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Rob: What Went Wrong With Bray Wyatt & The Fiend In WWE?

Rob digs into Bray Wyatt’s run in WWE and why it ultimately didn’t work in any character iteration…

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Rob digs into Bray Wyatt’s run in WWE and why it ultimately didn’t work in any character iteration…

So now that the Bray Wyatt wrestling story looks to be all but done, it’s time for the finger pointing.  There are reports going around, most specifically one from Fightful Select, that highlights Bray’s ongoing frustrations with creative and Vince’s frustrations with him in return.  It seems like a marriage that was doomed to fail, but that won’t stop the blame game from happening.  And while it’s easy to pin it all on the old man, I think a lot of this is on Bray (Windham Rotunda) himself and just on circumstances that emerged surrounding the character.  Here are what I think the big issues were:

The Monster Problem

The Fiend was an unstoppable evil clown monster, and that in itself was the problem.  The cool visuals and costumes, the Firefly Funhouse, and spooky stuff made for very entertaining TV segments and some cool visuals like the Randy Orton pose while the Fiend burned in the background at the end of TLC, but none of that could fix the problem that was how do you finish his matches, and ultimately his stories?  Because the evil horror movie clown eventually has to get taken down by someone, but in an ongoing medium like pro wrestling there’s a show the next day after said takedown.  The Fiend as a character failed the number one question as to how you book the blowoff match for a feud:  What’s next?

The Fiend as a character no selling all of someone’s offense while scaring them to death and ultimately beating them was a good way to force that opponent into a creative corner.  Just ask Seth Rollins.  It also made for nonsensical things like Braun Strowman getting dragged underwater into a swamp and then coming back on TV a week or two later.  Or John Cena getting trapped in a dream world of sorts and disappearing into thin air then coming back a year later to confront Roman Reigns.  Even when done well (the Cena thing) there was no plausible ‘what next?’ unless the Fiend lost.

But losing brought it’s own problems.  The unstoppable murder clown gets beaten, that should be the end of the character as either the guy behind him leaves the territory entirely (which is what would have happened at any time prior to say, 1987) or gets taken off of TV to rebrand entirely.  Now in Bray’s case the former happened, just not in the way anyone imagined.  But after feuds with Rollins, Strowman, and Orton plus shorter angles with Cena and Goldberg it was clear that there was no right way to end anything with him.  Have him go over then you have to change or revamp whoever he beat, but if he loses then you have to get people to buy back in when he returns.  To be blunt, every angle or feud ended with the Fiend or his opponent having to be fixed.  The Orton feud with it’s abrupt ending, as maddening as it was, turned out to be the least damaging of them all.

At the end of the day if there’s no good way to end any story with the character then that ties everyone’s hands involved, and guarantees a conclusion that satisfies no one.  A year and a half of that was enough to make it clear that either you had to cut the cord or continue with this character doing the same with the rest of the roster, or at least the ones who didn’t have the clout to say ‘not gonna work for me, brother.’  In the old days he would have been built through some midcarders then eventually fed to Hulk Hogan and that would be the end of it.  But in 2021 that wasn’t on the table, until what happened off camera ultimately made Randy Orton into the final Fiend Killer.

The Bell Had To Ring

Opinions of Bray Wyatt in the ring ran from ‘he stinks’ to ‘he’s ok’.  Name a good Bray Wyatt match that wasn’t a tag match or where he wasn’t carried by a great in work worker like Daniel Bryan or Roman Reigns.  And before you say ‘well, duh’ even guys who are not known as great in ring workers like say, the Miz, have had great matches with people who aren’t on the level of Reigns or Bryan.  And by great I don’t mean five star workrate extravaganzas, I’m talking about matches that don’t have the audience thinking ‘ok, this kinda sucks’ after 10 minutes.  You gotta be better than that if you’re going to reach the level that Bray’s biggest fans thought he should have reached.

And The Fiend only made that worse.  Instead of pedestrian affairs you got ridiculous matches where by design he no sold everything from his opponent, until the finish where he had to either go down to defeat and contradict the rest of the match or win in such a way that whoever he beat was screwed going forward.  The quick and easy version of this is that everything good about the Fiend happened before the bell rang, and once it did it was a race to see just how bad either he or his opponent would be ‘ruined’ by the finish.  The easiest contrast to him, the Undertaker, was Ricky the Dragon Steamboat in ring by comparison.  And speaking of which…..

He’s not The Undertaker

Taker is the quickest comparison to Bray, and what a lot of people hoped he would become.  But there are some important distinctions between the two.  For one while Taker was not a five star match guy on his own he was capable of playing his part in such a match or evven pulling a surprising great one like against Batista at WrestleMania 23.  There isn’t one singles match in Bray’s resume where you were pleasantly surprised because of what he did.  Then there’s the fact that Taker’s size made him an imposing figure in the ring while seeing the Fiend stand face to face with Goldberg took something out of his sense of invincibility.

And then there’s this.  For all the spooky stuff that came with Taker, it all usually came before or after the match, not during it.  When the bell rang you usually had a proper wrestling match, be it some crazy stipulation thing (Buried Alive, Casket), a no DQ match, or a straight match altogether.  With the Fiend you either got a cinematic match that was completely out of the bounds of reality even when done well or some gimmicked up match in the real world like the cell match with Rollins or a regular match that ended with a dud like the Goldberg and Orton ones.

This brings us back to the same problem as my first point, that there was no way to do a match with this guy that either wasn’t an actual match (the Cena match at Mania) or was overbooked to absurd levels or just ended with a whimper.  And then there’s the fact that to a very vocal part of the audience the only acceptable outcome was a Fiend victory.  Taker on the other hand did take some early losses, even though they were in gimmicked up Body Bag matches, but we still saw him lose and thus were not fixed on him just having to win all the time.  We knew he could lose which made it easier to go with it when he did.  The Fiend from jump was presented as not just scary but invulnerable and the people who got on board the strongest were only here for that and that alone.  Which is an impossible thing to maintain without him killing your whole roster.

In Conclusion

Long term the Fiend was just an unworkable character for the reasons I stated above.  It’s fitting that Windham Rotunda is moving on to Hollywood because there he can write stories that have a hard ending and move on to the next one.  There’s no Monday Night after the PPV where the two people who fought have to show up and move to the next feud.  And there’s a much different bar to making an entertaining horror movie than a good wrestling match.  It’s not easier, it’s just different and with a different set of expectations from the audience.  While the release could have been less messy and not so abrupt it was the likely outcome regardless, the only difference being that Bray may have sought it himself after a while.  But it’s a lesson into the need to put limits on characters, one that hopefully everyone remembers next time.  Until then, good luck to Bray in Hollywood.


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Opinion

King: Top 5 Championship Matches in WWE Royal Rumble History

Chris King looks at the best championship matches that have taken place at a WWE Royal Rumble event!

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2020 WWE Royal Rumble

Chris King looks at the best championship matches that have taken place at a WWE Royal Rumble event!

I have gone back in time to reflect over Royal Rumble’s over the last decade. From 2012 to 2022 the WWE Universe bared witness to some amazing matches including AJ Styles defending his WWE Championship against Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, The Rock defeating CM Punk and ending his historic championship reign, and even the ‘Beast Incarnate’ Brock Lesnar successfully defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against John Cena & Mr. Money in the Bank Seth Rollins in a classic triple-threat match.

Here are the top five championship matches at the Royal Rumble over the last decade.

Honorable mentions:

  • Brock Lesnar VS. Finn Balor (Universal Championship): Royal Rumble 2019
  • Brock Lesnar VS. Kane VS. Braun Strowman (Universal Championship): Royal Rumble 2017
  • Randy Orton VS. John Cena WWE World Heavyweight Championship (Royal Rumble 2014)
  • Daniel Bryan VS. AJ Styles (WWE Championship): Royal Rumble 2019

Top 5 Royal Rumble Championship Matches 

5. Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns (Universal Championship): Royal Rumble 2017

In August of 2016, the WWE Universe was shocked when Triple H turned on his former protege Seth Rollins and essentially handed the Universal Championship to Kevin Owens in a crazy fatal-four-way match. Over the next few months, Owens and Chris Jericho would become best friends and true enemies of Rollins and former Shield-mate Roman Reigns. After Reigns was screwed out of the title at Roadblock they would deliver a Shield bomb through the announce table to Owens.

Reigns and Owens would battle again at the Royal Rumble this time, Jericho would be locked inside of a shark cage to prevent interference. Both superstars delivered an impressive performance and threw out everything to defeat one another. Reigns was minutes away from winning the Universal Championship until Braun Strowman obliterated him, which allowed Owens the conniving champion to keep his title.

4. CM Punk vs. The Rock (WWE Championship): Royal Rumble 2013

The self-proclaimed ‘Best in the World’ CM Punk was on a complete tear going through the roster successfully holding the title for a historic 434 days. At Raw 1000, The Rock came back and challenged whoever was the champion at the time to a WWE Championship match at Royal Rumble. Later in the night, Punk would turn heel attacking ‘The People’s Champion’ and aligning himself with Paul Heyman shortly afterwards.

The Shield would work as mercenaries for Punk to retain his title since the 2012 Survivor Series where they debuted. Vince McMahon informed Punk that if The Shield got involved in the championship match he would be stripped of the title. After twenty minutes of back and forth action between champion and challenger, the lights went out and The Shield interfered yet again. McMahon came out to strip Punk of his championship but, The Rock had other plans and the match was restarted. The People’s Champion would deliver the People’s Elbow to end the historic reign of Punk.

3.  Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins (Universal Championship): Royal Rumble 2022

‘The Head of the Table’ Roman Reigns had conquered all of his challengers on Friday Night SmackDown, so a handpicked wild card was chosen from Monday Night Raw to challenge for the Universal Championship. Enter Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins. The two former Shield-mates had faced each other in the past but, this time felt different. Reigns was the arrogant and cocky heel while Rollins portrayed more of a tweener character. Rollins mocked the champion’s historic title reign and infuriated Reigns the go-home episode of SmackDown.

The Universal Championship match was the first match to open the show to a white-hot crowd. Reigns made his long grand entrance waiting for his challenger until a familiar theme erupted throughout the WWE Universe. Rollins not only mocked The Shield’s old entrance through the crowd but, was also decked in full Shield attire which pissed off the champion.

I feel like it’s impossible for these two superstars to have a bad match. They have incredible chemistry whether as partners or rivals. Reigns locked in his challenger with the Guillotine Choke but Rollins made it to the ropes. The Tribal Chief was relentless and would not break the hold so Rollins won by disqualification.

2. AJ Styles vs. John Cena (WWE Championship): Royal Rumble 2017

Let me start of by saying this was a very difficult choice to make because I went back and forth on making this number one. ‘The Phenomenal’ AJ Styles shocked the world in 2016 not only for turning heel on John Cena but, beating him at Money in the Bank via shenanigans and SummerSlam completely clean in the middle of the ring. Styles went on to have an incredible run as WWE Champion over on SmackDown Live.

Cena went off and did his own thing after a devastating loss to his rival but, came back returned in time to challenge for the title to not only become a sixteen-time champion but to tie the illustrious record held by Ric Flair. Both superstars used every maneuver in their arsenal to win the match, but it came down to the final sequence to understand where Cena’s passion lies. Mr. Never Give Up hit the Attitude Adjustment and deadlifted Styles to deliver another thunderous AA to become the sixteen-time WWE Champion. What a freaking match!

1. Brock Lesnar vs. Seth Rollins vs. John Cena (WWE World Heavyweight Championship): Royal Rumble 2015

Even though the match before was tieing the legendary Ric Flair’s championship record, I still can say with full confidence that this triple threat match is one of the best matches in Royal Rumble history. Brock Lesnar had an impressive 2014 starting off with ending The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania, and then obliterating John Cena at SummerSlam to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

At Night of Champions Cena was minutes away from winning the title and defeating ‘The Beast Incarnate’ until the arrogant Mr. Money in the Bank Seth Rollins caused a disqualification. Leading up to the Royal Rumble, Cena and Rollins would face off in a tables match at the TLC pay-per-view, while Lesnar vanished. A huge triple threat match was set for the 2015 Royal Rumble pitting all three superstars against each other. Rollins who was still holding the briefcase bragged about if he didn’t win the title with Plan A, he would just cash-in and become the champion with Plan B.

From the moment the bell rang, the action began between Cena and Lesnar. Rollins played the manipulative cocky heel picking his moments to strike. Rollins and Cena took out The Beast on the outside to make it one-on-one. Lesnar was stretchered out of the match but miraculously came back and displayed his freakish strength taking anyone who moved to Suplex City. Rollins hit the champion twice with his briefcase and set up for the Curb Stomp. Lesnar bounced up and delivered a thunderous F5 to retain in a fantastic match.

I love this match so much because it was the first time that I believed Lesnar can deliver a great match and good story when he wants to. We’ve experienced this in his matches against AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, and even Finn Balor. The Beast is a very smart performer and knows how to sell for his opponents to make them look like a megastar.

There you have it, those are my top five championship matches at Royal Rumble. Let me know what you think!


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Opinion

Greg DeMarco’s Top 5: WWE WrestleMania 39 Opponents For Roman Reigns Not Named The Rock

The Road to The Royal Rumble is here, which means we will soon have an opponent for The Tribal Chief! Greg DeMarco explores potential candidates…

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Roman Reigns Seth Rollins WWE WrestleMania 39

The Road to The Royal Rumble is here, which means we will soon have an opponent for The Tribal Chief! Greg DeMarco explores potential candidates…

Daddy’s back with something for you that is meant to be fun–and a distraction from the news surrounding Vince McMahon’s (likely terrible) return to WWE. Being a fan is meant to be fun, and one of the most fun things we get to do is look ahead to WrestleMania.

The main question, for this article at least, is who will be Roman Reigns’ opponent at The Granddaddy Of ‘Em All? Now everyone wants it to be The Rock, so we will explore the alternatives to that match.

In order to do that, I am making the following assumptions, even if some might not be true in the end:

  • Roman Reigns only wrestles one match, the final match on Night 2.
  • Roman Reigns is defending both the WWE and the Universal Championships in that match.
  • Roman Reigns–and this is just purely me–is not losing.

Honorable Mentions

I did have a few ideas who simply didn’t make the list. Check ’em out:

  • Drew McIntyre – Simply put: Why? Why would we put Drew McIntyre against Roman Reigns in a football stadium when we just saw him against Reigns in a football futbol stadium last fall?
  • Kevin Owens – Similarly, why would we do this right after we do it at the Royal Rumble?
  • Karrion Kross – Ok, now I’m just trolling you. He ain’t the guy, brother–not with this gimmick.
  • Ricochet – Personally, as an underdog babyface against Roman Reigns, I love Ricochet winning the Royal Rumble and challenging The Tribal Chief. But we have a better underdog on the list already.

With that all out of the way, it’s time to have some fun. I give you…

My Top 5 WWE WrestleMania 39 Opponents For Roman Reigns Not Named The Rock

5. Sami Zayn

The bloom is off the rose for Sami Zayn, at least in the eyes of The Tribal Chief. The eventual turn is one of the most telegraphed things in recent memory, and in this instance that is perfectly fine. Sami Zayn is insanely over, and him fighting the uphill battle with The Bloodline would get him Daniel-Bryan-Danielson-at-WrestleMania-30 levels of heat along the way.

People love Sami Zayn. His awkward charm and seemingly unlimited charisma won over the audience so well that his storyline with The Bloodline had to get extended multiple times over. However, it’s obviously coming to an end.

The obvious match is Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn against The Usos, but you could also slot Kevin against Solo Sikoa if Sami were to indeed get the nod.

4. Bron Breakker

You probably think I’m crazy, and I totally get it. Bron Breakker comes from NXT and goes right to the WrestleMania main event?

If you want to create a new star in Bron Breakker, this is how you do it. (At least, it’s one way you can do it.) Look at Roman Reigns himself–part of the story of his WrestleMania 31 challenge of Brock Lesnar was that he was growing into the role. JBL told the story on commentary, and the match was all about Roman ascending to the level of Brock.

Of course it was all the perfect set-up for Seth Rollins to give us the greatest Money In The Bank cash-in in WWE history, but in the process Roman proved that he belongs.

So make this year’s Royal Rumble the ultimate opportunity–the most shocking winner since Rey Mysterio, the NXT Champion Bron Breakker.

3. Seth (Freakin’) Rollins

Seth Rollins seems to be in a never ending program with Austin Theory, and it’s time to move on. Seth is an automatic main eventer in WWE at this point. He’s a made man, probably the next biggest star (on the men’s side) in WWE after Roman Reigns.

And he also has a very specific distinction that no one else has: a singles victory over Roman Reigns since he made his huge return in 2020. Yes, it was by disqualification, but he has proven his abilities to get inside the head of the Tribal Chief.

And Seth Rollins is going to have a match at WrestleMania, and 50,000+ in Sofi Stadium are going to be singing his song. Might as well be in the match that closes WrestleMania Night 2.

2. Sheamus

This is purely a match on my playlist–but this is MY list. And to me, Sheamus makes perfect sense.

In fact, I thought the feud between The Bloodline and The Brawling Brutes would lead to Sheamus challenging Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. And had Sami Zayn’s involvement in The Bloodline not taken off the way it did, we still may have.

Sheamus is more popular now than ever, and at 44 years of age he is doing some of his best work. Sheamus winning his second Royal Rumble and challenging Roman Reigns would be the Lifetime Achievement Award he deserves.

But it’s more than that! The match? It would deliver in a big way. History? There’s plenty between Sheamus and Roman, going back to when Sheamus cashed in Money In The Bank on Reigns, and when Reigns eventually beat The Celtic Warrior to win one of his world championships. The fans? They would be solidly behind Sheamus, and would go nuts for every near fall. Don’t sleep on Sheamus as your WrestleMania 39 main event opponent for Roman Reigns.

1. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin

Full credit for this idea belongs to PC Tunney and Dave Ungar, as shared in the Chairshot Radio Twitter DM thread. And it’s steal-worthy indeed.

Three major legendary names are rumored for WrestleMania 39: The Rock, John Cena, and Steve Austin. All three make sense for a multitude of reasons. But The Rock will be launching a football league (which might be a reason to do this–the publicity), and is still in insane demand in Hollywood. Cena seems to be free at the present time, and we’ve seen the videos of Austin working out.

Remember, I am assuming Roman Reigns is going to win. If that’s the case, then this WrestleMania is but another moment in Reigns’ legacy. Why not add Steve Austin to his list of victories?

It would sell. ✅
The fans would buy it. ✅
Austin proved he can go. ✅

This type of match is what WrestleMania is all about. If it’s not The Rock, it should be “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

And there you have it, my list of–

Wait a minute Greg, what about Cody Rhodes?!?!

Man, I thought I could slip this one past the goalie!

Cody Rhodes is a great question. But you have to look at my assumptions above. I am assuming Roman only wrestles one match, defends both championships, and–most importantly–doesn’t lose. Given those assumptions, you want Cody Rhodes as far away from this match as possible.

If we do split the titles, then Cody needs to be the guy to walk away with the WWE Championship. He does that either over Seth Rollins, or in a triple threat on Night 1 against Reigns and Rollins–but Rollins still eats the fall.

But under my conditions, losing at WrestleMania doesn’t do anything for Cody.


What do you think? Let me know on social media!

Hit me up:

Until next time, remember: enjoying wrestling is a choice…make the right choice!


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