Let me get this very unpopular opinion out of the way right now: I’ve never cared for Bray Wyatt.
When he showed up in the early days of NXT, I was mildly intrigued. Previously known on WWE television as Husky Harris, this new character was miles beyond what we had seen before. He wore a wicker fedora and Hawaiian shirts. He was based on Max Cady from the film Cape Fear, not unlike Dan Spivey’s portrayal of Waylon Mercy during the WWF New Generation era. He had two absolutely menacing looking heavies in Luke Harper and Erik Rowan. And people seemed to take notice.
Then again, I was always skeptical. I think Bray Wyatt, more than literally any other performer during the same timeframe, was hampered by WWE’s push to keep their product PG. For example, he would often wear a leather butcher’s apron to the ring or during his spooky run-ins. You know what would make a butcher’s apron a lot more menacing? If it was covered in blood. You don’t even need to explain the blood; let the viewer decide. Of course, this could NEVER have happened between 2009-2018. So the swamp-dwelling hillbilly cult leader had to have a little more squeaky clean an image than you might hope, which I think hurt the character.
Wyatt has experienced an absolute roller coaster of a career on the main roster. He won his first world title, pinning John Cena and AJ Styles in consecutive falls during an Elimination Chamber match. He would lose it the next month to Randy Orton at Wrestlemania 33 and suddenly found himself plummeting down the card. It got so bad for Bray, that one year later at Wrestlemania 34, despite defending a world title on the show just one year earlier, he was not booked and only made an unpromoted return appearance on the pre-show battle royal to help Matt Hardy win.
In the year 2020, Bray Wyatt once again finds himself back at the top of the card in WWE. He ended 2019 and began 2020 as WWE Universal champion. His new character, The Fiend, has taken young fans and merch buyers alike with his unique presentation. He started the year strong as well, winning a great match with Daniel Bryan at the Royal Rumble. This could be the best match Wyatt has had all year, as “getting a good match out of The Fiend” seems to be a bit of a running gag with every passing show.
And oh boy, would his next match be a challenge.
To this point, WWE had really gone out of their way to protect the “mystique” of The Fiend. His origin, backstory, and reason for existing within the storytelling of a wrestling promotion were kept intentionally vague. He was two characters: fictional children’s television host happy-go-lucky Bray Wyatt and psycho murder clown The Fiend. He was also, quite emphatically, presented as impervious to pain. During a Hell in a Cell match with then-champion Seth Rollins, Wyatt no-sold 13 of Rollins’ brutal stomp finisher and stood right up. Love it or hate it, it sure made Wyatt stand out.
I’m sure you can tell where I’m going with this: During a Saudi Arabian show in February, Wyatt was obliterated by 53-year-old Bill Goldberg in an absolute stinker of a match that made The Fiend look like a total jabroni. A star of lesser talent would have been dead on arrival going forward.
Instead of attempting to regain his title from Goldberg, Wyatt was funnelled into a quick feud with Honda and pistachios spokesperson John Cena for Wrestlemania 36. While we don’t know what the original plans would have been due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “match” was more a series of John Cena’s fever dreams come to life than an actual wrestling match. The cinematic style match was presented as having happened within the fictional Firefly Funhouse universe and was far too cartoony for my tastes. Wyatt “won,” I guess.
From there, Wyatt started a long feud with Braun Strowman, who was actually able to defeat Goldberg at Wrestlemania 36. He would lose the first match, being powerslammed by Braun after his mind games failed to work. The next match was another cinematic style “swamp fight” where he faced Strowman as his old hillbilly cultist persona. He “won” this match by [checks notes] drowning Strowman. Fiend would finally recapture the Universal title at Summerslam, defeating Strowman as The Fiend. He was then promptly attacked by Roman Reigns and made to look like a total jabroni.
Just one week after SummerSlam, that very same Roman Reigns would win the Universal Title by pinning Braun Strowman in a triple threat match at Payback 2020. Like the first time he lost the title, he would forego the traditional rematch and instead focus his attention on terrorizing Alexa Bliss.
As of now, that’s really where we stand with Wyatt on the year. He has successfully convinced Alexa Bliss to…I guess be his spooky girlfriend? They’re paired up on screen now, but haven’t really done much together yet. At time of writing this, Wyatt was indirectly involved with the terrible Hurt Business and RETRIBUTION storyline. WWE appears to be threatening his involvement with the Randy Orton/Drew McIntyre beef, as well.
Bray Wyatt is an incredibly popular performer and has done a great job presenting his vision as The Fiend. He has had a good year, but lost the universal title twice while somehow getting lost in the shuffle during the WWE draft. His storyline with Alexa Bliss has been heavily featured but is largely directionless, so far anyway. He has twice been pushed aside for what Vince McMahon (and most people) would say are bigger draws. Wyatt seems to be the kind of performer WWE can rely on to carry the quiet months and do his part when the bigger stars return. While I’m not personally a fan, he definitely deserves better for his time served.