John Cena. Randy Orton. Seth Rollins. Cesaro. Daniel Bryan. If you thought I was just naming the top talents in WWE, you’d be partially right. (Well, except for the now-retired Bryan, of course.) Not only are these wrasslers some of the best in WWE, and the world, they’re injured right now, and their absence makes for a WWE roster that is thinner than the Olsen Twins’ pinky fingers.
Usually, in times of peril — and make no mistake, WWE is in peril right now — superstars who are relegated to the back burner are called upon to step up and take the newly vacated spots. It’s this natural sports mechanism — one that sees injured stars replaced by other talents — that sometimes results in wrestlers choosing to continue competing in the squared circle: They don’t want to lose their spots. This can be a blessing at times; performers that have been set aside get a chance to show their best stuff in primetime.
WWE is in no way perfect, nor is any wrestling promotion this side of New Japan Pro Wrestling, but there’s one opportunity that the “biggest show on the planet” is neglecting, and it’s an unforgivable one — his name is Bray Wyatt.
Wyatt is currently locked in battle with his family brethren against the “titans” of WWE: Kane, Big Show, and Ryback. That’s fine — those bigger guys need someone to work with, and The Wyatts are in a sort of limbo. Here is where the problem, though, lies. Bray Wyatt should not be in any kind of limbo. In feuds with Cena, Dean Ambrose, Undertaker, the limited Roman Reigns, and just about anyone that he’s been put in front of, Wyatt shines.
Let’s not retread familiar waters too much: We know Bray is a master on the microphone. His cadence, his punctuation, his subtext, his mannerisms — they are all trademarks of some of the best workers on the stick. In an interview Ric Flair conducted on TSN’s Off the Record, Flair relayed the fact that just being a “technician” — i.e. a masterful wrestler in the ring — is not enough to “put butts in seats.” (He was talking about Bret Hart in that instance.) Wyatt is not a technician, nor does his character — a wily brawler with impressive physicality, timing, and athleticism — call for such mechanisms. Wrestling, while past the kayfabe era, still hinges on a sense of believability. Jim Ross marveled at the lack of believability in wrestling these days, once commenting on an instance when one competitor punched another with a closed fist and refused to sell the damage to his own hand after such a blow. (This exact comment’s location is lost on me at the moment.) It’s little things like that that Bray does well. He creates a believable aspect to his encounters, and he looks the part; it’s arguable that he has the best look in all of WWE.
Bray’s matches, mannerisms, theatrics, mic work, and, mere presence, sells; he’s entertainment personified, the kind of superstar that was born to wrestle in WWE, and one that WWE should be pushing to the moon. Imagine the kind of great moments we might have if Bray were to hold the WWE Championship? Remember Daniel Bryan’s feud with Wyatt and his “family?” Perhaps one of Bryan’s most exciting moments in his career was the night on RAW that he turned on the Wyatts and sat victorious on the top of a cage as the crowd lost their collective minds in “Yes!” chants. That moment, while special and a monument displaying just how enthralling pro wrestling can be, was not Bryan’s — it was Bray’s. A hero is only as exciting as his antagonist, and Bray is one of — if not the — best antagonist WWE has right now. So, why can’t Vince McMahon, Triple H, and the writers of WWE’s product figure that out? Or, if they have figured that out — perhaps I’m giving them too much benefit of the doubt here — why haven’t they pulled the trigger?
What we should be seeing is Bray’s “family” playing second fiddle to his exploits. That is, they should be helping him chase a championship. Wrestling is best served when the protagonists are in pursuit of the antagonist — it’s an age-old formula and it works. But, and we’re delving into the land of fantasy booking here, Bray would probably be best served if the championship was merely a token of his mission. Bray isn’t the kind of character that seems too enamored with gold belts, so he should make it stand for something else in his warped psyche. It could even be said that Bray doesn’t need any kind of title. What he does need, though, is validation, and feuds with the “titans,” The Dudleys, and you-pick-a-midcarder, are not serving the best interest of the WWE Universe.
This aforementioned “limbo” is not looking to change any time soon. Bray is currently locked in a match with Brock Lesnar at Roadblock, and with Lesnar in one of the main events at WrestleMania, this amounts to nothing more than an enhancement match for Lesnar before his showdown with Dean Ambrose.
Please, WWE, come to your senses. You have a bonafide superstar that can not only handle the ball, he can metamorphose it, make it his own, and that’s what you want, isn’t it? Originality? Or, like some of your best superstars, is your creative compass injured?