Sports Illustrated contacted 10 different wrestlers currently active on the Gross and everyone noted that Heyman’s greatest strength was the advice, recommendations and guidance he had provided. Every wrestler contacted shared the hope that Heyman will still be on TV every week criticizing his work.
Heyman lasted nearly a year in the role, but was doomed when the XFL closed and filed for bankruptcy, freeing McMahon to focus entirely on WWE. He is now replaced by Bruce Prichard, who also supervises Smack down, placing it at the center of two of the three weekly WWE live shows. (Eric Bischoff, who was responsible for Smack down when Heyman took over Gross, was laid off in October.)
The move is both a literal and figurative reminder that McMahon is in charge. While Prichard will manage Gross and Smack down, the creative direction of these two shows belongs to McMahon. And the timing is smart, because there will be short-term rating gains that McMahon can defend with its investors. WWE programming suffered without audiences, and ratings Gross have falled. This is likely to change as WWE returns to a live audience, which is possible as early as this summer. When the ratings increase, McMahon will inevitably receive the credit.Heyman’s modus operandi as executive director was to develop and build new stars that will immediately become identifiable as the faces of Monday evening gross. Heyman’s run on Gross produces highlights, but above all high talent. He has worked closely with Asuka, Aleister Black, Zelina Vega, Street Profits, Shayna Baszler, Apollo Crews, Angel Garza, Bobby Lashley and WWE champion Drew McIntyre, seeking to build a new face of stars.There was not a specific incident that led to McMahon’s decision to replace Heyman, but rather a difference in philosophy that was amplified by working so closely together. The McMahon-Heyman working relationship has reached its expiration date. It’s an exhausting position, and right now Prichard can present ideas to McMahon better than anyone else in terms of creation. Heyman has a better idea of what wrestling fans want, but Prichard understands McMahon and how the ideas should be presented. Ultimately, for McMahon, Prichard is the best choice to oversee Gross, although this does not necessarily translate into a better show.
Heyman’s legacy is not affected by this layoff. He will resume his role on the air, cutting off some of the best promotions in wrestling, and his well-deserved reputation for creativity and innovation will not be altered.
It was obvious that Heyman was limited in his role as executive director. With the XFL over there, it was clear that McMahon would return to a more important role in WWE, especially on Gross. So after Sunday Backlash Pay-per-view, the latest iteration of a “new” era begins on Monday, led by Vincent K. McMahon.
Gross needs a change, but time will soon tell us that removing Paul Heyman was not the answer.