Bad guys come from dark places. Death Valley, Sin City, Parts Unknown. But what if the darkest place is INSIDE the bad guy?
Bray Wyatt hails from Louisiana, conjuring images of murky swamplands and dense groves. Though the sun is shining in every scene, the expertly-edited Wyatt Family vignette was deliciously unsettling. The rocking chair, the mask, the doll. Eerily quiet people gathered in deserted places. And Bray Wyatt’s words, above all, the scariest part.
I wanted to know more, and the story is as sprawling as a cypress in the bayou.
What’s In A Name?
This is a wonderful time for longer-term (“old”) wrestling fans. We wax nostalgic for the glory days, as we watch next-generation workers wrestle their way out from their fathers’ shadows. Bray Wyatt’s family is rooted in wrestling, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t paid his dues.
His grandfather is Blackjack Mulligan. His father Mike Rotunda (later known as I.R.S.), tagged with his uncle Barry Windham. The man we know as Bray Wyatt was born Windham Rotunda. What a one-two punch of pedigree.
In 2009, Windham joined FCW as “Alex Rotundo”. Shortly thereafter, he changed his name to “Duke Rotundo” and teamed with his younger brother Taylor (who at the time used the ring name “Bo Rotundo”, Taylor’s fourth name since joining FCW). This column might have benefitted from a flow chart.
In June 2010, Windham appeared on the NXT program as “Husky Harris”. He was eliminated from the NXT competition, but continued to work in FCW at the same time.
In October 2010, Husky Harris and Michael McGillicutty (now “Curtis Axel”) interfered in the Cena/Barrett match at Hell In A Cell. They were eventually inducted into Barrett’s Nexus.
When CM Punk took over Nexus in January 2011, Husky was forced to undergo a locker room lashing at the hands of the other Nexus members. The scene was pretty disturbing. After withstanding this initiation, Harris got Randy Orton-punted back to FCW for his troubles.
In March 2011, Harris tried a new character in FCW: a deranged, hockey mask-wearing “Axel Mulligan”. You see, the WWE generates names using a cootie catcher like we used to make in elementary school. You get eight choices, all of them laughable. I can see why the WWE would prefer to own a name themselves, but when you come from a wrestling family, I vote for proper names. Or, go a COMPLETELY different route. These mash-up names sound so generic and interchangeable.
Axel Mulligan didn’t last long. For the next year, he reverted back to Husky Harris. He wore western boots and plain black trunks. In a sea of spray tans and six-pack abs, Harris was at risk. Who knew that his sallow complexion and jiggly belly could lend itself to a more dangerous persona? The large, blood-tipped wings tattooed upon his back dispelled any notions of a “jolly guy”. He was a big man who could really wrestle. But as Husky Harris, he was destined for mediocrity.
In April 2012, he introduced FCW to Bray Wyatt. His promos and his matches had a very different tone than the Husky Harris days.
Bray Wyatt could be called a hybrid of dark souls past: Jake Roberts, Raven, Waylon Mercy, even Straight Edge Society CM Punk. As fans get older, it takes an effort to continually instill a fear of the dark. After the Wyatt Family vignette on RAW, I felt it. Either we’ve had enough time to let our guards down, or Bray Wyatt is simply a man whose time has come.
Time Is On His Side
I had an amazing friend named Janet, who would use the word “gorgeous” to describe well-prepared meals. I always thought it was funny, and I channel her now when I call this a gorgeous time for Bray Wyatt to come along. He is well prepared. He’s been an everyday dude. He’s been EVERY dude. And he got to be Bray Wyatt for a whole year in FCW, before they aired that vignette on RAW.
For a whole year, he practiced looking like Bray Wyatt. He came to the ring wearing a Hawaiian-print shirt, and for the record, I am a fan of Hawaiian-print shirts. But when paired with a straw fedora, white pants, and creepy talk, even a Hawaiian shirt starts looking suspicious. When the bell rang, he’d wrestle in a tank top, long pants and boots. You could see the consideration that went into his choices. He grew out his already-unkempt hair, and cultivated a nasty version of Zeb Coulter’s beard.
For a whole year, he practiced wrestling like Bray Wyatt. He adapted his mannerisms in the ring to look more sadistic and disturbed. He would smile as he smashed people, and loll around the mat in pleasure. He would dance with his opponent’s limp body, and give him a kiss, before delivering a swinging facebuster. He would stare into an opponent’s eyes as he languished in the corner, like a voyeur into his own match. It made me uncomfortable to watch. He became much more aggressive. His splash into the corner, at a terrific speed, is the best I’ve seen. His body slams are actually throws. This research has me smitten.
When he was out with a torn pectoral muscle for 6 months, he practiced talking like Bray Wyatt. The small, dark FCW arena was the perfect setting for him to command an audience. He spoke with a playful drawl, laughing at intervals, and raising his arms as if on a crucifix. He spoke of burning worlds and secrets that would soon be understood. His motivation: to toy with us, and his opponent. He mastered the art of the controlled lunatic.
“You don’t understand me! But you will…”
He built the Wyatt Family in February, with Luke Harper and Erick Rowan (I bet their family tree has a LOT of tangled branches). I am curious to see how this faction of three asserts themselves on the WWE’s flagship program, but from what I’ve seen so far, I am optimistic.
Windham Rotunda is capitalizing on his strengths, and has slipped into this character like a perfect second skin. William Regal, no stranger to the macabre, says that Wyatt gives him “the cobbywobbles”, a ringing endorsement in my books. Can they take this to the next level, on the big stage?
Have I done Windham Rotunda justice, or am I full of false hope? What is your prognosis on The Wyatt Family? Please comment below! I am on twitter @kickyhick and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would like to thank The Melo Man for this week and last week’s gorgeous banners. Without my even saying, “a stalker font would be nice”, he took it one step further with Dyslexic Stalker Font. Talent.