Bray Wyatt And The Fruits Of Persistence
Bray Wyatt has had a bizarre career. That one isn’t a particularly hot take, is it? The guy debuted for WWE in the developmental days of FCW under the name Alex Rotundo, later Duke Rotundo. This is confusingly almost using his actual last name, Rotunda, with his father of course being Mike Rotunda or IRS. But of course that’s a hell of a lot better than having to call yourself Husky Harris, the name he was saddled with when he was placed on the original incarnation of NXT. Presumably this is because ‘Fat Fanning’ was already trademarked.
He was impressive physically in some ways, having a lot of speed for his size. This led to the extremely unwieldy nickname of “The Army Tank With The Ferrari Engine”. His cardio was pretty miserable in those days though, as he’d probably be the first to tell you. Anyway he joined the Nexus, as did basically every rookie who debuted that year, and achieved little of note, also like most rookies who debuted that year. He then trekked back to FCW where now he sadly had to keep calling himself Husky Harris.
For the first time, he looked outside the box and attempted to create a less generic gimmick for himself. On some live events he was rebranded as Axel Mulligan, a very indy looking dude in a hockey mask. I can’t really tell you much about that gimmick other than it never made TV.
But then… a bit of magic struck.
In April of 2012, Husky Harris… became Bray Wyatt. A ruthless bayou cult leader who thought himself a monster, possessed by a God… it didn’t take long for him to start making waves. An injury shortly into this run only allowed him to focus more on being a character, and on building up his family. Slowly, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan were introduced to the fold.
He was as magnetic as he was terrifying. Charismatic in a way that you could genuinely buy him brainwashing others to do his bidding. Entertaining and yet unmistakably dangerous… he gained a cult following in the most literal of senses.
Bray returned to the ring in February of 2013. In May of that year, vignettes were already airing on Raw… the impending arrival of the Wyatt Family. And just from video packages alone, the glimpse of this gimmick set the world ablaze… the hype was such that one such vignette – the last one before their debut – honest to God main evented an episode of Raw.
And then they were here.
In their first appearance they destroyed Kane, and Bray would go on to defeat him in his debut surrounded by a ring of fire. They continued their onslaught on the roster, eventually coming to try and recruit one Daniel Bryan. They beat him down over the course of months until finally he seemed ready to join them, even donning an outfit reminiscent of Erick Rowan’s for a time. (How ironic that turned out to be…)
But then he revealed it all to be a trick to try and get himself alone with Bray, whom he attacked, setting up a match between the two at the Royal Rumble. There, Bray had what may still be the best one on one match he’s ever had, alerting me to the fact that he wasn’t just a great character, he could really go in the ring when tasked to as well!
Thus began the beginning of the end…
As great as that was, it seemed to pale in comparison to what we were promised next. Bray went after John Cena himself, and it was clear he would be his opponent for WrestleMania! And the storyline was awesome in many ways, and the match itself saw Bray come off as a real star… and if we were honest with ourselves, we knew that was going to be the extent of it. We had to know Bray really wasn’t going to beat John Cena at WrestleMania, it simply wasn’t going to happen.
But then, after Cena won… the feud continued. Over the next few months, Bray would get only one victory over him, an extremely flukey cage match win. Otherwise he was decisively beaten by John Cena, as though just another monster built up to be fed to the top guy. This didn’t kill him outright but it… set the tone, and once people realized this was his ultimate destiny, it changed everyone’s perception.
He’d follow with a feud with Chris Jericho where most of the matches were disappointing but the blowoff atleast was a really good cage match where this time Bray won pretty definitively. But then… the cracks began to show.
The Family broke for the first time.
Bray sent Rowan and Harper off on their own, for reasons poorly explained. Rowan then decided that he suddenly hated Bray and Harper, for reasons poorly explained. Meanwhile, Bray embarked on a feud with Dean Ambrose, a man who, like Bray, was on an extremely hot run before their encounter. Their remarkably hokey feud somehow horribly cooled them both, even if it did end in a pretty good TLC match. (With… a really silly ending, but whatever.)
After beating the hell out of Ambrose several more times, then came the next time that Bray was undoubtedly in over his head, his feud with The Undertaker. He challenged him for WrestleMania, a year after the Streak was ended and Taker clearly needed a bounceback. It goes without saying Bray was vanquished once more.
His second major feud… and another major loss. After a brief tussle with Ryback, he moved onto… Roman Reigns. Bray beat Roman at Battleground thanks to the arriving Luke Harper, rejoining him after his own singles push went nowhere. This setup the debut of Braun Strowman, who swiftly settled into being the long-term star of the group whilst Bray spent the rest of the year losing to Roman and then, The Undertaker again with the help of his brother Kane. Erick Rowan also rejoined the group for reasons that were poorly explained. Over the first few months of the next year, Bray and Harper would lose a handicap match to Brock Lesnar where Bray was presented as too afraid to actually do anything, and then be chased off by The Rock and Cena at WrestleMania in a role more suitable for 3MB.
At that point, and for a while before then really, Bray’s enigmatic promos started to feel like empty promises of something grander.
If the character in question is meant to be taken as though legitimately supernatural, a destructive God, then it seems obvious to say that you probably shouldn’t be beating that character very often. And in fact they should probably win all their biggest matches for a bit. The Undertaker certainly didn’t get where he is by jobbing out every time he stood across from a major star.
His face turn post-WrestleMania was very much overdue, but tragically cut off due to an injury. And it’s sad because The Wyatts were going to be feuding with the League of Nations, a group even they could defeat! But alas, when he returned a few months later, they were right back to the same old, same old.
Bray’s journey took him to SmackDown later that year, where he formed an alliance with Randy Orton that lasted far, far longer than anybody ever imagined. He even won the WWE Championship, finally holding a title on the main roster for the first time in early 2017. But it was all for naught, as he would go on to lose it to Orton a little over a month later in a truly embarrassing match dominated by projected images of bugs and worms on the canvas.
He was locked in a holding pattern.
Everyone watching Bray Wyatt saw a massive star in the making. The words ‘next Undertaker’ were thrown around a lot. But while Vince McMahon was plenty enamored with his charisma and character, he clearly never saw that in Bray. He only a saw a man that could get other people over through his defeat. (People who really really needed it, like John Cena, The Undertaker and Randy Orton!) And so he beat him, and beat him, until beating him meant nothing. He couldn’t even help anyone else get over anymore by the time 2017 ended.
And then 2018 happened. He joined up with Matt Hardy, a fun pair in a way but one that truly cemented him as comedy fodder. He was finally a babyface, but one far removed from stardom.
At this point, it’d have been reasonable to give up. Certainly, a lot of Bray’s biggest, most loyal fans gave up on him ever becoming the megastar that he seemed destined to be years prior. And it’s understandable. I mean God knows, WWE did everything in their power to make you lose hope.
For Bray, he was promised the world, he’d earned the world… he had the whole world in his hands. But it was ripped from him, seemingly on a nightly basis, until he was but a shell of himself. It would’ve been understandable for him to hang his head and hang up the boots…
But Bray Wyatt did not give up.
Bray Wyatt was bound and determined to make something of himself. And so he took several months off to prepare and plan. Despite how wonderful his initial gimmick was, it’d been thoroughly and unabashedly killed. And so a new persona arose… but it didn’t throw away the past. Rather, it was much more like an evolution of everything we’d seen from him.
When the Firefly Funhouse began, it was hard to know what to think of it. Bray had become a children’s TV show host, one surrounded by puppets. He would sing and dance. On the surface, it seemed like the most cringingly Vince McMahon thing possible. And yet he had nothing to do with it. And it was… utterly fantastic. He was warped and crazed in an entirely new way, entertaining and yet unnerving. He was the very last person you’d ever let near your kids.
It took months to get to the next step, but that was fine. That was months away from the ring, away from Vince McMahon’s booking. And then… the Fiend emerged, and began laying waste to all around it. Think about this… the buzz for this began in April. We’re here in August now, and we’re only just now getting the first match for the Fiend. Bray’s first match since December of last year.
And the world is ecstatic for it. He’s reignited his feud with Finn Balor, which ended quite abysmally before. He will most certainly defeat him and likely put him on the shelf in some way, as Finn is said to be looking for time off.
Bray Wyatt never gave up and now he’s here. A true second change at stardom.
And he wisely waited until Paul Heyman’s control of Raw grew to do it. With any luck, he’ll be under his watchful eye much more so than Vinnie. I trust him with this gimmick far more.
Let him go all the way this time. Let Bray Wyatt became the icon he was always meant to be. Please… let this be the start of a new age. As a Bray loyalist for six years running… I’ve waited long enough.