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