The WWE is going to the Easy E well one more time.
Surely it won’t be the last. He just keeps popping up, to get a pop. The same way Vince Russo got hired and fired twice from WCW and TNA. The wrestling business over the last twenty years seems to continually rotate the same guys in and out, in and out. There seems to be a fear of lopping off the creative control, backstage and on-screen, of the past for anything fresh or new.
Now the WWE tells us, in its current stretch of dire ratings, that Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff are taking control of the RAW and Smackdown brands, respectively.
I’m a Heyman guy. He’s the best color commentator, manager, or company leader in any regard. From his time at the helm of ECW, the last underdog wrestling organization to truly push WWE until AEW showed up, to his time replacing Jerry Lawler on the headset in the early 2000s, to his getting Brock over as the biggest heel in the business the last few years with his unbelievably good mic skills, Heyman has been the best onscreen non-wrestler in the last twenty-five years.
I can’t say the same for Easy E. He’s been a one-trick pony and he’s proved it time and time again. He once infamously told the WCW locker room that Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper were the only wrestlers to draw a dime in their generation of talent. He’d ride the Hogan horse down to his own demise in WCW before a weak comeback with the New Blood and WCW’s eventual end. He’ll tell you again and again in talking heads on the documentaries that he revolutionized the business with “real” names instead of gimmicks, less colorful spandex and more denim, and an invasion angle gleaned from careful study of Japanese wrestling. He’s terrrrrrrible on the mic to boot.
While all that’s true, he done nothing since to truly boost the industry, most famous since for gawking at Trump cabinet member Linda McMahon and calling her a “rather large breasted woman.” Classy.
But, rants aside, let’s here give Easy E a chance to once again make some kind of positive mark in the biz, and examine 5 things Bischoff can do to save Smackdown.
1. Acknowledge AEW
One thing Bischoff and WCW were never afraid to do was acknowledge the WWF and the history of wrestlers in the WWF. While Vince has for years and years changed the names of established gimmicks and names pre-WWF (see The Road Warriors becoming Legion of Doom, see John Moxley becoming Dean Ambrose) and ignored wrestlers’ past accomplishments, Bischoff and WCW would directly mention WWF on television, as well as past rivalries and WWF gimmicks of wrestlers pre-WCW. As a fan, it was refreshing to see that a wrestling promotion knew it didn’t exist in a vacuum and build its wresters up through their past, not ignore it. Additionally, Nitro, sometimes to great success and once, infamously, to its detriment, would talk about WWF taping and reveal match results (this worked well until Tony Schiavone mocked Mick Foley winning the WWF title on RAW which a bajillion people quickly changed channels to see).
This to me was always a strong suit of WCW that made them feel more “real,” less cartoonish and oblivious.
This opportunity presents itself again with the rise of AEW. Rather than ignore it, the WWE should embrace it. Talk about the defectors like Jim Ross and Ambrose. Talk about the the ones who want to defect but can’t. Hell, Smackdown could build an entire angle around Luke Harper’s denied request release. Harper could mention his request and blast the WWE on screen. Easy E could be his tormenting commissioner, abusing the services of Harper and making him wrestle every week, with endless gimmick matches. What real heat that would be. If Bischoff had the power and guts to run this angle, it would be the best thing on Smackdown in years.
2. Inter-Brand Rivalries with 205 and NXT
This isn’t a new idea, but no doubt that the biggest impact and success of Bischoff in WCW outside the massive NWO angle was the addition of cruiserweight matches and an influx of international talent with high work-rate and awesome move-sets. While the NWO eventually petered out, in fact got embarrassingly bad, the cruiserweight division became more and more the saving grace of weekly Nitros…and pay-per-views. 205 wrestlers and NXT wrestlers could do the same for SD.
There has been some talk that 205 Live and NXT could combine, but I think they are distinctly different things that would both benefit from more main show time. While the WWE still awards the bigger guys mostly, save some phenomenal wresters that have busted that barrier, i.e. Balor, Daniel Bryan, and AJ Styles, Smackdown would make a mark by giving more over to the smaller guys.
Like the big guys? NXT has those too of course. Could you imagine Walter coming onto Smackdown and cleaning house? Walter claims he doesn’t want to wrestle in America full time, so NXT UK is perfect for the champ. He could pop in for a short stint, set up a single pay per view match, kick ass, and return to his beloved Europe. I’d tune in because he’s the coolest big man in a long, long time.
I won’t beat this horse, but it feels like a no-brainer to me. Smackdown is suffering, so infuse it with the best cruiserweight and up and coming talent you have access to. Easy E did it in 1995 through WCW’s exchange deals with NJPW and AAA Mexico. He could do it again.
3. Convince WALTER to Join Smackdown
See above. WALTER is the awesomest, most exciting big man to come on the scene since Big Van Vader came into the WCW in the late 80s. Enough said (and I’ve written on him before here at TWM). And, if there is one thing Bischoff is good at, it’s recruiting and taking chances on guys a bulk of the audience may not be as familiar with. Do it Easy E!
4. Honor the Old Promotions More
The WWE Network has an entire library of documentary and archive wrestling footage that seems utterly wasted outside of fans like me who dig the deep dive and are prone to documentary watching anyway. I know Vince’s primary goal in buying all other promotions and promotional archives was really about dominance, about winning the war of wrestling promotions, but it could be more.
Have the past meet the present. When Smackdown goes to Dallas, show the WCCW footage, talk about the Von Erich’s and Gino Hernandez and all those sordid tales. When the WWE takes Smackdown to Canada, give us the skinny on Stampede Wrestling. If Smackdown finds itself in Minnesota, show the AWA stuff and crazy old Verne Gagne. Hell, in Atlanta, with Bischoff as commissioner, take an honest look at the glory of WCW under Bischoff’s control.
I know it’s not in the WWE’s nature to promote any time other than the present or to touch on other promotions that succeeded for a long time without Vince, but, if done right, it’d speak to older fans and lapsed fans like me, and send the younger fans down some glorious Wikipedia rabbit holes. It might even score another Network subscription or two for a deeper dive into the archives.
5. Challenge Heyman to Unify the Belts
Enough of this two belt business. It is a sad, sad mistake that the Raw and Smackdown belt split came back. No promotion should ever have two equally footed champions. There should be one, clear number one wrestler in the entire promotion. This business with two world title matches on pay per views simply devalues both without elevating either.
Bonus, this could be a hell of a story line. Heyman and Bischoff could both jockey for their champ, spend weeks building a rivalry and invading the other show, even take the belt off a champ through heelish means to put it on the guy they want to enter the unification match. The other wrestlers on the show could get behind their guy, even bury rivalries temporarily to get either RAW or SD the coveted single world title.
If I were booking, I might even make the unification bout end with controversy and Jack Tunney that stuff and declare a new world title tournament à la Wrestlmania IV with Heyman and Bischoff’s top 5 or so chosen brand wrestlers to vie in a tournament for the one true belt.
However it was booked, it’d be better than this thing now, where both shows have a world belt, and both shows are suffering badly in the ratings.
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