Bray Wyatt, the new face of fear
Monday Night Raw provided the WWE Universe with a supernatural spectacle. Bray Wyatt, claiming he had successfully absorbed the otherworldly powers of both the Undertaker and his “Brother of Destruction” Kane, pronounced himself the most dominant force in WWE.
He emphasized his point by calling down thunder and lightning, which came on cue. Pyrotechnics exploded, a video montage dedicated to BOD played on the TitanTron, as Bray Wyatt cackled like an evil genius.
Reactions to a segment featuring such pageantry are mixed.
Erik Beaston of Bleacher Report wrote, “If you are a fan of D-level horror flicks, this worked for you. Otherwise, it was a cheesy and clunky way of demonstrating that Wyatt is the new face of fear (…)”
He goes on to say the promo was “a poor first attempt at creating buzz or intrigue in what is sure to be one of the Survivor Series pay-per-view’s marquee matches.”
James Montgomery of Rolling Stone wrote a more objective take: “If you’re a fan of pro wrestling’s willingness to occasionally dabble in the occult – and all inherent ridiculousness contained therein – you probably loved it; if you’re the kind of viewer who just wants to see Cesaro wrestle Kevin Owens in 60-minute Iron Man matches, there’s a good chance you didn’t.”
Regardless of whether the segment was given thumbs up or down by podcast pundits or indie smarks, the pageantry hearkens to a tradition in professional wrestling made famous by the all-time master of the supernatural shtick – the Undertaker.
When Mark Calaway made his debut nearly twenty-five years ago at Survivor Series 1990, it shook the foundation of the wrestling world. The introduction of a wrestler whose character was dead, un-dead, demon, zombie or the Grim Reaper himself (it was never clearly specified what exactly he was) took kayfabe to new levels.
This stretching of disbelief suspension, admittedly, only came about because of the increasing number of children that made up WWE’s audience. The dead-man gimmick was abandoned during the adult-oriented Attitude Era and Calaway adopted the persona of a biker.
Bray Wyatt represents a new revival of the supernatural gimmick, one palatable for intelligent adults and impressionable youth alike.
On the one hand, Wyatt is nothing more than a sadist with a messiah complex, whose deceptive and seductive words have earned him a cult-like clan of devout followers.
On the other, Wyatt has conjured up some kind of voodoo magic which has opened to him strange and frightening dimensions where he gathers otherworldly powers in order to destroy the non-believers and burn the earth.
Granted, the segment from this past episode of Raw really only caters to the audience who believes the latter, and leaves the others rolling their eyes.
From a story-line angle, the Wyatt-Undertaker feud was a match made in hell, so to speak. Wyatt is a perfect successor to carry on the tradition of a supernatural presence in WWE, giving the children a real-life boogie man to loathe and boo – from the safety of their seats.
The fact that he has amassed a small army of formidable heels simultaneously makes him a threat to the entire roster of superstars and to every major championship title.
If the Wyatt Family is successful at putting down the Brothers of Destruction (at least for a while) at Survivor Series, then we may see their dominance grow in the coming year. 2016 may be a year where Bray Wyatt’s darkness grows and spreads across the landscape of WWE.
It may even reach the point where old feuds and rivalries are set aside, as wrestlers otherwise at odds must unite to battle the ultimate threat of Wyatt’s growing power. (Shield reunion? Alliances with the Authority and Authority temporarily turning face?)
The wonderful thing about supernatural characters and reality-bending story-lines is that there is no limit to the possibilities.