Supernatural pro wrestling characters have always had a soft-spot with me. The Undertaker, of course.
Gangrel and The Brood.
Even The Ultimate Warrior, to a degree. (He got his no-sell powers from some never-expanded-upon “gods”, right?)
It’s a weird little niche that has been a part of this show since at least, to my knowledge, the 1980’s. It’s always been a fun, yet hilarious sideshow. I mean, we are supposed to believe this person received powers from outside of this realm, somehow is able to harness them…and yet decided to hit a gym, lift weights and learn the ins and outs of professional wrestling?
Why aren’t they using these powers for other means? Who let them into a professional athletic league?
Somehow they exist, and we all accept it, because it’s part of the many flavors of entertainment that we get in this wacky medium we all love.
Bray Wyatt has always been the fascinating supernatural character of the past 5 years. With his new “Firefly Funhouse” gimmick, he’s quietly become, once again, the most intriguing part of WWE. And all because of the performer, not because of the absolutely, positively shitty booking that could be used as a cautionary tale for years to come.
Booked Like a Clown
The character of Bray Wyatt is sort of supernatural, and sort of not. They never wanted to fully commit to him having “powers” of any kind, but they certainly wanted him to be spooky.
He is essentially a cult leader who recruited what was called “The Wyatt Family” that “follows” him. This was Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Clearly this is intended to evoke thoughts of the “The Manson Family”. They are half-Manson, half-backwoods hillbillies.
Half-backwoods hillbillies, because they never played up that angle. Famously, there was the backstage rumor that Vince McMahon never got over the fact that Luke Harper “couldn’t do a southern accent”, and it always bothered him.
Now, “Cowboy” Bob has been called a McMahon-apologist before, and perhaps it’s for moments like these. Because I would be pissed too! How the fuck do you not do a southern accent? This isn’t a Broadway rendition of A Streetcar Named Desire, it’s fucking WWE Monday Night Raw. Just mumble a few words with a slur and let’s get going.
But I digress.
Bray Wyatt and his Wyatt Family settled into a pattern for every single fucking feud.
It stars with Bray “ominously” speaking about a babyface. Trying to get at his “greatest fear”. The Wyatt Family will eventually gang up on the babyface and beat the hell out of him for weeks. Terrorizing him at every turn.
Eventually, the babyface faces Bray Wyatt and defeats him. Usually clean.
This happened literally all the time.
Bray got a few high profile wins in there, but they were usually protected losses for the babyface, and there was never any doubt that Wyatt was going to job.
Poor Rowan and Harper were booked equally as poorly. I’d argue that The Bludgeon Brothers were booked stronger than any tag team in the past 5 years, despite being an unbelievably silly gimmick with fake rubber mallets. As members of the Wyatts, they were always shoved in place to eat a pin. If Bray Wyatt is facing Roman at the pay per view, you can be damn sure Roman is spearing Erick Rowan on Raw and Luke Harper on Smackdown for clean 1-2-3’s.
Now, maybe the direction of the booking was supposed to be designed to make you hate Wyatt, because he talks up a big game, yet always loses in the end, but they never made that clear. They seemed to want to have the best of both worlds.
Bray Wyatt is a legitimate, terrifying threat that must be taken seriously…and Bray Wyatt is also a false prophet that nobody should follow.
It never worked. The crowd was always behind Bray, because he just oozes talent, which I’ll get into momentarily.
You can only take so many losses. Unless your push is part of some kind of “anti-push”, like “I’m losing and losing and losing, and it’s going to make me snap and become vicious!” or “I’m and losing and losing, and I now need redemption!” You can only lose so many times before you’re looked at as a joke.
Samoa Joe, and to a lesser extent Braun Strowman, should be nodding their heads right now as Lex Luger pours them a shot of whiskey at the bar.
The “Cowboy” Bob Scale
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Just how good is Bray Wyatt anyway? Where does he rank on the “Cowboy” Bob Scale?
For those who are unaware, the “Cowboy” Bob Scale is a scale I have used for years to rate wrestlers. It’s very simple:
You are rated from 1-10 on Look, Promo and In-Ring Ability. Some say that Bret Hart came up with this, but nobody can prove that.
If you hit the magic number of 23, you qualify to be a worthy World Champion. Where do I arrive at 23? Simply because I believe you should have at least an 8 for two categories, and I’ll let you slide with a 7 for a third. Here’s how Bray Wyatt stacks up.
Bray Wyatt gets a 9 for Look. He’s a big dude. Never quite “fat”. Never quite in shape. But then you see the guy move, and he reminds you of a hyper-athletic NFL linebacker. The guy is incredibly talented. He has the crazy beard, the tattoos, the dreads and always some type of spooky outfit.
Similarly, he just radiates charisma, which also factors into look. The crabwalk is still unsettling after the 500th time we’ve seen it.
Also, one of the most re-posted gifs in wrestling Reddit history has to be the brief babyface-Wyatt run, where he oh-so-smoothly pointed out for Roman to spear their opponent and ice their tag match. No matter what shitty program he is in, Wyatt sticks out and he goes all in.
An absolute natural. He is a 10 on the mic. Now, I’m being a little generous here, because I’ll be honest, his promos can get a little monotonous or boring sometimes. That is also a by-product of his booking, however. There’s really only so many times you can hear “John Cena, they lyin’ to you, man…” and just fast-forward and say shut up and eat the pin already, chubbs.
If I were a writer for WWE, and you told me that I needed one single wrestler to knock a promo out of the park for me, Bray would be on my short list. He is never uncomfortable. He speaks unbelievably well. And most importantly, not unlike Bruce Willis, he never looks ridiculous while doing inherently ridiculous shit.
For example, during his feud with The Undertaker a few years ago, he literally had nobody to play off of. I think sometimes he was talking to an empty chair and had to sell some dumb-ass crap like the chair being hit by fake lightning. He takes it all in stride, and he always delivers.
Even better, the “Firefly Funhouse”, which I’ll get into shortly, has him doing a completely new style, even in a new voice. And the dude doesn’t skip a beat.
In-Ring, I can take him or leave him, to be honest. I’m only going as high as a 6 here. He is certainly a talented guy, but there are no Bray Wyatt matches that stand out to me for delivering an in-ring product. We are here for the personality and character. He delivers that in droves. The wrestling he is servicable and never spectacular.
On the esteemed “Cowboy” Bob Scale, Bray Wyatt totals up to a 25. He is absolutely a worthy heavyweight champion. You may not remember, because it was unbelievably shittastic, but he actually held the top title in 2016.
After the House of Horrors abomination, as well as a painful Wrestlemania insta-loss to Randy Orton that had fucking bugs projected on the ring for reasons, this was as unforgettable a title run as we have seen in years. Criminal.
If they ever fully committed to him, I believe he would’ve been (and still could be!) the next guy to take that Supernatural Character Torch.
The Missed Opportunity
If you ask “Cowboy” Bob, the time to strap on the jetpack and send Bray Wyatt to the moon was Hell in a Cell 2015.
You had The Undertaker taking on Brock Lesnar in a shockingly great match, and the single best Hell in a Cell match of the PG-era. After the match, even more intriguing shenangians took place.
It saw the entire Wyatt family, including the new, intriguing, enormous member, Braun Strowman (holy fuck, Strowman has been around almost 4 years?!) beat the living shit out of Undertaker. Destroying him so mercillessly that it ended with the Wyatts carrying out Undertaker’s unconscious body in a kidnapping.
Kane came out for revenge on Raw, and he suffered the same fate. Beaten down. Kidnapping.
This opened the door for very interesting possibilities. However, in this dark timeline we all live in, we of course got the least interesting.
It led to a match at Survivor Series 2015 with Undertaker and Kane taking on Bray Wyatt and Luke Harper in a match that normally was destined for toilets to be flushed around the nation, but in this case held some intrigue because it could be the longtime coming coronation of Bray Wyatt as the next star.
Of course, instead, Undertaker, synonymous with Survivor Series after making his debut there in 1990, was essentially there for a charade to celebrate himself and get a cheap win over, poor, poor Bray Wyatt.
Taker and Kane win, of course, with “Don’t ask me to do a rudimentary accent” Harper taking the pin. This feud was never spoken of again. What a fucking shame.
So what should have happened?
Time to push your chips in the center of the table and go all-in with some spooky wrasslin’ wackiness.
Time to have Bray Wyatt take that leap from sorta-spooky to full on supernatural. Time for Bray Wyatt to go from false prophet to true prophet.
In the “Cowboy” Bob booking, somehow, for reasons that cannot be explained because again at the core of this, it’s a soap opera full of oiled up men fake-fighting in their undies, Bray Wyatt uses this kidnapping to ABSORB the powers of both The Undertaker and Kane.
Bray is still Bray – but he now comes out with the lights-out entrance. Even give him some prompt similar to a gong. Bray can “summon lightning”. Bray is more zombie-like in his appearance and walk.
In fact, he can even do the pyro-in-the-turnbuckles like Kane.
Bray Wyatt is not only supernatural, but he is now a powerful mesh of Undertaker and Kane combined.
This also leads to Undertaker’s retirement as “The Undertaker” and instead leaving him as one last run as “The American Badass” since his powers are depleted.
Everyone wins, and WWE has the opportunity to create their new bad-ass, super cool goth character for the next 25 years.
Instead, Bray Wyatt probably jobbed to Ryback or some shit.
The Last Stand
The great thing about pro wrestling, and what has kept Vince McMahon’s worth in the billions, is that wrestling fans have very short memories.
Samoa Joe jobs and jobs and jobs…but ohhhhh look how bad-ass he looks pretending to break into AJ Styles’ house! I love Joe again!
We fall for it constantly.
There is, however, a quote from a very dear film of mine, Rounders starring Matt Damon. The film is about Matt Damon and Ed Norton as poker sharks. Ed Norton plays “Worm”, Matt’s friend who is constantly hustling people out of their money. Matt Damon’s character throws out words of wisdom at some point:
“There’s a saying that Worm never understood. You can shear a sheep many times, but you can only skin him once.”
There’s only so many feuds where this dude can be presented as a frightening threat, only to have him lose cleanly and decisively until we don’t care to see him on our screen anymore. WWE, and Bray, have apparently noticed that and have completely re-tooled Bray Wyatt’s character.
And, “Cowboy” Bob is going to look both ways here out of fear – it’s been done fucking perfectly.
WWE has employed something as rare to their programming as the goddamn Heart of the Ocean stone necklace that Rose had in Titanic: The slow burn.
Ominously creepy music…a jack-in-the-box…and a bird puppet popping out and laughing. Weird. A little silly. But what the hell is this?
This went on for a bit, and then they dropped the bomb that it was leading to: The Firefly Funhouse.
It was simple enough – a children’s show set-up featuring Bray Wyatt. However, he is wearing a Mr. Rogers’ style sweater, speaking in a “normal” voice and surrounded by kids’ show crazy sound effects and bizarre sequences. It is a little off-putting, but nothing too weird or spooky as Bray happily talked to his puppets.
However, then Bray, in better acting than WWE deserves, subtly drops his voice as he says “All you have to do…is let me in.”
You son of a bitch, Bray. I’m back.
Then the skits went on for weeks, and weeks. They progressively got darker and darker. Puppets cried that Bray “wouldn’t let them rest”. One puppet is brutally murdered in a segment that was surprisingly unsettling. Bray dressed as a 1980’s Richard Simmons-type fitness instructor. A pig puppet showed up as a reference to Bray’s old “Husky Harris” gimmick. Even a Vince McMahon puppet with demon horns joined the fray.
And finally we got the big reveal. Bray in a very cool, nicely designed horror clown mask.
Since then, even more fascinating developments have occurred.
Maybe Vince is asleep at an XFL meeting, because now the puppets are creepily popping into random shots backstage. Foreshadowing that Bray is getting closer, and closer to appearing.
What will his ring gear be? What will his music be? Who is his target? Is Bray a heel or face?
I don’t know, but I do know this: Now is the time.
Pull the trigger. Bray Wyatt needs to win, and he needs to win over somebody BIG.
The obvious choice seems to be that Bray is targeting Aleister Black. Aleister keeps doing bizarre promos where somebody knocks on a door, and Bray keeps doing promos saying “all you have to do is let me in”. This isn’t hard.
But Black isn’t big enough. Maybe Black can be the appetizer, but he won’t suffice.
Most importantly, whoever it is, Bray has to win. Whether Bray is a babyface or heel, now is the time to put Bray over as an actual threat who does what he says he’s going to do.
I can see this going a few ways. The obvious choice is heel. I mean, typically Superman doesn’t have an alternate outfit as a demonic clown. But that worries me, because I am a stickler for heels getting booed, and it’s very difficult to boo Bray, especially with some bad-ass getup and all the buzz created from these wonderful vignettes.
I think if you want Bray booed as a heel, you need this character to be legitimately SCARY. You have to almost dread to see him on screen. And he needs to do unsettling shit.
I remember as a kid peeking out from under a blanket as Papa Shango made Ultimate Warrior go into convulsions and vomit green goop. I want that feeling again.
Or, if you go the babyface route maybe while you don’t have Bray come out and try to inspire people to never give up, maybe he can be a babyface who delivers a “reckoning” to heels. He’s going to make heels face their worst nightmares and get them their comeuppance. And he can strike at any moment.
What can’t happen, and what I fear most, is that it will be same old, same old Bray Wyatt—except this time he has a clown mask.
That’s not doing it.
By the time you read this, maybe Bray will debut on Raw. Maybe it will be awesome. Maybe it will get you talking and even perk up ratings. Or maybe it will just be “YOWIE WOWIE” before his music as Bray and his clown mask bring out a fake lantern and job to Cesaro.
What it could be is the dawning of the new phenomenon for WWE. What it definitely will be is the final chance for Bray Wyatt to be a legitimate force and kick open the door to stardom.
And all you have to do, Vince…is let him in.