RAW Deal: The era of Bray Wyatt
Something we all never thought would happen in our lifetimes has happened by the magic that is SmackDown Live. Bray Wyatt, after a few frustrating years of being used as promising cannon fodder for older wrestlers, is finally champion. Not just a champion, though—the WWE Champion. In very convincing fashion, as well.
Bray Wyatt took down both John Cena and AJ Styles at Elimination Chamber, as well as the following episode of SmackDown to kickstart WrestleMania season in a very interesting way. If there’s anyone who doubted at all at how much people truly wanted to support Bray Wyatt, just hear the rabid crowd reactions in the moments leading up to his huge title win. They were already hyped up by the fact that John Cena was eliminated, leaving us no choice but to have a new WWE Champion. That it was going to be Bray Wyatt in his first reign was a lot of icing on the cake.
The Bray Wyatt character came in as someone who didn’t look like he needed a championship, like the Undertaker. He was a gimmick pulled straight out of a fantasy or a horror novel, and the initial pleasant confusion of what he could be never factored in a title reign in the character’s future. It really never seemed like he needed it, what with all his rhetoric of a family and followers and all that. Why would a cult leader be champion of a not-so-underground professional wrestling company, right?
Well, turns out that being the top champion of a show means a lot of different things to different people. To a guy like Kevin Owens, it means a bigger payday more than it does fame. To guys like AJ Styles and John Cena, it means being the best in the business and being the guy that fans look up to. To a guy like Bray Wyatt, it symbolizes the ultimate consolidation of his power and influence. His family may have imploded, but look at the tradeoff: there are swarms of people in the crowd willing to be a part of his family. He wins, in the end.
And really, that’s all that people have been looking for ever since Wyatt debuted. They saw in him an awesome, never-before-seen-in-this-decade character that the man playing the character delivered. It’s just that the people in charge of decisions never seemed to see his potential, and that frustrated fans. If there’s one terrible thing you can do to a guy who has a lot of magic powers, it’s making him look like a chump via other people.
Now fans finally have the moment they’ve been waiting for, and it’s on SmackDown to not mess the whole thing up. To their credit, they’ve quickly established themselves post-brand split as a show that doesn’t mess a lot of things up at all. You’ll see a lot of new stars being built up here, so if you’re still not on the train, come on already. We’re punching tickets. Depending on where it is they really want to go after WrestleMania, Bray Wyatt (and to an extent, Randy Orton) will be in a good place. Follow the buzzards if you still haven’t done so.
New Women’s champions
Interesting more-than-a-side-note: this week, both WWE Women’s Championships changed hands. Neither of them are like the other.
First, Naomi surprisingly won against Alexa Bliss back at Elimination Chamber:
And then Bayley won against Charlotte at the main event of RAW:
Here’s the fundamental difference between the two—Bayley’s win was ultimately to continue padding Charlotte’s ridiculous undefeated-at-PPVs streak, while Naomi’s win was pretty much to build up a new star on SmackDown’s relatively shallow women’s division.
That’s not to say that they weren’t trying to build Bayley up; quite the opposite, in fact. But when your formula for that is pretty much the same formula you’ve been using to build Sasha Banks up a few months prior to this, you can’t say we don’t see right through you. Think about it. RAW has now become emotionally manipulative, artificially sticking a women’s match in the main event just to hype up a surprising championship win. By itself, and the first time, that would be great and everything—people were very much into it—but this is RAW and we know the drill by now—Charlotte is going to take the title back at Fastlane in a few weeks. It’s all to set up a big multi-woman championship match at WrestleMania, but the red brand is terribly uncreative.
Meanwhile, Naomi’s out-of-nowhere win feels a little more organic. Naomi has been slaving away as one of the more underrated women wrestlers on the roster, and it’s great that she’s finally getting some time to shine. She’s gotten injured since winning the championship, however, but the fact that they haven’t taken the title off her yet means two things: 1) the injury isn’t that bad, and 2) they’ve got other things for her. And a bonus: 3) because they didn’t choose to give the championship right away to a veteran like Mickie James or Natalya, it seems they really are intent on pushing the young blood right on SmackDown. As they should.
There’s still time to switch course on Bayley’s near future, but it’s gonna take a lot of political will from Vince McMahon and the people running RAW to do this. At this point, we’re gonna have to hope for the best, as always.
Farewell to a classic
You may have heard of it in passing, but Chavo Guerrero, Sr., better known to millennial wrestling fans as Chavo Classic, had passed away earlier this week. The eldest Guerrero brother was a huge California star in the ‘70s, but younger fans know him today for his appearances on SmackDown back in 2004 (including a surprising run with the Cruiserweight Championship) and Lucha Underground. I’ll be real: the guy was a bit of a dick, but that doesn’t make him any less of a legend who was fun to watch. Vaya con Dios, senor Chavo.
Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer and Wrestling God Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, the boys discuss everything that’s happened this week, including the big events of Elimination Chamber! – Rappler.com