After the harrowing finale to the Festival of Friendship on Raw, it would be easy to forget that something brilliant happened on Sunday. Bray Wyatt became the WWE Champion. But Wyatt’s journey to the top has had its ups and downs, to say the least. Let’s take a look at how the backwoods cult leader became champion of the world.
Everyone knows about Wyatt’s humble beginnings as Husky Harris, a contestant on the second series of gameshow NXT where he was hilariously dubbed “the tank with a Ferrari engine”. Harris was eliminated from the show, and despite a brief spell in The Nexus, he was quite literally punted off TV thanks to Randy Orton. But, a few months later, he resurfaced in FCW sporting longer hair, a fedora and a Hawaiian shirt. The man we now know as Bray Wyatt was born and when FCW soon became NXT, he finally had a platform to shine.
Wyatt was an early standout of the refurbished NXT, simply because there was no one else like him. He would make his entrance to Mark Crozer and the Rels spooky Broken Out In Love and deliver entrancing promos. He would preach that he was more monster than man, the Eater of Worlds. His style was so refreshing and exciting and when he brought Luke Harper & Erick Rowan under his spell, NXT suddenly had a family of monsters ready to unleash chaos.
It’s a shame the early NXTs aren’t available on the Network as there’s some great stuff hidden away, including all of the Wyatts’ run. If you missed any of it, it’s worth tracking down whatever you can on Youtube and Dailymotion because it’s easy to see why people were so excited by this trio. Bray was arguably the top act on NXT. He lead Harper & Rowan to the NXT Tag Team Championships, and faced off with guys like Adrian Neville, Corey Graves, William Regal and he even had a match with Chris Jericho at Full Sail.
From May 2013, vignettes featuring The Wyatt Family began airing on Raw. They were coming. They were the first NXT act to have such a build-up to their debut. Expectation levels were rising and after six weeks they finally appeared on Raw, laying out Kane. Their attacks continued on people like R-Truth & 3MB but as they tried to establish themselves on Raw, they made one final visit to NXT:
Their last appearance at Full Sail was utterly electrifying. Once Harper & Rowan dispatched poor old Aiden English, Bray Wyatt took centre stage. He looked every bit the charismatic leader he was cracked up to be. Hell, after hearing this, I wanted to join the family and pledge my allegiance to Wyatt. It’s like he was declaring war on the world, promising to bring down the machine. The instant rapturous chants of “Bring it down! Bring it down!” just showed Wyatt’s ability to captivate an audience and hold them in the palm of his hand. To this day, it remains one of the greatest moments in NXT history and had fans like me dreaming of what the Wyatts could achieve.
Unfortunately, the Wyatts’ time on the main roster didn’t quite start right. The feud with Kane resulting in an inferno match at Summerslam wasn’t ideal but their battles with Daniel Bryan and CM Punk showed their promise. Daniel Bryan joining the family conjured up dreams of Bray & Daniel bringing down the machine together, but the angle was aborted fairly quickly. Bryan turned on the Wyatts two weeks later and while the sight of Bryan decimating Wyatt in the steel cage and leading the entire arena in yes chants is one of the most iconic moments ever seen on Raw and helped propel Daniel Bryan to stardom, it did little to establish the Wyatts as a force. However, the resultant match between Wyatt and Bryan at the Royal Rumble was fantastic and showed that Wyatt was just as good in the ring as he was with a mic in his hand.
What happened next was the Wyatts’ finest moment yet. Back in November, the Wyatts came face-to-face with The Shield. The WWE’s two dominant three-man units stepped on each other’s toes and sent imaginations into overdrive. The Wyatts v. The Shield was suddenly everyone’s dream match. It came to nothing initially but by the time February came around, both teams were very much aware of each other again. Whenever they came face-to-face, arenas came alive. They could get a “This is awesome!” chant just for being in each other’s vicinity. The match was finally set for Elimination Chamber. In 2014’s match of the year, the Wyatts and The Shield went to war in Minneapolis. The match was everything you hoped it could be and after 20 minutes of chaos, it was the Wyatts who emerged victorious. The Wyatts were heading to Wrestlemania having proven they were the top faction in WWE, what could go wrong?
John Cena, that’s what.
It all started to go wrong when Bray took on the face that runs the place. Despite walking into Mania accompanied by a superb live performance by Mark Crozer and having a great match with Cena, Wyatt lost. Over the next few months, the Wyatts looked like losers. All Wyatt had to show for it was a win over Cena in a cage match at Extreme Rules which absurdly ended with Cena being distracted by a singing child. The match was voted the worst of 2014 by readers of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The Wyatts’ mystique died when Cena demolished them single-handedly on Raw after his crushing defeat to Brock Lesnar at Summerslam.
With that, it all unravelled for the Wyatts. Bray “released” Harper & Rowan and the three went their separate ways. Harper initially coped by throwing his lot in with The Authority, winning the Intercontinental Championship and having the only good match at the legendarily bad Tables, Ladders, Chairs and Stairs PPV. Rowan got a bum deal as he was revealed to be a savant and an award-winning vintner. That’s still hilarious to write.
Bray Wyatt went on his own, starting a feud with Dean Ambrose which will forever be remembered for the ridiculous exploding TV incident. Man, TLC+S was really shit. Faulty electronics aside, Wyatt still had his fans and reminded us all of his ability when he was the only good thing about the 2015 Royal Rumble match, finishing as the Iron Man and racking up six eliminations. Any hopes of 2015 being the year of Wyatt were dashed as he lost again at Wrestlemania, this time to The Undertaker, and simply put, Bray Wyatt became a joke. There was no doubt over his talent, but Wyatt was presented as an impotent charlatan for the next year. The Family were eventually reformed, and Braun Strowman joined the party but an encounter with the Brothers of Destruction encapsulated how spectacularly mishandled the Wyatts were. Undertaker & Kane were kidnapped and Wyatt stole their powers. Just two weeks later, Taker & Kane returned TOTALLY FINE and beat up the Wyatts. Taker & Kane then handily defeated Wyatt & Harper at Survivor Series.
2015 was bad for the Wyatts and 2016 didn’t start any better. An angle with Brock Lesnar went nowhere, mainly thanks to Bray’s back injury, and the Wyatts headed into Wrestlemania with nothing. At Mania, the Wyatts confronted The Rock with disastrous consequences. Now, plenty of people say being in the ring with The Rock elevates the other guy, but I fail to see how The Rock calling Wyatt a fat Duck Dynasty wannabe with no balls elevated him. It was embarrassing. The Wyatts were so directionless at this stage that even Wikipedia describes their April feud with League of Nations as “unexplained”.
WWE had killed my interest in the Wyatts. Even when things started to go south for them, I still held out faint hope for them but at this point, I was over them. It seemed like such a waste to invest any time in them. That final appearance in NXT seemed so far away. That promo gave me goosebumps, now I just didn’t care.
But the draft happened.
Bray Wyatt was sent to Smackdown and slowly he set about re-building his reputation. The addition of Randy Orton revitalised the Wyatts. You’d have been forgiven for thinking the association would end in two weeks as it did with Bryan but they stuck together and won the tag titles, incredibly the Wyatts’ first championships albeit about three years too late. Randy won the Royal Rumble and two weeks later, Bray Wyatt became WWE Champion.
In the same night, in the same match, Bray Wyatt pinned John Cena (fucking finally) and pinned AJ Styles to become THE champion. The same championship held by Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels & Steve Austin. No one can take that achievement away from Bray Wyatt. Last year, he didn’t have a match at Wrestlemania. This year, he will be performing on the grandest stage of them all as the WWE Champion. It’s a testament to Bray’s charisma and talent that he can appear to be dead and buried but can re-legitimise himself with a few months good work. Despite all he’s had to deal with, Bray as WWE Champion just seems right.
Being a Wyatt fan has been brutal at times. I gave up, admittedly. But, I’ll sheepishly climb back on the bandwagon and once again follow the buzzards.