In the few years since Bray Wyatt debuted on the WWE main roster (as Bray Wyatt, Husky Harris—looking at you, Baltimore, as much as I love you), dude’s yo-yo’ed a lot. He’s gone from main roster stud to cannon fodder to winning a tag team championship with Matt Hardy during his “Woken” era. To say Wyatt’s been all over the damn place is an understatement. However, one thing has always been for sure: he was an agile, talkative, cultist son of a gun who was one gimmick change away from potentially becoming a mainstay in the main event against.
Enter “Firefly Fun House” and The Fiend.
Pretty much what’d happen if you gave Pee-Wee Herman even more drugs mixed with some good ol’ murderous intent, Bray Wyatt recreated himself, for many, from “oh here’s this guy again” to “Yowie Wowie, he’s Mandible Clawing folks like Mankind’s illegitimate love child.” And it’s been pretty damn entertaining to watch.
The “Firefly Fun House” promos have been pure adult swim insanity. Surreal and absurd, the promos were lightning-in-a-lantern. Wyatt became even more demented than his beach shirt-wearing former persona—somehow. I think it has to do with the fact that he portrays a Pee-Wee-meets-Mister-Rogers host with a highly violent streak, playing with perceptions (always a good thing in wrestling). It’s cartoony, but also somewhat more realistic. I mean, how many cult leaders do you know? Now how many neighbors do you have? How many do you wonder what’s really going on underneath their smile? If the answer’s more than one, this gimmick was hand-crafted for you–and the folks who love absurdist drama in their wrestling.
It also helped that WWE didn’t run them into the ground like they do with many hot moments (remember “Fandango-ing?”). It felt organic, even when little Easter Egg references were thrown into the mix (and even when WWE’s somewhat-forced social media profiles promoted them).
When The Fiend made his first in-ring appearance against Finn Balor, we got a bit of psychological violence (see below) without the blood and guts.
Although, a bit of crimson never hurt anyone–ask the Rhodes Brothers during their epic Double or Nothing match.
However, aside from the weird neck snap spot (neck snaps–along with vice grips–should be banned in wrestling. There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s asking your audience to play stupid), it was a good match. It served its purpose in that it re-introduced people to what Wyatt could do in the ring. He moved a lot better than ever before and the Mandible Claw is an interesting addition to Wyatt’s arsenal. Meanwhile, Balor played the perfect babyface to get his shit kicked in by a psycho heel. This is the Wyatt we didn’t know we wanted, but we needed.
Will The Fiend be enough to draw me back into WWE? I don’t know. But, he’s pretty damn interesting to say the least. And that’s a lot more than I can say about a lot of the stuff going on there.