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This week on Smackdown, WWE fans finally got the payoff they’ve been waiting months and months for. Bray Wyatt, who was at long last betrayed by his brother/servant Randy Orton, finally coated himself in filth in front of a national television audience. Naturally, the WWE Universe now waits with bated breath to see what comes next from the year’s hottest feud.
Two weeks ago, when it was revealed that Orton had fought alongside Wyatt for months just to burn down his shack, it was probably still too early to call the entire storyline a dud. Sure, Orton came off like a goof for buying into the shaky mythology of Sister Abigail so completely that he’d taken beatings on Wyatt’s behalf just to burn down a shack. But, there was no telling what Bray Wyatt’s response would be. For all we knew at the time, we could have gotten a “broken” Bray.
But now we know better. Now we know that all Bray had to do was return to the shack, cover himself in the supposed ashes of Sister Abigail (who we can now confirm is the “spawn of Satan,” was “forged in hell,” and has numerous apostles), and declare himself stronger for having gone through the experience.
The Orton-Wyatt feud isn’t an example of a great storyline that took a wrong turn in the last two weeks. It was doomed from the beginning. This feud was destined to fail because it was predicated on the idea that Wyatt is more than what he appears at face value: A wrestler with great delivery and a cool entrance.
The failure of the Orton-Wyatt feud is a symptom of WWE’s larger problem with dark characters.
WWE loves to introduce dark characters with cool entrances that captivate live crowds. That’s what they have with Bray Wyatt on Smackdown, Finn Balor on Raw, and Ember Moon on NXT.
Problems arise, however, when WWE must prominently feature these characters. Bray Wyatt is fine when he’s toiling in the upper mid-card, but main event feuds involving him tend to flop. The problem is there’s no depth to his character. Sometimes he’s a cult leader, sometimes he’s the devil, sometimes he’s a god. Nothing involving Sister Abigail carries any weight because we’re only now getting any real idea as to her importance to the Bray Wyatt character and the information we’re getting is murky at best.
Half of Finn Balor’s appeal is that he’s covered from head to toe in teasers for a potential Bullet Club reformation in WWE. The other half is that he paints himself up like a demon for special events. Everyone may miss him now, but his first main roster feud centered around a history lessons and him showing off his “Demon King” persona who wrestles exactly as Finn Balor would sans body paint.
Over on NXT, Ember Moon where’s red contact lenses and makes subtle references to being a werewolf every so often. All of the theatrics really do her a disservice, as she’s mostly over with the crowd for being undefeated and having a spectacular finishing maneuver.
WWE needs to go all in with these types of characters or pull all the way back. The WWE title program at this year’s WrestleMania is based around hazy explanations as to who Bray Wyatt is and what his motivations are. We’ve been told he’s a lot of things over the years, but with his most consistent role being the wrestler looking up at the lights at the end of big feuds, all talk of dead sisters and magic powers seems entirely superfluous.
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