In 2010, Husky Harris was literally kicked off of TV after the Nexus angle that started with such stream fizzled out, and as a result, members of the stable eventually got released or repackaged.
Still, Harris was a unique athlete with a big frame that could move for a competitor of his size, but his inexperience showed during his initial tenure on the main roster. While Husky debuted on the second season of NXT, he had only stepped into a ring to begin to learn the craft a year prior to that. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t fair to expect Harris to excel on WWE TV, where in ring work is magnified with a global viewing audience, with less than 12 months of matches in his career. The big frame of Harris made him unique, but he didn’t look like a superstar and when he was booted off of TV, his future as a WWE talent was in doubt.
The real-life athlete is a third generation sports entertainer, the son of Mike Rotunda and grandson of the late Black Jack Mulligan. The business is in his blood, and when he returned to FCW, the place where he started, in 2011 he spent a year trying to find the right formula of success. He endured injuries and other setbacks before a family friend, the legendary “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, who worked with the younger talents, helped him develop a new persona.
Just prior to when FCW was renamed NXT in 2012, Bray Wyatt, a charismatic cult leader character, debuted with a series of well-produced vignettes. More injuries followed, but Bray remained on NXT TV to cut some great promos and generated hype that created an anticipation for his eventual return to WWE TV. In mid-2012, The Wyatt Family, the trio of Bray, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan, debuted on Raw to feud with Kane. The presentation worked perfectly and it was a formula that management shouldn’t have tampered with, even now. Bray had the promos and the persona to get over with the audience. He also dropped a considerable amount of weight and had crisper in-ring work than when Husky Harris was on the main roster.
Unfortunately, Wyatt’s ability to get over and stay off was used more to help other stars instead of elevating him. The examples are numerous, but there are a few key points when management had the chance to put him on a different level, but didn’t solidify him as a major star. At WM 30, Wyatt worked a match with John Cena, a workhorse that could lose every match for the rest of his career and would still be as over as he is right now.
Cena won the match and it did nothing for his status in the company, but it could’ve been used to boost the credibility of Bray Wyatt. The following year, the story was exactly the same except this time leader of the Wyatt family was used to help get Roman Reigns over at the HIAC pay-per-view when WWE’s anointed champion was struggling to get a baby face reaction. Speaking of PPV events, Wyatt did the job during most of his high-profile matches in the past few years, and if not for his remarkable ability to remain a compelling persona through his excellent promo work, it’s very possible his character would be stale at this point.
When Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble match, I mentioned that while a star, his popularity plateaued several years ago and it was doubtful that there was much of a demand for another Orton main event run. Plus, after the lackluster WM 25 main event, another title match WM didn’t exactly seem like the best possible option. Either way, as I said at the time, if Orton’s involvement was used to further establish Bray Wyatt then it could be a useful storyline. Unfortunately, it wasn’t too surprising when Orton won the title at WM 33 and Bray was minimized at another major show. Now, Wyatt was put on Raw for presumably a fresh start and Orton is the champion on Smackdown, but there’s still a match between the two booked at Payback. Even if Wyatt gets the win before the feud concludes, it won’t have the same effect as a victory at the biggest show of the year.
It’s very disappointing to see the angle take this path because from a business prospective, where’s the logic? The argument could legitimately be made that Orton’s time as a main eventer has concluded. He worked the title picture several times and did basically everything a performer can do in the WWE. At this point, his act is repetitive and for him to resurface in the title picture has somewhat of a “been there, done that” atmosphere around it. Make no mistake, Orton has had a great career, but from a character prospective, the presentation for his current run as champion is very similar to the persona from when he was champion 4-5 years ago.
At 29, Bray Wyatt should theoretically be near the prime of his career, but despite the opportunity several times previously, management has yet to really let him run with it. Sure, he won the WWE championship, but dropped it a month later in an angle that seemed to be designed more to give Orton another main event run. The past several years, the WWE has relied on part-timers and nostalgia acts to prop up the bigger shows, and those stars have a place, but the lack of legitimate star power will continue to be a hurdle until the company truly establishes the next generation.
Right now, how many competitors on the WWE roster could sell out a stadium for WM in the next five years? The talent is unquestionably there with Nakamura, Wyatt, Zayn, Owens, Balor, etc. but how often are those stars portrayed on the same level as some of the part-timers that worked the main event the past few years. Who will main event the major shows after Brock retires? Roman can’t wrestle himself so when will management push younger talent? While the Raw scene provides Bray with a fresh start, the brand is certainly more crowded in terms of star power and considering the previous track record, don’t expect the writing team to suddenly make him a priority.
I just don’t understand how those that make the decisions don’t see the potential to draw money on a long-term basis with Wyatt. He’s solid in the ring and has some of the best promos on WWE TV, as well as being over with the audience. So, Bray will start over again on Raw with limited options at the moment because Lesnar is Universal Champion and there was already a feud with Dean Ambrose a few year ago while Orton is booked to wrestle Jinder Mahal for a feud that has no steam behind it. That’s not a jab at Jinder either, but rather to emphasize that the Wyatt/Orton feud probably won’t do anything to elevate either star after the conclusion.
Until next week