Published on September 23rd, 2019 | by Ian Goodwillie0
The Frightening Fun House Career of Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt has done a superb job of weathering lulls in his career and weird creative frightening fun house turns that didn’t always make sense.
Trying to find an angle that works in pro wrestling is difficult to say the least, particularly in the WWE. Convincing the fans is one thing but getting over with WWE management is an entirely different story. Even if the fans love it, that doesn’t mean management or creative will necessarily support it in the long run.
Fortunately, Bray Wyatt doesn’t seem to have that problem. His entire career has been based around a character evolution arc few could have predicted.
Windham Rotunda, a third-generation wrestler who would become Bray Wyatt, comes from a wrestling family. His grandfather wrestled under the name Blackjack Mulligan and his father is well known to many wrestling fans as Irwin R. Schyster, aka IRS, who walked the aisle with The Million Dollar Ted DiBiase. Wyatt’s uncles were wrestlers and his brother, Bo Dallas, also wrestles for the WWE.
Rotunda’s WWE journey started in Florida Championship Wrestling in 2009. Before he was Bray Wyatt, there were other gimmicks for Rotunda in FCW and NXT like Husky Harris. Despite the terrible name and beard, this persona came with some success as he joined The Nexus and actually got TV time alongside CM Punk. Shockingly, Husky Harris didn’t last long.
When FCW changed to NXT, Rotunda officially debuted at Bray Wyatt in 2012. The leader of a backwoods cult-like family, Wyatt was charismatic and unsettling. His entrance was low key, almost hypnotic, a far cry from the high energy entrances you normally get from wrestlers. This angle flourished in NXT, despite an injury Wyatt sustained that required surgery. Despite the injury, Wyatt continued to appear on TV as the leader of The Wyatt Family, which consisted of Luke Harper and Erick Rowan at that point. And The Wyatt Family eventually made their way to Raw.
Over the next few years, Bray Wyatt was engaged in feuds with high profile superstars like Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton and John Cena. He even won the WWE Championship from Cena in an Elimination Chamber match in 2017. Even though he was supposed to be a heel, Bray Wyatt became a fan favorite.
But that doesn’t mean everything went smoothly.
The Wyatt Family inevitably dissolved. He lost the WWE Championship to Randy Orton after holding it for less than two months, the only singles titles he’s won in his WWE career. After losing that belt, Wyatt faltered. Still a fan favorite, he struggled to find solid footing for his next storyline. Eventually, he joined with Woken Matt Hardy to form a tag team and they became tag champions, titles they lost to The B Team which consists of Curtis Axel and Wyatt’s brother, Bo Dallas. After that angle ended, Wyatt all but disappeared.
Over the next few months, rumors started popping up that Bray Wyatt’s character was undergoing some creative changes. These types of rumors can send shivers up and down the spines of wrestling fans.
Sometimes, creative retooling is a great thing.
Most of the time, it’s a bloody train wreck.
Fans are left to wonder if what’s coming next for a wrestler is positive or negative when this process starts. And the dirt sheets just won’t stop speculating, fueling the rampant rumor fires that are constantly burning all over the wrestling internet. For several months, Bray Wyatt was the source for many of those rumors.
Then came Firefly Fun House.
In April 2019, vignettes started appearing featuring creepy, weird puppets. No one watching knew for sure who or what the promos were for at the time. Eventually, Firefly Fun House turned into a pseudo TV short series featuring the puppets and an all new Bray Wyatt. Firefly Fun House was an amalgamation of kids shows like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Pee Wee’s Playhouse with a touch of American Horror Story. References were made throughout each segment to Wyatt’s past in WWE, particularly through the puppets. Huskus the Pig was a direct reference his old Husky Harris gimmick. As time went on, the Fun House got creepier and creepier, and the puppets started sneakily appearing backstage. And then came The Fiend.
Through Firefly Fun House, fans were introduced to The Fiend. The new Bray Wyatt was supposedly good, kind and caring. The Fiend definitely was not. He wanted to hurt everyone, to make those who crossed Bray in the past pay for their sins.
The Fiend wears an insane mask created by horror icon Tom Savini’s makeup effects team. He walks out to a harder version of Bray’s original theme song. He carries a lantern, which Bray Wyatt also did, that’s shoved inside the severed head of Bray Wyatt, which Bray did not do. Before The Fiend appears, technology fails and lights go out. Screaming starts. He attacks. The Fiend has taken out legends like Kane, Kurt Angle and Mick Foley. His first main roster target was Finn Balor, the man who got the better of him with his own alter ego, The Demon. Now, he’s hunting the current Universal Champion, Seth Rollins.
Raw. Monday, September 16th, 2019. Bray appeared repeatedly throughout the show via Firefly Fun House segments, threatening Seth Rollins. And at the end of the show, The Fiend appeared. The closing moments of the episode featured a beaten down Rollins cowering in the corner while The Fiend closed in, giving him a menacing glare from inches away. Then, it cut to an even creepier version of the Firefly Fun House intro.
Every time a wrestler gets a new gimmick, the fear among fans is that the wrestler or the company won’t commit to it hard enough to make it work. This is doubly true in the tail end of WWE’s PG era with a new Bray Wyatt gimmick that has drifted well into the horror genre. But WWE committed to it fully and there’s an argument to be made that Bray Wyatt is the most over performer in the company right now.
The brilliance of this angle is in its execution. All of the talking is done by Bray Wyatt in the deceptively saccharine and sweet world of Firefly Fun House. And all of the fighting is done by The Fiend.
The only televised match he’s had since his return was against Finn Balor. Their previous feud ended in Balor’s favor, so it made sense for The Fiend to pick up where Wyatt left off. And with Balor taking time off wrestling that started with his defeat, it sets up another return match between The Fiend and The Demon. With The Fiend taking Seth Rollins on at Hell in a Cell for the Universal Championship, this storyline could present a path for Balor back to that belt, as well.
Bray Wyatt has done a superb job of weathering lulls in his career and weird creative turns that didn’t always make sense. But that’s the name of the game in the wrestling world. You make the gimmick you’ve got work until it’s over with the fans and management.
If not, find something better.