personally, I’m looking forward to Jay Lethal vs. Kenny King the most simply because there has been a simple storyline that has resulted in the two out of three falls stipulation and I’ve been given a reason to want to see Lethal win.
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