It's not that hard Vince!
So why did I say 18 months? I'm essentially booking up until WrestleMania of this year because, well it was the run of the Fiend really. So the question is, how do you keep a gimmick like this hot, without burning (both figuratively and literally) it out by over-egging the pudding more and more?
Firstly the Fiend has to have impact. If you are setting this up like the Undertaker of the modern era, then you need to make sure that your roster is on the same page. From day one, when he appears, he has to put the whole of the WWE on notice- not directly, but just by being there.
Secondly, recognize that the guy behind the mask is just fine if you leave him well enough alone. Give him the chance to delve into the history of his previous character and otherwise get the f*(k out of the way.
Finally, realize that what Bray has set up could be a potentially massive asset during times of flux such as, oh I don't know, during a pandemic. One of the reasons Roman Reigns worked so well during the latter half of the pandemic was that they allowed Roman's segments to feel much more intimate behind the scenes which in turn made Roman's gaslighting of the Usos seem far more uncomfortable and plausible.
In any case, we pick up the Raw after SummerSlam where the Fiend has destroyed Balor (oh, and incidentally, it is still not the Demon King because I think logistically Finn looking terrified under a swathe of black body paint is going to look dumb). At the top of the first hour the Firefly Funhouse starts and Bray, while hanging up a picture of Balor says that He had a lot of fun last night exorcising some demons (*gives wink*). And now...the sky's the limit! Wyatt says there are a lot of other people out there that He wants to play with, but says that he wants to keep it a surprise...for now.
On SmackDown, on the other hand, the Usos lose to Erick Rowan and Daniel Bryan...when a returning Luke Harper comes back and helps the heels to win. This leads to a match the next week: Roman Reigns and the Usos vs Bryan, Harper and Rowan. However just before the match begins...
Yes, Bray Wyatt comes out and joins the commentary team. Cole (or whoever it is), says that they don't have a spare seat, where as Bray says not to worry and pulls from behind the barricade (near the timekeeper's area) a colourfully painted rocking chair and sits on it.
The match is frenetic and soon both Usos are taken out by heel shenanigans, leaving Roman taking on all 3 men. The numbers game becomes too much and Roman is left in a heap with the three men surrounding him when Bray suddenly leans forward in his rocking chair in a very familiar pose. Cue Rowan and Harper dismantling Daniel Bryan and leaving him and Reigns' mangled bodies in the middle of the ring. Cole essentially accuses Bray of brainwashing the former Wyatt family members, but Bray (back in full Funhouse mode) says "Yowie Wowie! C'mon Michael, use your thinking cap! I was here the whole time! But it was fun wasn't it? Oh, I've had the best time!" The show then ends with Bray getting into the ring to celebrate with Harper and Rowan.
So this all culminates in a match at Clash of Champions, with Roman and Bryan (can they co-exist?!) taking on Harper and Rowan. Bryan and Roman accuse Bray of brainwashing Harper and Rowan, but Bray promises that he will not interfere. The match sees Roman and Bryan eventually gaining the upper hand, only for the lights to go dark. When the lights go back up, Roman is unconscious on the floor and the Fiend is on the apron staring at Bryan. Bryan freezes, then backs away into a discus clothesline from Harper for the win. The Fiend then gets into the ring with Harper and Rowan on either side when all of a sudden he snatches Harper and hits a Sister Abigail. Before Rowan can move, the Fiend is on him with the Mandible Claw, choking him out, before wrapping his leg around the ring post and cracking it again and again with a steel chair as Harper pleads with him to stop.
The SmackDown after CoC Reigns is in the ring and cuts a quick promo about how he's had enough of the BS and demands a match with the Fiend before being interrupted by Daniel Bryan who essentially says exactly the same thing. They go back and fourth about who has the bigger beef with Wyatt, with Reigns bringing up the Shield/Wyatt feud and Bryan his own time in the Wyatt Family before Funhouse Bray comes on the ramp. He says that they are both tempting offers for the Fiend, but He wants them to put something more on the line than a pound of flesh. What are they both prepared to do.
Bryan and Reigns ponder this for a second before Luke Harper comes out and looms over Bray with a mic. He simply says the following.
At Hell in a Cell. You. Me. No Holds Barred. Loser Leaves Town.
Bray grins and says that they have a winner!
The next couple of weeks has Harper cut promos about how once he thought he owed Bray Wyatt everything, but now he realises that while both of them are here, Harper cannot prosper. So he says that in Hell in a Cell one of them will finally have to let the other go.
Bray, on the other hand, (in his funhouse persona) talks about how family often hurt the most when they let you down. Luke Harper talks about not being able to let go of Bray Wyatt. And yet, for more than a year when Bray was nowhere to be seen, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan did nothing- happy to live their own lives while Bray's was nothing short of agony. And at Hell in a Cell, Harper will feel that year of agony first hand.
The match is a epic brawl with weapons of all varieties, but near the end it is clear that the Fiend is just too powerful. As Luke lies dazed in the middle of the ring, the Fiend is puts his 'Hurt' glove to his ear, but then pauses and then tilts his head slightly at the courageous Harper struggling to get to his feet. The Fiend bends down, picks him up and gently kisses him on the forehead, before hitting a Sister Abigail and pinning him. He then cradles his head and slowly props him up against the corner ropes, nodding at him before exiting the ring (without the blackout stuff). The commentators can put over the fact that it looked like the Fiend was conflicted and it seemed like he wanted to say goodbye at the end. This also gives Harper the chance to say a goodbye to the WWE PROPERLY!!! before he moves to AEW.
At Crown Jewel Erick Rowan comes back for his revenge in a Falls Count Anywhere Match, but gets beaten by the Fiend, which leads us into Survivor Series, where the Fiend sets his eye on a new foe:
As Miz is drafted to SmackDown, he is coming off a losing streak. However, after his match with Ciampa on the Nov 1st SmackDown, he is left dejected and despondent in the middle of the ring when,,,the Firefly Funhouse music hits and Bray wonders down in the ring and addresses a terrified Miz.
Hey Miz, don't worry. I'm not here to hurt you. I'm here to help you! I know what it's like to have hit rock bottom with no way to get back up. But never fear because I'm here with my fireflies to light the way! Let me help you turn your frown upside down!
He reaches out his Heal glove for a handshake but Miz is too terrified to confirm or deny and scurries to the back.
The next week in a Fatal 4 Way IC Match with Nakamura, Daniel Bryan and Shorty G (where Shorty G and Nak are brawling on the outside), the Miz is being beaten handily with Bryan waiting to hit Miz with a the Running Knee. However while the referee is distracted by Miz pathetically clambering up his trouser leg Bryan is pulled out of the ring by the Fiend who then hits him with a Sister Abigail onto the barricade and rolls him back into the ring, before sliding back under the ring after which Miz collapses onto him and gets the pin. Miz then slowly gets up, both fearful and confused but there is no sign of the Fiend anymore. Later on, the Miz has an interview backstage where he denies being in cahoots with Bray, only for the Miz to go back into his locker room to see a wall painted with a child-like mural drawing with Funhouse Bray and Miz holding hands with a message in colourful writing on the top that says "Friends look after each other". The camera pans back to the MIz, who smiles deviously.
At the same time Bryan demands a match with the Fiend, claiming that he needs to deal with this issue before anything else. Bray accepts and then this gets booked for Survivor Series.
At Survivor Series the Miz beats both Roddy Strong and AJ Styles when Funhouse Bray knocks AJ off the rope when trying a Phenomenal Forearm, leaving them into the waiting arms of a Skull-Crushing Finale (we'll have NXT win the Men's Survivor Team Match so the score is intact). Later on in the same night though we have a vengeful Daniel Bryan vs the Fiend, after which Bray chokes out Bryan savagely with the Hurt Glove Mandible Claw. After this Bryan takes some time off (all of December, essentially).
The next SmackDown Miz tells the roster that he is untouchable as the IC champion and he will take on any one at TLC. Importantly, in interviews the only mention that he makes of Bray is that "I use the assets that I have", not even acknowledging Bray by name. Funhouse Bray will occasionally pop up a la Mankind with the Rock and show the Miz drawings and balloons, to which Miz brushes off in a prickish manner.
However on the go-home SmackDown, Maryse tells the Miz that she is concerned about whether Wyatt might trick the Miz. Miz says that he has Wyatt wrapped around his little finger and that Bray has the IQ of a stapler. Unfortunately both turn around to see Funhouse Bray standing there, looking quite serious. Both Miz and Maryse run away, terrified.
At TLC, Miz loses to Nakamura, as Bray does not show up. and the next SmackDown he cuts a promo saying to Bray that he is sorry that Bray heard him say those awful things and he really, really wants Bray's help. The Firefly Fun House music hits again and we see Bray on screen with a hammer and a sawhorse. He looks at Miz and says that he has built a new place to play. It was actually a present for another friend who won't respond to Bray's invitations, but he would love to hear the Miz's input. The Miz agrees and in the penultimate segment of the show we see Bray guiding the Miz towards the door with the Hurt Glove on his back, before pushing him into the room and locking the door, again with the Hurt Glove. He then places the "Abandon All Hope, ye who Exit here" sign on the door and smiles coyly at the camera.
At the same time, in early January we see an in-ring Daniel Bryan return with a promo with a hood over his face. He says that for the past 3 months he was trying to rekindle the man who won the title at WrestleMania 30 but the Fiend made him realise that this was impossible. The last five years have seen him tap into different aspects of his personality, but he always doing it because he thought he was seeking someone else's approval- whether as GM, as a returning wrestler, as the Planet's Champion or trying to find the Yes! Movement again. But he realises now that to beat the Fiend you have to leave those insecurities behind and so to do that he has to bring it all back to basics. To strip back the gimmickry and show who he is underneath it all. The American Dragon. He takes off his hood and shows his new shorn hair a la ROH and challenges the Fiend at the Rumble.
We do not see the Miz for a couple of weeks, with Bray giving a couple of updates in the Funhouse saying that he is so grateful to have someone to put his Funhouse through its places and that he hopes Miz enjoys his stay. He says that some people may say that he is using the Miz, but he knows in his heart of hearts that he is treating Miz like Miz treated him...and if there was one thing He taught Bray, it was to always treat others in kind.
Of course at the same time, Maryse is panicking and she therefore asks a friend to do a favour for her to try and bring the Miz back:
Yes, John Morrison's first match back on January 3rd against Funhouse Bray, with the stipulation that if Morrison wins, Bray will release the Miz. This match is similar to the match Bray had with the Miz @ TLC in real life, with Morrison beating the tar out of him and Bray laughing. At one point Morrison hits the Starship Pain and Bray rolls to the outside, where he sees Maryse. She looks at him with rage and Bray says something like "believe me, he'll be better for it", at which point Maryse smacks him with a chair, letting Bray win by DQ and thus keeping the Miz captive. Morrison then puts Bray through a table, and walks with Maryse to the back, where Bray says.
Don't worry guys! At the Royal Rumble you'll see our friend Miz again!
All of this leads to the Royal Rumble, where Bryan and Fiend go up first (paralleling their RR match 5 years ago) and have a barnburner, with the Fiend winning and giving a strange nod of respect to his fallen foe. At the end of the night, it's the Men's Rumble and after Lesnar is eliminated, John Morrison (who is brutalized by Lesnar earlier but rolls out of the ring) flattens McIntyre and Ricochet and then awaits the next entrant. We then see the count down happen and then...John Cena's music hits. He comes out with his cap hiding his face and his arms crossed (the pose he did at the 2008 Rumble) and then salutes before running to the ring...When he gets to the ring, however, it's soon revealed to be the Miz. CenaMiz (we're going to call him that so we can differentiate this character between this character and the Miz proper) bounces off the ropes like Cena does before throwing his cap into the audience (he does not take his shirt off, however). He then stops in the middle of the ring and looks a little...blank. Morrison squares up to him and looks horrified, wondering what "what that son of a bitch has done to you?". He calls MIz 'Mike' and implores him to speak to him and reaches out his hand. CenaMiz looks at him for a second, starts reaching his hand...and then does the 'U Can't See Me' sign before pulling Morrison in for an AA over the top rope, eliminating him. CenaMiz then poses for the crowd in a Cena-like way, before getting hit by a Claymore and tossed out.
The next SmackDown we see Michael Cole in the ring, where he says he is privileged to introduce his interview guest, the MIz. Cue the John Cena music and again CenaMiz comes out in full Cena-garb. Michael Cole tries to conduct an interview with CenaMiz, but CenaMiz keeps answering with with Cena's catchphrases (E.g. Cole: "What do you have to say to your family now that you are back, MIz?" CenaMiz: "THE CHAMP IS HERE!!!!"). This gets more and more uncomfortable as the questions get more personal, asking CenaMiz about what Bray did to him. At this point we see CenaMiz pause uncomfortably, before reverting to another Cena catchphrase. It's at this point that Funhouse Bray comes out to the ring and and tells Cole that all these questions are awfully mean. Can't he just see that he's talking Mi- I mean John, is the best he's ever been. Why would you try and take that away from him? Cole doesn't really have an answer for this and Bray grins in his face saying to Cole that he could always "let him in" if he wants to as well. Cole backs off and Bray announces that CenaMiz will have a match right now. The match is against some local jobber, at which point CenaMiz does the 5 moves of doom and pins the jobber before saluting the crowd and walking to the back.
This is the pattern for the next couple of weeks, with CenaMiz coming out with the music and doing very bargain basement Cena stuff (he may cause one of his opponents to tap out with the STF, but it's mostly 5 moves stuff). At the same time, Wyatt in his Funhouse persona, gets on commentary and essentially apes Jerry Lawler at his most sycophantic about Cena.
Finally, two weeks before Elimination Chamber, after the match, John Morrison comes out.
He says that he came back to the WWE to help a friend. But now he realises that Bray's claws are in too deep. So he will have to purge Miz of Bray's poison. He tells CenaMiz that if he wants to be John Cena, then he should have no trouble proving it in his speciality at Elimination Chamber.
An I Quit Match.
CenaMiz accepts and Bray decrees that he wants a fair fight so he will not help and that takes us to the Elimination Chamber, where Morrison gets CenaMiz to say that he quits, essentially allowing Miz to come to the revelation that he isn't Cena (commentary can put this over during the match). Miz slumps in the corner essentially broken, when the lights go out...and he begins to rock back and forth catatonically. When the lights go back on the Fiend is in the ring and looms in front of them...before John Cena's music hits again and Cena comes out properly, and points to the WrestleMania sigh to which the Fiend nods and then disappears.
The next SmackDown we start with John Cena, who comes out and says that he has come to deal once and for all with Bray Wyatt, to deal with the guy who has had all these chances and never made them count. Cue the Firefly Funhouse with Bray on the screen.
Yowie, Wowie! You finally came John! I have been waiting for you for AGES. I thought you might have heroically come back when I dealt with Finn Balor...but you didn't. And then, I thought you'd come back when I took my revenge on Harper and Rowan...but no. And I thought when I started allowing Miz to get the Intercontinental Championship, you'd come back and defend your beloved company...But no. And heck, I thought surely, when I made Daniel Bryan leave for a while, THAT was when he'd come back- to help one of the best loved people in the whole WWE.
I suppose that I should have realized that I would have had to go for your ego to make you come back. And I suppose I should have known that only WrestleMania would be good enough for John Cena. But don't worry, John. He will make it memorable...for you. (Bray then looks back at the fateful door).
From there it's essentially the feud leading up to Mania as well as the match.
And that (phew!) is the first 6 months! Next time we'll do the next part of this booking (maybe all of it depending on how concise I can make it). See you then!
#1 Owen Hart vs Stone Cold @ SummerSlam '97
#2 December to Dismember 2006
#3 The Fingerpoke of Doom
#4 The Scott Steiner vs HHH Feud
#5 Ryback vs Mark Henry @ WrestleMania XXIX
#6 Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon @ WrestleMania XXVI
#7 The Jerry Lawler/Michael Cole Feud
#8 The Curtain Call
#9 Bash at the Beach 2000
#10 Royal Rumble 2014
#11 Warrior/Hogan II @ Halloween Havoc
#12 The Cena/Laurinatis Feud
#13 The Firing of Ric Flair From WCW
#14 The Brogue Kick of Doom
#15 Lesnar vs Goldberg @ WrestleMania XX
#16 Immortal Revealed @ Bound for Glory 2010
#17 Sting vs Hogan @ Starrcade 1997
#18 Triple H vs Booker T @ WrestleMania 19
#19 The Corre
#20 The Undertaker vs Big Boss Man @ WrestleMania 15
#21 Jeff Hardy vs Sting @ Victory Road 2011
#22 Road Wild 1999
#23 The John Cena/Kane Feud of 2012
#24 Hulk Hogan's Mancow Interview of 1999
#25 CM Punk vs the Rock @ Elimination Chamber 2013
#26 The Reign of Bill Watts in WCW
#27 The Claire Lynch Affair Part One And Two
#28 Triple H vs Kevin Nash @ TLC 2011
#29 The Cactus Jack Amnesia Angle
#30 Hulk Hogan Leaving TNA
#31 HBK vs Hulk Hogan @ SummerSlam 2005
#32 David Arquette: WCW Champion
#33 Katie Vick
#34 nWo Souled Out 1997
#35 The Vampiro/Sting Feud of 2000
#36 Once in a Lifetime, Episode II
#37 The Angle/Jarrett Feud of 2010/11
#38 The McMahon/Lashley Feud
#39 The Shockmaster
#40 CM Punk vs Ryback @ Hell in a Cell 2012
#41 Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper @ Starrcade 1996
#42 The WWE Championship Reign of Diesel
#43 Cena vs the Wyatts
#44 The Main Roster Run of Emma
#45 The WCW Run of Bret Hart
#46 John Cena vs the Miz @ WrestleMania 27
#47 The Lone Wolf AJ Styles
#48 Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger @ WrestleMania 29
#49 The Transition of Mike Awesome from ECW to WCW
#50 The Dolph Ziggler Conundrum Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
#51 The Rise and Fall of Damien Sandow/Mizdow Part One and Part Two
#52 DDP & Jay Leno vs Hollywood Hogan & Eric Bischoff @ Road Wild 1998
#53 Triple H vs Randy Orton @ WrestleMania 25
#54 Lord Tensai
#55 LOD 2000
#56 Sid Vicious vs Scott Steiner @ Starrcade 2000
#57 Bret Hart vs Yokuzuna (feat. Hulk Hogan) @ WrestleMania 9
#58 Royal Rumble 2015
#59 The Crucifixion of the Sandman
#60 Brock Lesnar's First Year Back in WWE
#61 Bo Dallas' Main Roster Run
#62 Vince Russo vs Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
#63 Randy Orton vs the Big Show @ Survivor Series 2013
#64 AJ Styles vs Abyss @ Destination X 2010
#65 EV 2.0
#66 The Summer of Punk Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
#67 The Lex Express
#68 Goldberg's first WWE Run
#69 Paige's Main Roster Run 2014-2016
#70 Seth Rollins' First World Title Run
#71 Hulk Hogan vs Sgt Slaughter @ WrestleMania VII
#72 Sting vs Abyss in a Last Rites Match
#73 The Undertaker vs Big Show in the Punjabi Prison
#74 Ric Flair vs Hollywood Hogan @ Uncensored 1999
#75 Roman Reigns' Road to WrestleMania 32 Part One, Part Two. Part Three
#76 Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice @ WrestleMania VIII
#77 Muhammad Hassan
#78 Sheamus' World Heavyweight Title Reign
#79 The Ghastly Match
#80 Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton @ Wrestlemania 33
#81 Goldberg vs Steiner vs Nash @ New Blood Rising'
#82 The Lesnar/Angle/Big Show feud of 2002
#83 Aces and Eights
#84 Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar @ WrestleMania 32
#85 Jinder Mahal: WWE Champion Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
#86 DDP & Karl Malone vs Hollywood Hogan & Dennis Rodman.
#87 Triple H vs Sting
#88 The 1992 Run of the Ultimate Warrior
#89 Jenna Morasca vs Sharmell
#90 The Lesnar/Reigns Feud of 2018 Part One, Part Two, Part Three
#91 The Higher Power Revealed
#92 The Brawl for All
#93 The 2019 Title Reigns of Seth Rollins Part One, Part Two
#94 The Main Roster Run of Karrion Kross Part One, Part Two
#95 Fiend vs Goldberg @ Super Showdown Part One
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
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY