Remembering Bray Wyatt: The Best Matches and Moments in Unforgettable WWE Career

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

The wrestling world was shaken Thursday with the revelation by WWE Chief Content Officer Triple H that Windham Rotunda, known worldwide as former WWE and Universal champion Bray Wyatt, had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 36.

After the initial shock subsided ever so slightly, I found myself searching for the right way to memorialize someone through their greatest moments on a wrestling show and it felt so…trivial.

Then, I thought about how incredibly lucky we are that he chose to share his creativity with us for a decade on WWE TV.

I realized that, as Brandon Lee’s Eric Draven utters in The Crow, nothing is trivial.

In memory of one of the most captivating Superstars to ever set foot in a WWE ring, these are the moments that helped define Bray Wyatt’s legacy in professional wrestling.

                             The Debut Vignettes

The WWE Universe had never seen anything like The Wyatt Family when the trio of Superstars debuted in a series of haunting vignettes in the summer of 2013.

Luke Harper was the imposing brute, Erick Rowan sported an expressionless sheep mask straight out of an early 2010s horror flick, and Bray Wyatt as the smooth-talking prophet determined to influence his flock.

Inspired by the Max Cady character from Martin Scorsese’s most underrated movie, 1991’s Cape Fear, as well as infamous cult leaders, Wyatt wasted no time capturing the attention and imagination of the WWE fans and becoming the most buzz-worthy Superstar on the roster.

Those vignettes were just the beginning for a Superstar who would shock, awe, captivate, sometimes confuse but ultimately leave a legacy of unparalleled creativity

The Wyatt Family vs. The Shield

Upon their arrival to WWE television, The Wyatt Family was deliberately kept away from the other young trio of future stars to emerge from NXT who had similarly taken the company by storm, The Shield. Inevitably, though, their paths would cross, and at Elimination Chamber 2014, they did just that.

In one of the best six-man tag team matches in WWE history, Wyatt, Harper, and Rowan partnered to defeat Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose.

The win was a signature one for a trio of competitors building momentum for themselves entering WrestleMania season.

The match and the angle that led to it, in which two trio groups came face-to-face for the first time, was pure magic and indicative of the moments the six competitors would become synonymous with creating over the next decade.

For Wyatt specifically, it would set him up for his first taste of the main event spotlight the very next month on wrestling’s grandest stage.

     “Miss Teacher Lady…I Got the Whole Damn World In My Hands!”

No matter the incarnation of Wyatt, there was never a question about one particular element of his performance, that being his ability to cut a thought-provoking promo.

On the May 19, 2014 episode of Raw, Wyatt delivered what may be the greatest promo of his career and to do so, he had to fend off the nerve-wracking, always-annoying “WHAT?!” chants from the WWE Universe.

He did so by inviting fans into his childhood and introducing them to a mean old teacher lady who called him evil and claimed he stood or nothing He got the last laugh, though, because as she rotted in her nursing home, held the world in his hands as a WWE Superstar.

His delivery started calmly and escalated before the exclamatory, “I got the whole damn world in my hands,” line.

The most impressive part was not the volume which which he spoke, but how it was delivered.

He spoke into the camera, looking into the eyes of every fan watching at that moment, and he did so with conviction. This was not a guy reciting lines but throwing himself into them. It was not Windham Rotunda playing Bray Wyatt; this was Bray Wyatt speaking to the masses.

He was such a talented performer in that regard, smarter than his years would suggest, and a guy who invested himself so that the crowd would do so in return.

To this day, nine years and countless Wyatt promos later, this was the one that encapsulated what every version of the character was ultimately about and a reminder of how much of a virtuoso performer the third-generation star was.

           WrestleMania 30 vs. John Cena

Preceded by an extraordinary video package set to Eminem’s “Legacy” that will still give you chills, and accompanied to the ring by an all-timer of an entrance featuring the live performance of “Live in Fear” by Mark Cozer, Wyatt took to the WrestleMania stage for the first time as he battled John Cena in the most significant bout of his career to that point.

The match was a spectacle of storytelling, one that sacrificed nonstop action in the name of presenting narrative. Wyatt intimidated Cena and throughout the match, desperately tried to get him to shake his superhero traits and turn to the dark side.

It did not work as Cena ultimately overcame Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan to pick up a big victory, but it was not about who won and lost. More than anything, the match was confirmation that Wyatt could perform on that stage, at an event of that magnitude, against the top guy in the business and not look out of place.

Much of that can be attributed to Wyatt’s use of facial expressions and body language throughout the bout.

The match was specifically intended to be story-heavy and without those two traits, probably would have fallen flat. The young performer’s ability to connect with the audience through the little nuances is what separated him from guys like Roman Reigns, who would take another seven or so years to demonstrate what would make his Tribal Chief persona so successful.

                   WWE Champion

By 2017, Wyatt was fairly entrenched in the upper echelon of WWE Superstars but despite competing with the most recognizable stars on a consistent basis, he had no championships to speak of.

That changed at Elimination Chamber in February of 2017 when The Eater of Souls defeated AJ Styles, John Cena, The Miz, Dean Ambrose, and Baron Corbin to win the WWE Championship in the event’s namesake match.

His run would be short-lived as it was more a means to an end in Wyatt’s feud with Randy Orton, but that does not minimize the magnitude of the moment.

Stop-and-start pushes, creative shortcomings and the overbooking of some of his in-ring performances had all been worth it in the name of winning the prize that had eluded two previous generations of his family.

Was there more story to be told with that original incarnation of Wyatt as champion?

Absolutely, especially as a charismatic false profit with possession of the most coveted prize in the company, but that is a conversation for another time.

His win served as a coronation of Wyatt as one of the faces around whom WWE was comfortable booking its most prominent stories around; a testament to his quality of work and connection with fans a mere four years into his run on the main roster.

                       The Fiend Debuts

The emergence of The Fiend at SummerSlam 2019 was one of those moments that elicited chants of religious excrement from fans and changed Wyatt’s career as we had known it.

The haunting, prophetic cult leader who spent six years speaking in riddles? He was gone. I his place was a dual-personality persona, one who lured the unsuspecting in with a smile and some laughter in his Firefly Funhouse setup before unleashing a monster in the form of The Fiend.

Stepping through the curtain at the August pay-per-view event, the terrifying new creation sported a mask conceptualized by horror movie special effects master Jason Baker, carried a lantern to the ring that looked like the decapitated head of his previous alter ego, and wore gloves with the words “hurt” and “heal” adorning them.

It was a masterful presentation and one that was only possible because of the commitment of the man behind the mask and those, including Baker, who helped him conceive the character.

More so than anything he accomplished from an in-ring perspective, it was The Fiend that may prove to be Wyatt’s most enduring creation. The idea of a smiling children’s show host, in the same vein as Pee Wee Herman, with a monstrous side of himself that he was ready to unleash on his greatest foes at any moment, was something fresh, new and exciting.

It meshed horror and wrestling, two subsections that were oftentimes forced to the fringe of pop culture. Wyatt lived on that fringe and for fans of those two art forms, he was the single most interesting performer in a company that had been creatively bankrupt for quite awhile by that point.

        The Firefly Funhouse Match

The Firefly Funhouse Match at WrestleMania 36 was born out of necessity following a global pandemic that forced WWE to hold its biggest show of the year in its Performance Center in Orlando.

With no audience and the bare minimum from a creative standpoint, Wyatt and John Cena delivered their second match on the grand stage but did so cinematically.

Wyatt taunted Cena and took him on a psychological trip down the road of what might have been. He showed the biggest babyface of his era what things might have looked like had he gone the path of childhood hero Hulk Hogan, rising to mega-stardom, only to betray his fans as a member of the New World Order.

To try and encapsulate all that was going on in the match in a brief recap would be impossible but needless to say, it was one of the most surreal “matches” in WWE history…and one of the most unique viewing experiences for fans watching at home.

The Firefly Funhouse Match was a reflection of the creativity Wyatt possesses; a testament to his commitment to his character but also its place in ongoing storylines.

Did it always hit? No. There are more than a few instances fans can look back at and recognize as moments that landed with a thud more than anything, but it was the performer’s willingness to try something fresh and new rather than conforming to the one-dimensional stories and undefined characters permeating the rest of the company that separated him.

It remains to be seen if The Firefly Funhouse Match holds up years from now but there is no denying that there is not a single match in the lineage of WrestleMania that is like it and for that, it belongs alongside Wyatt’s greatest moments.

                      The Homecoming

The Fiend character did not have a fitting conclusion, thanks in large part to muddied storytelling and mounting frustration between Wyatt and a creative team that never really understood what he was attempting to accomplish with it.

By 2021, the former WWE champion and two-time Universal champion was shockingly dismissed from the company as part of a crop of mass releases, leaving some to wonder what the third-generation professional wrestler would do next.

Then, in the summer of 2022, Triple H rose to power and immediately re-signed Wyatt, recognizing his connection with fans and value to the company as one of its great storytellers and characters.

In the weeks leading into Extreme Rules that October, fans had been introduced to the random playing of “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane and a QR Code campaign that would take fans down the proverbial rabbit hole. It was incredibly cryptic and dared the audience to try and figure out what it was leading up to.

Some did, others mostly speculated, but together they tuned into the premium live event with great anticipation for the answer.

Seconds after a main event between Seth Rollins and Matt Riddle, the arena went dark and the familiar, haunting chorus of “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” filled the Wells Fargo Center. Then, the characters from the Firefly Funhouse emerged from the darkness, alive rather than in puppet form, and placed throughout the arena.

Then, a door kicked open and a masked man walked through. He removed the Black Phone-themed Jason Baker creative and revealed himself to be Wyatt, drawing one of the loudest pops in recent memory.

Wyatt was back and in that moment, everything felt right with the wrestling world.

                   “This Is Just Me Being Me”

Stepping through the door again, six days after his monumental return, Wyatt did so with a chilling new entrance set to the badass “Shatter” by Code Orange and took to the ring for his first promo in over a year.

What we got was not wha anyone expected.

There was no cryptic puzzle, no haunting threat. There was no white rabbit, Fiend, or funhouse. It was Wyatt, with a microphone, speaking from his heart to the fans who supported him throughout his absence and what had been some pretty dark times.

“You were there when I was weak, when I was vulnerable when I was down. So I just wanted to say thank you. You saved my life.”

It was the realest, most genuine look at the man behind the mesmerizing personalities that fans had ever seen. It was also the start of a character arc that, unfortunately, never came to fruition.

Still, both in the moment and in hindsight, it is impossible not to recognize the significance of his words and the gratitude he had for the people who supported him no matter the situation or scenario.

                              Lights Out and the Making of a Megastar

There would be no LA Knight as we currently know him without Bray Wyatt.

That may seem like a loaded statement and one that diminishes Knight’s accomplishments to this point, but one look at where that character was in late 2022, early 2023 and it becomes pretty obvious how integral Wyatt was to the elevation of the Megastar.

A rivalry that started with some typical Knight trash-talking escalated from there, involved the new Uncle Howdy persona and culminated in the Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match at Royal Rumble in January.

The match was the surreal, supernatural, spooky match fans had come to expect out of Wyatt but it was less about the quality and presentation than it was what it meant for Knight.

A star of Wyatt’s stature, a three-time world champion who had mixed it up with legitimate Superstars like John Cena and The Undertaker, did not have to work with Knight. He could have scoffed at working with a dude who was looking to establish himself on the main roster after the disaster which was the Maxx Dupri stint with Maximum Male Models.

Wyatt not only worked with him but his credibility helped enhance Knight’s star and served as the launching pad for the run we are currently experiencing now.

No one could have known it at the time but the last full program Wyatt worked on gave back to the industry, providing the foundation for a breakout star who may be uber-talented and have an enormous personality made for the big time, but who needed that nudge from a guy fans already trusted to really get him on his way.

The feud also provided a defining moment for Wyatt when he shared the ring with Undertaker.

A former foe-turned-mentor and friend, The Deadman leaned in and whispered a few words that are unlikely to be shared but served as a passing-of-the-torch instance between stars of two generations.

Write A Comment