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Textual Chocolate: The Buzzards Are Dying

I heard a man say he isn’t afraid of Bray Wyatt.

Actually, I read him tweet it, in the middle of yesterday’s RAW I wasn’t watching live. “I’m not scared of Bray Wyatt.” Six short words that spell doom, the opinion of a million wrestling fans who once held Irwin R. Schyster’s husky son in so much promise back when they first heard him wax mysteriously and threateningly down at NXT.

Bray Wyatt and his character need no introduction. His is a character who’s run the whole spectrum of bizarre: magical, supernatural, deranged, obsessed, cult-leader-like, and serial-killer-like. But beyond that, there is no explanation. There’s no explanation because outside of bits and pieces we’re getting about his fictional character background, we have nothing. We’ve been told there is a Sister Abigail, and that, care of his current feud with Roman Reigns, his father abandoned him. Other than that, we know nothing about what he does and why he is.

It’s as though... he simply exists to strike fear in the WWE. But, hey, that’s exactly what he’s going for! Because it’s not too on-the-nose already, they’ve had him try (and fail) to win the title of “New Face of Fear.” It doesn’t matter, though, because he goes on to own it regardless.

Wrestling fans no longer live to be scared, however. They realize, even the children now—all right, maybe only some of them—that any attempts to make pro wrestling anything beyond the story of mortal men waging war with each other is utterly ridiculous. Who’s going to buy that Bray Wyatt teleports in the dark and commands a spirit from a lantern? If they did, they’ll kick themselves when they get older for doing so.

But what about the Undertaker? This was a man who made his money on pushing the bizarre and supernatural, things that the audience willingly believed even when it was no longer cool to do so. All because he came back once a year, never pushing the absurd down our throats so that we can suspend all disbelief when he was around.

We made that magic legendary, so why can’t we do the same for Bray Wyatt?

A lot of it has to do with the lack of mythmaking around the character. We know all about Undertaker’s fucked-up family history and the fire that burned his parents’ funeral parlor. Again, we still have nothing with Bray (even though it took seven years for Taker to have a backstory). Instead of clear motivation, we get vague threats and baffling action. Instead of actual story-building, we get what the WWE thinks is edgy writing by having him cut protracted promos that only the smartest of us (such as your humble scribe) could really crack. (That’s also because most viewers have decided to tune out whenever he starts cutting his dark room promos. It’s become that bad.)

I’m not saying we have to know everything about Bray’s history to truly feel scared of him; I just wish it wasn’t all deceptive and subtle all the time. You can tell a supernatural story without being too intentionally mysterious, because you will lose your audience in too much fog. 

This is why the story with Roman Reigns might be the best Bray Wyatt story in a long, long time: it’s plain and simple. Bray Wyatt hates Roman Reigns. Says he is the antithesis. Why? We don’t know exactly why yet, but he just is, and the why doesn’t completely matter, because this man is deranged. Simply saying “anyone but you,” anchoring your entire tirade on those three simple, easy-to-understand, easy-to-repeat words, is a lot better than creepily singing “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.” (If any of you still remember what he meant when he first sang the song, or if any of you knew what he meant at all, raise your hand. Yeah, that’s what I thought.)

But they need also to pick an aspect and stick to it first. Is he going to be an insane cult leader, or is he actually a witch doctor who can summon the spirits of the dead? Build up one part first to perfection before moving on to a new facet. Each new aspect is one chapter in the Bray Wyatt myth, and you don’t move on to the next haphazardly.

The other reason why Bray can’t get over as a strong supernatural force is that he doesn’t win enough. And when he does win, those victories are made meaningless by not following through on any of that momentum.

Bray beat Daniel Bryan in 2013 and made him join the Wyatt Family, but he couldn’t keep him in the group due to backlash. He then set his sights on Cena, whom he couldn’t beat at WrestleMania, and could never really beat more than once. He did beat Jericho, but everyone knows that doesn’t matter because Jericho only ever comes back to lose. He also beat Dean Ambrose, but then spent the weeks after that vaguely challenging the Undertaker without explicitly challenging the Undertaker. When he did challenge Undertaker, he had to lose because the WWE booked themselves into a corner after Taker’s loss to Lesnar. He beat Ryback recently, but nothing happened after that; in fact, the man he beat went on to win the Intercontinental Championship.

Would you be scared of a drifter who hasn’t really proven he can traumatize a man? Would you buy into this impotent guy being the New Face of Fear?

Yeah, that’s what I thought as well. The blueprint’s here, WWE. It’s honestly not that hard.

One final note: even though I said audiences are not as inclined to buy into the weird, unrealistic side of pro wrestling nowadays, that doesn’t mean we can use it as an excuse to stop us from trying. You already have Bray Wyatt in play, so you might as well go all-in with him. Lucha Underground has Mil Muertes, his ghost-lady sidekick Catrina (formerly WWE’s Maxine, for those unaware), and a squad of ghost-skeleton-luchadores, and it all works. You can say that Lucha Underground’s devoted audience is merely conditioned to take the show for what it is, face-eating cage monsters and all; but what that means is that the show has managed to win everyone over with decent writing and earnest effort, something the WWE’s forgotten how to do nowadays.

The good part about all this is if Bray wants to be an Undertaker or a Mil Muertes, it might do him well to die first. Both men have been put into coffins to emerge stronger than before. 

After all, wouldn’t you be scared of a guy who defied burial?


Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul.


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