"Can someone in the locker room tell me how to use PhotoShop? I'm gonna teach that Bray a thing or two..."
I am a comic book nerd.
One of the more interesting series to come out in the past few years is Injustice, based on the video game. The basic premise is that the Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane and Superman's unborn child, sparking off a chain of events that sees Superman become more militant and Batman having to stand against him.
Anyway, near the beginning of the series, after Joker has committed his heinous act, Batman is interrogating him and asks why he went after the Man of Tomorrow- to which the Joker responds simply:
Every time you and I play, I lose. I was getting a bit bored of always losing. I thought I'd try this on Easy Mode for a bit...And it was easy.
Y'see, while Batman's power and talents have been earned, Superman's are just there. Whereas Batman has suffered so much pain and suffering in his life and learned hard lessons, Superman has had a relatively happy and pain-free existence.
The thing is though, Batman has suffered enough to grit his teeth and get through when his world has been turned upside down. Superman? Who knows...? What would happen to him if he was truly tested?
Which leads us to a feud where we wondered if WWE's Superman could actually develop as a character.
In early 2014 the Wyatt Family was hot. Scalding hot. And the interesting thing was that it wasn't because they were smashed over main eventer after main eventer like the Shield. Instead, the Wyatt Family slowly accumulated victory after victory under the radar while their gimmick slowly but surely got over. Cut to the Royal Rumble and Bray Wyatt was facing Daniel Bryan- the hottest wrestler in the company and then him and his crew managed to drag a championship match out of the fire.
Fast forward past an amazing little feud with the Shield that included possibly the best 6 man tag match in WWE ever and Bray set his eyes on the face of the WWE himself.
Can we all pause for a moment and think about how obviously cool this feud looks on paper? You have a guy who has been the face of the company for 10 years, who has been afforded every opportunity by his company to succeed and who is portrayed as a cleaner than clean babyface. However, he hasn't really been put through the ringer in a way to make him question his principles. Enter a charismatic villain who believes that though the hero may put up a tough front, all he needed was the right amount of pressure and he'd snap like a twig.
And again, looking merely at the results of the feud on paper, it would be easy to believe that this was actually a fairly good program. You had a fairly good match at Wrestlemania, followed by a poor outing at Extreme Rules followed by a Match of the Year Candidate at Payback.
The problem was that while the matches (well, two of them anyway) may have put Wyatt and his family over, everything in between (and a little bit afterwards) seem to do the exact opposite. And there were a few reasons why this occurred.
Firstly, let's start with all the reasons that did not have to do with Mr John Cena. Like this one.
I like to think that this is the moment that Seth decided to turn on his brethren- when he realised that the Shield wasn't as an exclusive a club as he hoped...
Y'see the Wyatts and the Shield had one PPV match and it was freakin' AMAZING. But to say the feud was a couple of really great matches and that was it sells the feud short. The story behind it was pure gold and some of the promos were just...magic.
There was that great promo where Triple H told the Shield to stand down after they were nose-to-nose with the Wyatts, and Bray said with a wicked glint in his eye the following immortal words:
"Go on boys. You heard your daddy."
And that little phrase encapsulated everything that was awesome about this feud. Everyone loved the Shield but no one could deny the fact that the Authority had given them a few legs up. The Wyatts on the other hand were never mercenaries for a WWE Champion, never lackeys for a corrupt GM, they were just there. Nobody was going to tell them what to do.
I bring this up because when the Shield eventually did turn face they did so because they realised that Bray was right- they had become nothing more than pawns in another man's game. That doesn't mean they became Bray's mindless drones, it just means they responded to a valid point (more on this later...).
Fact of the matter is that while Cena/Wyatt was a great idea, The Shield vs the Wyatts was screaming for another PPV and the fact that the Wyatts had to quickly finish that feud before moving quickly onto Cena probably hurt a little.
Speaking of hurt, here's problem number 2.
I'm willing to believe that Bryan was to hold the belt til Summerslam where he was to lose it to Brock. The thing is, from Point Wrestlemania to Point Summerslam there would have been plenty of feuds and PPVs in between. So I can imagine that Bryan having to take a hiatus put a massive crimp in their plans and meant a lot of storylines had to be rewritten- including this one to a certain extent.
Still, neither of these issues really excuse the massive Fruity Pebbled elephant in the room...
I have said before that I often think that Cena is probably best in face vs face programs. This is simply because when he is facing heels- particularly young up and coming heels- often the worst aspects of his character are displayed for all to see. Far too often Cena's schtick does more to damage a heel's push than to actually move the program along.
Nowhere was this better seen than when he faced Bray Wyatt.
You had a too-good-to-be-true-babyface against a charismatic cult leader with nothing to lose and everything to gain along with his 2 badass 'family members' who look like they wouldn't think twice about leaving your twisted and gasping remains on the mat.
They were exotic, they were new, nothing, nothing like them had been seen before.
This really should have been the chance that John Cena was wanting to push his much vaunted mic skills and for creative to get a little...creative with the John Cena character. This wasn't John Cena vs Randy Orton bout 464,685,436, this was a guy who could actually make Cena feel something that was beyond the mundane of the week to week TV schedule.
But that would mean showing Cena as vulnerable and that would simply not do.
Oh, sure, Cena said that he was afraid of Bray Wyatt, but did he ever back down from Bray? Did he look like he was freaking out when Wyatt ever went into the ring? Or did it look like Cena was paying Wyatt and his family the barest lip service for their feud?
See, this is why Vince thinks that Cena doing photoshop jokes is ok. Because in Vince's mind what the segment is trying to say is "see how resilient Cena is by laughing at this evil heel!".
Steve Austin when interviewing Sam Roberts commented that one thing that annoys him about Raw is that it seems that it's wrestling for morons. If morons were watching Raw then they would probably swallow this promo segment without any questions.
Working under the assumption that Monday Night Raw crowds are not made up of dunderheads I can think of a few questions that the crowd may have been pondering- including how this in any way helped the feud to become more interesting.
Because as much as the Wrestlemania and Payback match were good, Cena's reaction to the menace that was Bray Wyatt was all over the place. One week he was confessing to be scared of Bray and the next he was doing photo shop jokes bout him. Imagine if someone had tried this sort of 'jokes' on the Undertaker? And you're trying to build this guy up as the Undertaker's heir apparent? Why not actually make the writers create promos that looks like Cena actually gives a damn?
When we look back over the Wyatt/Cena feud, it is easy to think of some great moments aside from the matches. The time when Cena was tied up in the ropes with the sheep mask on. The time when the children's choir came down to the ring and serenaded John Cena. The time when Bray confronted Hulk Hogan and John Cena and essentially called out their hokey promo. The time when they looked like they would beat the shit out of Jerry Lawler, with Wyatt having his boot across Lawler's throat.
The thing is though, that since Cena didn't really sell the fact that these were a big deal, Wyatt had to overbook these promos and stick them all together in a 3 match feud. And as a result none of them really have the lasting impact they should.
When Kane ripped the cell door off at Badd Blood and tombstoned the Undertaker, Vince McMahon pencilled them in as a Wrestlemania match. So what did Vince Russo want to do? Have Undertaker chokeslam Kane the next week through a table. Luckier saner heads (well, Jim Cornette anyway) prevailed and managed to explain that after Taker chokeslams Kane through a table...how are you going to sell the fact that this so-called Wrestlemania feud would be a big deal? You would have Undertaker getting his own back in spectacular fashion 6 months before the event was even going to take place!
This feud at times reminded me of what possibly could have occurred if they essentially let Russo have his way. Either because they didn't trust Wyatt to sell a feud or they couldn't have Cena look weak, they essentially made Bray look like a guy who was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Cena only for Cena to essentially...not really react any differently.
Which is bad enough, but then there was an epilogue.
Look, I know that Brock had beaten John to such a degree that Lawler was speechless (another plus of the match in my book), but why have Cena come back a week later and take a dump on Bray Wyatt's push? Why not Kane- a guy who was with the Authority and was still a viable opponent. Or the Big Show? Or Mark Henry- veterans that would have lost nothing if they got squashed in a match with Cena.
Because that Raw match in which Cena essentially took apart Wyatt, Harper and Rowan was not just an insult to what Bray was trying to do, it was also a slap in the face to this guy.
Rehearsing his Tough Enough duties...
Jericho had come back in order to work with Bray. Their first match was, in all honesty, fairly forgettable, but their second was actually good and there was some nice signs that there was some chemistry developing between the Man of 1000 Truths and the Man of 1004 Moves. And then Vince booked that Cena/Wyatt match and ripped the rug from that idea.
I would like to be a fly on the wall on that meeting when they hashed this idea out.
Vince: We gotta make Cena look good again!! It's been 8 days!
Hunter: Whoa, Vince calm down. We'll just show Cena come back with a more intense attitude. Let him take some one down in a more tough fashion.
Vince: Damn it! That's it Hunter! Bray Wyatt and his family can get taken apart by Cena!
Hunter: Huh? But, Wyatt is one of our rising stars Vince! And he's in the middle of a high profile feud with Chris Jericho! Shouldn't we feed one of our...older stars to him? Someone who could take the loss a bit more?
Vince: No dammit! We need them to look great!! Frankly if these youngsters were more willing to grab the brass ring we wouldn't have to!
Hunter: So...you're saying that because these youngsters are not getting there to main event status quick enough we're going to completely halt one potential futures main eventer's push?
Vince: Shut up! That's what we're doing! Now get Kevin Dunn in here! I need to prune 3 minutes of this Divas match so that it doesn't go into double figures.
See I think that Vince knew as soon as he heard the reaction from the fans that he fucked up. So instead of having a rubber match at a PPV between Jericho and Wyatt, Jericho was soon shunted to Orton for a one-off match and Wyatt was left out in the cold. And because his family got wasted too, well what VInce thought was needed was an entire reset, with Harper and Rowan going their separate ways.
And so the Wyatt Family was no more.
Look, I know that this article may seem a bit more...long winded than some that I have wrote but I have a reason for it.
No wrestler on this site has been in more fantasy booking scenarios and/or character reconstructions than Bray Wyatt. I admit I am among those who have even attempted to write a promo or two in his words. This tells me two things.
1) A lot of the people on this site despair of how Wyatt is used and, perhaps more importantly
2) We still want his character to succeed.
A future WWE without Bray Wyatt in a position of prominence would be a lot less interesting that one with him. The fact remains though that at the moment Wyatt is spinning his wheels with WWE creative always promising to do something big with him but whenever it came for something that could show that his character was really actually making a mark on the WWE scene, he would invariably be cut off at the knees.
And that's article 43. Next time we look at one Australian snake that was anything but deadly. Well, except for one person...
The InVasion Saga
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action