As I covered in my article here at TWM last week WWE has gone back to the old reserves, putting Paul Heyman and Eric Bischoff in charge of Raw and Smackdown respectively in its dire times.
They’re even dropping their PG rating to see if they can’t revive some of that Attitude Era magic.
In a way, Bischoff and Heyman are the two guys most responsible for the WWF Attitude Era even though neither man worked there at the time. Because Bischoff pushed the reality and faction factor in wrestling nationwide, WWF responded in turn. Perhaps Vince wouldn’t have let Stone Cold be Stone Cold, would’ve even made him keep the stupid Ringmaster gimmick if Bischoff hadn’t kept Hall and Nash gimmick-free. Can you imagine Austin without his jorts? What a shame that would be. Heyman’s ECW undoubtedly spawned the hardcore division in the WWF in the late 90s, and I think all that cussing they did at ECW made the WWF step up its edginess.
So why not go to Bischoff and Heyman? They can only do better than what the current product is, and they both once pushed it to be great.
Last week I envisioned some things Easy E could do to make Smackdown better, and one was pitting Smackdown against Raw in a World Title Unification storyline that would have Bischoff and Heyman squaring off (and get rid of the ridiculousness of having two world champions in one promotion). Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time the two would battle directly…
This week, let’s look at 5 Times Bischoff and Heyman went “head to head” previously.
1. WCW Raids ECW’s Talent
Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie freaking Guerrero—it’s a hall of fame list (except Juvie I guess) and at one point it was the mid-card that carried WCW. Thing is, none of it was WCW talent. Eric Bischoff was keeping a close watch on the up and coming ECW promotion run by Heyman and signing away their best talent time and again in the mid to late 90s. In the end, Heyman put over more guys that went on to carry both WCW and WWF in the late 90s than either company had homegrown (I’m throwing Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin into that mix who re-established themselves in ECW after being unceremoniously let go by Bischoff.
2. The WWE Draft 2004
During the 2004 annual draft that has come and gone and come again between the WWE brands since the monolith rose out of the ashes of the Monday Night Wars and the deaths of ECW and WCW, Heyman was drafted by Bischoff, then general manager or commissioner or whatever they were calling it of RAW, to come on over from where he’d worked as the Smackdown GM.
This was a storyline chance for Heyman to shoot some on Bischoff’s aforementioned raiding of ECW talent. Heyman, of course, told Bischoff to stick it, and promptly “quit,” refusing to go to RAW and being replaced by Kurt Angle as SD GM. In reality, Heyman would be going to the Ohio Valley Wrestling promotion, forerunner to NXT, in order to get the WWE up and comers over and put on a better product overall. It was there that he met and friended and pushed future champion CM Punk, among other fantastic scouting fetes.
3. ECW One Night Stand 2005
Yes, this was really a WWE promotion, first announced by Vince McMahon and none other than Eric Bischoff. But, WWE did the right thing and gave creative control and promotion of the event over to Heyman. Arguably the most notorious face off at One Night Stand on June 12, 2005, was during the large brawl toward the end of the night between ECW alums and the party-crashing WWE wrestlers (Edge and JBL among them). JBL, notorious bully and shithead, went right after the Blue Meanie and shot all over him, nailing him with real rights. Meanie’s face was busted up but good.
Eventually, the WWE gave Meanie another (short term) contract and even a win over JBL on Smackdown to prevent the Blue one from suing. JBL and Meanie’s brawl was an extension of the war of words started by the leaders of each faction. Heyman, of course, rallied the ECW troops, and it was Bischoff leading in the WWE invaders to their private box at the event. When Heyman grabbed the mic during the show the first person he went after (after thanking the fans and all), was Bischoff, again accusing him of killing the original ECW run with Ted Turner’s money. Bischoff, awesomely, shot him the bird back. It was better than anything Bischoff could have done on the mic in response.
4. Controversy Creates Ca$h
In his autobiographical take on the rise and fall of WCW and the Monday Night Wars (published by WWE no less), Bischoff takes a few shots at the cult of extremism created by the ECW. Rather than pay homage to the fantastic promotion and talented eye that had scouted and signed the likes of Benoit and Guerrero and Mysterio for Bischoff to pluck for WCW, Bischoff instead claims that Heyman had been bad for business. Bischoff claimed he could commit a whole chapter to pick Heyman apart but then didn’t. As for any credit to ECW? Nope. He simply referred to “a few bingo halls in Pennsylvania” when discussing where talent like the above mentioned came from. Pretty harsh considering that unlike Vince McMahon and the WWF at the time, Bischoff made no gesture to give the always financially strapped ECW any cash considerations for signing aways its best talent.
5. The Mike Awesome Controversy
In my mind, no “controversial” move is more overrated than Madusa, aka Alundra Blaze, turning up on WCW Monday Nitro to toss her WWF Women’s title belt in the trash. While the WWE women’s ranks are freaking awesome these days, they simply weren’t in the 90s. More focus was put on women as managers and stars of every adolescent’s puberty at the time, a la Sonny and Sable. The women’s wrestlers, on the other hand, were quite underwhelming, and Vince was already thinking about canning the division when Madusa threw his belt in the trash. That said, it has become a symbolic moment in the lengths that Bischoff and WCW were willing to go to in order to trash the competition on air. When WCW sneakily signed current ECW World Champion Mike Awesome in 2000, it was quite a coup.
Awesome had been a loyal ECW guy and longtime staple there. However, ECW’s financial instability meant he was owed back pay and eventually left the company over it. Bischoff wanted to do the exact same thing he’d done with Madusa and the WWF Women’s Title. Literally the exact same thing. He wanted Awesome to throw the ECW belt in the trash. However, Heyman sniffed it out and filed an injunction and was able to stop ECW’s intellectual property (the belt) from being shown on Monday Nitro.
While WCW did reference the debuting awesome as the ECW champ, the belt was not shown and Awesome agreed to drop the belt at an ECW house show after all. Oddly, he dropped the belt to previous ECW mainstay Taz(z), who was already contracted to the WWF. It was all for not as Mike Awesome had very little impact in WCW, eventually given the That 70s Guy Gimmick and the Fat Chick Thrilla distinction (both Vince Russo creations, of course). Let’s hope the 2019 round of Heyman vs. Bischoff yield something better.
You can find me on Twitter @gritvanwinkle.