Bray Wyatt has been a problem for WWE.
Actually, that isn’t fair. WWE has a problem booking Bray Wyatt.
It’s inarguable that – whatever form he takes – Bray Wyatt is the most unique WWE superstar on the roster. He doesn’t fit he typical mold of what Vince McMahon looks for in a “top guy.”
And yet, he keeps getting over. To the point that WWE just doesn’t know how to handle it.
We’ll take a look at what makes Wyatt so hard to book. But we’ll also look at how WWE is making it harder than it needs to be.
The Heart Of The Matter
Bray Wyatt has never been a typical WWE character.
When he made the jump from NXT in the summer of 2013, WWE positioned him as a weird, swamp-dweller who spoke in riddles.
But his sheer presence and the way he cut his promos connected with the audience in a way no wrestler had in a long, long time. WWE fans were in to Bray Wyatt, and it was clear even then that the company didn’t know how or why.
Vince McMahon goes through these spells where if he doesn’t understand something, he’ll let it go. Until it starts to work. Then he has to take the reins and mold it into something that he gets.
For an example, look no further than WrestleMania XXX and Wyatt’s feud with John Cena. Bray Wyatt made it his mission in life not to beat Cena. But to make Cena succumb to his dark side. His mission was to make Cena lose it; to sacrifice himself to show the world that Superhero Cena was a sham.
It was brilliant stuff. Then we got to the match. Again, Vince doesn’t get it. And on a stage as big as WrestleMania, the boss needs to make it something he can grasp. So not only did Wyatt lose clean, but he failed to drag Cena into the darkness.
The Eater of Worlds was exposed as a fraud. And he never recovered.
Nowhere To Go
But the WWE Universe wasn’t done being behind Bray Wyatt. They still held up their cell phones during his entrance, and they still sang “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” for Wyatt’s matches.
WWE learns its lessons when it ignores the fans, but it always learns the wrong lessons. With the fans unwilling to let Wyatt go, he wins the WWE Championship. Now we’ve got a character established as caring more about breaking people than winning matches holding the top championship in the company.
A championship that, for all intents and purposes, he shouldn’t care about. Where do you go from there?
Apparently you go to WrestleMania 33 where the only thing to do is superimpose images of bugs and snakes on the mat during Bray’s title match with Randy Orton. Which Orton won. Now the character of Bray Wyatt is broken.
He had a belt that he didn’t really care about in the first place, and now he’s lost it. So WWE threw him into a ‘Broken’ Matt Hardy angle. Which worked well enough until it didn’t. At which point they threw him into a comedy team with Hardy. Which never worked.
The Fiend Rises
In pro wrestling, absence often makes the heart grow fonder. But in some cases, it just makes the fans forget. Bray Wyatt has a creative mind that won’t allow him to be forgotten.
Enter the Fiend. Arguably the most compelling character WWE has created in decades. The ‘Firefly Funhouse’ vignettes offered fans something new and different. They didn’t know what to make of it, and that’s exactly why they loved it. It was new and fresh and unpredictable.
Naturally, WWE had to kill it.
Again, the Fiend is a character who wants to break people psychologically. But not the same way as Cult Leader Bray Wyatt. As the Cult Leader, Wyatt had a goal. The fact that it was clear only to him, that made him engaging. On the other hand, the Fiend wanted to break people just because.
And here the cycle repeats itself.
The Fiend Falls
As mentioned, we’re back to Vince not getting the Fiend. But he sees it succeeding. So he tries to mold it into what you’d normally do with a heel.
He wins the Universal Championship from Seth Rollins, and where do we go from here? From there, Bray Wyatt sets his sights on the number-one contender to the Fiend’s title – Daniel Bryan. And we do a contract signing. Granted, it was a trippy contract signing, but your horror monster champion at a table in the ring signing a contract?
At least the Fiend got a convincing win against Bryan in the match at Royal Rumble. So now what? Well, Goldberg’s back. And we want Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns at WrestleMania. So the supernatural, almost extra-dimensional clown needs to lose the Universal Championship to an elderly man.
It’s like printing money, folks.
WWE got back on the right track with the incredible Firefly Funhouse Match at WrestleMania 36. The surreal meta-narrative that broke John Cena’s brain. And it looks like we might stay on the right track, as Bray Wyatt returned to the Cult Leader gimmick on this past week’s SmackDown.
But I’m not sure I trust WWE to stay on the right track. So here’s what you do.
Retconning The Fiend
Comic books do it all the time. To make everything fit the narrative of a given character, sometimes you have to rewrite history. WWE’s pretty good at that.
I think they need some help, though. I’m not sure why I’m helping WWE with their problems, though; they’re not helping me with mine.
So, Cult Leader Bray Wyatt is back. But he doesn’t know how long he can keep the Fiend at bay. He’s suppressing Funhouse Host Bray for now – that Bray’s the only one who can summon the Fiend. Cult Leader Bray’s hope all along was that his Firefly Cult would cause enough damage to satisfy the Fiend. To keep it sated. He’s going to challenge Braun Strowman for the Universal Championship to keep it away from the Fiend.
Meanwhile, during the build-up, there’s a technical glitch during a Bray Wyatt/Braun Strowman promo. Lights are flickering in the Performance Center, and one even explodes on the stage. Then the lights go out completely. When they come back on, Braun is alone in the ring. And there’s an ominous voice over the speakers: “Let me in. LET ME IN.”
Backstage, some random interviewer catches up with Vince and asks if he’s worried about the Fiend. “After all, no one’s even seen John Cena since the Firefly Funhouse M-” and Vince cuts them off.
“NEVER mention that match. Or the Fiend. AGAIN.” Later in the show, cameras catch Vince calling up to the announcers with the same directive. Don’t mention Cena and Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania, don’t mention the Fiend. There is no Fiend. The Fiend is to WWE as Pennywise is to Derry, Maine. Everyone knows he exists, but everyone looks the other way.
At the PPV, Bray Wyatt defeats Braun for the Universal Championship.
“Your championship is safe, McMahon. And NOW I’ll call forth all my Fireflies! Now the Eater of Worlds will feast upon-”
But he’s cut off. Funhouse Host Bray Wyatt is on the TitanTron shaking his head and chuckling. And he raises a gloved hand and shakes a finger at the Bray in the ring. The lights go out, and when they come back on, the Fiend is in the ring. And he proceeds to literally destroy the Universal Championship. He smashes it with a mallet and sets it on fire.
“One by one,” the Fiend says in his monster voice, “All of your false idols will burn. LET ME IN.”
Here’s the deal. I am well aware that it’s easy for me to armchair book WWE’s product.
Maybe it’s nowhere near as easy as that last section made it seem. But I can tell you it’s nowhere near as hard as WWE is making it.
Bray Wyatt transcends being “just one of the boys.” He’s crafted a character, and he’s put thought into it.
It’s time for WWE to let him do his thing and make them money.
Time for WWE to let him in.
All images courtesy of WWE.