The biggest week in the wrestling industry is just a few days away! The card for WrestleMania 30 is set, and while everyone is looking forward to the WWE Championship match and The Undertaker defending his 21-0 streak, there’s one match that I think can steal the show. The Bray Wyatt and John Cena feud on RAW the last few weeks has played out perfectly. From Cena being tied up in the ropes with a sheep mask on, to this past week where Cena looked like he joined The Wyatt Family (borrowing Daniel Bryan’s blue jumpsuit) only to attack them. I know that I’ll get a lot of heat for admitting this, but John Cena can wrestle, especially when he’s in the ring with someone who can raise the level of competition (Just look at his matches with CM Punk and Daniel Bryan).
Without a doubt, the match against Cena at WrestleMania will be Bray Wyatt’s biggest match of his career. A victory against John Cena this Sunday, would really launch Wyatt as a top heel in the company. While Bray is still a relative new comer in the WWE, he is on the path to main event stardom. This path was not an easy one for Bray, and it took years to develop his current role. Bray Wyatt came about as a result of the WWE deciding to repackage him. The term “repackage” in the wrestling industry is when a wrestler’s gimmick/character is changed. A repackaging can be a tweak in the character, or in the case of Bray Wyatt, a complete overhaul of the wrestler. Lets take a look at Wyatt’s debut in the WWE, and his subsequent repackaging to get to where he is today.
Bray debuted on the WWE main roster at the 2010 Survivor Series, under the name of Husky Harris. Looking back now, it’s rather ironic who Harris attacked that night. He helped Wade Barrett defeat John Cena, which forced Cena to join the Nexus group. Husky Harris would have a stint in the Nexus, but it was short lived. In the weeks to come, Harris would get punted in the head by Randy Orton, and was written off of WWE television.
Husky Harris would be sent back down to WWE’s developmental, where he experimented with new character gimmicks. One of those gimmicks was a hockey masked heel named Axel Mulligan, which never made it to television. Eventually, the evil cult leader character named Bray Wyatt emerged, and was a success in the developmental league. While down at NXT, Bray Wyatt formed a faction with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan and they called themselves The Wyatt Family. The WWE began airing vignettes of The Wyatt Family on RAW last summer to hype the groups debut to the main roster.
The Wyatt Family are a group unlike any other we have seen in the WWE. Bray’s unorthodox ring style and powerful promos make him a must watch superstar. His transformation from Husky Harris to Bray Wyatt is an example of a successful character repackaging. While there have been numerous examples of wrestlers reinventing themselves, I’ve tried to come up with arguably the top 5 guys who needed to be repackaged before moving on to stardom. Let’s take a look…
It was a long road to becoming WWE Champion for John Bradshaw Layfield. Not only was he repackaged a number of times as a singles wrestler, but even his tag teams needed to be tweaked several times.
Justin Hawk Bradshaw debuted in the WWE in 1996, with a Texas cowboy gimmick that would brand his opponents after each victory. His singles run didn’t last long, as he would soon be placed in a tag team with Barry Windham, called The New Blackjacks. The team went no where due to Windham’s numerous injuries.
A year later, Bradshaw would start his path to success by forming a tag team with Faarooq. The team was first called Hell’s Henchman, but later they joined The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness and were called The Acolytes. While with the Ministry of Darkness, they were able to win their first WWE Tag Team Championships.
The Acolytes would eventually become a baby face team, and would be known as the APA, Acolytes Protection Agency. They would be shown in their backstage office, playing cards, drinking beers and smoking cigars. The team would later split up due to the WWE Draft, and the RAW and SmackDown brand extensions.
Even after all the character changes and gimmicks, Bradshaw had one last run in him. He began going by the name of JBL, and was a heel cowboy who made it rich on Wall Street. He would deliver his promos wearing suits and his trademark cowboy hat, and made a grand entrance to the ring in his limo. Under this character, JBL finally reached the top and became the WWE Champion, defeating the late Eddie Guerrero.
JBL would go on to hold the WWE Championship for nine months, and was the longest reigning champion in over a decade. This gimmick was such a success, the WWE would use a version of it years later to introduce us to Alberto Del Rio.
During the early ’90’s, the WWE was really known for their gimmicky characters, including a dentist names Dr. Isaac Yankem. He was introduced as the personal dentist for Jerry Lawler at the time. Dr. Yankem only lasted a few months before he got yanked (pun intended) from WWE television.
We would see Glen Jacobs (AKA Kane) reintroduced in the WWE by Jim Ross, as he portrayed the fake Diesel. Diesel and Razor Ramon had left WWE for the WCW at this time, so a fake Diesel and Razor Ramon were used. This storyline was dropped as fast as it premiered, as the fans wanted no part of it.
Jacobs would now be repackaged for a third time in the course of a years time, and would return to the WWE as Kane, the brother of The Undertaker. Paul Bearer would tell The Undertaker that his brother Kane survived the fire that destroyed his family, and was coming to get his revenge on him. Kane would debut during the In Your House pay-per-view, and interfered in the WWE Championship match between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
Kane has been able to tweak the gimmick and keep it fresh over the last fifteen years in the WWE. He still has a prominent role on television today as the Director of Operations for The Authority.
Hunter Hearst Helmsly began his WWE career as the Connecticut Blueblood, an arrogant character who talked about using proper etiquette. He wore long tights, dress shirts and an overcoat with tails down to the ring. The character was set for a major push, but would instead get punished by the WWE.
Razor Ramon and Diesel were wrestling for the last time in the WWE, as they were on their way to WCW. Helmsly and Shawn Michaels broke character, and went down to the ring to say goodbye to their friends after they finished their last match. This was a big no no in the wrestling industry at the time, and Helmsly ended up being the fall guy for the incident. WWE punished him by changing their plans for him to win the King of the Ring tournament that year. The winner would end up being Steve Austin instead, which launched his career.
After getting out of WWE’s dog house, Helmsly, Chyna and Shawn Michaels would form Degeneration X. Now going by Triple H, the WWE audience flocked to this trio that pushed all the boundaries during the Attitude Era. After WrestleMania 14, Michaels would have to retire early due to a back injury, and Triple H would now become the leader of the group. Triple H formed his new version of DX, which included the shocking return of X-Pac the night after WrestleMania 14. The group would feud with The Nation Of Domination, and Triple H would develop a rivalry with The Rock.
Even while DX was red hot with the audience, Triple H decided to turn heel and break up the group. He changed his in ring style, moving from a finesse wrestler to a more aggressive and calculated heavyweight. Jim Ross dubbed him The Cerebral Assassin, for the methodical way he would break down his opponents. Triple H would become a 13-time WWE/World Champion.
When your grandfather is Peter Maivia and your father is Rocky Johnson, wrestling is in your blood. The Rock was the first third generation wrestler, and he paid tribute by using the ring name Rocky Maivia.
From the start, the WWE pushed him to become a top baby face in the industry. He debuted in the ring at the ’96 Survivor Series, and was the sole survivor of the match. It seemed like a great way to debut, but the WWE audience rebelled against him. He was just too clean cut and too much of a good guy, that the character fell flat. Every time he hit the ring, loud chants of Rocky sucks would accompany him.
After taking time off from an injury, Maivia returned to the company as a heel in the Nation Of Domination group. He dropped the Rocky Maivia name, and referred to himself in third person as The Rock. His personality and swagger were on display, and he really made a name for himself with his promos. The same fans who would boo him as a face, would soon cheer him as the cool heel. Championship after championship, The Rock would become one of the biggest names in the history of wrestling.
The Rock’s success in the WWE has carried over into Hollywood, as he has become one of the biggest action movie stars in the industry. After a long hiatus away from the WWE, Rock came back to headline WrestleMania 28 and 29 against John Cena. The events were the largest grossing WrestleManias in WWE history.
After defeating Cena at WrestleMania 28 in Miami, The Rock owns WrestleMania victories over Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and John Cena. He is the only superstar to beat all three icons of their respective eras.
Steve Austin joined the WWE in 1995, and seemingly had his hands tied from the start by the creative team. He was given the name The Ringmaster, and was managed by the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, who crowned him with the Million Dollar Championship. The Ringmaster was a great technical wrestler, but was not allowed to develop his character or personality, as DiBiase did all of his talking.
Austin’s big break would come once DiBiase’s contract with the WWE was up, and he left for WCW. He would change his name to Stone Cold Steve Austin, and change the direction of his character. Now without a manager, he was able to do his own promos, none bigger than the one he cut after he won the King of the Ring in 1996. That was the night that Austin 3:16 was born, and his rise to the top began.
Vince McMahon has gone on the record to state that Stone Cold was the most profitable wrestler in WWE history. Austin was the main character of the Attitude Era in the WWE, and the main reason WWE was able to overcome WCW. He is arguably the most popular wrestler of all time.
Going from The Ringmaster to Stone Cold Steve Austin has to be the best repackaging of a WWE talent ever. To think we may have never seen this if Ted DiBiase remained in the WWE is amazing!
Time will tell how successful Bray Wyatt will be in the WWE. This Sunday, Bray will be making his WrestleMania debut, and could really launch himself to the main event picture with a big win over Cena. Years from now, we may be including Bray on the list of best repackaged stars in WWE history!
Is there a chance that Cena gets pinned at ‘Mania, or will he once again squash an up and coming talent? Please share your thoughts and views below in the Comments Section. Don’t forget to follow PWMania and me on Twitter @PWMania and @Enzo_Marino, and tweet me with any feedback, thoughts or anything else wrestling related. Lets keep the wrestling talk going!