I try my best to understand the things that I love, to wrap my head around what works about it and what doesn't as a way to better understand myself and the things that I enjoy. It's made me prone to long, wordy monologues (even on this site) as I'm trying to wrap my own mind around an idea. It's led my friends to wonder if I secretly hate a game, movie, or wrestler because I'll go hard on aspects I didn't enjoy when the truth is I love it.
Example: I recently got into a multi-hour discussion with a friend about what I don't like about recent decisions in Dungeons and Dragons 5e (and a much smaller talk about what I did like) that would make you think I hated D&D. I don't. I love D&D and I want to see it thrive. I critique it because I love it and hope somehow that critique will make it healthier so it reaches more people.
That leads me to this blog post and another I plan to do. Royal Rumble gave me a big, heaping helping of thoughts on my two current favorite wrestlers in Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns. A post on Reigns would generally be what I love about the ongoing Bloodline story. This one comes from a place of love too but it might not sound like it.
Bray Wyatt's comeback has not been the slam dunk many people have hoped it would be, at least around the Cageside Seats comment section, which is my only real exposure to the internet wrestling community at large. I am among the people who it's not quite working for, which is likely surprising considering my long running advocacy for Wyatt's activities. It did make me sit down and wonder about what was different... what wasn't quite hitting right in the hopes that the critique might have a positive effect. So here it is, what I don't think is working about Bray Wyatt's current run.
• The Mystery is too impregnable - This one might sound strange or be dismissed outright by Wyatt's detractors since the ongoing dig at Wyatt has been that he's the only one that really knows what's been going on in his story lines. Or mystery advocates might question how this is a bad thing in the first place.
Here's the thing though, there is a right and wrong way to present a mystery.
You can have a story about trying to figure out who a masked killer is where the protagonist spends the entire length tracking down suspects, just to find out at the last minute it was secretly the kindly old baker lady you saw at the very beginning and then never again. Is it a mystery? Yeah, sure...but is it a good one? No. No it is not.
A good mystery is one that doesn't just take the viewer along the path of discovery to an unknown end, it lays enough clues (subtle or otherwise) that when you re-watch it you can have your genius 'Ah ha!' moment as you see all the subtle signs throughout the story that point towards the true culprit. It makes you feel accomplished that you're noticing those signs, it makes you feel a bit foolish (in a good way) that you didn't see it before. It takes you on a ride in the 'wrong' direction but gives you the chance to figure it out on your own.
Wyatt's mystery has been adding layers but it has not been adding clues as to what's going on. The big question is, "Who is Uncle Howdy?" But have we gotten any clues about who they are? Sure, there's internet rumor and speculation as to who Uncle Howdy is that is most likely correct, but that is different from the story itself presenting those clues. There has been no hint or clue as to who or what Uncle Howdy is after all of this time, the only big development has been that 'Bray is not Uncle Howdy' which while admittedly was a big development was also some time ago.
• Bray is Rambling - I know, I know, someone is going to snark, "So how's that different from his previous runs?", and that is also a fair critique.
Bray is famous and notorious for his rambling promo style that paints a lurid picture with his tone and words. His fans love the subtle picture that he paints, while his detractors deride it as vague nonsense leading to nothing! It undoubtedly makes Bray stand out as different from his peers, which is important, but not always in the best way.
It may not be an eloquent monologue, but sometimes what's most important is getting your point across as quickly as possible. It was a joke, but during Bray and Roman's first feud there were people saying the best promos of the entire feud was Bray's closing line of "Anyone but you Roman", and Roman's single line of "You, me, Hell in a Cell" despite a number of promos in-between. That..is still true.
There is a time to be verbose and there is a time for brevity. Bray made a big point about the fact we're getting to see more of the real man this time around, not a character of his invention and yet..he's talking like he's still a cult leader. And I do love me a good, rambling Bray promo... but the difference between a good one and a bad one is the ending.. the point which Bray never struggled with before but feels like he is now. Mostly because the current trend seems to be he gets interrupted by LA Knight or Uncle Howdy before he can get to the point but, well -- it shouldn't ALWAYS be the case.
We, the viewers, need to know the point and the stakes involved.
• The.................................................... Pace - I've been alluding to it above pretty much this entire time, but now it's time to talk about this in earnest. The pace of this story has been absolutely glacial.
This can be a good thing, just take a look at The Bloodline for an example of a good, slow paced story. But there's a time and place for it. There's a reason to go slow. Generally speaking, you use the slow parts of the story as the chance to explore the characters, their feelings, and their motivations. You get to know the actors so that when it comes time for the violence you have an emotional connection to what is going on.
Look at my other two points though, and you can see why this is third. The pace would not be a negative factor without the prior points being an issue, but again... where is this mystery going? Where is Bray going? Hell, what have we learned about Bray or LA Knight since all of this started?
There have been people talking about how LA Knight seems like the face in all of this and that is a problem! Sure, LA Knight has been a jerk and insulting. But he's being constantly assaulted and attacked. Bray has the interesting dilemma of not wanting to fall back into old, violent habits which, to be clear, is a fantastic motivation for his character. But why doesn't he? It worked for him in the past! Hell, it made him Universal champion! And why is he struggling with these impulses? He's had chances to explain more about himself but he hasn't managed to do it. And I know people will say "That's normal", but it really isn't.
I think one of the more frustrating parts is now we've had the actual first match with this new iteration of Bray Wyatt and it was a lukewarm reception, both in the arena and on these boards. Compare this, rightfully so, to the introduction of the Fiend for a direct parallel between Wyatt creations. Never mind where the Fiend's story went from that point, hopefully this time its the exact opposite, starting off cold and then constantly heating up, but JUST the introduction. The Fiend was about as perfect an introduction as any wrestler could ask for and the entrance itself was longer than the match...but no one cared.
The entrance itself got a well deserved 'Holy Shit' chant from the SummerSlam crowd, that's how on point everything was. What's more is that you can see the flashes of something great every now and then, I wasn't completely sold on Wyatt's new theme music to be perfectly frank and I'm still not. I'm hoping its an indicator of what's to come to be frank because a lot of my issues with it are the same with Wyatt's current storyline. It's slow, different and almost out of place, and you don't quite see the connection to Wyatt himself or his act plus I thought it would be awful for a run-in, save, or attack...but you know what? Raw XXX showed how it could WORK.
LA Knight bails on the ring to get away from Undertaker, you know Bray is going to show up to give the shit-talking heel his karmic comeuppance, the light's go out, the phones come up, and there's the lantern. And then, as LA Knight realizes 'he dun fucked up' and turns around, the first sounds of Shattered hits. LA Knight is no longer in a wrestling arena, he's in a horror show, confronted by the monster, as he's backing away slowly as the notes pick up speed until finally out of desperation he dives back into the ring with the UNDERTAKER to get away. That, right there, was perfection and sold me on the idea of Shattered as Bray's theme song.
Like most of this run though, it feels like a flash of brilliance in a dreary darkness.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on Bray's current run as they stand so far after they crystallized from last weekend's Royal Rumble. What do YOU think? Are these criticisms on point or blown out of proportion? How would you fix them? Let me know in the comments below!