As a performer, Bray Wyatt frustrated and confused me. Yet despite my critical reviews of what unfortunately became the last run of his career, Bray Wyatt did something that every entertainer strives to do with their audience.
He left an impression on me and all who watched him.
As I tried processing the news of Wyatt’s death, my first reaction was, “Dear God, please let this be the beginning of a tasteless angle. I can forgive it if you just say it isn’t so.”
Sadly, it’s not to be.
But as I remember Bray Wyatt, I find myself chuckling at the absurd parts of his career that once vexed me and laughing even harder at the ridiculous reactions to it from myself and others. And in those moments, it reinforces what nearly everyone is saying.
Bray Wyatt was brilliant.
The time will come when what Wyatt brought to pro wrestling will become commonplace presentation, and historians and pundits will realize that Bray Wyatt was 20 years ahead of his time. And the proof?
Wyatt’s Firefly Fun House match with John Cena was one of the few bright spots of a pandemic-ruined ’Mania. Advertised as a match, it was anything but wrestling. Instead, Wyatt engaged Cena in psychological warfare more suited for a movie or television show. Even for pro wrestling, it was awful because it was the most obvious exhibition of “opponents” working together, breaking the audience’s suspension of disbelief.
At the same time, it was a magnificent piece of entertainment that was a tremendous character study of John Cena. It featured elements such as the original theme to Saturday Night’s Main Event, an acknowledgment of Vince McMahon’s fascination with musclemen, and McMahon’s use of his offscreen catchphrase, “That’s such good shit.”
But the best part? Fans finally got the long-awaited Cena heel turn they had been asking for, though it was just a dream.
Reflecting upon this, I began to draw comparisons between Wyatt and Andy Kaufman, another brilliant performer who enthralled, frustrated, and bewildered crowds with a brand of entertainment that was beyond their grasp at the time.
Soon, my sadness turned to smiles as I remembered the parts of Wyatt’s career I enjoyed, including what I thought was his most brilliant creation, the Firefly Fun House, wrestling’s warped answer to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
For my money, the Firefly Fun House was the best talking segment in WWE history, second only to Piper’s Pit. It was like the demon spawn of a pre-taped wrestling promo and Shrek, with dialogue that satisfied casual fans with subtle nods to hardcore buffs who follow the reported backstage happenings through sites like Cageside Seats.
My favorite segment of the Fun House was when Wyatt introduced a puppet version of WWE’s puppet master, Vince McMahon. Rumors circulated for years that said McMahon wasn’t a fan of Wyatt or his gimmick, which led to a moment that still makes me howl with laughter.
During Wyatt’s campaign to capture the Universal Championship, Vince McMarionette came to the Fun House to fire the enigmatic superstar. That’s when Wyatt, whose merchandise was flying off the shelves, whipped out a wad of cash and said, “Hold on, boss. Look what I’ve been making,” before stuffing his mouth with hundred-dollar bills, which was all it took to send the evil owner away.
Wow, stuffing money into someone’s mouth. It wasn’t until now I realized how that was a sly homage to another famous McMahon creation, the Million Dollar Man, played by Ted DiBiase, who was once tag team partners with Wyatt's father, Mike Rotunda, aka Irwin R. Schyster.
Well done, Bray.
And so it’s moments like that and times when he quite literally lit up the room that I choose to remember.
Imitators will come, but there will never be another like him. Good, bad, and bizarre, thanks for it all, Bray Wyatt.