WWE is turning to two of the most influential figures in professional wrestling history to oversee Raw and SmackDown Live.
According to Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated, WWE has hired Paul Heyman to serve as executive director of Raw and Eric Bischoff to be the executive director of SmackDown Live.
WWE later confirmed the news and noted that Heyman and Bischoff will "oversee the creative development of WWE's flagship programming and ensure integration across all platforms and lines of business," and report directly to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.
The restructuring of Raw and SmackDown means WWE now has the top three executives from the Attitude Era/Monday Night War time period in positions of power.
McMahon is and has long been WWE's chairman, while Heyman was in charge of ECW and Bischoff ran the show for WCW in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Heyman has a lengthy history with WWE, joining the company after it purchased ECW in 2001. He began as an on-screen character and eventually became a major player behind the scenes as the lead writer for SmackDown from 2002 to 2003.
After departing the company in 2006, Heyman returned in 2012 as the advocate for Brock Lesnar. Heyman has been a consistent on-screen presence in support of Lesnar since then, and it was reported last year that he began working more closely with other wrestlers in a backstage capacity.
Bischoff became executive vice president for WCW in 1994 and remained the lead executive for the company until 1999. He famously helped WCW beat WWE in the Monday night ratings war for 83 consecutive weeks in 1997 and 1998.
WWE purchased WCW in 2001 and then hired Bischoff in an on-screen role in 2002. He acted as Raw general manager until 2005 and made some appearances for the company in the following years as well.
Bischoff later served as an executive with Impact Wrestling from 2010 to 2014, and he has most recently been in the spotlight thanks to his 83 Weeks podcast with Conrad Thompson. Unlike Heyman, Bischoff is a completely outside hire for WWE.
The shake-up comes at a pivotal time for WWE, as SmackDown is set to move from USA Network to Fox beginning in October. Per Barrasso, Bischoff will work directly with Fox executives once the SmackDown transition takes hold.
Bischoff seems to be a strong fit for the position since he has a great deal of experience dealing with television executives dating back to WCW Nitro and Thunder airing on TNT.
Universal champion Seth Rollins commented on Bischoff's return to WWE:
Barrasso noted that while Heyman and Bischoff have both made a significant impact as on-screen characters over the years, there are no current plans for their behind-the-scenes roles to become part of storylines.
The narrative on social media in recent months has been negative with regard to WWE's product, which has been exacerbated by the fact that All Elite Wrestling is emerging as an alternative with a weekly show set to start airing on TNT later this year.
By putting Heyman and Bischoff in positions of power, WWE is entrusting two highly respected and accomplished pro wrestling minds and increasing the likelihood that Raw and SmackDown will have a decidedly unique feel, which should benefit the product as a whole.
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