Missed Opportunity - How The WWE Has Failed Bray Wyatt
Posted by Wyatt Beougher on 07.20.2014
With a unique look, an unorthodox wrestling style, and charisma to spare, WWE's Bray Wyatt should be poised to move into the "permanently over" category inhabited by the Undertaker. Instead, he's getting "boring" chants while feuding with a part-timer. 411's Wyatt Beougher looks at how the WWE has botched Wyatt's push after a hot start to this year.
Introduction: I'm an unabashed mark for Bray Wyatt, and I have been more or less since he ditched Eli Cottonwood in NXT. Windham Rotunda recently said in an interview that Bray Wyatt isn't a character, so much as it is an extension of his actual beliefs and worldview. Like Steve Anderson's "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Dwayne Johnson's "The Rock" personas, these tend to be the best characters that wrestling has produced, and Wyatt has all the potential in the world to reach that level as well. Unfortunately, I don't think WWE's current booking will ever allow him to reach that level.
This doesn't have to be a once-in-a-lifetime happening.
Once a generation or so, there comes a character who is so unique and so well-performed that they remain continually over, no matter what booking decisions or changes are made surrounding that character. The most recent example that comes to mind is the Undertaker, who has been essentially bulletproof in spite of never being the WWE's top guy, several major character changes that would've sunk a lesser character, and a status with the company that can only generously be referred to as "part-time". While Mark Calaway didn't consider himself an undead mortician, that gimmick worked because he threw himself into it wholeheartedly.
Similarly, Rotunda has done that with the Bray Wyatt persona, transforming himself from Husky Harris into a backwoods cult leader, not just in his appearance, but also in his mannerisms and methods of speaking. Regardless of how you feel about the character, it's hard to argue against considering Wyatt one of the most well-rounded performers on the current WWE roster. Sure, he's not as gifted in the ring as Daniel Bryan or Cesaro or even stablemate Luke Harper, but he has charisma and speaking ability far in excess of those guys, and aside from those three performers, I don't see anyone else on the roster who throws themselves so completely into their movesets to make sure everything looks crisp and impactful.
However, I personally don't believe that Wyatt is going to take that next step, and will instead end up more in the mold of Kane. And that's not to say that there's anything wrong with Glenn Jacobs' tenure as the Big Red Machine, as he's a highly-decorated multi-time champion in the WWF/E, but yet he's never quite achieved that same level of infamy as has his kayfabe brother. So what makes me think Bray is going to fall short?
The biggest reason is that while the WWE has pushed Wyatt a lot harder than many of the talents who have debuted in the past five years, they've still shied away from actually pulling the trigger and making him feel important. When he debuted and he, Harper, and Rowan took out Kane, it was impressive, but then he floundered after that, beating guys like R-Truth and Kofi Kingston. And no offense to Truth and Kofi, but even the most casual fan should've expected the scary guy with two lumbering hulks at his side to beat them. 2014 looked like it would be Wyatt's year, as he coerced Daniel Bryan into joining his Family. And while Bryan betrayed him two weeks later, that appeared to be nothing more than a momentary stumbling block as Wyatt defeated Bryan cleanly at Royal Rumble in the match of the night. They also distracted John Cena during his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Randy Orton that night, costing him a title opportunity. The follow-up beatdown all-but-advertised who Bray would be facing at Wrestlemania. But first, they had to tangle with the other dominant trio in the WWE, the Shield. After costing the Shield entrance into the Elimination Chamber match by attacking John Cena, Sheamus, and Daniel Bryan, the Wyatts were left to bear the brunt of the Shield's wrath. After weeks of excellent promo work and tense face-offs that were always stopped just short of devolving into physicality by Wyatt himself, the two teams met in what was my Match of the First Half of 2014 (and will very likely be my Match of the Year as well). The Wyatts were able to divide and conquer the Shield, and then went on to attack John Cena during the Elimination Chamber match, causing him to be eliminated.
And that's where it fell off of the rails. Wyatt cut promo after scathing promo, doing everything from calling Cena out for being fake to comparing him to Hulk Hogan to referencing Nikki Bella as Cena's "plastic girlfriend". The character work was sublime, and it seemed like maybe Wyatt would actually get to take that next step and pick up a big win over Cena at Wrestlemania. Pretty impressive for a guy that most people didn't think was even a realistic possibility to face Cena when Meltzer came out with his rumored Wrestlemania match-ups back in December of last year. Still, though, when the dust settled on the WWE's biggest PPV of the year, Wyatt had been defeated. And while Wyatt would also lose his blowoff, Last Man Standing match to Cena at Payback, it was his win at Extreme Rules that was the most damaging the character.
Wyatt could've sustained a pair of losses to Cena without seriously impacting his momentum in one of two ways - either he needed a strong win over Cena at some point during the feud, or he needed to have made a demonstrable change on Cena's character. Instead, during the cage match at Extreme Rules, Cena outsmarted the entire Wyatt family (and physically incapacitated two of them, including Bray) and would've also won that match if he hadn't been stopped from exiting the cage at the last second by a child with a voice changer. Cena had just completely outclassed three lumbering behemoths, but he was stopped in his tracks by a small child with a creepy voice. That doesn't make Bray Wyatt look impressive, or make the thought of his message getting out scary, it just makes him look weak. But surely the fact that Bray was able to influence this small child (Cena's target demographic) and convert him to the dark side had lasting effects on John Cena, right? Let me borrow a page from the Ravishing Russian's book to answer that for you.
He was so devastated by Bray trying to change him that he went on to...win the WWE World Heavyweight championship at Money in the Bank in a match in which Wyatt was nothing more than an afterthought. Yeah, that really showed how effective Bray is. Prior to Wrestlemania, Wyatt had been a force, altering everyone he actually feuded with - Kane went from Big Red Monster to the Devil's Favorite Middle Manager, Bryan actually realized that Bray was right and that drove him to violence against his boss, and the Shield went face. At that point, it actually looked like Bray Wyatt was one of the most important people in the company, poised to dethrone the true face of the WWE. Now, just over three months later, he's getting "boring" chants while feuding with a part-timer. Can Bray Wyatt still be saved? Yes, if he absolutely dominates Jericho in this feud and then goes on to defeat someone like Sheamus, or, God forbid, Cena, who is still going to be around in four months' time and is seen by the casual fans as a main event level talent.
Also, actually let him follow through with some of the things that he's saying in his promos. If he says he's going to prove to someone that the Family is the only way for them to move ahead in the company, have them actually buy into what he's saying and willingly join the cause. Then move them ahead in the company, so it looks like he actually knows what he's talking about. If he says he's going to absolutely decimate someone like Jericho in order to prove them to be a part-timer only in it for the paycheck, let him absolutely obliterate Jericho when it's time for him to return to Fozzy - it's not going to hurt his standing with the fans, long-term, and it actually makes Bray look like the monstrous cult leader that he should be.
In fact, if the WWE knew going into Wrestlemania that Bryan was injured and would need to miss even a small amount of time, they should've put Bray over Cena and then moved him into an angle with Bryan. After all, he was the last man to beat Bryan cleanly in one-on-one competition before Wrestlemania, and he's a more believable threat (especially when you factor in Rowan and Harper) than 2014 Kane. Even if they didn't find out until after Wrestlemania, they could've stalled the Cena/Wyatt program under the pretense of Bray needing to rethink his approach to exposing Cena, had Wyatt win the title from Bryan and then had Cena beat him for the title at Money in the Bank - not only would the WWE be where they're at today in terms of getting the belt onto Cena, but they could've kept Wyatt as a central focus of the promotion and also tested the waters for a future, substantial title run.
Seriously, please don't screw this up, WWE.
At this point, I'm just hopeful that the booking for the next few months is enough to keep Wyatt relevant, and then maybe next year at Wrestlemania, we can revisit what it'll take to move him into the vacant (or soon-to-be-vacant) spot that was once occupied by the Undertaker.
Wyatt Beougher is a lifelong fan of professional wrestling who has been writing for 411 for over three years and currently hosts MMA Fact or Fiction and reviews Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.