When looking at the bloated storehouse of wrestling talent that is the WWE main roster, it is useful to consider the old saying about the dog chasing cars and then not knowing what to do if it caught one. The wrestling talents are the cars and the WWE is some kind of three-headed hell hound that has bitten down hard and dragged them back to its sulfur scented den. However, once there (throw up arms emoji). they are just there.
This is particularly true of the WWE’s seeming inability to build, book, and deliver monster heel-type characters. Look at the sad cases of Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman as solid examples of two legit badasses of very different sizes and shapes that could generate real heel heat and money. Joe can talk, work, and carry himself like a champion with a “step to me” swagger. Braun is, well, Braaauuuuunnnn! He’s an actual monster: imposing in both his stature and presence. He looks like someone that would never lose a fight and would just as soon eat you as look at you.
Both these guys are under contract. Both these guys show up to work. Both of these guys have an upside that any booker in the world could use to promote main event matches. Yet, both are stuck as characters that talk a lot of trash, get to the dance, then lose.
We could go up and down both the scales and the roster of WWE talent for more examples. It’s an embarrassment of mismanagement as much as it is of riches. It’s part of what has driven fans like me away from RAW and SmackDown Live both in arenas and in front of TV sets. There is a lengthy and system-wide problem in the WWE with creating and elevating stars. We all see it. We all feel it.
But now we have The Fiend. It is the best thing in WWE and, maybe, wrestling period.
The transformation of cult leader Bray Wyatt into meta-creepy kids show host-monster was something I was not sold on at first. I didn’t understand the appeal. I couldn’t imagine how this character could possibly draw money.
I was wrong.
The Fiend is not only a draw, it is THE draw that can get WWE back into the cool side of the pop culture spectrum. It is a character and presentation that treads the line expertly drawn by The Undertaker between the reality of wrestling and the gaga of sports entertainment. No other wrestling character ever has come close to touching what The Undertaker is. The guy has shot lightning out of his hands, attempted to embalm opponents, and has been chokeslammed into the bodies of his exhumed parents without getting dethroned as the greatest gimmick of all time.
The Fiend could change that.
From the Firefly Fun House videos, to the puppets with “help” signs, something really special has been brewing in the re-launch of a character that was as much a victim of terrible booking as anyone on the roster for some time. Then, after his SummerSlam debut, we all saw what The Fiend could truly be. The entrance, the mask, the tortured screams of Bray Wyatt within; this was something more than we have become accustomed to as WWE fans. This was a character that was allowed to be frightening, that created a real sense of menace and dread in its presence. It was something we weren’t told was cool by Michael Cole barking it in our ears. This was something that could be ours.
We could embrace The Fiend.
Now, the question is: Can WWE embrace it too, without ruining what makes it so great? Can WWE creative show the discipline and commitment to character and not have this fantastic thing go 50/50 with their top babyface, Seth Rollins? Can they stop themselves from coaching Michael Cole to shout “Here comes the Fiend!” every time his music hits? Can they make the necessary sacrifice of some of their top acts to allow The Fiend to carve a path of destruction through their roster? And, most importantly, can they dig deep down to the place where they once had the ability to create a heroic babyface challenger that people want to pay money to see kick The Fiend’s ass?
That last one there is the kicker because, let’s be real, it has been a long time since they pulled that off.
Selling shows on the brand is not going to be enough. The WWE must create a match up between now and WrestleMania that sells the entire seven hours of the show on its back. It is my opinion that this match needs to feature an unspoiled Fiend. No calling Seth Rollins “The Fiend-slayer.” No Fiend eating superman punches. No 20-minute talk segments. Just months of terror and carnage at the hands of a supernatural monster as his TV alter-ego adds faces to the wall of friendships.
AEW has made a lot of traction before its TV launch next month. Somehow Chris Jericho, by imitating a line from Dumb and Dumber and LOSING THE CHAMPIONSHIP BELT, has become a bigger pop-culture talking point than anything in the entire world of pro wrestling. For good or worse, they have refocused the eyes of the entertainment world on what wrestling can be. Impact has a new deal. New Japan continues to grow. NXT is heading to USA. When billionaires start to play ball, the game gets interesting and this game is very much WWE’s to lose.
The WWE brand has been synonymous with wrestling for most of our lifetimes, more so for the past twenty years since the death of WCW. Right now, they have a chance to remind everyone of what they do that no other wrestling company can do: sports entertainment spectacle.
The Fiend is that spectacle. He’s a shirt. A meme. A gif. Bray Wyatt saying “see you in hell!” in his happy go lucky voice is made for 2019 social media culture. Put the belt on him in five minutes at Hell in a Cell and don’t look back.
The Fiend is out… now, WWE has to let him in.
Until Hornswoggle stops living under the ring and gets a spacious loft on the beach, I’ll see you marks around the loop.