It’s been a rough week for wrestling and its fans. A day after losing the institution, Terry Funk, perhaps the most creative and certainly one of the most unique minds, Bray Wyatt, passed away at the unfair age of 36.

Ohtani tears up UCL and the Angels are done

What will be remembered most about Wyatt is the fact that in a company like WWE, where everything feels the same and formulaic most of the time, he always stood out as something completely different. On paper, Wyatt’s ideas must have gone miles beyond Where the Buses Don’t Go, and yet he managed to not only bring them all to screen, but execute them and be a hit with fans. Whether macabre, ridiculous, or silly, Wyatt’s contributions were like nothing else on WWE television.

It started with his bayou shaman, the Eater of Worlds, and his co-stars Luke Harper (aka Brodie Lee) and Eric Rowan, who made up the Wyatt family, and they were absolutely terrifying. Her feud with the Shield reached a climax and returned to six-man company fighting. It seemed like a real battle of supernatural powers, one drawing from the Wyatts’ supernatural and the other simply having an unbeatable aura. While a lot of wrestling can be cartoonish — and that’s mostly the point, or the characters are pretty basic — Wyatt Family was genuinely creepy and haunting. Whatever nerve they struck, be it a buried Deliverance Shpilkes or someone who had just read preacher one too many and transferred us all to Angelville. Whenever they showed up, they turned the arena into a horror movie that made you unsure whether to throw yourself behind the couch or not.

And then he flipped and provided the Firefly Funhouse, essentially when Pee Wee Herman overdosed on peyote. The weekly segments, Wyatt’s “kids show,” were always the highlight of any show because most of us couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on. And when we did, we certainly didn’t know where it was going. That personality, of course, came with the alter ego of The Fiend, a debut that remains as vocal as anything WWE has put out in a few decades:

The Fiend Makes its First Appearance: SummerSlam 2019 (WWE Network Exclusive)

Rarely, perhaps never, has wrestling twitter and the fanbase united as quickly as when The Fiend entered the arena with a lantern designed to look like Wyatt’s own head and the utterly terrifying mask. The Fiend was instantly everyone’s favorite character, and the fact that WWE didn’t really know what to do with him was hardly Wyatt’s fault. Again, it felt like Wyatt had created something supernatural.

The pandemic hasn’t helped, but it has provided Wyatt with the perfect forum to fully embrace his ideas and creativity. With WWE willing to try anything for a behind-closed-doors wrestlemania, Wyatt teamed up with John Cena to produce one of the better absurdly surrealistic television shows you could find, Firefly Funhouse Match. In it, Wyatt was able to analyze basically everything that was wrong about the constant pressure Cena had received throughout his career, the hole in the middle, and wreck Vince McMahon’s booking style without Vince noticing ( it was hardly shocking that McMahon just didn’t (I don’t understand that he was mocked):

FULL GAME – John Cena vs. “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt – Firefly Fun House Match: WrestleMania 36

Things got a little out of hand from there as wrestling without an audience pushed everyone to their limits. Wyatt was eventually fired, and his stubbornness and dedication to doing things his way and how he saw them made him an easy target for McMahon’s cuts.

When Triple H took over, he at least realized that Wyatt’s bubbly creative spirit was too rich to be left out in the cold. The actual return still caused quite a stir, aided by all the Easter Eggs from the weeks before, hidden VR codes in backstage segments or references to a white rabbit. And the bang when it finally appeared:

Bray Wyatt Returns to WWE: WWE Extreme Rules 2022 (WWE Network Exclusive)

His first feud with LA Knight was shrouded in WWE bullshit marketing, and Wyatt certainly overdid it, although it certainly didn’t hurt Knight. And Wyatt never got a chance to recover and connect it to anything else before he got sick.

No one was as theatrical as Wyatt, which was all the more impressive in an environment where the theatrics remained at the level of routine. With a promotion that almost always stays in the middle to please sponsors or toy companies, Wyatt not only stayed on the fringes, but kept pushing it further and further out. He made you feel things that were rare on a wrestling show (and he could actually get in the ring, which tied it all together). He achieved two of the biggest stages a wrestler can get, a mania match with Cena and the Undertaker, and appeared to be a real threat in both (and maybe the company should have pulled the trigger on one of them).

At 36, that’s a huge loss considering how much he certainly had left to give in wrestling and in the life of his young family. Fans could never take their eyes off Wyatt, perhaps the greatest compliment a wrestler can get. No matter how far out into the deep water he took us, we always went with him.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky

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