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On the Feb. 15 episode of WWE Raw, Alexa Bliss interrupted the end of another backstage promo from the solitary Randy Orton. However, her interruption wasn’t the usual fare of a wrestler barging in, having their music play, or just yelling over each other like L.A. Knight’s (the former Eli Drake) debut Sunday evening. Instead, using a bit of trickery akin to The Fiend, she basically spliced a video of herself into the live feed of the show (almost like Mustafa Ali’s former hacker gimmick).
Bliss said, “In the fire, he was destroyed, but in the future, he will be reborn.” The implication also seems to be that she will be conducting some sort of mystical or demonic ritual to give The Fiend new life if we are to take her sitting in the middle of a pentagram as anything more than just, “This seems like it would be cool.”
The big question is what exactly does The Fiend being “reborn” entail? After having “changed” all of his opponents the past few years, is it now time for The Fiend to change The Fiend (with the assistance of Orton and Bliss)? Let’s explore some situations.
The simple: Changing the gear and look of The Fiend
Arguably, the thing that drew fans to The Fiend originally was his gear, topped with the mask that’s a cross between The Joker and other psycho clown characters. While the black and red vertical patterns on his tights drifted toward carny, it helped sell the character as a deranged, maniacal alter ego clown, again helped by the mask. It seems plausible that changing the gear is the most likely scenario, mainly due to WWE’s history of returning wrestlers having new gear (The Fiend was the in-ring return of Bray Wyatt, after all).
I think there are two paths WWE might take with the gear. First, considering the circumstances of his being written off of television, The Fiend could return with a darker, more sinister edge to his look. The mask could turn the red markings into definitive blood-like drops or remove all color except for black and white. Beyond color, he could ditch the vertical pattern on his tights and possibly go shirtless. They could cosmetically add “burns” to sell being immolated by Orton.
On the other hand, when fire and rebirth are generally paired together, it usually indicates a positive, creative from of rebirth. Think of the mythical phoenix: it dies and from its ashes, the same phoenix is reborn anew, no ill effects of its death having been inherited in this new form. WWE could apply that to The Fiend’s gear (and this partially ties into the later subsection).
To be clear, this does NOT mean The Fiend needs to turn face. We already saw how that experiment transpired in the past and, suffice it to say, it didn’t work. Instead, at least for the gear in this scenario, they could turn to NXT Champion Io Shirai as their example.
When Shirai turned heel and debuted her new look and music, most fans praised her gear (and disposition shift) because it coalesced with her new heel character. However, since becoming more of a tweener as NXT Champion, he gear as subtly shifted to coincide with her change in character. She added a yellow and pink pattern to her gear at Takeover: Vengeance Day that wouldn’t really work with anyone else, but worked because of how Shirai presents her character.
We know Wyatt excels at the presentation of his characters. WWE trusted him enough to let him run with the “Firefly Fun House” Wyatt character AND The Fiend simultaneously; why not trust him to portray more of a tweener character who isn’t really bound by the pseudo-laws of being a face or heel through his gear?
The change to The Fiend’s gear could be as simple as turning the black and red pattern into a white and red pattern with a white singlet instead of black singlet. The mask could have a less menacing look and aim for a more neutral presentation. His gloves could also be white instead of black, with “HURT” and “HEAL” in black lettering, or have new words altogether.
If white is too stark a contrast, then WWE could change the red into blue, green, or orange. The same change could apply to the singlet. Regardless, there are a multitude of color and gear shifts that could be made to The Fiend to signal his being “reborn,” and how those changes are applied should give fans a sense of The Fiend’s direction upon his return.
The Intriguing: Changing the disposition and/or presentation of the character of The Fiend
Now, what about the more difficult yet rewarding aspect of changing the character disposition of The Fiend? The Fiend seemed to be some sort of tweener before his immolation, but again, it all depends on how WWE interprets being reborn.
Look, if I was immolated and survived, I would want revenge. Using myself as the smallest of sample sizes, it seems relatable that The Fiend would return with a sinister hunger for vengeance against Orton. At first, seeking justice against those who committed harm to you seems like a face move if we consider the amount of mythology and popular culture in our society that romanticizes vigilantism. However, this being The Fiend, he would probably go too far in his quest for revenge, thus marking him as a heel. This wouldn’t be much of a change from The Fiend we knew in his earliest days.
However, what if they do decide to turn him face after the events at the hands of Orton, my earlier criticism aside? There are two reasons I believe they might go this route with The Fiend beyond the vengeance angle. One, Orton has been marked as the heel in this story recently, depending on how you took his RKO of Bliss on Raw a few weeks ago. If you see Orton as a heel, then you probably saw him being counted out in the gauntlet match due to Bliss’s face appearing on all the screens in the “Thunderdome” as some comeuppance for his actions. Two, the face depth on Raw is lacking, particularly towards the top of the card.
Bringing The Fiend back as a face presents its challenges, but as I discussed in the previous section, the gear change can help tell the story. Further, stereotypical as it might be, Wyatt could return with his head shaved or buzz cut to sell his “new life” that we so often see with cults and South Park parodied in their “Super Best Friends” episode. Wyatt’s dreadlocks have been a signature part of his look for pretty much his entire tenure in WWE/NXT, so what better way to signal some kind of character change – a rebirth – than to rid of him of his most identifiable physical trait?
Pairing him again with this version of Bliss, who saunters between heel and face depending on her opposition (Orton or Asuka, for example), could create a dynamic similar to when The New Day and Kurt Angle debuted: faces in their minds, heels to the audience. The best heels are those who have legitimate justifications for their actions (whether or not those actions are just), and we have that here with The Fiend seeking retribution (not the group) for being set on fire. No matter what they do, Wyatt/The Fiend and Bliss will see their actions against Orton as justified because of the travails he put them through.
These are two characters who can find a conceivable reason to attack anyone and explain it in a twisted sense to match their actions. The carny-esque nature of the “Fun House” and “Alexa’s Playground” also would help sell this dichotomy through their jovial and rambunctious nature in those scenes. It could work, but it’s going to take a lot of nuanced booking and scripting,
However, let’s go with the idea that WWE actually wants The Fiend and Bliss to be legitimate faces. It will be more difficult, but they could turn Wyatt/The Fiend into some hybrid version of his original swampy cult leader, “Playhouse” Wyatt, and The Fiend to create an amalgamation of basically a more credible version of “The Messiah” version of Seth Rollins. The “Fun House” and “Playground” characters of Wyatt and Bliss could serve as the mouthpieces, almost like “false prophets” while The Fiend becomes the embodiment of their desires. He can end feuds by recruiting wrestlers rather than by physical domination.
Since The Fiend “changed” wrestlers the past few years through his physicality, wouldn’t an interesting switch be for him to “change” characters by recruiting them to his cause with the help of Bliss?
Regardless, here’s what I do know: I had really no desire to see The Fiend return… until Bliss mentioned him being “reborn” on Raw. The Fiend started out so hot with so much potential that was wasted with poor booking. This rebirth is also a chance for WWE to regain that momentum with The Fiend. Will they? Can they? I guess, like with every Monday night, it’s going to be a journey.