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Posted in: Requesting Flyby
REQUESTING FLYBY: The Strange Case Of Bray Wyatt At Wrestlemania Time
By Maverick
Mar 10, 2016 - 6:12:05 AM

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The Strange Case Of Bray Wyatt At Wrestlemania Time

In December 2013, when rumours first began to circulate that Bray Wyatt’s first ever Wrestlemania opponent was to be none other than the Franchise Player himself, John Cena, many poured scorn on the idea as representing just another of many silly “for what it's worth” backstage nuggets. However, when Bray attacked Cena at the Royal Rumble, it became crystal clear that the company really were betting the proverbial farm on the Eater of Worlds to be a top guy for a decade or more to come. A year later, an animated Wyatt promo at Fast Lane launched the first post-Streak storyline of The Undertaker’s career, culminating in a psychology heavy battle in Santa Clara. Just think about that for a minute- the first two Wrestlemania opponents for the real life Windham Rotunda were the top dog of the past ten years and the greatest special attraction wrestler in the history of the sport. The Bray Wyatt character has been groomed for the top heel spot ever since he first emerged from the ashes of the regrettably named Husky Harris, and yet, this year, he remains in limbo, without a match to his name. I think it's fair to ask the question at this point: whither Bray Wyatt? Does he have a role to play at the Show of Shows, or is he, in fact, experiencing a rapid fall from grace?

During the build to this year's Royal Rumble, it seemed obvious that Bray and his Family were pointed directly at The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. Not only did they stage a memorable assault on the former mixed martial artist, complete with forehead kiss, they were also responsible for his elimination from the reverse battle royal itself. That in itself was an odd episode in an otherwise excellent Rumble, as Lesnar seemed to go far too tamely, and indeed, on the Raw immediately afterwards, Paul Heyman dismissed the Wyatts with a single pithy “they'll be dealt with in due time” kind of line. WWE tend to shy away from multiple month feuds before Wrestlemania nowadays, so the insertion of Brock into the title eliminator triple threat at Fast Lane did not seem to indicate a change in the creative. In fact, the smart money appeared to be on the Family interfering in that three way dance to cost The Anomaly his opportunity at the gold in Dallas.

It was the evening of Fast Lane when Bray Wyatt first entered ‘Mania limbo in am obvious way. After being as the manager to Rowan, Strowman and Harper in a meaningless six man in which his squad surprisingly lost, Bray did not make another appearance, either to cost or confront Lesnar. In the mean time, Dean Ambrose had gotten volcanically hot in his refusal to back down from The Beast’s murderous violence. Many, including myself, expected a swerve whereby Dean was somehow inserted into the title picture, but instead, it became obvious that his consolation prize for a meteoric rise at a point where the title story was set in stone was to be placed in a co-main event against Brock. The casualty here, of course, was Wyatt, who was not only stripped of his presumed Showcase of Immortals bout, but also left without storyline closure in regard to his Family's earlier focus on The One in Twenty One and One. Now, it is true that Wyatt has now been given a match with Brock at Roadblock, but I think it's fair to ask at this point whether that will, in fact, turn out to be a short squash match. As for the storylines on Raw and SmackDown, it's more of the same...vague promos, random six mans, the odd main event that ends in a disqualification. Reading between the lines, the only conclusion I have been able to come to is that this is a depush. The question is, why?

Many will simply point to Wyatt as being a victim of circumstance, a casualty of Dean Ambrose's inexorable rise towards top babyface status. While that is undoubtedly A reason, I don't think it is THE reason. Ever since Fast Lane, I've been unable to shake the idea that this is some sort of lesson being handed to Bray by WWE brass as punishment for some sort of transgression. Let's face it, depushes in wrestling usually are. Just ask CM Punk about not wearing a suit as world champ, or Triple H about breaking kayfabe by saying goodbye to his friends in MSG. I do agree that it's usual to at least hear some backstage rumours about which talents are in hot water, but the way that the ‘Mania jigsaw is being completed without any obvious place for Bray to fit in just gets my spidey senses tingling. What WILL he end up doing at the big dance? Working an eight man? Competing in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal? It's a demotion whichever way you look at it. From John Cena and The Undertaker to a cluster-you-know-what. How the mighty have fallen. It almost feels like Wyatt himself could be the subject of one of his own infamous promos zeroing in on his opponents’ failings.

The hard truth is that the Bray Wyatt character has been in decline for some time, even leaving aside my sense that the man behind the mask is in hot water. It reminds me a little of Goldust during the middle part of his initial WWF run. When Dustin first arrived as the Goldust character in late 1995, it was character dynamite, a transgender type of persona which, in the mid 1990s, with middle America crowds, caused huge amounts of buzz and controversy. A brilliant feud with the ultra macho Razor Ramon seemed to set him up as a significant heel for the next five to ten years, but as soon as the entrance antics and psychological mind games became over familiar, the character lost its edge and never really recovered. An ill fated run as The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust and a run under his real life Dustin Runnels moniker as a born again Christian who hated the sexualisation of the product (a precursor to the Steven Richards led Right To Censor, if you like) brought his initial run with the company to a disappointing end. I perceive a similar, if perhaps less steep, drop off with Wyatt. What attracted smart fans especially to the character was his difference to others; it felt special. A backcountry cult leader straight out of horror films and psychological thrillers, a kind of hillbilly Cape Fear, the potential of the character had fans excited from the moment it debuted in NXT. The addition of the impressively bearded Harper and Rowan made for a compelling visual. Once on the main roster, the props and production values only increased: the lantern, the dimmed lights, the rocking chair, the haunting music, the backstage promos, it all added up to a wonderfully presented stable. However, beneath that veneer, there has proved to be precious little substance once you strip away the first year of feuds with Bryan, The Shield, Cena, Ambrose and The Undertaker, most of which had their share of problems anyway.

Here’s the problem with The Eater of Worlds in kayfabe: why should anyone actually fear him? If you’re a top babyface, Wyatt will go after you, cut some mysterious promos, but you’ll beat him two to one in the feud and after that he’ll leave you alone. Not a huge problem to have, truthfully. I’m not necessarily someone that places a huge amount of importance on wins and losses, but given his character, I do believe that Bray has lost too often in big spots to be taken all that seriously as a top heel. I would certainly have had him go over Cena in that rubber match, and if his mantra was supposed to be “anyone but you, Roman” this past year, then abandoning that pursuit so abruptly is not conducive to good character writing. More than anything though, Bray Wyatt just hasn’t evolved. He is still doing the same things he was two years ago. What effect did failing to control Daniel Bryan and John Cena have on him? None. He didn’t even seem disappointed. Did Bray Wyatt stop Roman Reigns becoming champion? No, and that didn’t seem to bother him, though it should have. Has Bray Wyatt replaced The Undertaker as WWE’s ultimate face of fear? Absolutely not, and he shows less signs of doing so with each passing day. He hasn’t adapted his tactics, his mode of speech, how he treats his minions...none of it. The wrestler Wyatt is most often compared to is The Undertaker, but three years into his Hall of Fame career, Marc Calaway had already shown us three different incarnations of the character and had significantly evolved as an in ring performer. I honestly think that Goldust is the better analogy here.

Outside of kayfabe, Wyatt has lost his edge in the ring too. What was remarkable about the raw but obviously talented Husky Harris on NXT season 2 was his incredible speed and agility for a borderline super heavyweight, the much mentioned “Sherman Tank with a Ferrari engine”. With some seasoning in NXT proper, and with a bit of time on the main roster under his belt, the Bray Wyatt who wrestled a stone cold classic with Daniel Bryan at Royal Rumble 2014, one of the best tag matches ever against The Shield at Elimination Chamber 2014, and a stormer of a feature midcard bout against John Cena at Wrestlemania XXX was one of the most compelling wrestlers to watch physically in the whole company. That is, bluntly, no longer the case. Watch a Bray Wyatt match now and it is pretty bland. None of the matches against Roman Reigns were anything like as physical as they should have been. I don’t know what’s happened there at all. He seems to have lost weight, he doesn’t move with the same conviction, and he is overly reliant on his Family members to do much of the work. Consider also the advent of Kevin Owens and Rusev, who can do everything Wyatt could in 2014 but better. Wyatt no longer seems special, because he isn’t the only insanely athletic big guy in the paddock. It doesn’t help either that he is consistently outshone by his own right hand man, Luke Harper, who deserves so much more than his current spot on the totem pole.

In conclusion, I honestly don’t know where Bray goes from here. It may be that this is a blip and that he’ll come back stronger. Goodness knows, we’ve seen that happen a million times before. Wyatt, as a third generation star, is obviously part of wrestling royalty and gets cut a fair bit of slack as a result. We might be looking at a mid 2000s Randy Orton type run here, where a bit of time in the midcard results in a stronger headline run down the line. But for me, the combination of his doubtful Wrestlemania status, his declining performance in the ring, and the stale nature of his character spells bad news, at least in the short term.

This is Maverick, requesting flyby.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Bray Wyatt in 2016, so please add your voice to the comments below or tweet me here:

Until next time!