After only three weeks on the WWE television the Wyatt Family has quickly become one of the hottest angles in professional wrestling. The beards, the outfits, the rocking chair, the lantern, the music, the promos, the vignettes, the house that makes me feel like Slender Man is about to pop out and a freaking sheep mask have created one hell of an act for Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Eric Rowan.
One of the more interesting things about the gimmick is that it's tapping into an emotion that WWE usually screws up or tries to avoid- Fear. Almost every aspect of the Wyatt Family gimmick is to install a level of fear with the audience and simulated by the wrestlers in the ring.
But what makes it work so well? In order to fully understand the effectiveness of the Family gimmick, we first need to compare two other wrestlers who used fear in an attempt to get them over- The Undertaker and The Boogeyman.
Now before you rush to the comment section and scold me for the comparing two wrestlers when one is light-years ahead of the other, hear me out. Obviously the Undertaker has forgotten more about wrestling than most men will ever know, but when it comes to persona he and the Boogeyman are on the opposite ends of the spectrum.
On the one hand you have the Boogeyman. He had the weird face paint, the stick that had smoke bellow out of it, creepy entrance music, recital of nursery rhymes, a clock that he would smash over his head and an affection for having worms in his mouth that he would share with other wrestlers and divas against their will. But even though he was around for a few years, he never really clicked with the fans and will probably be seen in the history books as just a goofy gimmick.
But the reason he didn't pan out is much more interesting. Everything about the Boogeyman that we were supposed to be freaked out by was right in front of us. There was no underlying dark character or connection to something beyond the physical. Since the character had only one dimension, it was hard for fans to care about him, let alone be frightened by him. He's like a killer in a cheesy horror movie. Once we see him, there isn't much left to the imagination.
The Undertaker, on the other hand, was so much more than just a frightening appearance. In all the years of the Deadman we never really were sure what the guy was capable of. He could make stadium lights go out, have bolts of lightning strike, have fire rise up from the ground, pop out of the ring floor like he just got back from Hell, have coffins show up out of nowhere and survive stunts like being set on fire and buried alive. One of my favorite instances of this was when Taker feuded with a young Randy Orton and played all sorts of mind games on him.
Add all of this to the fact that there were certain things about the Undertaker that were never explained. Why was the urn so important? Why do the druids randomly show up? What was with that entrance at WrestleMania with the hands rising out of the ground? All of this added layer upon layer to a gimmick that Undertaker would carry out in the ring. He'd sit up like a revived corpse. He'd finish off his opponents with a Tombstone then make it seem as though he was burying them. He'd create matches like buried alive and inferno matches all to keep adding to the character.
And even if you weren't frightened, even if the hairs on the back of your neck didn't stand up when a gong sounded, you relished in the fear on the faces of wrestlers who had to face the Undertaker.
So what do the Wyatt's and the Undertaker have in common? Fear of the unknown. We never fully knew what the Undertaker was capable of, nor do we know what the Wyatt's can really do. We've seen hints at sadism, speaking in tongues, talking about anarchy and the destruction of the society. It's all the dark aspects of a southern cult combined with the flare of Robert De Niro's character from Cape Fear.
We don't know what Bray and his followers are capable of, but we now whatever is will be frightening.