If there is one thing you cannot argue about with wrestling, it does like to go completely over the top with its gimmicks. For the most part, us fans will lap it up and enjoy the bizarreness. What other form of entertainment can you honestly find Viking destroyers, an androgynous man painted in black and gold and penis druids graced our screens? For every technical mastermind that want to give us knockout 5 star matches that will keep fans talking for years to come, the balance is often weighed with something so wonderfully strange we can’t help but love it.
After a year of being off our screens Bray Wyatt has returned. His previous gimmick that had so much potential as being a new Undertaker or Sting, but was ultimately crushed by every baby face on the roster. It must have been hard to be an “Eater of Worlds” when you have been fed to John Cena, the Brothers of Destruction and Randy Orton, wrestlers who really didn’t need to go over — if anything, it should have been the opposite.
So after floundering in mid-card purgatory, with only a semi successful tandem with “woken” Matt Hardy, it seemed that the writing was on the wall. With each passing month of 2018 the Fireflies were left wondering what was going to happen to their saviour. The Raw after WrestleMania this year, was surprisingly, an unremarkable affair. Any of the NXT hopefuls – bar a team of Vikings – were called up months ago. Any more call ups would have been overkill to both the red and blue brands, so this was a golden opportunity for WWE to knuckle down with the resources available and build on what the main rosters had.
Over the course of those Raws, vignettes started creeping out featuring the recognisable intro of ‘Broken Out in Love’ in a music box style and we were greeted with, to put it mildly, questionable appearances from dolls and sock puppets. Anyone who has braved WWE TV these past few years could have told you that Bray Wyatt was coming back, hopefully refreshed and retooled. What we wasn’t expecting was how he was going to debut.
If you are yet to watch the return, I urge you right now to stop reading this article and go onto WWE’s YouTube and witness the spectacle. To those that did watch the return or would rather carry on reading, let’s break down what we just saw.
We are treated to a brightly coloured affair, reminiscent to a pre-school TV show, with canned children’s applause to boot. Here we see Bray Wyatt decked out in what can only be described as Mr. Rogers attire. A bright coloured sweater, a pair of gloves brandishing ‘hurt’ and ‘heal’ on the fingers and armed with his weapon of choice, a creepy smile. We are then introduced to the aforementioned dolls and puppets, ‘Mercy the Buzzard’ and ‘Pammy the Witch’. After a coherent speech on how the old Wyatt was “a very bad man” and that part of him is dead now, Wyatt brandishes a chainsaw and chops out a cardboard image of his former self, maniacally laughing away.
It was so bonkers, so over the top that after 20 odd years as a wrestling fan, I didn’t quite know what to think anymore. A part of me felt like I finally hit my boiling point with WWE and its questionable booking. Bray Wyatt was a wrestler I grew to love since his NXT days. From his humble cult leader beginnings, to his mesmerising promos and entrances where fans lit up any arena he walked into, I felt that with a bit of love and polish, WWE could have something truly memorable, a poster boy of where NXT can take promising upstarts.
However, as I re-watched the vignette over and over again, mainly because it was really one of the only highlights of yet another three-hour slog of a Raw, the pieces of the ever complex puzzle that was Bray Wyatt were starting to fall into place. If done correctly, this could very well be the big reset button that was needed for his overall gimmick.
This isn’t the first time, WWE have had to push that reset button to get someone over — some of the biggest legends in the industry needed it. From Stone Cold’s dreary beginnings as “The Ringmaster” or even recently Daniel Bryan’s eco-maniac persona, WWE are not afraid of changing the formula with the best intentions in mind.
If we were also to keep a tab on the continuity on Wyatt’s character, it also makes perfect sense. Those of us with a keen eye could tell you that the “Eater of Worlds” was well and truly demolished after his run in with Matt Hardy – a wrestler who also discovered a renaissance of fan support with his “broken universe” in which, let’s be fair, as fun as that was, it was just as daft as Wyatt’s new gimmick.
If we are to play “armchair booker” a moment, we have to ask where they could go with Wyatt in this new re-incarnation? The answer is actually right under our noses. If you have ever watched shoot interviews with Windham Rotunda, the man behind the character, he has said one of the main inspirations behind Bray Wyatt was Waylon Mercy. A true trivia answer for any wrestling pub quiz, Waylon Mercy was portrayed as a kind, soft spoken, southern gentleman, who showed grace and manners until the bell rang and he would tear his opponents apart.
Seeing as Wyatt is an extension of that character, to the point that Rotunda asked for the blessing of Dan Spivey, the man behind Waylon Mercy to re-package the gimmick, it could make for very easy booking. Have Wyatt come down to the ring, all smiles, waving to the children, have one of his puppets accompany him to the ring, if you really must, and just have him tear up his opponents once that bell rings. Give him the monster heel push, have local wrestlers or lower card performers job to him to build up some hype and much needed character.
On paper, the beginning of this gimmick writes itself. However, if this was for any other promotion — such as Impact or Ring of Honour. where some of the more quirky gimmicks have a chance to grow and nurture, much like Matt Hardy’s broken gimmick in Impact — then it could work. We are, though, talking about WWE. A company that is still the premier wrestling promotion, but is still very much Vince McMahon’s playground and for the last several years has gone under intense scrutiny for its outrageous structural changes.
Only last week did fans conclude Vince McMahon had well and truly lost the plot over his re-naming of the War Raiders, which went to the much ridiculed Viking Experience before settling on Viking Raiders this week. Lord only knows if we’re going to see another change next week.
Bray Wyatt’s gimmick change could actually work, providing the creative team actually put some work into the where he could go and who he could face. While I highly doubt this will catapult the man to dizzying new heights, this could place him back on top of the unique perch Wyatt made for himself back in 2014.
By next year’s WrestleMania, we could very much be talking highly of Wyatt’s new gimmick creepy Mr. Rogers gimmick, salivating at the idea of a “House of Fireflies Match”, or alternatively (and more worryingly), we could end up talking about this gimmick in the same breath as Dustin Rhodes’ ‘Seven’ gimmick, or worse: Beaver Cleavage. Here is hoping the Wyatt gimmick can be saved, but it is also a tragic tale we have witnessed as wrestling fans too many times.