Last night on WWE's Monday Night Raw, in between The Great Khali singing "Happy Birthday" to Natalya and a tag team match between Celtic Vipers and Rhodes Scholars, the above little mindbomb was dropped upon an unsuspecting WWE Universe.
To the uninitiated (those without a wrestling jones that demands a HuluPlus membership or who don't keep up with the best NXT recaps on the web - if I do so say my durn self), there may have been some head scratching in response to the cryptic, southern gothic styling of the Family as depicted in the video.
Those of us smarky/obssesive enough to follow WWE's developmental program and its flagship show received the promo as an opportunity to mark out like pre-teens.
As someone who falls into the latter group, let me try to explain my reaction to those from the former.
What's their story now?
The family patriarch, Bray Wyatt debuted on NXT by himself in the spring of last year. He delivered promos like the one in the video and accumulated singles victories.
Due to an injury, Wyatt stayed on camera but slowly began gathering acolytes. First the dark-haired Luke Harper, then the bald-headed redbeard, Erick Rowan.
Bray has feuded with most of the current top lights in NXT and emerged victorious over those he's faced in sanctioned matches. He also recently had a great match with Chris Jericho. He lost to the WWE legend, but looked like he belonged while working with Y2J on the mic and in the ring.
When Harper and Rowan are tagging, Wyatt usually watches from the stage or ramp in his rocking chair, and often gets involved. Similarly, the Family will interfere on their leader's behalf in his solo bouts. Luke seems to be in charge when Bray isn't around, but both men will pause during matches to look to him for direction or guidance.
They have approached several other characters about joining their cause and been rebuked each time. It's not clear that they have a goal beyond proving Bray to be the dominant pro wrestler in the promotion, and punishing those that have been in the way of that or have turned down the invitation to join their clan.
So, it's like a Deliverance thing?
Kind of. There's definitely the southern gothic theme I mentioned, but it's not an inbred redneck/Texas Chainsaw Massacre kind of gimmick.
The influences start with Max Cady, most famous from the Cape Fear movies. Portrayed by Robert Mitchum in the 1962 version and Robert DeNiro in 1991, the character was actually created by John D. MacDonald in his novel, The Executioners. Cady was a man imprisoned for rape who educated himself in jail and, upon release, sets out to torment a lawyer who he holds responsible for his conviction, and the lawyer's family.
Bray Wyatt is especially channeling the DeNiro version of the character, who was much more of a sociopath than Mitchum's sleazy con man (but, I think there is some of that in the cult leader aspect of the WWE version). Another tool of this charismatic proselytizer is some pseudo-religious jargon; DeNiro's character had biblical quotes tattooed on his body and fancied himself on a mission, much like Wyatt.
A more recent parallel is FX's Justified. Part Boyd Crowder as played by Walton Goggins, especially Boyd's failed evangelical recreation of himself in that show's first season. Part Mykelti Williamson's Limehouse, completely unsqueamish criminal with a code. And yet neither. But definitely working a hick chic vibe present on the show as a whole.
There's also a pro wrestling connection: Dan Spivey, a WWF and National Wresting Alliance (NWA) veteran with ties to NXT Commissioner Dusty Rhodes and some family of the man behind the Bray Wyatt role. In his last run with the then WWF in 1995, Spivey played Waylon Mercy, a Cady-influenced Southern gentleman who went psycho heel once he was in the ring.
Isn't that Husky Harris of New Nexus infamy?
Yes, but WWE doesn't mention it and neither do we. The transition from Husky to Bray has been handled like the one from Skip Sheffield to Ryback. They also do not mention Windham Rotunda's very real legacy status, either in connection to his grandfather (Blackjack Mulligan), father (Mike Rotunda/I.R.S.), godfather (Barry Windham), or brother (fellow NXTer and 2013 Royal Rumble entrant Bo Dallas).
All you need to know is that, like Husky, Bray is a large man who can go.
An army tank with a Ferrari engine, if you will.
And those other fellers?
Harper worked in numerous independent promotions as Brodie Lee. He signed with WWE in March of last year and debuted on NXT not long after with Wyatt. Like his stable leader, he is a big man who can be surprisingly agile in the ring.
Rowan has some experience in Japan, but has largely been a WWE project. He worked a Scandinavian viking warrior character for his first few years in Florida, before donning the coveralls and joining the Family as Bray's "second son".
On the internet show, these two haven't been developed too much despite currently being tag team champions. The video allows them both to speak more than they have in the last few months worth of episodes.
There you have it, Cagesiders. Mostly, you can look forward to Bray saying cool-sounding things with nebulous meanings such as calling himself "the eater of worlds" or "the abbadon", creeping you out of your shorts with his in-ring behavior and grinning like a goofball for Sister Abigail, his finisher (a theatrical version of swinging reverse STO).
You may think you're ready. But I assure you...you are not.