It's been one week since the announcement that Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff were named Executive Directors of RAW & SmackDown, respectively. Heyman has been involved with RAW storylines and present at tapings for quite some time. It was reported by multiple sources that Heyman sat next to Vince for the entirety of RAW this past week. The episode already felt different than recent RAWs. Bischoff, unlike Heyman, has not been directly involved with the company and will take some more time to ease into his role with SmackDown.
It is important to remember that both Bischoff and Heyman will be reporting to Vince McMahon and Bruce Prichard will also be in the mix somewhere as well. RAW & SmackDown will still be Vince McMahon's and he will have the final say on whatever he decides but Heyman & Bischoff are being brought in to run distinctly separate brands. Both men have a sizable body of work that can give us an insight as to what to expect from their programs. Here are seven things to expect from Paul Heyman's RAW & Eric Bischoff's SmackDown. In the comments below, share what you'd like to see from either or both of these men on their respective shows.
7. New Visual Styles
Eric Bischoff has gone on record saying that he feels WWE's product is "too glossy" and that he prefers the feeling that "anything can happen". During the height of WCW Nitro it felt like a sports-focussed wrestling show that was being invaded by the NWO, whose segments would switch from traditional camera angles to hand-held cameras following the action backstage. This shift in visual style made Nitro feel like you had to watch it or you were going to miss out on something spontaneous. Bischoff's SmackDown will likely mirror this style. It will have matches shot in a traditional sports-like style with the occasional disruption in action that will also disrupt the visual style instead of keeping the same visual polish that WWE has had over the past decade.
Heyman also revels in exploiting the excitement of live television. WWE has been experimenting with new camera angles for years on the NXT brand. 205 Live did almost an entire episode without using the traditional "hard cam" two weeks ago. RAW this past week used new camera angles for the Strowman/Lashley match and had longer wide shots showing the scale of the destruction and flurry of activity around the two to keep the performers safe while stabilizing the production of the show itself. The lack of cuts and infrequency of quick zooms to emphasize action made RAW feel very different. Heyman's RAW will likely be even grittier than Bischoff's SmackDown, but don't expect them to abandon the traditional hard cam altogether.
6. Long-term Booking
On "Inside the Ropes Live!" Heyman emphasized that when writing a story, he always starts with the end and figures out how to get to that end. Booking in WWE over the past few years has mostly featured feuds that last over a period of three singles matches with one Superstar winning two out of the three matches. Those matches are sometimes spaced out by tag matches between them but they have stuck to that pattern. Heyman and Bischoff both had some very successful programs in ECW & WCW, respectively. Heyman had long stories like Mikey Whipwreck's rise and Tommy Dreamer becoming hardcore while Eric Bischoff built Diamond Dallas Page and Booker T while managing to make compelling storylines around wrestlers that Vince McMahon never quite understood how to build around such as Dean Malenko ("That's not Ciclope!").
5. Focus On Athleticism
Both Heyman and Bischoff are fans of styles of wrestling outside of the WWE style. Both ECW & WCW have featured lucha libre style wrestling prominently on their programs. Heyman seems to have identified Ricochet as his guy on RAW with new United States Champion, Ricochet, getting featured prominently in a feud with AJ Styles and The Club. Cesaro is also a Heyman favorite who can go with just about anyone.
Expect Andrade to flourish under Bischoff on SmackDown. Andrade has all the athletic tools that Bischoff loves and he's able to make veteran wrestlers look amazing. Bischoff also will lean on veterans like Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, and Randy Orton to push new athletic young stars like Aleister Black and Ali.
4. Tag Team Wrestling
It was reported that The Street Profits debut on RAW this past week was a call made by Heyman. The team got two segments on RAW including one where they interrupted an interview Heyman gave about Brock Lesnar. Tag team wrestling has traditionally taken a back seat in WWE but when he ran ECW, Heyman featured The Dudley Boys, Public Enemy, and The Gangstas. Heyman has praised the Usos and The Revival extensively in interviews and the two teams will likely be featured prominently on RAW programming as he builds the Street Profits.
Eric Bischoff never had tag teams main event a major WCW pay per view, but he used tag teams to build future singles stars after long runs in WCW's tag division in Booker T, Scott Steiner, and Marcus "Buff" Bagwell. Daniel Bryan is a fantastic asset to SmackDown's tag division for highlighting tag team talent that has singles potential down the line.
3. Focus On Reality
Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman both love to incorporate reality into storylines. Bischoff most notably blurred the lines of fiction and reality with the New World Order storyline. He completely understands that giving the audience a peak behind the curtain and giving them the feeling that they're seeing something that they weren't meant to see. Bischoff's backstage segments start as if the cameraman walked to the back and caught the wrestlers in the middle of action.
ECW blurred the lines of fiction and reality by incorporating violence not seen before on American wrestling television programs and characters that were more an extension of the performer's personality than a cartoon character. He switched the Tazmaniac to Taz, he developed Raven, and his wrestlers frequently cut promos based in reality. The opening to this past week's RAW was the most exciting it has been in months, expect Heyman to build on that excitement.
Eric Bischoff loved surprise entrances in WCW. The first Nitro is most known for the surprise debut of Lex Luger on the same night when he appeared on a taped episode of RAW. Bischoff often planted wrestlers in the audience for surprise debuts. Bischoff also was behind the greatest heel turn in wrestling when Hulk Hogan revealed he was the third man in the NWO. Expect similar surprise debuts on SmackDown and surprise swerves and twists involving the roster.
Paul Heyman is a walking surprise. It's well known that he crafts the lionshare of his own promos giving everyone listening the excitement at the possibility of Heyman going off script and hijacking the show. Paul Heyman didn't have the luxury of signing name talent to ECW, and so his shows delivered surprises by having talent that consistently over-performed/over-delivered. Heyman is known for being a great motivator and he will definitely need to use his talents on the RAW roster.
It's hard to imagine a wrestling product with Paul Heyman's name on it being PG. RAW will live up to its namesake. Heyman has an appreciation for just about every wrestling style under the sun and with three hours to fill each week, he'll need to use every trick he can think of to keep the show interesting. Enjoy the full match posted above between RVD/Sabu vs. Hayabusa/Jinsei Shinzaki as an example. ECW was famous for using all parts of the arena for their matches and RAW will get plenty of opportunities for that with the 24/7 championship.
Bischoff's WCW episodes had aging veteran mega-stars in the main event but the undercard would be filled with exciting athletic wrestling of varying styles. WCW always had an international flare creating instant stories between wrestlers based on their country of origin. Bischoff has stated on his podcast that he's still fairly old school in his beliefs about wrestling when it comes to the fast-pace and lack of selling in matches put together by the current generation of wrestlers.