Just Business: A Thousand Words on Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker
One name seems to be getting lost in the shuffle of the increasingly excitable discussions of what shape Wrestlemania 31 looks set to start taking at Royal Rumble: Bray Wyatt.
Rumour is rife Bray Wyatt is slated to wrestle The Undertaker one year on from the Streak-ending conquest of the Beast Incarnate. There may be some consternation among a number of fans regarding the idea; some of this may stem from wondering how Undertaker functions at Wrestlemania in a post-Streak world, given how predominant a factor of his career – and the show in question – said Streak had grown to become before its demise. Well despite the more cynical element of the fan base, I have to say I think a Wyatt feud is the key. For as perfect a next step as the Undertaker is for Wyatt a year removed from his sparking conflict with John Cena, so too is Wyatt the perfect next step for an Undertaker mentally reeling from his humbling at the hands of Lesnar.
Rollins is my guy; the fan in me is most excited to watch his very first solo Wrestlemania season play out, regardless of the involvement or absence of gold. That being said, I am also (though by no means equally) a big fan of Wyatt because of his character’s disposition being so perfectly suited to my interpretative brand of receiving professional wrestling as performance art. The nature of his character that has been implied by his feuds throughout 2014 has made that abundantly clear to me. Wyatt’s is a character as equally fantastical as that of The Undertaker, if in a less literal sense. The Eater of Worlds is best viewed as the physical manifestation of a given character’s fear and insecurities. The stronger those fears and insecurities become - often because of Wyatt’s presence and actions - the stronger Wyatt’s character becomes in turn, with the only means by which he can be defeated being one’s ability to overcome those fears and learn from those insecurities.
In the case of Daniel Bryan, Wyatt manifested when Bryan proved incapable of overcoming the odds The Authority stacked against him, prompting fears of the inadequacy that was the predominant theme of his unending conflict with his corporate aggressors. As the manifestation of that demon, Wyatt showed Bryan what trying to blindly fight on with endlessly escalating physicality would lead him to; Bryan lost at Royal Rumble, and would eventually go on to lose the war against The Authority because of his refusal to learn.
In the case of John Cena, Wyatt manifested when fans outright rejected Cena’s position as challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Royal Rumble, prompting fears he no longer belonged despite his good intentions. It was when, in response, Cena then proclaimed insecurely that the future had to go through him that Wyatt’s relentless crusade would begin in earnest. As the manifestation of Cena’s demons, Wyatt used Cena’s heroism and inspirational mantra as lies that would isolate him completely from the world already rejecting him in spite of his best qualities; eventually Cena came to learn willing selflessness was the weapon that would win him the war with his unveiled God Complex.
In the case of Dean Ambrose, Wyatt manifested when the Lunatic Fringe was about to deal a killing blow to the man that robbed him of The Shield – the only stability and family he had ever come to know - prompting fears that he would never know any relative normality. What Wyatt could not expect was Ambrose’s openly embracing that insecurity with violent glee where Cena had valiantly fought to instead overcome it. As the manifestation of Ambrose’s demons, Wyatt tried to tempt Ambrose into becoming the animal the instability of his life threatened to make him and, in a moment marking the Lunatic Fringe as one of WWE’s most tragic characters, Ambrose embraced that temptation outright and came to be dominated by it.
These wars of self need only one moment of weakness to erupt. For Bryan, defeat at the hands of his enemies; for Cena, a world rejecting him in spite of his good intentions; for Ambrose, the pending destruction of the only nice thing he’s ever known; for The Undertaker, an attempted return to Wrestlemania.
By its break, the Streak had come to define The Undertaker. So too, some might say, Wrestlemania. It stands to reason a character as vengeful as the Dead Man might seek out revenge against the Beast he now owes a favour. Regardless of whether that Beast is champion or not by Sunday’s end, regardless of any Rumble possibilities or otherwise, one would think The Undertaker will return to find the closure demanded by the advent of 21-1, because it is ultimately the character’s greatest ever defeat; the darkest moment of The Undertaker’s career. It shattered the redemption he claimed with his defeat of Punk the year before, and returned him to the torturous days of the Tetralogy’s emotional tumult that had left him at first hubristic and, latterly, broken and humbled. Thus, even in a rage fuelled pursuit of vengeance, The Undertaker would still be haunted by what happened in 2014.
Enter Bray Wyatt: the tapeworm that feeds off fear and grows stronger for it; the stronger he becomes, the more fearful his victim. As the physical manifestation of insecurity, never is the time more ripe for The Undertaker to be confronted by his own soul’s distress. A Bray Wyatt fuelled by The Undertaker’s emotional agitation is a frightening thought, and perfectly suited for a match of the morose tone a post-Streak Undertaker seems to scream out for.
In the end, whether a spine-chillingly epic confrontation in the Rumble is the one of many ways they choose to set such a war in motion, the important thing is to remember that there are still many pieces left to enter play for Wrestlemania and, for me, ‘Taker vs. Wyatt remains one of the most exciting, if far from certain, possibilities.