“This research has me smitten,” I wrote two months ago, in Bray Wyatt 101: The Power of Fear. It was my response to the first airing of the Wyatt Family vignette. After tracing Windham Rotunda’s path from brother Bo’s partner to the puntable Husky Harris to the meticulously-crafted Bray Wyatt, I felt optimistic for his future on RAW. Not a very bold declaration, as the Wyatt Family vignette proved to bewitch even the snarkiest smark’s heart. Those who didn’t see the Wyatts coming felt intrigued. Those who’d been waiting for them felt validated. Wyatt 102 will gauge how successful Bray Wyatt has been in his campaign to arouse fear so far.
“They Say We’re Coming…”
That first vignette aired on May 27. Bray Wyatt was new to me, so I based my initial judgment on the video alone. I sent the clip to my friends, something I don’t often do. I wanted to see if they felt the same way after watching it. The video was both haunting and peculiar, one minute and 18 seconds of high-efficiency terror.
After such a formidable premiere, they continued airing Wyatt Family vignettes several times a week, across all programs, for the next five weeks. They produced different cuts of the video, varying the images and voice overs just enough to keep it fresh without compromising the feel of it. There always seemed to be something new to catch your eye, like that butcher’s apron (cult people are always chopping stuff up!) and the lady in the tree (cult people always have young, sexy followers!).
Unlike the Fandango vignettes, an air-wank in terms of both production and delivery, the Wyatt vignettes showed that someone cared. That motivated me to care. It didn’t bother me that each week would pass and the Wyatts did not show up in person. I didn’t feel like it was being drawn out too much or was going to be an empty tease. I had faith that this build meant care was being taken. Building the anticipation with videos alone was a good choice, because it really amplified how much we all wanted to see what the Wyatts would do when they finally appeared.
“…But We’ve Been Here All Along”
On July 8, another Wyatt vignette opened the show. In this one, a man sing-songs, “Come out, come out, wherever you are…” over the image of a derelict doll’s head. It made me think about what scared me as a child, and what scares me now that I have children. Another part makes you feel like you’re running through the bush in the dark, only the ground is above you, and then it flashes to a porcelain pig smiling. Don’t do drugs, kids. It’s like visiting the Wyatts.
Throughout the program, they aired footage from a WWE.com reporter seeking the Wyatt Family house. He approaches two fellows attending to some caged birds in the back of a pickup truck. I am so impressed by the guys they’ve hired to play local Louisiana folk. Actually, I don’t think they hired anyone at all! Shit just got real. The reporter is directed to a run-down house with furniture stacked up on the front porch and a bonfire burning out back. My two biggest fears in life would be running out of gas in front of that house, and Brock Lesnar. Goat Mask chops wood, but in a split second he is gone. Shivers. Lit only by a bare bulb, the hallway reverberates with chanting that is so rhythmic that I struggle to make out the words “obey-obey-obey-obey”. Through the shadows we catch a glimpse of a dressmaker’s form (cult people like to make their own dresses!) and then Bray Wyatt appears with a greeting so convivial that it’s unsettling: “There you are! Come in. I’ve been waiting for you.”
He settles in on the rocker and shares his thoughts. “I don’t have followers. I have only brothers and sisters, all in the name of a cause!” He’s using fear tactics to influence people’s feelings. But what is his cause? I will come back to that question. We watch Bray in the rocking chair, but now from the screen in the arena. “People can’t lead themselves, they want to be led!” He raises and lowers his voice like a preacher possessed, but couples it with very precise and almost delicate hand gestures. I loved the vignettes and the scenes from the Family compound when I first saw them; watching them more carefully has given me a greater appreciation for all the nuances.
Later on in the show, Kane pins Christian and the lights go out. Bray comes up on the tron and ignites his lantern. “We’re here.” After weeks of anticipation, those words incite cheers from the crowd. Cue music. The deep bass is like the sound of a heart pounding, and the lazy slide guitar has a slow, paralyzing effect. In the darkened arena, the lantern’s solitary light seems to almost glide down the ramp on its own, barely illuminating the well-advertised face of Bray Wyatt. He’s here! This is live television, and the crowd is wild. He is flanked by the man in the goat mask, visible only when the lantern swings his way. We can’t quite see him, but we know the other man is there as well.
Bray takes a seat in the rocking chair, and blows out the lantern. You know what’s great? When the arena lights up again, and the other two Wyatts have surrounded Kane in the ring, Kane doesn’t look surprised at all. He knows what happens when the lights go out, and he is ready, but outnumbered. Harper and Rowan pound him down and drag him outside the ring. They administer the head shot heard round the world, as they bash Kane’s head with the ring steps. It’s as if Bray can smell the blood and walks with purpose towards the scene, delightedly disposing of his hat as he approaches. He kneels and raises his arms into the crucifix position, laughing as his eyes look upward. Fade to black, but not before a split-second flash of a goat’s mask.
Do not complain that Bray Wyatt did not wrestle. He wields control without lifting a finger. Have you seen buzzards at work? They peck away. They take their time. On July 15, the lights go out again during R-Truth’s time in the ring. Cue fantastic music, and the lantern’s glow. The camera crew gets in really close on the Wyatt Family – what we can see of them in this light – and Bray smiles, just enough, as he saunters in with his crew. He is so, so poised. He is ready and he is awesome.
Lights on. Harper and Rowan assault R-Truth with a rain of fists while Bray rocks and watches. The voyeur element of Bray Wyatt is in keeping with his other sickening mannerisms. Another great reason to let him watch instead of wrestle for now.
After R-Truth is out of the way, Bray takes the microphone and almost dances into the ring. The laughter that he sprinkles into his messages has become less forced and more natural since the NXT days. Nothing seems rehearsed beyond a loose script. He talks about heroes being an illusion, and everything not being alright. My opinion on Bray Wyatt’s cause: Don’t try to follow his argument too closely. It’s all in the diction and the delivery, but it’s short on sense. That’s the beauty of it. Bray Wyatt is about a feeling, not about logic. Why give us something that we can pick apart and turn around on him, when his goal is to intimidate? He’s baffling, but has conviction. You can’t argue with such a man. Is it “advanced fear mongering” as my title suggests? I think his purpose is to gather brothers and sisters who are okay with faulty arguments and like how they feel around Bray.
Two weeks later on July 26, the Wyatt Family debuts on Smackdown against Tons of Funk. Luke Harper and Erick Rowan are made to look strong, fast, and cohesive, all while Bray looks on. Rowan gets tremendous height on his splashes! These guys are perfect for quick squash matches. After the pin, Bray enters to administer the Sister Abigail on Tensai, but not before reassuring him that it’s not his fault. A creepy absolution given how goofy Tensai has become. Then Bray takes the mic to address Kane, and I notice that his hand grazes against Rowan’s torso as he speaks; it makes me think of the Straight Edge Society, its members caressing CM Punk. In wrestling, how you touch someone is everything.
A few days later on July 29, Kane was loitering in the ring after his loss to Daniel Bryan. The lights go out, and this time Kane is en route to the rocking chair when the lights turn back on. Before he can deliver a choke slam on Bray, the other members of the Family step in. They pummel him and leave him limp in the ring. Bray enters, all greasy as if it’s a manky old arena. He hoists Kane up, gives him a kiss, rolls his eyes as if possessed and gives him a Sweet Abigail. Holy Hawaiian Shirts it is fast! I don’t care who’s doing what to whom and with how much cooperation: Bray Wyatt lifting Kane, Truth, and Tensai up into the Sweet Abigail position looks tough, and the speed at which he follows through is wicked. Then he gets all secretive and playful, shushing Kane and giggling as he admonishes him.
On the August 5 RAW, Harper and Rowan face Tons of Funk. What an old-school battle of caricatures, but a short-lived one. The Wyatts hold up Brodus Clay’s defeated body, and Bray decides to take in the scene by bridging over backwards from the corner. It is a disturbing tableau. After he dispenses with Clay, he gives a short sermon and taunts Kane. Thinking he is done, he assumes the crucifix position and the lights go out. Kane flames! Harper and Rowan scramble to roll Clay’s body out of the ring (I LOVE that part, as if they are totally accustomed to rolling bodies out of the way when they’re caught off guard). Kane says that he sees through Bray’s “haze of cryptic words” and challenges him at Summerslam. Bray nods and accepts with a smile that spreads into full-belly laughter as Kane ignites his pyro on the ring posts. They both seem to relish what’s coming.
It makes sense that Bray would target the other preacher in town first. Kane is also pretty fondly regarded by the fans, so it means more to see him punished. Kane is a big man, accustomed to physically dominating the majority of his opponents. All the more shocking to see him be dominated with such violence. Wyatt hasn’t been targeting the scrawny generic jobbers; he’s starting strong and I like it.
If I’d never done the research for Wyatt 101, I would still think the Wyatt Family was interesting. Since their video debut on May 27, the Wyatts have been heavily promoted, well produced, and perhaps most importantly: prepared. Armed with a unique understanding of who they’re supposed to be, all three men carry themselves with confidence. I personally think they’ve made a seamless transition to “the big shows”. The next step is Summerslam, and I will be on the edge of my seat when the lantern is lit.
I’m on vacation next week, but I hope to send John a column to post for me (Part 2 of My All-Time Favorite Women of WWE)! Please use the friendly comment system below to let me know what you’re thinking, and you can follow me on twitter @kickyhick. Thank you so much for reading!