Around the Loop: The Unsettling Return of Bray Wyatt

Consider Bray Wyatt.

For years, he was WWE’s resident cult leader. Entering each match with a smoking lantern, cutting promos from a creaky rocking chair, he was the Rob Zombie swamp monster we didn’t know we needed. Devoted fans, whom Wyatt called his Fireflies, lit darkened arenas with their cell phone flashlights as Wyatt skulked down the ramp towards the ring. With Erick Rowan and Luke Harper by his side as The Wyatt Family, Bray captivated the audience and demolished his competition.

Until he didn’t.

Wyatt’s program with Randy Orton proved to be his undoing. Their match at WrestleMania 33 was controversial because of its stupidity. Bray used his alleged supernatural powers to project pictures of roaches and maggots onto the ring while wrestling. Orton RKO’d Wyatt for the title but, really, nobody won in a travesty like that. The rematch between them, The House of Horrors match at Payback 2017, was unintentionally hilarious. For one thing, it was pre-taped, which must have been great for the folks who were there live. Baby dolls dangled from the ceiling on monofilament. With a move I call the ‘Indiana Jones,’ Orton got a refrigerator pushed on top of him.

Not long after, Wyatt found himself wrestling against Broken Matt Hardy. In a match billed as The Ultimate Deletion, Hardy pushed Wyatt into the Lake of Reincarnation. It sounds ridiculous, and it probably was, but it all made sense within context. Wyatt disappeared for a while, came back as a good guy, then went away again.  Typical, right? A WWE Superstar gets white hot, only to fade out, never to be heard from again.

I would never have dreamed we would be talking about Wyatt as a top guy again, and with such passion and curiosity. And it’s all because of one weird promo that premiered this past Monday on RAW.

Seriously: what the shit was that? Wyatt’s Firefly Fun House bit has garnered over two million views on YouTube. People are interested, and why not? This skit is bizarre.

Let’s break this down a little bit.

Back when he was living on WWE’s version of the Spahn ranch, Wyatt’s catchphrase was, “Follow the buzzards.” Now, he has a talking buzzard puppet named Mercy. This must be a reference to former WWE baddie, Waylon Mercy. Waylon Mercy was based on Robert DeNiro’s character from the Cape Fear remake. With a soft yet exaggerated Southern drawl, Mercy was always vaguely threatening in his promos. In the ring, however, he became unhinged, becoming the crazy guy we always knew he was.

Will Bray’s new character become Waylon Mercy 2.0, pleasant on the outside, but a raving lunatic inside? It’s hard to look at Wyatt without thinking he’s ready to snap. When he gets out the chainsaw and slices the head off of a cardboard stand-up of his old character, it’s obvious there’s something lurking under the surface.

There’s also a goth Annabelle-esque puppet named Abby. This is an allusion to the mythical Sister Abigail, a character Old Bray spoke of frequently. Abigail was the one who taught Bray ‘the truth.’ He even had a finishing move named after her. Fans always held out hope that Sister Abigail was a real person who would engage unbelievers in the ring. Well, she’s a big-eyed puppet, so that’s not happening right now.

This new kiddie show host gimmick could go a couple of ways. Bray Wyatt might be a really good guy upon his return to the ring. A little shook up because of his past experiences, but basically decent. Of course, this could be an opportunity for WWE to explore the ramifications of PTSD and the aftermath of traumatic situations on people who survive them, but that’s not going to happen. CBS does that, not WWE.

That leaves us waiting for Bray Wyatt to lose his freakin’ mind. Look at him. He’s got the creepy smile, one glove that says “hurt” and one that says “heal,” and he’s surrounded by puppets. Puppets. This is going to get TV-PG weird quickly.

Here’s the clincher: I am fine with whichever direction Wyatt goes in. The guy is charismatic, deceptively charming, and a good enough performer to pull this gimmick off. With Undertaker only showing up to give Elias a Tombstone Piledriver once in a while, Bray Wyatt is the creepy character WWE has been sorely lacking. Based on the Firefly Fun House promo, this new Wyatt feels as subversive as his old Eater of Worlds persona, but in a shinier, happier way. How can you trust someone who smiles all the time?

When Bray Wyatt finally snaps and starts hammering someone in the head with Mercy, the Buzzard, it’s going to be amazing. In a company where repackaging rarely works (hello, Bludgeon Brothers), the new Bray Wyatt could be the swift kick in the rear WWE needs.

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