What the hell is going on in the world of wrestling right now?!?
CM Punk and Bryan Danielson might be heading to AEW. Adam Cole might be leaving WWE. Bray Wyatt has been released. Ric Flair may have requested, and been granted, his release from WWE. Nick Gage is fresh off of an appearance on national television for AEW. Hiroshi Tanahashi also made an appearance for AEW. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla returned with their first show in 19 months. Becky Lynch is rumored to be returning to WWE right after SummerSlam.
All that, and more, is from the news and rumor mill just over the last week or so.
Right now, I want to talk about the man that I wrote about in a column on this very site nearly nine months ago. In that column, I wrote that, if I was making the decisions, Bray Wyatt would’ve been the man to end The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. Of course, that didn’t happen, but that is only one moment in time that helped to define Bray’s WWE career. In my opinion, there is no bigger case of missed opportunity and wasted potential in WWE history than Bray Wyatt.
The worst part? Most (all?) of it isn’t his fault whatsoever.
Stroll down memory lane with me for a moment.
- When he debuted on the main roster with the Bray Wyatt character, he looked to be a game-changer. He played the part to absolute perfection. The Wyatt Family were on a roll, building up momentum left and right. Bray’s first match was a victory over Kane in a Ring Of Fire Match at SummerSlam 2013. He wouldn’t be involved in a losing effort for three months, and that loss was in a 12-man tag where he wasn’t involved in the pin. Going into his showdown with John Cena at WrestleMania 30, it looked as if we were witnessing a new megastar. What happened? Cena pinned him. There goes that.
- His next few months were a roller coaster. He was on the losing end of a lot of matches, although most were in six-man tags where he didn’t factor into the pin, or they were disqualification losses. At Extreme Rules 2014, he would get revenge and defeat John Cena in a Steel Cage Match! Hooray! Momentum! Oh… he would lose to Cena again the following month at Payback, falling in a Last Man Standing Match. There goes that.
- At the next pay-per-view, Money In The Bank, Wyatt was one of eight men involved in the titular (heh… tit) match. This time, it would be for the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Title instead of for a title shot contract inside a briefcase. Wyatt was one of the favorites going into the match, with one victory being able to right the wrongs that had been done to his character already. Did he win? No. John Cena won. There goes that.
- Bray would then randomly select the returning Chris Jericho as his next target. They would have a match at the next pay-per-view, Battleground. Did he win? No. Jericho won. There goes that.
- Bray would have another roller coaster ride before setting his sights on Dean Ambrose. He would interfere in Ambrose’s Hell In A Cell match against Seth Rollins, giving Rollins the victory. Wyatt and Ambrose would square off at Survivor Series, but the match ended in a disqualification win for Bray after Ambrose hit him with a chair. Wyatt would then go on to defeat Ambrose in a TLC Match the following month. Hooray for momentum again! This would take us into 2015, where Bray looked like one of the favorites to win the Royal Rumble. Did he win? No. He did, however, last nearly 47 minutes, making him the entrant who lasted the longest that year. Hooray for small, hollow moral victories!
- Coming out of the Rumble, Bray needed something big for WrestleMania 31. Well, even though the man lost to Brock Lesnar the previous year, what bigger Mania showdown can you have than with The Undertaker? With Taker’s streak no longer in the picture, it wouldn’t be as big a deal for him to lose here, passing the torch to the new character-based gimmick. This was a huge, huge opportunity for Wyatt. Did he win? No. The Undertaker won. There goes that.
- The running theme with Wyatt would remain the same. He would select an opponent, seemingly at random, after a series of cryptic promos, and then proceed to lose the feud to said opponent. Then, he would start the process all over again with a new opponent and a series of cryptic promos.
The Wyatt Family had all the makings of something special. Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and eventually, Braun Strowman, were all monsters in their own right. Combining their powers should’ve been unfair to everyone else on the WWE roster.
Interestingly enough, WWE would actually start pushing Wyatt a bit more once people began giving up hope that he’d ever become something special. At 2016’s TLC event, Bray would team with new Wyatt Family member, Randy Orton, to win the Smackdown Tag Team Titles from Heath Slater and Rhyno. It would be the first championship for Bray, but the reign wouldn’t last long. Three weeks after winning, the Wyatt Family would lose the belts to American Alpha in a Fatal Four-Way Elimination Match. With the Wyatts able to defend the titles under the Freebird Rule, it was Orton and Harper that would be involved in that match.
Just when it seemed like Wyatt would be floating around in purgatory some more, 2017’s Elimination Chamber event rolled around. Entering the Elimination Chamber match with The Miz, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Dean Ambrose, and WWE Champion John Cena, Bray would shock the world and emerge victorious. Bray Wyatt, the man who never won anything when it seemed to matter most, was the new WWE Champion. This was the jump start that he so desperately needed. He was atop the WWE smack dab in the heart of WrestleMania season. Big things were ahead, surely.
It was basically just storyline fodder for Randy Orton to turn his back on the Wyatt Family. Orton would defeat Wyatt at WrestleMania, ending Bray’s reign at 49 days.
The cycle of nonsense would start back up once again, as Bray would go through multiple feuds that started out of nowhere and ended almost as quietly. He even had a feud with Finn Balor that saw him lose two straight pay-per-view matches and have a third set up… only for Wyatt to be pulled from competition due to a viral infection, and we never got to see the end to that. They made the man dress up in drag as his own deceased sister for nothing, folks. FOR NOTHING.
Again, though… right when it seemed like you could write Bray Wyatt off completely, WWE decided to surprise everyone. After a mini-feud with Matt Hardy, Wyatt would turn face for the first time and join forces with the “Broken” one. It was a weird pairing, but that was the point. They would go on to win the vacant Raw Tag Team Titles by defeating Sheamus and Cesaro at 2018’s Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia. They had an 80-day reign as champions, which is pretty decent, I suppose, but… they dropped the belts to The B-Team of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel. Yes, The B-Team was getting over, but they were still glorified jobbers. While Bray wasn’t involved in the pin, this was a long way from his losses of the past. At least he started out by losing to first ballot Hall Of Famers like The Undertaker and John Cena. Pretty soon after dropping the titles, the “Deleters Of Worlds” team disbanded as Hardy took time off to deal with injuries and Wyatt was given the “creative has nothing for you right now” line.
More of the same to come?
Well… not exactly.
That, my friends, is when we were introduced to something unlike anything WWE had ever delivered before. Something that IMMEDIATELY captured the minds and attentions of the WWE Universe.
May 27th, 2019 is when we were introduced to The Fiend. It was a bit of a passing shot during an episode of Firefly Funhouse, but there he was. We had to wait until the July 15th episode of Raw to see the official debut of The Fiend, when he would appear after a Finn Balor match and attack Balor with a Sister Abigail. That was one of the great “holy shit” moments of the last few years. From the lighting to the music playing in the arena to one of the best and creepiest masks you’ll ever see in wrestling, it was a magnificent debut. He looked like a million bucks and seemed like a surefire mega heel for years to come.
It took all of 83 days for WWE to fuck it up. I know a lot of you have tried to forget about it, but I have to bring up Hell In A Cell 2019. Seth Rollins defending the Universal Title inside the Cell against The Fiend. We got nearly 20 minutes of people barely being able to see anything because WWE decided to have the match happen with The Fiend’s annoying red light filling the arena. There was a comically oversized sledgehammer, approximately 34 curb stomps delivered to Wyatt, a crowd that turned on the match something fierce and began chanting “A-E-W” throughout, and then a MOTHERFUCKING NO CONTEST IN A HELL IN A CELL MATCH TO END IT. It was one of the worst matches of the year. Worst anywhere, mind you, not just worst in WWE.
You should have figured things out by now, but was Wyatt punished for being a part of that bullshit?
He won the Universal Title 25 days later.
Nothing made sense.
Well… with Bray back atop the WWE mountain, it was going to be an interesting time, no matter what. He was the new era wrestling version of a horror movie villain like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. No matter what opponents threw at him, he kept moving forward and coming at them. Who in the hell was supposed to stop him?!?
A 53-year-old Goldberg.
In less than three minutes.
When that went down, I’m glad that I didn’t have a table in front of me, because it would’ve been flipped over.
WWE took one of their greatest recent characters and tripped all over themselves right off the bat by having him be involved in the farce that was Hell In A Cell, and then sacrificed him to a middle-aged man. A lot of people say the day Wyatt dropped the title to Goldberg was the day the Fiend gimmick died. If you could kick an aura in the nuts, Fiend’s aura would’ve been kicked in the nuts repeatedly that day. Poor Seth Rollins, though. In that Hell In A Cell match, Rollins did everything short of shooting Fiend in the head and he couldn’t put him away, but Goldberg went through him easily?
“But it took four Spears and a Jackhammer to put him away!”
First of all… shut up. Secondly… it was one of the worst Jackhammers in the history of Jackhammerdom. The fact of the matter is that there was no reason for any of it to happen, other than to stroke Goldberg’s ego.
So, with everything that happened, and with all the “Fiend is dead” talk, that was the end of it all, right?
Silly rabbit. Of course not.
Six months after losing to Goldberg, we would see The Fiend defeat Braun Strowman to become a two-time Universal Champion.
What. The. Fuck.
As I type these sentences and revisit everything that has happened with Bray Wyatt, I can’t help but shake my head. It’s as ridiculous now as it was when it happened.
Okay, okay, okay… WWE put The Fiend back on top. He’s a two-time Universal Champion. Let’s rock and roll.
*looks up what happened next*
Oh, yeah… he dropped the title seven days later to Roman Reigns.
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
I’m getting a fucking ulcer over here.
After losing the title, Wyatt was over on Raw, and he was feuding with Randy Orton again. With Reigns and the Universal Title over on Smackdown, it didn’t look like he would get a chance at revenge, but hey, Orton is always a big deal. If someone is feuding with him, they could certainly do worse. This was when we were dealing with way too much of the cinematic hocus pocus mumbo jumbo with Fiend, but at least he was getting solid television time.
This brings us to December 20th, 2020. WWE’s TLC event was taking place, and we were witnessing a Firefly Inferno Match between The Fiend and Randy Orton. Everything started off decently. They were doing their thing, and after about 12 minutes, Orton would pick up the win after Fiend had his back catch fire. They continued to fight after the match, and then Orton would set Fiend’s entire body ablaze. We watched as a Fiend mannequin was completely engulfed in flames. Was this supposed to signify that he was dead? Would we ever see him again? Was it literally and figuratively killing The Fiend off?
Of course, Bray would return, but now we know that it was the final time he would do so. He came back to get revenge on Orton, and they would face each other at WrestleMania 37. The only thing people really remember about that Mania match is that Wyatt lost the match after being distracted by Alexa Bliss, who had been working alongside him, but then “turned” out of nowhere.
That was it. It was the last time we would see Bray Wyatt on WWE programming, and he would be released less than four months later.
What a waste. From the day the Bray Wyatt character debuted, he was someone that could’ve/should’ve/would’ve been something very special. He could’ve been a generational talent in that gimmick, like The Undertaker was a generation before. Everywhere he went, though, he was plagued by terrible booking decisions. He put his all into everything he did, to his infinite credit, but we all know that only goes so far in the world of Vince McMahon. It’s so weird to say that a three-time World Champion is such a showcase of missed opportunities and wasted potential, as I said before, but I feel it’s 100% true.
Think about The Wyatt Family for a moment. Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman. All four men would be released from their WWE contracts eventually. That’s crazy enough, but when you throw in the fact that Harper would pass away a year after WWE released him, then it becomes sad. A stable that shouldn’t have been able to be stopped for years ended up becoming nothing.
We don’t really know what’s next for Windham Rotunda. He has made mention that the “Kult Of Windham” is coming soon, but that could be anything from being related to his next gimmick or the name of an upcoming podcast or clothing line that he’s involved with. Obviously, many are assuming AEW will snatch him up as soon as they can. He’s a big name, and he’s only 34 years old, but can you imagine trying to fantasy book the debuts of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Adam Cole, and Bray Wyatt all at the same time? Now imagine trying to ACTUALLY book those debuts! Whatever is next, I will be eager to support one of the more creative minds we’ve seen come across the world of professional wrestling in a long, long time.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Nikki ASH vs Charlotte Flair: As time goes on with the new gimmick for Nikki Cross, I feel it’s something better suited for small doses. It can definitely work, especially for the younger audience, and Nikki is putting her all into it. She just shouldn’t be cutting multiple promos in an episode of Raw, to go with a match and at least one backstage segment. It’s too much. With that said, I really enjoyed this match. Nikki is playing the underdog role well, and Charlotte, of course, plays her heel role to damn near perfection. Fun stuff.
- Sasha Banks: It was good to see Sasha make her return after being away since WrestleMania. She had herself a good night on Smackdown. There was a great pop for her return, and she didn’t look like she had any ring rust during the night’s main event. Then, as an added bonus, we got a heel turn for her, setting up a rematch against Bianca Belair for the Smackdown Women’s Title. I’m all for it.
- “Hangman” Adam Page & The Dark Order vs The Elite: The match itself was a ton of chaotic fun, as you would expect. I just couldn’t help but notice that the wind seemed to be taken out of the crowd’s sails when Page was pinned. The AEW fans are SO behind Hangman in this storyline that seeing him not be next-in-line for a shot at Kenny Omega’s AEW World Title was deflating. Speculation has been running wild about why plans were seemingly changed. Some assume it’s because of the possible new additions to the AEW roster, and the company wanting to go with a “bigger” feud to capitalize on the buzz. Others assume that Page needs time away to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Some feel it was the plan all along. There’s no doubt he’ll be back in contention at some point. We’ll just have to be more patient than we initially thought we’d have to be.
- Dakota Kai Video Package: The package was good to begin with, but I’m a fan of the simple logic used to explain Dakota attacking Raquel Gonzalez. In kayfabe, it makes perfect sense for Dakota to be mad. Raquel was a “nobody” before Dakota brought her in to watch her back. Dakota was supposed to go on to become the NXT Women’s Champion with Raquel as the “muscle” by her side. It wasn’t supposed to end up with Raquel growing in popularity and then “jumping the line” to become the champion first. All in all, this was a good step in pushing this feud further.
- Pro Wrestling Guerrilla Is Back: After 19 months, PWG is finally back! One of the best independent wrestling promotions of all-time returned with a show that saw some nice surprises. Well, technically, everything that happened was a surprise. PWG is so hot that they sold the show out without making any match announcements. They didn’t even announce who would be appearing. That’s quite the flex.
- Bobby Fish vs Roderick Strong: This could’ve been a Takeover match. It was a lot of fun, and every bit of the physical bout you’d expect from these two. I’m still waiting for an explanation as to who The Diamond Mine really is, though. We got vignettes, then they debuted as some random people placed with Malcolm Bivens, and then… nothing.
- Chris Jericho vs Nick Gage: Honestly, I’m not a fan of the “death match” style of wrestling. It’s just not for me. I’ve seen a bunch of Nick Gage’s work, and I will freely admit that he’s one of the best I’ve seen in that world, though. Even though this wasn’t going to be something I’d give a great rating to, it had the eyes of the wrestling world on it. I’ll give Jericho a ton of credit, too. He’s a seven-time World Champion. He didn’t have to do shit like this, but he did, and it worked. After making it through this challenge, it’s time for his next one…
- Juventud Guerrera: One of my favorite Luchadores from the days of WCW is back! The last Juvi match I saw was three years ago, and while that match (at AAA’s TripleMania XXVI event) wasn’t great, I’m not exactly expecting the quality of what Jericho vs Guerrera would’ve given us in 1998. With lowered expectations, I’m just anticipating the spectacle of it all.
- Dexter Lumis vs Johnny Gargano: It wasn’t a Match Of The Year classic, but it wasn’t supposed to be. The added “Love Her or Lose Her” stipulation was just what this match needed, though. It added the right amount of drama to every move and every pin attempt.
- Me: With this column, I have now been back writing on this site for a year. After posting 78 columns in that span, I look forward to another year. Go me!
This Week’s Playlist: “Skate” by Silk Sonic… “RIP Young” by Isaiah Rashad… “Lay Wit Ya” by Isaiah Rashad & Duke Deuce… “True Story” by Isaiah Rashad, Jay Rock & Jay Worthy… “Score” by Isaiah Rashad, SZA & 6LACK… “Perfect To Me” by Josh Tatofi… “Hail Mary” by Makaveli… “Toss It Up” by Makaveli… “To Live and Die In LA” by Makaveli… “Two Occasions” by The Deele… “Ice Cream Paint Job” by Dorrough Music… “Money, Power, Respect” by The LOX, DMX & Lil Kim… “Wild Out” by The LOX… “We Gonna Make It” by Jadakiss & Styles P… “Time’s Up” by Jadakiss & Nate Dogg… “Shoot Outs” by Jadakiss & Styles P… “By Your Side” by Jadakiss… “Welcome To D-Block” by The LOX & Eminem… “Good Times” by Styles P… “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye (Extended Remix)” by Sheek Louch, Fabolous, T.I. & Beanie Sigel