For much of the 1990s, WWE was in a battle with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) for wrestling world supremacy, while Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), on the side, drew a great deal of fan attention.
Now, in 2019, WWE has announced that they’ve hired the two men who were in charge of the creative operations of those two rivals 20 years ago for major behind-the-scenes positions.
Per Sports Illustrated, WWE has named Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff “executive directors,” with former ECW boss Heyman taking that role on for Monday Night RAW. Former WCW executive vice president Bischoff has taken on a similar position for Smackdown Live!. An official announcement from WWE came shortly afterward.
The roles are behind the scenes, and will not consist of on-air appearances, per the report. Both men have been better known for their on-air work, including Heyman’s long stint as Brock Lesnar’s manager/”advocate” and Bischoff coming into WWE for a five-year stint as the on-camera “general manager” of RAW in 2002.
The announcement comes amid a long period of grumbling from fans about the quality of WWE’s on-air product.
The two executives, per WWE’s announcement, will report directly to WWE head Vince McMahon.
“In their executive roles, Heyman and Bischoff will oversee the creative development of WWE’s flagship programming and ensure integration across all platforms and lines of business,” the company said in their announcement. “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.”
Bischoff, more recently, has been co-hosting a podcast with Conrad Thompson. Thompson’s other co-host, Bruce Prichard, also recently returned to WWE on the creative side after the lengthy absence.
Bischoff ran WCW in the 1990s, during a period when that company, owned by Turner Broadcasting, sought to compete with the then-WWF by stealing away its top talent, first with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, and later with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.
WWE and WCW competed in what was known as the Monday Night Wars between 1995 and 2001, with the two companies both running wrestling shows on cable on Monday nights. WCW first gained the advantage after they paired Hogan with Hall and Nash as the NWO, but WWE reclaimed the upper hand in the “Attitude” era, with the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Bischoff was fired in 1999, and while he later returned and even attempted to purchase the company, WCW folded in early 2001, with WWE obtaining its assets.
Heyman ran ECW, which at times cooperated with WWE, until it closed, also in 2001; Heyman immediately jumped to WWE as an announcer.