The WWE ruined Bray Wyatt’s career.
I was surprised when I saw the news that Bray Wyatt, a second generation star, was released from the WWE, but I can’t say that I was shocked. The WWE system, a machine that churns out countless hours of content in a philosophy that seems to favor quantity over quality because the hefty TV contracts make that the priority, often gets criticized for it’s inability to maximize the potential of specific stars. There might not be a better example of management missing the boat on a talent in the modern era than Bray Wyatt.
After he was quite literally kicked off of television as Husky Harris, Bray Wyatt emerged onto the newly-created NXT brand in 2012 with a Jim Jones type persona that picked up a buzz among fans that followed the early NXT shows. Under the guidance of the legendary Dusty Rhodes, the Wyatt character had some glimmers of Kevin Sullivan, a grappler that used a Charles Manson persona in the sunshine state during a lengthy feud with “The American Dream” a few decades earlier.
When Bray Wyatt debuted on WWE television the following year, he had the late Luke Harper and Erik Rowan by his side to form the Wyatt family, and the trio was a successful formula. The stable further emphasized the cult leader gimmick and really was a perfect fit for Harper and Rowan. In my opinion, that trio should’ve remained a package for the duration of their entire WWE tenure, that’s how well it worked. They had the chemistry of The New Day, but obviously, with a more sinister persona. Considering the time invested into the development of the gimmick, Wyatt’s early run was successful because he was presented as a threat and made to look strong on television. However, the aspect that really made it work was that even in an era when the audience knows that the shows are scripted, Bray was able to portray a persona that seemed legitimately unbalanced. That believability is rare and ultimately one of the aspects that draws money. Somehow, the WWE fumbled that commodity on several occasions throughout Bray’s career and it speaks volumes to the flaws within the WWE structure.
Unfortunately, to find the mistakes management made with the character Bray Wyatt, you will have to have a pen and paper because there’s a list of wrong decisions that did nothing, but hinder his progress. As far as a few of the broad strokes, and one of the key fumbles early on was the Wrestlemania match against John Cena in 2014. Cena was the top star and nothing was going to diminishing his status as a draw. He reached such a level that he could lose every match for the rest of his career and he would’ve remained one of the most popular stars in the history of the company. Cena is a true work horse and deserves a lot of credit for everything that he accomplished. There are very few stars that can reach the level where their status is that solidified, but Cena made it there. The bigger point is that Bray Wyatt did the job on the biggest stage and thus didn’t get a push to the next level. The win did nothing for Cena because as mentioned, he didn’t need another victory to maintain his spot. The year afterwards, when baby face Roman Reigns was struggling to get over and eventually flopped until the more recent heel turn, the entire Roman-Wyatt feud was designed to attempt to get Reigns over as a baby face. The priority was for Bray to make Reigns look like a star and he was clearly scripted as just a secondary performer. In 2017, he won the WWE championship, but was booked as a transitional champion, dropping the title a month later at Wrestlemania during an infamous match with Randy Orton where there were projections on the canvas. Again, on the biggest stage, Wyatt was booked to lose the match.
The problem was that because Bray had such strong promo skills and could make his opponents look good, that combination actually hindered his progress because he was beaten into powder with the thought that he could just get his heat back with promos on television. Somehow, he was able to do that and keep himself afloat, but you can only book someone to lost continuously before they run out of stream as a competitor. Wyatt was booked as secondary for such an extended period of time that management actually had to repackage him, something that shouldn’t have been necessary since he already had the tool to be a main event talent. Look at just the few names mentioned, the feud with Cena, Orton, and Reigns are proof of how Wyatt was presented on television. Against the biggest stars in the company, Bray almost always did the job. Wyatt was booked to lose so often that he almost became a glorified enhancement talent, despite his tremendous ability in the ring and stellar promos.
In 2019, the Firefly Fun House segments aired on television, and Wyatt again gained some momentum with the audience. The segments had an intrigue to them and the promos became an anticipated part of the broadcast. When “The Fiend” showed up as the alter-ego of Bray, the mask might’ve seemed a little goofy, but the production was top-notch and again, Wyatt made it work. This will sound repetitive because it is, management completely fumbled the second chance they had to draw money with Wyatt. The infamous HIAC match with Seth Rollins where The Fiend sold nothing, used a ridiculous looking mallet, and then the match ended in a DQ completely jumped the shark. It was too ridiculous and this type of nonsense ruined any chance that the audience would consider The Fiend a legitimate threat as a competitor. The takeaway became how goofy the Fiend as a character was booked instead of the skills of Wyatt. The Fiend didn’t sell anything, but when he was booked against Goldberg in early 2020, the 53-year-old former WCW champion was able to beat him for the Universal title, which gave him another short stint as a transitional champion. Even when Wyatt was the champion on two occasions, he was used to push someone else in the process instead of getting an actual run as champion.
If you’ve read any of the articles I’ve written on cineamatic wrestling then you know that I’m not a fan of then and don’t consider those matches actual wrestling. It’s too lame and too phony. I’m not going to repeat everything here, but the “swamp fight” between Wyatt and Strowman was so ridiculous that it was the type of programming that will make wrestling fans embarrassed to be wrestling fans. When the audience shakes their head at a gimmick match, who gets over? Speaking of times when the audience will shake their head, the fact that The Fiend was “burned” on live television completely jumped the shark and when he returned as a burnt marshmallow, it completely ruined his career. Again, I don’t want to repeat everything I’ve said previously, but keep in mind, sports entertainment is based in reality so Rey Mysterio doesn’t bring a ray gun to the ring to try to defeat Roman Reigns for the championship. Theoretically, the audience literally saw Bray Wyatt set on fire and melt on television. How is any of this even remotely believeable? Stone Cold Steve Austin is the biggest star in the history of the business and his character was based in reality. Even The Undertaker, a character that stretched the limits of logic, was kept where some of the sci-fi aspects were implied, but nothing blatantly phony.
When a character is literally melted on television, there’s no way you can script a return that isn’t going to seem ridiculous. The fact that The Fiend went from a burnt marshmallow to his original costume with no explanation at Wrestlemania 37 appears to be an indication that there wasn’t much planning for what he would do next after he was set on fire a few months earlier. Of course, The Fiend lost the match at Wrestlemania, another example of him doing the job to a major star on the biggest event of the year.
Bray Wyatt hasn’t appeared on television since Wrestlemania, and truthfully, how could he be booked for anything at this point? He was beaten into powder, repackaged, booked for nonsense again, melted on pay-per-view, and then he lost at the biggest event of the year. The bottom line is, Bray Wyatt deserved better and he had all the tools to be a major star. The fact that he didn’t reach that potential is based on the WWE’s inability to script a star properly and it seems volumes about the flaws with the WWE structure. Granted, I know it’s trendy to take a jab at WWE, but I’m not trying to score social media points here, the reason that Bray Wyatt wasn’t a biggest star was because he didn’t get the chance based on ineffective scripts from WWE management. It goes without saying that All Elite Wrestling would be a good option for him because other performers that didn’t get an opportunity in WWE have done well there and it would certainly be nice if he debuted with The Dark Order as a tribute to Brodie Lee for the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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