Part overview of The Fiend’s plot, part cathartic rant for my own well being, I am going to attempt to make sense of what has happened the past half a year or so since that infamous Hell in a Cell match. How did The Fiend, a character who was one of the most over characters in WWE in modern history without having to have even one match, fall so far?
I don’t need to remind everyone of how exciting The Fiend’s initial video packages where. They were brilliant; works of beauty. They can be hung in the god damn Louvre. A dark children’s show is not an uncommon trope in media, but Bray had carefully planned each episode to grow a little darker, to get a littler weirder, to be a huge build for his in ring debut. And it was the reason to watch main card at the time. WWE knew it by advertising new episodes of Firefly Fun House throughout entire episodes of Raw and SmackDown.
And that initial match against Finn Balor was a crazy debut. Oh, it was good. My wife and I watched it in the hospital while she was in labor and we still enjoyed every second of it. There was absolutely no wrong that Bray could do.
Of course, WWE on the other hand could do a LOT wrong. It’s almost as if Bray making such an amazing character had challenged creative to completely screw up his gimmick.
The beginning of The Fiend’s downfall was him pursuing the belt. It seems like it would have been impossible to get it off him once he got it, and it honestly seemed trivial to his character. And so, Hell in a Cell came and went and the backlash was deafening. However, I think they could have saved this, and worked it to their advantage. They could have revealed Bray didn’t want the title, but only wanted to torment Seth Rollins. But nope, they redid the match and gave him the title. And at that point it was just a matter of waiting for the inevitable: the title HAD to change, Bray HAD to lose.
It’s important to note that during this time period, Bray was perhaps not happy with one or two decisions WWE had made, particularly Seth burning down the Firefly Funhouse. In a tweet later that week, Bray asked Seth, “how did you find it? are you dead?” Obviously, Bray’s concept of his character, a man who runs his kid’s show from some sort of underworld or different dimension, was NOT in line with what WWE seemed to want, which is apparently that the Funhouse was accessible from the stadium they were at that night.
Throughout the next couple of months, The Fiend would encounter a few different challengers, all of whom were fun but not monumental. We were all just waiting for that big feud to come, to find the one person who could topple The Fiend. Ramblin’ Rabbit said throughout multiple promos that he knew secrets about the Funhouse. He even attempted to tell Bryan the secret behind defeating The Fiend before Bray stopped him. It seemed like they had found a way for The Fiend to lose and still retain his amazing character.
Bryan would go on to lose to The Fiend; however, his “post-Fiend change” seemed different than the others had. He didn’t simply turn heel, but instead became more stoic; hardened. Surely, there was to be a rematch. Surely, Ramblin’ Rabbit’s secret was going to get out. Surely, the fact The Fiend changes people would have changed Daniel Bryan, but in a way Bray didn’t expect. Surely, these are obvious plot points which anyone could have easily looked at and written a decent plot with. SURELY.
NOPE! Because now we have come to the Goldberg match. With all of this buildup, with Bray Wyatt seeming to be unstoppable unless one figures out his secret weakness, a random nostalgia-fueled part timer just kinda meanders into the ring and hits him three or four times for the win. This unstoppable, most likely supernatural beast was done in by a glorified suplex.
In these three minutes, about six months of character development was undone completely. The Fiend is no more than just a guy in a mask now, someone who is capable of good matches but has some days where he’s just not really feeling it. Any mystique behind The Fiend is gone. His Funhouse is some place anyone can easily access. He can take multiple Curb Stomps and a literal sledgehammer and get up just five seconds later, but can’t take a few spears and the worst Jackhammer anyone has ever seen.
The main argument defending this decision by creative is that it allows for Goldberg vs. Roman Reigns and The Fiend vs. John Cena. But why does Roman need a title shot in the first place? Why was the only other option Roman vs. Fiend? Couldn’t it have been Cena vs. Fiend anyway, even if The Fiend had the title? Why does Goldberg need to be in the picture at all? If they want Roman to challenge for the title, why not have Roman vs. Fiend?
The counterargument to Roman vs. Fiend is “but then Roman would get booed!”, which is a bad argument. The guy who gets booed a lot already will get booed some more. Oh no. Just don’t book him in a title match against The Fiend in that case.
And in the end, whatever the justification that can be mustered for this Goldberg match always revolves around the booking of WrestleMania. Never do defenders of the match attempt to defend the kayfabe reasons why The Fiend lost. Even if the WrestleMania matches of Goldberg vs. Reigns and Fiend vs. Cena go through extremely well, that still won’t have addressed why, in kayfabe, The Fiend lost to Goldberg.
This is all because they hoisted the title onto Bray Wyatt. This is all because WWE looked at the brilliant character Bray had given them and gave him the same motivation that literally everyone else has: win the championship belt. Instead of exploring other motivations for a unique character, creative looked at what they had and said “a person with split personalities and supernatural tendencies who wants to get revenge on those who ruined his former cult? I bet he really wants to wear a big ol’ belt!”
You could hypothetically try to fix this by having Bray claim he gave it up because he didn’t care about it anymore I suppose, but that would be hard to sound reasonable after he happily won it back in October. There could be other ways to slowly build him back up through solid long term booking; however, it won’t be enough to take away this huge blemish on the character. Even Bray seems to think so in a recent tweet. It can be healed, but never forgotten.
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