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By Mike Johnson on 2020-06-11 19:01:00

WWE just issued the following statement publicly as well as internally:

“In an effort to streamline our creative writing process for television, we have consolidated both teams from Raw and SmackDown into one group, led by Bruce Prichard.   Paul Heyman will concentrate on his role as an in-ring performer.”

The decision, obviously, was a Vince McMahon call.  One source noted that Vince McMahon had been "very upset" and openly "frustrated" with Monday Night Raw of late.    Heyman had been trying to build new acts for the future to get new stars over, but with no one exploding as an immediate draw and the Raw series taking the hardest hit in terms of viewership during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was probably only a matter of time before McMahon would make the call to change things up.  

Back in April, McMahon commented on WWE's ratings being down during the company's 2020 first quarter earnings call, noting, "In terms of the why, it goes back to the product itself, and we are the only, you're right, sports environment at the moment.  But again, it's a different feel completely than in front of a live audience. We were the first sports to have interaction with live audience as many, many years ago, it was yay, boo. That's the first interaction, and we don't have that now. But we're doing really well, I think, beyond anyone's expectations actually by doing the show without an audience, and everything we do is about the audience and how they react and what you read them and to fund and what have you that they all have by coming to WWE event. So that's really I think why and we need to be able to figure out ways, which we are in that, we will hear the performers putting the bad mouth on each other and so forth, which you never hear before, minimize some of the more creative words, we will say, but nonetheless, there are advantages and we can go outside of the environment too. So we don't want to stay there for two or three matches. You need some relief there. In one form or another, we're figuring that out as well.  A lot of things to figure out in this sort of environment, what can you do and what resonates and things of that nature. So it's really, it's brand new for us and for anyone. So there is no audience and it's a different show, completely different show, and I think we're going to get there with...we may be able to take this negative and already turned it into somewhat of a positive as far as ratings and what have you concerned. SmackDown has virtually seen no change, very little. Raw has suffered, but not necessarily because of the environment. It's suffered because we bring in a lot of new talent into Raw and it takes a while to get these new talents over. We no longer have Brock Lesnar obviously, but we have a new champion and a lot of new performers coming out, it takes a while. So that's the reason. And how you use those performers in this story or that story, what have you. So with new talent, it's just going to take a little while. And then, so the Raw's ratings are kind of bounced back considerably."

Except, Raw's ratings had not bounced back.   

Becky Lynch took time off to have her first child.  Some established talent returned but many weren't on TV every week.  Newer talents were and with them, Heyman was playing the long game, building things for some to break out and mean something down the line for the company.   As he always has his entire booking career, Heyman was always seeking to break the next big act and grab the attention of the younger audience, but in this environment, he ran out of time on the clock as there there was no immediate growth in ratings and there was no live event measurements for obvious reasons.   

Vince McMahon, with far more time to focus on WWE with the XFL having already shut down, just wasn't going to continue to just take a wait and see attitude and allow that to continue to happen with the current state of the world, so he changed things up. 

Among Raw talents we spoke to, there was a shock and surprise about Heyman's ousting as most we spoke to enjoyed working with him and felt he was trying to build them, especially those who had rarely been given a chance to be presented consistently as a potential star.  Among others in the company, there was less of a shock, feeling it was just a matter of time before fingers were pointed at someone and it just turned out to be Heyman in this instance.  Several said it was obvious things were not clicking and there were at least two who firmly placed the blame on Heyman and how he dealt with others.

Heyman was named the Executive Director of Monday Night Raw in June 2019.  Eric Bischoff was named the same for Friday Night Smackdown, later replaced by Bruce Prichard.  At the time, WWE announced that the Executive Director positions had been created to free up Vince McMahon so he did not have to be deep "in the weeds", so to speak, for the weekly WWE broadcasts.  At that point, McMahon was ramping up the return of XFL via his then-new company Alpha Entertainment, which has already filed for bankruptcy.  

With Heyman's exit from his position on Raw, Bruce Prichard rises up to become one of the top executives for the company, which as reported when we broke his return to WWE in February 2019, was always the plan.  We are told his podcast with Conrad Thompson, amazingly, will continue.

There could be massive changes to creative direction obviously going forward, even for this weekend.  Randy Orton vs. Edge has been taped but everything else at Backlash will be broadcast live, so any plans that no longer fit the vision can be jettisoned. 

There is no word yet whether consolidating the creative teams will lead to additional cuts to creative.  WWE had been seeking a new Lead Writer in the wake of Christopher DeJoseph's exit from the Smackdown team and was in the process of new hires for creative within recent weeks.   It's quite possible WWE is still finalizing how things will work going forward with Prichard executing Vince McMahon's vision.


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