Why The Wyatt Family is the Best and Worst thing for the WWE

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The Wyatt Family are a phenomenon in the wrestling landscape right now. They are most definitely the bad guys, they look like bad guys and they do bad guy things. But not unlike the last big heel stable to enter the WWE, The Shield, the fans are eating them up and loving them. In fact the fan reaction to Bray and his boys has been even louder and more impactful than the Shield on their debut. When Bray walked out of that curtain holding that lantern on Monday Night Raw for the first time the fan reaction was like that of a return of a former world champion. When they appeared on NXT, WWE’s development show, for the final time they were given a hero’s send off as they were overwhelmingly cheered and the fans even began to chant ‘Thank you Bray’. Not exactly how you expect your fans to react to villains.

So why exactly are fans, hardcore and casual alike, so excited about The Wyatt Family? And why should wrestling fans be nervous about their immense popularity?

The answer is simple, because they’re not wrestling.

The Wyatt Family is like nothing else in wrestling at the moment, and nothing like anything fans have seen in a long time. Aesthetically they are three hillbillies taken straight out of Deliverance with an ominous darkness around them that puts them more in league with the characters from a Rob Zombie film. Bray Wyatt is the leader who spouts out rants reminiscent of Max Cady from Cape Fear while his followers Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, who he refers to as his brothers, watch on. Harper and Rowan lumber behind their leader and follow Bray’s commands when not eating up his every word. This backwoods cult, menacing and convincing cult leader and two savage animalistic followers, are something straight out of a Hollywood film not a WWE ring. What’s more is Bray has yet to even mention wrestling or the fact the three are wrestlers. As refreshing as their presence is on Monday Night Raw they look totally out of place against the cartoonish and larger than life characters of the WWE.

Bray Wyatt has taken the WWE by storm since his arrival.

Bray Wyatt has taken the WWE by storm since his arrival.

When Bray Wyatt first appeared on NXT he quickly captured the imagination of the wrestling world and its diehard fans. Windham Rotunda, the son of WWE legend Mike Rotunda (I.R.S), had developed a character that he pulled off perfectly and terrifyingly convincingly. He was able to have the audiences eating out of the palm of his hand while reciting long and compelling promos with ease. The Bray Wyatt character feels fresh and different. The WWE have done cults before, quite a lot actually, but none have felt as well executed and original as The Wyatt Family. They just don’t feel like wrestling, their first chilling Raw promo was something more reminiscent of a film trailer than a wrestling hype video. When fans tune into Raw they’re always hoping to witness that moment; that great promo or the classic match; that can’t miss moment that makes fans put up with hours of mediocrity to remind them why wrestling, for all its silliness, can be great entertainment. Since their debut The Wyatt Family have been delivering that moment and Bray is yet to have a wrestling match on RAW.

It is no secret that Vince McMahon loves the theatrical and that his company is sports entertainment. The WWE for a long time has leaned more towards a soap opera more than a ‘sport’. McMahon has been trying to diversify and close in on the entertainment market by reducing the amount of wrestling for a long time. There is short term merit behind the thinking, having non wrestling identities should bring in more viewers, after all the wrestling fans will always tune in anyway. With The Wyatt Family, it may be the first time a fully realised non wrestler character has captured the audiences attention so quickly and dramatically. It also comes at a time when WWE’s much ridiculed film studio has gone a quarter without losing money.So perhaps the grand plan is finally coming to fruition. The Wyatt’s are potentially going to do big business for Vince and have quickly become a hot commodity at shows everywhere. People want to see Harper and Rowan and they want to listen to Bray, something that equates to dollar signs in the eye’s of WWE brass. The reason why fans should be nervous and why The Wyatt Family might be the worst thing to happen to wrestling is because they work and they work big time, but they’re not wrestling. It’s exactly what WWE programming have been trying to do for the last ten years and that is eliminate wrestling from their television show. It is almost shocking to hear people, myself included, say how they like The Family because they’re not wrestling as they’re watching a wrestling show. It’s not simply just a stab at the current crop of characters WWE has to offer, theres more to it and maybe Vince has been right all along.

There’s no fear in telling one’s friends that you like films or books or in 2013 even something like comic books. Being a nerd is cool and has hit the mainstream more than ever, the same can’t be said about wrestling though. Professional wrestling did not make the transition into popular culture along with other comicon pursuits and is still to most fans a hobby to keep quiet or a guilty pleasure. No matter how famous The Rock gets the average non wrestling person still relates a wrestling fan to the overweight guy wearing a John Cena shirt in his mum’s basement. A concept not lost on Vince McMahon as much as he may love the business that made him a billionaire. The Wyatt Family, even with Bray’s over dramatic rants and Harper and Rowan’s goofy dead eyes seriousness seem to have made that leap from sports-entertainment to just plain entertainment. From something that you would switch off when your friends enter the room to something to gather your friends around a television or computer screen to watch. Bray could be a huge star or he could disappear before the end of the year. What is for certain however is that Vince has struck non wrestling gold with The Wyatt Family and if there’s one thing he does best, it is try to recreate what works over and over again.

The Wyatt Family undeniably works but how they work in the WWE universe is yet to be seen.

Bray Wyatt will take on Kane at this year’s SummerSlam, set for Sunday August 18th.

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Logan Fewster

Melbourne, Australia nerd living in Tokyo, Japan.

  • http://www.gregmoskovitch.com/ Gregory Moskovitch

    Between just CM Punk and Daniel Bryan they already have enough serious wrestlers on the roster. NXT at the moment is loaded with typically indyriffic “proper” wrestlers like Sami Zayn, Pac and Chris Hero. I think it’s cool that they’re bringing in a few brawlers that are just entertaining to watch to fill out the current mid-card.

    It’s exciting. For the longest time they had no mid-card to speak of and few entertaining pure characters. It’s nice to see them rectify a few of the problems plaguing the company. Damien Sandow’s a fantastic and compelling character who can also wrestle, so is Fandango though he botches a lot. It’s not so bad to have a few non-wrestling brawlers. It’s very old-school.

    Whether they’re successful or a flop, I don’t think it’ll be detrimental to the company either way. The worst thing would be is if they become so obscenely huge that the company decides to disregard the proper wrestlers completely in favour of returning to the Attitude Era MO of big, entertaining characters with minimal real wrestling. Yeah, I said it. The Attitude Era is overrated and most of the wrestling during the AE sucked.

    I don’t think that’s going to happen though. The Wyatt Family are a creepy Deliverance bunch, like you said. They don’t really have the kind of everyman mass-appeal of a Stone Cold.

    The new breed of wrestler is one who’s technically gifted but still understands the value of playing the game and creating a great gimmick and character. Case in point is Daniel Bryan. There was no way of predicting that the boy-faced tech geek wrestling for PWG in a high-school gym, coming out to “The Final Countdown” was gonna be so over with WWE fans.

    I think CM Punk has the ear of a few of the people in the back, I think Triple H is looking towards the future of the company and I think Vince does what’s good for business. And the Wyatt Family aren’t going to be THAT good for business.

    • Logan

      I’m actually writing a companion piece right now about wrestling being cool again tying into Summerslam with the current card and the main event. I really like the current crop of wrestlers especially the ones you mentioned and I can’t help but notice a lot of their names starting to creep into non wrestling fan conversations.
      I think The Wyatt Family is going to be great don’t get me wrong just making the argument for the cynic inside of me.

      Also, I totally agree about the Attitude era being overrated! I dare anyone to go back and watch Raw and tell me the wrestling was good.

      • brokenstar

        Wait a minute, you guys think the Attitude Era was overrated in general or in comparison to what WWE is today?

        As someone who watched WWE prior to the Attitude Era and all the way up to its end, I can say that the Attitude Era remains by far the most compelling and watchable era of pro wrestling. I didn’t care so much that Mick Foley couldn’t execute an armbar to save his life or that Stone Cold had about 3 moves, I cared that Foley, Austin and the rest could command the mic and entertain me for a few hours each week. And when WWE seemed intent on just blood and chairshots, WCW came around with their cruiserweights and the WWE compensated thereafter.

        Maybe because it felt like there was something genuinely at stake? WWE vs WCW? Plus ECW constantly trying to undermine both? Can’t beat it for value and entertainment. As scripted as everything was, it all felt genuine.

        • http://www.gregmoskovitch.com/ Gregory Moskovitch

          I think it’s totally overrated and Ruthless Aggression is way underrated. And I agree with Logan, go back and watch an AE episode of Raw. It’s not just that the wrestling sucked, there was not a lot of wrestling to speak of.

          I think a lot of it is nostalgia and the Monday Night Wars gave the whole thing this ridiculous amount of momentum. Also Stone Cold was just such a great everyman character and Mr. McMahon was such a great villain.

          Most people don’t care whether or not a wrestler can do an arm bar or a 450 Splash, but some do. And I’m one of those people. I’m not saying I don’t like pure characters, because I do. But I like it balanced out with real wrestling. Or I like someone who can do both, like Kevin Steen.

          Like I said, I think the new crop of guys are ones that realise that it’s hard to get by on pure talent. Even someone like Pac is trying his hand at cutting promos and such.

          Most matches during the AE just descended into brawls that ended in disqualification. It was really quite boring. As for story lines and characters, yeah, they had some good ones. But I think if you go back and watch it all, they missed more times than they were on-target.

          It’s like music, people think it was better back in the day because they’re focussing on the good stuff. That’s what they remember. No one remembers the crappy stuff. There was plenty of bad pop music in the 70s, it wasn’t just Led Zeppelin and Ramones on the radio.

          They had a lot of bad, sometimes downright embarrassing, story lines and a lot of forgettable characters. And I wouldn’t give WCW too much credit for their cruiserweight division, it’s not like they ever gave any of them much of a push. Main events were still Hogan, Nash, Goldberg, Giant, etc.

          That’s why most of them hated WCW and were more than happy to either jump ship like Jericho or were relieved when the company collapsed. Guys like Guerrero and Hart hated working for that company and Hart still speaks poorly of it.

          ECW just did their own thing and the WWE totally ripped them off. ECW is largely responsible for the Attitude Era. It’s why McMahon always keeps Heyman on the payroll. The difference was that ECW did the outrageous stuff whilst backing it up with good, legitimate wrestling.

          And I think you raise a good point in it all feeling genuine. I think that’s a big reason why Punk’s now infamous sit-down pipe-bomb was such a flashpoint in the company. For the first time in ages, you weren’t sure if what you were seeing was real or not. Of course you knew it had to be a work, but you weren’t 100% sure and that was invigorating.

          The internet wasn’t as ubiquitous during the AE. There was no Twitter, there wasn’t even Be A Star, so it was a lot easier to keep kayfabe. There was still mystery. AE combined that ability to be uncanny with must-see TV.

          Now, everyone knows that just about everything is a work. Even when it’s a shoot. And they’re realising that they need to employ different tactics to be entertaining.

          • Jeremy

            Sorry, but you are pretty damn ignorant as well. Neither of you come across as intelligent.

      • http://www.gregmoskovitch.com/ Gregory Moskovitch

        I think they might be on the cusp of something of a new renaissance. And what I mean by that is that they’re coming out of the Dark Ages. I don’t think they’re going to revolutionise the way they do business. Not as long as Mrs. McMahon still wants to be a politician and Chris Benoit still did what Chris Benoit did.

        That said, I’m actually quite happy that the new generation of wrestlers seem to be happier, healthier and friendlier. I don’t care much for chair shots to the head if it means the guy’s gonna go crazy later on. Though it does suck that coming to WWE means you divest yourself of 80% of your move set.

        But I do think that they’ve noticed that there’s been problems and that’s already promising. They’re trying to create a Divas division again, fill out the mid-card, bring in some characters, make stars out of the newer guys to replace the old ones, bring in some indy guys who have built-in audiences as well as talent for days, getting rid of John Laurinaitis and replacing him with a decent GM and not just recycling story lines that we saw two years prior. I’m also hoping they’ll start to focus less on bringing old stars back to gain momentum.

        Just the fact that they’ve realised that indyriffic guys can go over with a WWE audience is pretty great. But really the reason I know something’s different is that for the first time in ages, I’m actually excited to watch Raw each week.

        I’m interested in what’s going to happen and how things will progress. I’m most interested to see how Brad Maddox will do as GM, as much as I miss Vickie Guerrero.

      • Jeremy

        Yes ,Attitude Era was vastly overrated. There were short title reigns, matches no one gave a shit about, women were competing in gravy bowl matches, there was swearing and blood just for the sake of swearing and blood.

        People forget the things like Mae Young giving birth to a hand, or Mark Henry dating someone he thinks is a woman, but is really a transsexual, to even Val Venis almost getting his penis chopped off with a sword (“Choppy choppy your pee-pee” remember that?)