POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE: The state of WWE after creative shake-up

A look at the state of WWE following the news that Paul Heyman is no longer Executive Director of Raw, the future of EVOLVE, Shawn Michaels speaks on Crown Jewel & lots more.

POST IT NOTES

**Rewind-A-SmackDown is LIVE tonight as Wai Ting will be joined by Andrew Thompson for the entire show. The two will review SmackDown from the Performance Center including the match between AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan for the Intercontinental title. Plus, they will open the phone lines and take your calls as well as discuss this Sunday’s Backlash card. This show will be live and available to all members of the POST Wrestling Café.

**The British Wrestling Experience is out with Martin Bushby, Jamesie & Benno joined by Andrew Thompson for a big review of the WWF’s UK Rampage event from 1992. They also chat about many issues including the ongoing issues in the world and changes that are being seen and heard, as well as the latest wrestling news.

**Wai Ting and Pauline will have their season-finale of Total Recall up this weekend discussing the gender reveal on Total Bellas from Thursday night. This show will also be up for Café members.

**I’ll be back with Wai on Sunday night for our WWE Backlash POST Show that is LIVE for Double Double, Iced Capp & Espresso members of the Café. We will review the card and take your calls with reaction to the show. The podcast version will be posted Monday morning for everyone.

**On Monday night for Rewind-A-Raw, Wai & I will review the New Japan Together Project show, which is New Japan’s first show since February 26th and will be done inside an empty arena with no matches announced prior.

POST WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Tonight: Rewind-A-SmackDown LIVE w/ Wai Ting & Andrew Thompson (LIVE for Patrons)
Saturday: Total Recall with Wai Ting & Pauline (Patreon)
Sunday: WWE Backlash POST Show with John Pollock & Wai Ting (LIVE for Double Double, Iced Capp & Espresso Patrons)
Monday: Rewind-A-Raw (review of WWE Raw, NJPW Together Project)

WRESTLING NEWS

Fifteen years ago, today, WWE had one of the most successful pay-per-views of that era with One Night Stand from the Hammerstein Ballroom. It was the brainchild of Rob Van Dam, who pitched the idea to Vince McMahon, and in time, they ran with it and made it as authentic an ECW experience as they could under a WWE banner. That included the utilization of the most obvious brain to pick, Paul Heyman.

In 2020, the story of Heyman and WWE concluded its latest chapter on Thursday evening with a two-line statement removing Heyman from his role as Executive Director of Raw while maintaining an on-air position as the mouthpiece of Brock Lesnar.

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.

In less than one full year both Heyman and his SmackDown counterpart Eric Bischoff were out of their respective roles while Bruce Prichard stands as the most influential creative force under Vince McMahon. Prichard will oversee both brands that beg the question of how much his workload increases versus what is delegated, and the same for those under Prichard on both writing staffs.

During the pandemic, Raw’s viewership has cratered save for the first empty arena episode where there was a natural curiosity and was aided by an appearance by Steve Austin on March 16th. Since that show, they have only had two million viewers twice and have fallen below 1.8 million in the past four episodes. The drop over the past month also saw the addition of NXT performers in the crowd to create some atmosphere for the sterile shows but have had no impact on interest. It is difficult to pin these numbers on creative as everything exists in a vacuum where success and failure of new acts and matches are left for interpretation beyond minor fluctuations in quarter-hour breakdowns. Once they return to whatever normal is, it’s a crapshoot over what the audience will react to or reject.

Between Raw and SmackDown, it’s the latter that has been more aggressive in pushing new performers and throwing a lot against the wall to a mixture of results. If for nothing else, this one-year period where Heyman had additional influence, they have added a new main event performer to that mix with Drew McIntyre. The debate for Lesnar’s opponent at WrestleMania was between McIntyre and Aleister Black and I had heard about Black’s name going back months prior. They went with McIntyre and he caught on immediately from the Royal Rumble victory up until the final Raw in front of fans at the Barclays Center. He’s in a difficult spot with the empty arenas but I feel confident he’s broken through and while not a game-changer for business, he’s a star to the audience and has made the transition of being a minor player in 2019 to the performer marketed as “the star of Monday Night Raw”.

Behind McIntyre, the last four months have seen a big rehabilitation for Asuka who had fallen greatly from her star power in NXT when brought up to the main roster and discarded after WrestleMania 34. Today, she is one of the biggest stars on the show and has bridged the language gap where her delivery has given the company confidence to put her in numerous speaking roles including commentary.

Others such as Black, Zelina Vega, The Street Profits, Apollo Crews, Austin Theory, and Murphy remain question marks. Black has top-level potential and has been protected up until this transition. Vega’s role has been lessened since her group stopped working with McIntyre weekly, but she stands out with great presence and speaking ability and can be a main event level manager. If anything, one can argue that too many new acts have been thrown against the wall instead of focusing on a finite number. Some of that is necessary because of less talent available during the pandemic and an added reliance on the Florida-based talent that led to Brendan Vink and Shane Thorne being put in a spotlight for a cup of coffee.

Heyman is going to have his defenders and his detractors and for those receiving the largest push of their career, it’s a concern but others that can’t handle Heyman’s style will welcome this change.

But, lost in all this news is the central issues specific to this show. The first is that this was and is Vince McMahon’s show and while it was clear Heyman had navigated the system to exert influence on the show, it is always McMahon in the decision-maker role. The second is that the format of Raw is completely counter-intuitive to creating new fans.

We are coming up on eight years of Raw in the three-hour format and just about every analyst understood the trade-off in July 2012. The audience would erode because three hours is overkill and it’s offset by the financial value of adding the third hour. In 2014, it looked like a bad decision when their television rights were up and received an underwhelming deal compared to expectations. In 2018, they hit the jackpot with their deals for Raw on USA and SmackDown moving to Fox.

However, the decline has accelerated during the pandemic and it is unknown how many fans will return one day. What I do know, is that Raw is caught in a game of trying to maintain viewers rather than create new ones and that’s a dangerous one. Every year, the audience is getting older and the fumes of the Monday Night War are two decades old.

In the 18-49 demo, Raw did a 0.53 this week one year ago this week they did a 0.66 and that was going against the NBA Finals on ABC that did over eighteen million viewers. The 19.6% in the main demo is way more concerning than the overall viewership drop especially comparing to a period last year against the NBA playoffs that always kill Raw and isn’t a factor this year.

The Executive Director role or whatever title is bestowed isn’t snapping their fingers and changing the creative process of WWE. It is one person’s playground and invites those to come to play and when he’s tired of them, he sends them home and then looks to the next shiny toy. In this case, he went with his old reliable one in Prichard that has had an on-and-off relationship with the company for the thirty-three years.

Finally, it brings up the question of what the creative future of Heyman is? Here is someone with a booking or writing position in professional wrestling going back to Continental under Eddie Gilbert and has served every capacity imaginable. On paper, he is listed as strictly holding an on-air role, although it remains to be seen if he will revert to his prior position of working with talent behind-the-scenes with creative input. Without knowing for sure, I’d imagine there is probably a burnout from the last year of his life in this position, and taking a break would serve him well.

When Heyman left WWE after the failed ECW reboot in 2006, he flirted with TNA when the idea of stock options was presented to him but came with the caveat that he would blow up the roster and it would not be kind for the aging veteran make-up and never came to pass. In today’s climate, there would be several companies bending over backward whenever Heyman would be available but is that something he wants to pursue? Goals change dramatically from age 34 to age 54 and the obvious alternative in AEW has their booking locked in under Tony Khan and the key players that a Heyman may not fit their plans. I’d be hard-pressed to envision Heyman starting from scratch in any other company that doesn’t have the television to compete with WWE and isn’t AEW. The option of Heyman being used in NXT is an interesting one as that brand could use a different flavor right now.

Therefore, Heyman as Lesnar’s advocate and at best serving as an advisor may be his lot in WWE save for another change of heart, which McMahon has gone through multiple mental bypass surgeries over with Heyman the past two decades.

**Here are the matches and segments announced for tonight’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown at 8 pm Eastern on Fox:
*Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles in the finals of the Intercontinental title tournament
*Braun Strowman, Otis & Tucker vs. The Miz, John Morrison & Dolph Ziggler
*A contract signing between Sheamus and Jeff Hardy
*Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch & Isaiah “Swerve” Scott vs. Tony Nese, Jack Gallagher & Tehuti Miles
*Ever-Rise vs. Adrian Alanis & Leon Ruff

**The future of EVOLVE is up in the air following a report in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Dave Meltzer inquired about WWE purchasing their tape library and everything attached to the company, but neither WWE nor EVOLVE would confirm or deny that. The two companies have had a relationship for several years with Gabe Sapolsky serving as a creative consultant at NXT while running EVOLVE, which he launched over a decade ago. The promotion began running events in January 2010 and saw a who’s who of the independent boom come through its doors over its history.

In 2016, EVOLVE signed a deal with FloSlam, which was the wrestling streaming service attached to FloSports and turned out to be a disaster. For years, there has been discussion of EVOLVE being added to the WWE Network with the company running a live event on the service in July 2019 headlined by WWE talents Adam Cole and Akira Tozawa. There have been numerous performers with ties to EVOLVE that have been utilized during the empty arena events in Florida since March. EVOLVE was one of many to take a major hit when WrestleMania Weekend was canceled. They have not run an event since March 1st and when we reached out to the company last month about running shows, we were told they had no imminent plans.

**The season finale of Total Bellas did 693,000 viewers on E! They were eighth for the night on cable with 0.29 in the 18-49 demographic. The viewership number was up 69% from last week and the demo figure increased 70.5%.

**Shawn Michaels was part of a media call to promote Backlash and was asked by Kenny McIntosh of Inside the Ropes about the match at Crown Jewel in November 2018 and The Undertaker’s reaction:

The year after we had my last match (in 2010), we were sitting at baggage claim and we’re waiting on our bags where I’m gonna get inducted into the Hall of Fame and he looked at me and said “you made the right choice. Perfect time to go out” Fast forward to the tag match, I had no idea that in his mind, had it gone well that he would have possibly been able to retire on that. I assumed that he was more looking towards that WrestleMania moment. I just looked at that match as another tag match. I looked at that just as a chance to go out there with my buddies and have some fun and not take anything too seriously. I didn’t know that was a situation that had it gone better, it would’ve made it easier for him to walk away. I assumed in his mind it needed to be the same as me where it needed to be a WrestleMania moment.

**MLW has announced that they have signed Salina de la Renta to an exclusive deal. The performer has been off MLW programming since November and returned on this week’s episode of Pulp Fusion.

**The June 17th and 24th episodes of AEW Dynamite will air on both TSN1 and TSN2 in Canada.

**Game Changer Wrestling has announced the following matches for their return show next Saturday ‘The Wrld on GCW Part 2’: Nick Gage vs. Nate Webb, Effy vs. Allie Kat, Myron Reed vs. Blake Christian, Chris Dickinson vs. Manders, and Alex Zayne vs. Jimmy Lloyd. The card will air on Fite TV on Saturday, June 20th at 5 pm Eastern and is open to fans at White River State Park in Indianapolis at the Celebration Plaza Amphitheatre.

**The Last Ride documentary covering The Undertaker resumes on Sunday with the fourth episode of five.

**Friday Night SmackDown from June 5th did a 1.27 rating and had 656,000 viewers in the 18-49 demo. The show did 1,984,000 viewers overall.

**Last Saturday, TNT ran a 30-minute version of AEW Dynamite at 12:45 am. The show did 319,000 viewers and 0.13 in the 18-49 demographic which equals 171,000 viewers in the demo.

**MLW’s Anthology series on Saturday night will focus on The Lucha Bros. The show will feature Pentagon Jr. vs. Rey Fenix along with Pentagon & Fenix vs. The Dirty Blondes vs. Jimmy Yuta & Jason Cade. The episode will be released at 6:05 pm Eastern on their YouTube channel and airs at 10 pm on beIN Sports.

**Jerry Lynn turns 57 today and Mark Henry turns 49.

ON THIS DATE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0INZne6Kuo

 

 

*****
BWE RETRO EDITION: WWF UK Rampage (1992)

Martin, Benno & Jamesie are joined by Andrew Thompson to review WWF UK Rampage 1992. They chat about the highlights of the show (including Shawn Michaels vs. Randy Savage) and have a much broader look at the company in 1992. Plus, an important discussion about #BlackLivesMatter and systemic racism in the UK.
https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/06/11/bwe-retro-edition-wwf-uk-rampage-1992/
*****
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https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/06/11/rewind-a-dynamite-6-10-20-beaten-to-a-bloody-pulp/
*****
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https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/06/11/upnxt-6-10-20-mask-of-the-fantasma/
*****
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https://www.patreon.com/posts/38071311
*****
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https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/06/09/rewind-a-raw-6-8-20-greatest-go-home-ever-njpw-returns/
*****
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https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/06/08/nxt-takeover-in-your-house-post-show/
*****
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https://www.postwrestling.com/2020/06/07/the-long-winding-royal-road-0-origin-of-the-triple-crown-w-joseph-montecillo/
*****

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About John Pollock 3872 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.