MR. TITO: Can Bray Wyatt/The Fiend’s WWE Return Be Successful?

Like any human being, Pro Wrestlers deserve second chances or multiple chances to succeed. Sometimes, you are just a victim of circumstances or the management above you. Maybe the creative direction just doesn’t fit your talents? Maybe the motivation just wasn’t there for you at that given period or time? Maybe the right mentor wasn’t there to help turn that lightbulb on to finally get it? It happens.

You see this in Pro Wrestling often… Take Cody Rhodes. WWE treated him like a midcarder, always, and so with his head hitting the glass ceiling, Cody took his talents all over the world and made a name for himself. He’s became a founder of AEW and he’s now back with the WWE, more over than any point in his career. AJ Styles is another example. He had a decent run in TNA, but it could have been better and was somewhat ruined by the end. He leaves, travels the world, and gets a job with WWE which has been a great second life to his career. Say what you will about Jon Moxley, but he’s made a name for himself in AEW after WWE disregarded him for years.

Even the all-time greats had second chances… Hulk Hogan left the WWF to travel the world and eventually found his footing in AWA as a top drawing babyface. He returns to WWF and makes history under the younger Vince. Stone Cold Steve Austin was thought to be the next biggest WCW superstar as “Stunning” Steve Austin. However, new management arrives in 1993 and thinks differently of him. By early 1995, he’s gone and then resurfaces in WWE to become legendary. The Undertaker was told he wouldn’t draw by WCW’s Ole Anderson in 1990 (head booker at the time) as “Mean” Mark Callous. We know what happened. Then, you have the great case of Lex Luger. He had a good NWA/WCW career, but his growth was limited by the political scene backstage during the early 1990s. Luger joins WWE and eventually becomes “All American”, which flops. He then abruptly leaves WWE to appear on the first ever WCW Monday Nitro and he’s over again. Just 2 years later, he pins the shoulders of “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan.

Speaking of that “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, remember when everybody was calling him “washed” up during his later years in the WWE, 1992-1993? He joins WCW in 1994 and after everyone doubted him, all he needed was a character refresh and he dominates Pro Wrestling for the next 2 years with the New World Order. Hulkster had another second chance given to him upon his 2002 WWE return, too. Made lots more money.

Recently in the WWE, Bray Wyatt (aka the Field) made his WWE return at Extreme Rules 2022 Pay Per View Premium Live Event and it was well received. Bray has been gone from the WWE since 2021’s Wrestlemania 37 and that was quite an embarrassing ending for his last run. As you may recall, it wasn’t much of a match rather than a joke with Alexa Bliss spewing black liquid to distract the Fiend to lose. A few months later, Bray Wyatt/Fiend was actually released during the July 31st, 2021 cuts.

While Bray Wyatt is NOT a Triple H SIGNED guy, as he was a John Laurinaitis era signing during 2009 (Triple H took over Talent Relations in mid-2012), Triple H did repackage him as “Bray Wyatt” when the wrestler was demoted back to the developmental territory during the Spring of 2011. He used to be called Husky Harris and that was kind of a demeaning name, given Bray’s thicker look. He was repackaged as Bray Wyatt and had a “Wyatt Family” in NXT during 2012-2013 and was actually one of the reasons why NXT grew a cult following. It was that “second chance” that I alluded to above. By 2013, Bray joined the WWE roster and lasted almost 8 years on that roster. We can argue how successful that was or not, but going almost 8 years straight in the WWE is significant given many releases they have annually, especially lately.

Personally, I thought that Bray was better when he had the “family” around him with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Those 6 man tags with the Shield are STILL legendary and are a must watch for any wrestling fans. Wyatt Family was also how Braun Strowman was introduced to the world… The guy I always loved was Luke Harper and it’s such a shame that WWE wasted him. Go watch his Pay Per View match with Randy Orton and tell me who pushed Orton to a better match than him. You can’t. Orton looked excited in the ring with Luke, knowing that he finally had a guy with perfect chemistry to him. Whomever was involved with Harper rejoining Erick Rowan as the “Bludgeon Brothers” needs smacked. Just look at his very brief AEW career, as Brodie Lee made the Dark Order somewhat relevant and Brodie was just finding his personality when he passed. What a shame.

In my view with Bray Wyatt, especially when he was on his own, is that he just didn’t have strong matches when the opportunity was right. This is all about conditioning and workrate, as he only seemed to have good matches when (a) it was a streetfight kind of match with no-disqualifications or (b) the wrestler was much smaller (Daniel Bryan, Finn Balor). Otherwise, when the big lights were on in the center of that ring, he seemed to shrink. He had TWO major opportunities to hit homeruns at Wrestlemania in his matches with John Cena and the Undertaker at Wrestlemania and he struck out.

Many wrestling fans online cry about Cena and the Undertaker going over, but how would Bray Wyatt winning even matter if the match still SUCKED? If you go back in history, many wrestlers get MORE OVER in a losing effort. Anybody disagree that Sting wasn’t made by that Clash of the Champions 1 match that ended in a questionable draw? Chris Benoit received a standing ovation at Royal Rumble 2003 for his efforts against Kurt Angle. Edge/Christian lost against the Hardys at No Mercy 1999 but were showered with love after their efforts in that famous Ladder Match. More recently, the Acclaimed had an amazing match with Keith Lee/Swerve at AEW All Out 2022 but came up short… But their amazing in-ring effort caused fans to DEMAND that they become Tag Team Champions ASAP and at Grand Slam 2022, it happened.

QUIT blaming John Cena or the Undertaker for “not putting over Bray at Wrestlemania”. FACT is that Cena and the Undertaker have YEARS upon YEARS of great matches with other wrestlers. Bray didn’t step up and give those guys a great match. Thus, the loss to those wrestler compounds because the matches SUCKED.

That has ALWAYS been my question about Bray Wyatt… As Bray, he’s a great talker and personality… But the matches are the weakness unless, again, the match is (a) streetfight or (b) against a smaller wrestler like Daniel Bryan or Finn Balor. I’d say Bray’s best match in the WWE was against Roman Reigns for the Hell in a Cell Pay Per View, but again, that involved a cage full of weapons that were used. Otherwise, Bray just doesn’t seem to have the conditioning to hold up in a more athletic match with a wrestler that doesn’t weigh 200 pounds or less. It seemed during the Fiend years (2019-2021), he had difficulties breathing either due to the mask welded onto his head or just poor conditioning. Either way, you cannot point to a good Fiend match. It doesn’t exist, hence why the WWE moved on during 2020 to Bill Goldberg.

And as I’ve said repeatedly before, the Supernatural stuff DOES NOT WORK unless you combine it with GREAT MATCHES. How did the Undertaker get away with lightning striking in an arena, being resurrected, being set on fire, etc? Because when it came Pay Per View time, Undertaker ALWAYS brought it. I could be here all day naming GREAT Undertaker matches… Hell, he has many from Wrestlemania, alone, but there are ones from other Pay Per Views that I can name and also from various RAW or Smackdown shows. When you have GREAT MATCHES, we’ll agree to “play along” with the Supernatural stuff. When your matches go from SUCK to BLOW, we’ll criticize the Supernatural stuff.

THIS is what Bray Wyatt needs to figure out… With his older age and 13 years of experience, he needs to figure out an in-ring style that promotes his strengths and hides his weaknesses. His persona has a great psychology as a character, but he doesn’t use in-ring psychology as a wrestler. THAT is what has been missing from Bray’s matches, as he just goes out there and performs spots or moves for no rhyme or reason. This is where WWE’s LACK of former veteran wrestlers backstage of agents comes into play or having the wrong wrestlers in charge of talent (looking at you, Michael PS Hayes). Someone needs to Bray in-ring psychology so that he can use LESS energy during matches and connect better with the fans. As a heel, you should torture your opponent and taunt the fans while you’re doing it… As a babyface, you need to sell pain as if you were dying but feel the momentum of the fans to make you rise up to the occasion.

Bray Wyatt is 35 years old… That is actually within the “sweet spot” of the peak years for a wrestler. They shouldn’t be wasted.

Now, I was going to do some statistical analysis on if Bray Wyatt or the Fiend was a draw previously as WWE champion or not. Disregarding his brief August 2020 title run, if you look at his 2017 and 2019-2020 Smackdown reigns, the numbers level out… He started at a 2.2 Nielsen rating (my boy Gerweck stored ratings numbers back then instead of # of viewers) and the rating remained at 2.2 by the end of his reign through Wrestlemania. Then, if you look at his 2019-2020 run from October through February, Smackdown stayed at about 2.5 million viewers. However, the unique thing about both reigns is that they ended through Wrestlemania season at a time when viewership should go up, not flatline.

One thing we do know is that during 2019, FOX executives were PISSED at the WWE for swapping World Champions by placing Brock on RAW and Bray/Fiend on Smackdown. This time around for 2022, there are hints that he might be on Smackdown. How will he be viewed this time around? Oddly enough, there are reports that FOX was trying to sway WWE in to putting Bray on Smackdown. Funny how times change, but FOX executives probably know how much Roman Reigns is carrying Smackdown on a weekly basis. And, Bray and Roman had a great match together. Could this be the nemesis that Roman Reigns has been waiting for?

My advice for Bray Wyatt is very simple: JUST HAVE GOOD to GREAT MATCHES.

Less is more… By working more with psychology and connecting with fans, you don’t have to rely heavily on spots, powermoves, or weapons. In addition, working a more psychological style will preserve your body to require less energy and keep the injury bug from repeatedly biting you.

If you have GREAT matches, we’ll look the other way on the Supernatural stuff. We did for YEARS with the Undertaker.

At the end of the day, Pro Wrestling draws upon the matches they have inside the ring. We’re not looking for barn burners where 10,000 spots are hit in one match or 3 guys get thrown through tables… We want matches where we have genuine feelings about the performers that can spark emotions whether they win, lose, or get screwed. During 1988, I became a full-blown wrestling fan because I was emotionally involved in the Sting vs. Ric Flair Clash of the Champions 1 match. I BELIEVED that Sting would become NWA Champion and was highly upset that the time limit ran out as Flair was locked in the Scorpion Death Lock. However, I loved that experience so much that I wanted MORE. I never felt that way with other sporting events and I was hooked. Here I am, 34 years later, writing a column to y’all.

This Bray Wyatt (or the Fiend) return will only work if and only if his matches are good to great. Period.

Otherwise, he’s just another Triple H favorite guy that has been re-signed to do the same old thing as they did before.

Given how THIN the WWE roster is on name talent, it’s good to have Bray Wyatt back… But let’s make it matter this time around. Fix his in-ring ability and improve his conditioning or utilize psychology more to use less energy per match. Let someone like Paul Heyman help agent him on doing creative things inside the ring and with his character, too.

Have great matches and we’ll love ya…

So just chill… Till the next episode!

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