NeXT: Bray Wyatt

by Billy Carpenter

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For those who watched the May 27th edition of Monday Night RAW, it probably felt like the show was going through the paces, as is the norm these days. Sure, there’s been some quality bouts over the last few months but a lot of it seems very ho-hum these days, even more so now that we’re in the ‘post-WrestleMania lull’. As we continued to sit through the show, it seemed to be going along as normal—and then something happened. A video flashed across our screens and sent Twitter and the rest of the wrestling community spinning. Fans of FCW and NXT knew what was happening, but the rest of the WWE Universe was about to feel something new—something unsettling, unnerving. A cryptic message from a most enigmatic man and his ‘family’ took our collective attention by the throat and violently shook it for just about 90 seconds. But that’s all that was needed. NXT fans knew what was upon us—the rest of you, however, were about to be introduced to Bray Wyatt.

It’s been years since I’ve felt an excitement like that for an impending debut. As an avid watcher of the Hulu-exclusive NXT, I’m certainly very familiar with Bray Wyatt and what he can do. I wasn’t sure when he would make his main roster debut (or re-debut, if you prefer) but I knew that it needed to happen. His character is something that is so completely different in today’s WWE landscape—with nods to Max Cady from ‘Cape Fear’, as well as comparisons to cult-favorite former WWF star Waylon Mercy, Wyatt is intimidating and frightening on a more psychological level than that of an imposing monster, a la Kane. But it’s been a bit of a journey for the man behind the character of Bray Wyatt to get to this point.

Many WWE fans will correctly point out that Wyatt strikes a remarkable resemblance to the man formerly known as “Husky Harris”. Husky’s first appearance on WWE TV came during the second season of NXT, when it was still a competition to receive a full-time roster spot. His time on NXT’s second season was largely uneventful and he eliminated about 2 months into the show. During this time, he was returned to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), where he had been competing before his debut on the show. He would, along with Michael McGillicutty (the current ‘Curtis Axel’), make a bigger impact in October during the main event of the ‘Hell in a Cell’ PPV main event between John Cena and leader of Nexus, Wade Barrett:

Costing John Cena the match, and subsequently forcing him to join Nexus per the pre-match stipulations, began Husky Harris’ involvement in the group. Unfortunately by this point, WWE had already found multiple ways to flub the booking of Nexus and not long after Harris’ would be back off of the main roster. CM Punk became leader of Nexus in a storyline that could’ve had some promise, although it was used to further a feud with he and Randy Orton and nothing more. During the build to the WrestleMania 27 match, Husky Harris found himself on the wrong end of an Orton punt and was written off of TV and sent back to FCW.

Upon his return to FCW, he adopted the character of ‘Axel Mulligan’, complete with tattered jeans, t-shirt and hockey mask—yes, hockey mask. Thankfully, this lasted only briefly before returning to the persona of Husky Harris:

2011 saw Harris become a prominent part of FCW television. He had matches with guys like Big E Langston, Damien Sandow and others, as well as a lengthy feud with Richie Steamboat. After dispatching of Steamboat following their bullrope match, he’d go on to win the tag titles with his brother, Bo Dallas. After dropping the straps to Corey Graves & Jake Carter, Harris was once again taken off of TV—but when we saw him next, it would be in his most captivating role yet.

There are promos that when you recall them some time later, you can remember where you were. For me personally, this was one of them. With Eli Cottonwood leering behind him, the newly christened Bray Wyatt told a disturbing story which set the tone for who this character was—and I loved it. It was different, especially in this day and age of WWE programming. Windham Rotunda would continue to hone and perfect the character of ‘Bray Wyatt’ and made his in-ring re-debut soon after, and the brilliance was put on display:

Bray Wyatt was certainly a far cry from Husky Harris, and he soon became one of FCW’s most viable attractions. As the transition was made from FCW to NXT and regular tapings at Full Sail University, Wyatt unfortunately found himself injured just as that was taking place. However, WWE did the smartest thing that they could have—they gave him a microphone. He continued to cut promos, increasing the creepiness and further defining the character. Soon, the ‘Wyatt Family’ was formed as indy standout Brodie Lee was repackaged as ‘Luke Harper’ and became the “first son of the Wyatt Family”. Soon after, Erick Rowan was introduced and the Wyatt Family became one of the most talked about acts not just in NXT, but in all of the WWE Universe.

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Fans who have been watching NXT have been clamoring for the moment that we got this past Monday. There is a dark cloud hovering over the roster now, and it goes by the name of Bray Wyatt. Much in the vein of Mankind in 1996, the character has the ability to make the younger audience feel very uneasy while watching him. The older fans will fall in love with a unique, fresh character that seems to continue the trend of newer stars being introduced, like Big E Langston, The Shield, and the repackaged Curtis Axel to name a few. His final “test” in NXT was his match with Chris Jericho, of which Y2J openly praised his abilities on social media. It’s as if that’s what management needed to hear. That was the signal that it was time to unleash this evil, disturbing force…to shake things up and to bring this new nightmare to life. The ‘Eater of Worlds’ has arrived…and he’s salivating at the prospect of devouring a ‘Universe’.

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