“Wintery mix” has to be one of the most deceptive phrases in the English language. Whenever I hear it, thoughts of a holiday themed nut blend or party mix comes to mind; not the worst form of precipitation imaginable. It conjures up images of a warm gathering and a pleasant snack shared with friends. Instead, it is used to refer to a mixture of snow, rain, and sleet that will chill you to the bone in a matter of seconds.
Outside my house it is bitterly cold. Inside however, I am warm and full on fantastic Indian cuisine and beer. My wife just brought me a cup of tea. Let’s do this.
My plan for the use of Batista in 2014 was generally well received. People expressed a pleasure with the long-term, slow build of the returning monster that culminated with a WWE World Heavyweight Title victory at Night of Champions. One commenter expressed concern that the “IWC” would dislike it as it appeared Batista’s rise and eventually championship win came at the expense of younger talent/internet favorites.
Go back and take a look at the details. I specifically tried to protect those Batista beat in order to make their losses not look like it was just another big guy steamrolling over them. Dolph Ziggler loses in a street fight, involving foreign objects and no rules. He also had at the time, two victories over Batista before then (Elimination Chamber and Wrestlemania). I specifically state that CM Punk loses following a month’s worth of beatdowns by the Animal. Daniel Bryan actually wins their first contest at SummerSlam when both are at 100%. He loses the following month when, like with Punk, Batista administers a series of beatdowns and attacks, weakening him prior to the match.
Batista’s run as champion opens the door to elevate a younger/fan favorite talent. In the two months prior to Survivor Series, Roman Reigns could step up and take his first shot at the main event, if he has been built as a monster killer following the dissolution of the Shield. In the Survivor Series match, I have Big E. Langston and Ziggler on Bryan’s team. Let either one of them score the pin on Batista in the elimination match, you have an instant feud over the championship, giving an opportunity to fresher faces in the main event (or in Ziggler’s case an actual run).
I am sure plenty of people who read this column/web site would love to see nothing but variations of Ziggler/Punk/Bryan/the Shield. Everyone has their favorites who they want to see getting the most exposure. There is something to be said for diversity though, and going with a good storyline, which is the point of my column. I was looking to tell the tale of a returning superstar with motivation and a purpose; an animal reclaiming his territory. When he reaches the top, then the chase begins to find the one who can topple him. From there, you can push talent and have a “passing of the torch.”
And yes, I knew it was Nikki Bella and not Brie that is the Cena’s fiancée. That just goes to show that one should never edit while watching a movie (Lawrence of Arabia for anyone who was curious).
Family Road Trip
I turned off Raw last week following the Brock Lesnar segment. I wanted to watch the Daniel Bryan/Wyatt Family gauntlet match, but I was too tired and did not want to have to watch the 20-30 minutes of filler to get to it. I was actually falling asleep on my couch. When I read the recaps the next day, I was surprised by what transpired and hunted down the main event segment online. I agree with CB in that the WWE has a tailor made, feel good, classic heroic quest storyline with Bryan to capture the WWE Title at Wrestlemania following a Royal Rumble win. He is the single, most over wrestler on the roster, and his story is one that even the biggest Hollywood hack could not screw up without actively trying to. The WWE though, seems to be making every effort to do just that. Perhaps they feel Bryan winning is “too predictable.” That has not stopped them in the past however (everyone saw what was coming last year once the Rock beat Punk at the Royal Rumble).
But here are the cards that have been dealt now. Bryan is a member of the Wyatt Family. Where does the story go from here? After giving it some thought, I came up with two different routes, so I thought I would stand at the crossroad and look down both paths.
Option A: The Ruse and The Repercussions
Back in the WWE version of ECW, a face CM Punk joined the heel stable The New Breed. Almost from the very beginning of his membership, Punk’s interference “backfired” and cost his stablemates matches. In only a couple of weeks, the interference went from an apparent accident of grabbing the wrong foot to cause a trip to “mistakenly” throwing a chair too far so that it missed the New Breed member and went right into the grasp of the opponent. It became very clear Punk’s actions were designed to destroy the New Breed from within and the storyline played out with Punk leaving the New Breed after only being a part of it for 5-6 weeks.
They could pull a similar maneuver with Bryan and the Wyatt Family. In tag matches, Bryan is not on the apron to receive the hot tag. Attempted double teams suffer from “miscommunication.” Every time Bryan tries to take someone out on the outside, he always dives into Bray Wyatt. The idea is Bryan decided it was better to put up with listening to Wyatt’s ramblings for a few weeks rather than suffer endless beatings. Bryan’s true nature is revealed at the Rumble, when at one point, Wyatt orders Bryan to eliminate himself to allow the cult leader to advance and as a show of loyalty. Bryan starts a “No” chant and eliminates Wyatt before going on to win the Rumble. At Elimination Chamber, Wyatt looks to teach Bryan a lesson for his lies and disobedience in a match, but ends up tapping out to the Yes Lock. Bryan then goes on to his Wrestlemania opponent (Randy Orton), and wins the WWE Title.
Following the obligatory rematch at Extreme Rules that sees Bryan retain, the champion has a confrontation with Triple H. The COO finally concedes that Bryan has proven management wrong. He took everything that was thrown at him and never gave up. Despite every effort to break him, Bryan never quit, showing the heart of a champion, which the fans embraced and cannot be ignored. The two shake hands and Triple H fades into the background.
However, things do not change much for Bryan. He is still placed in grueling, lopsided matches. He faces gauntlets, handicapped matches, and all manner of attacks inside and out of the ring by people known to have ties with the Authority. Bryan becomes incensed and looks to confront Triple H, demanding he come clean and admit that this is just another effort to punish him for not being the prototype of a WWE Superstar. Triple H notes that he has not been involved in the booking for the past month as he has been focused on other corporate matters. The man that was in charge of planning the weekly show in that time has been the Director of Operations, Kane. This leads to the explosion of pyro, but rather than Kane’s typical music, it is the Wyatt Family theme, and Kane walks out with Bray Wyatt before kneeling before him in supplication. Here it is (finally) revealed that Kane has been a member of the Wyatt Family since he was dragged off at SummerSlam; an agent placed in a position of power to allow Wyatt the ability to assert his control and shape things as he saw fit. To extract his vengeance when the time was right.
From there, a storyline emerges over a fight for “the soul” of the company as Bray Wyatt and Kane exert a twisted authority while Triple H must rely on Daniel Bryan to help regain control Raw and Smackdown to avoid the WWE from going out of business due to the chaotic machinations of the Wyatt Family.
The pluses of this path are that it still allows for the Wrestlemania XXX feel good storyline by Bryan to play out. It turns Bryan’s membership in the Wyatt Family into a compelling fill-in storyline that gives him something to do through Elimination Chamber that does not feel like treading water until his Wrestlemania program. It also lets the story come back after Wrestlemania and finally gives pay off to Kane. I know several people on this site here that keep waiting for Kane’s connection to the Wyatt Family be revealed considering the last time he was seen before he became “Citizen Kane” was being dragged off by the Wyatt’s at the start of SummerSlam. It is one of those hanging plotlines that is so obvious for the WWE to use. The downside of the storyline is that it allows Wyatt to be outsmarted right off the bat by Bryan which undermines his aura. It also requires for some warped and twisted logic to allow Kane to maintain his position of authority after his connection to Wyatt is revealed. But considering this is an industry that has allowed wrestling matches to decide ownership of a company and paternity, I am sure there can be some reason developed to explain why the right hand man of a cult leader is able to hold onto his upper management position while he makes every effort to run it into the ground.
Option B: They Are Everywhere
We start with the premise that Bryan is under the sway of Wyatt and buys into the words of the cult leader. He abandons the fans, who could never really do anything for him in his fight against the Authority. After all, their cheers and adulations did not get him a title; they only got him endless beatings and the trampling of his dream. Wyatt notes that Bryan will be his brightest pupil, his shining example that will welcome the disillusioned and the broken into the fold.
A week later, a wrestler is in the ring waiting to face an opponent. During the opponent’s entrance, the referee chop blocks the wrestler in the ring. He starts stomping on the leg and just going crazy. His opponent stands there gobsmacked before he is hit from behind by the Wyatt Family. When Bray Wyatt enters the ring, the referee falls to his knees in supplication before him.
The following week, in the midst of a match, a cameraman will be on the apron, getting a close-up of a corner move, only he belts one of the competitors with his equipment, causing an instant disqualification. The cameraman nails the referee before the other wrestler drops him. The Wyatt Family storm the ring again and take out the one man left standing, before picking up the cameraman, who hands himself over to the cult.
From this, Wyatt (with Bryan) delivers a promo lit just by the lantern. He talks about how their numbers are growing, that their power and influence are corrupting the machine and that people will either accept the tender mercy of the Wyatt Family or they will be crushed under its might. That only those who are part of the Family know who is who, and that it is truly frightening to be “in the dark.” This is followed by Wyatt extinguishing the lantern.
At the Rumble, Bray Wyatt makes it to the final six (with Bryan getting to the final two). Upon Wyatt’s entrance into the match, he stands in the middle of the ring for an extended period as everyone else continues to fight. Whenever someone appears to go after him, another competitor takes them out, further fueling the sense that there is a growing conspiracy of followers. Wyatt actually eliminates himself in order to take out another participant, in the hopes of securing a victory for Bryan (backing up his promise to help Bryan reach the heights he only dreamed of). Bryan however, comes up short and is eliminated by the winner.
On the Raw following the Rumble, the attacks continue as this time a make-up woman attacks a Diva backstage. In the chaos of the incident, Stephanie McMahon is struck, which is the spark for the Authority to get a grip on Wyatt. Triple H is seen going through the backstage area, and kicks open a door. He freezes in fear though and the camera looks in to reveal Bray Wyatt in the room with Harper, Rowan, and Bryan at his side. In front of them are a large number of people in robes and the sheep masks, giving the impression that the number of followers is far greater than imagined. The show closes with Triple H and Kane in the ring with the COO espousing the steps he is going to take to rid the WWE of the sickness that is the Wyatt Family. Before he can take the first step though, Kane blindsides him and delivers a chokeslam followed by a tombstone piledriver before the known members of the Wyatt Family make their way to the ring, accompanied by several masked followers. Kane naturally bows down to Bray and the connection is made from SummerSlam.
From here, the power of the Wyatt Family is felt at all levels as now an executive of the company is under their control. Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan are made participants in the Elimination Chamber by Kane. Although both come up short, they deliver some devastating punishment as a tandem, never turning on each other throughout the entire match. Harper and Rowan win the tag titles. Everyone grows increasingly paranoid over who is possibly a member of the Wyatts as they lurk everywhere and will create the illusion someone is part of them (for instance being ringside for a match where they have no connection to either competitor; randomly assaulting someone before a match and making gestures of assistance to his opponent).
The Raw following the Elimination Chamber sees the Wyatt Family in the ring, with Bray noting that through the position of Kane, Daniel Bryan will be inserted into the Title match as it is only right for him to have his moment of glory and be the anointed figurehead of the company that is becoming an extension of the Family. He is cut off though by the lights going out and the all-familiar gong echoing through the arena. The Undertaker makes his slow walk down the aisle and gets into the ring. Bray Wyatt stands toe to toe with the Undertaker smiling and laughing, nodding his head in apparent agreement to accept the challenge of the Phenom. Taker however, steps around Wyatt and stands face to face with Daniel Bryan. He points to the Wrestlemania banner and then to Bryan.
The program centers on the Undertaker looking to break Bryan as he is the source of power to the Wyatt Family. It was not until Bryan fell under their sway did Bray get any power or dominance as a leader. The Undertaker hopes that by destroying Bryan, the mystique of the Wyatt Family will implode. Bryan revels at the opportunity to snap the streak and Bray is more than eager for his prized pupil to end not only the Streak, but the existence of the Undertaker. At Wrestlemania, Bryan has to pull out every move in his playbook, including some of the crowd favorites that he abandoned when aligning with Wyatt. At one point, he nails the running knee and climbs the ropes for the missile dropkick. As he waits for the slowly rising Undertaker to get to his feet, he starts throwing his hands up in the air, pointing, chanting “Yes” (something else he has not done since joining with Wyatt). Upon hearing the crowd join in, there is a shift in his personality and more of the old Bryan comes through. Bryan does come up short, eventually falling to two consecutive tombstone piledrivers. The work is done though as the programming is broken.
From there, Bryan declares his independence. He warns everyone who is associated with the Wyatts that it is over as he knows who they are and will hunt them all down and that their fear of Wyatt cannot compare to the pain he will put them in for retribution. This causes all followers to flee save for Harper, Rowan, and Kane and starts a program of redemption for Bryan as he rebuilds trust with other Superstars to take on the family.
I like this route as it is an extremely complex story. It creates a compelling reason for the rumored Bryan/Taker match-up that the Undertaker apparently wants. It establishes the terror that forms the foundation of Wyatt’s character. I worry though that it is too complex. I also feel that the timing for such a storyline is a little off. This is happening during Wrestlemania season, which does not need such a dynamic storyline. It also does not involve the WWE Title, which I hate to make secondary. I just could not justify giving Bryan the title if he were to face Taker. The redemption of Bryan requires him to lose to the Streak and I cannot see putting the title on Taker at this point in his career. There are shades of the NWO in this with the conspiracy of who could be part of the Family. I did not want to swell the ranks of actual Wyatt Family members to the point of ridiculousness; hence the use of a lot of masked, unnamed followers with just the illusion created of who may be a member.
There they are, my two ideas for how to use Bryan’s membership with the Wyatts. Maybe the actual path lies somewhere in the middle. Only time will tell, but it was certainly an interesting exercise to examine the possibilities.
Until next week, I relinquish creative control.
Tags: Bray Wyatt, Daniel Bryan, Elimination Chamber, Erick Rowan, kane, Luke Harper, royal rumble, undertaker, wrestlemania, wyatt family