For about a year, The Wyatt Family was one of the hottest things going in professional wrestling — not just in WWE, but in the world. When Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan were focused on a common enemy, the results were almost always thoroughly satisfying. Their fun feud with CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in late 2013 led to the group recruiting Bryan, who would turn on them shortly thereafter, in one of the most iconic moments of Bryan’s WWE career.
Wyatt and Bryan settled their feud with a show-stealing match at the 2014 Royal Rumble, which saw Wyatt defeat Bryan clean. From there, the group immediately entered a rivalry with The Shield, which gave fans a tremendous six-man tag match at the Elimination Chamber PPV, along with many other enjoyable clashes on Raw. It’s easy to forget that the first signs of serious dissension between members of The Shield revealed themselves during the feud against the Wyatts. First it was Dean Ambrose disappearing into the crowd in the middle of a match, then it was Seth Rollins leaving his team high and dry two weeks later.
This is a highly important aspect to consider. Even the Wyatts’ less-direct actions had consequences, and were vital to the careers of other major wrestlers. Their feud with Bryan propelled him to superstardom, their rivalry with The Shield sowed the seeds of separation, etc.
Another aspect of the faction’s success was their ability to do big things on their own. While Bray’s feud with John Cena was uneven, their Last Man Standing match at Payback was spectacular. Harper and Rowan failed in their two attempts to win the Tag Team Championships, but put on excellent matches with The Usos at Money in the Bank and Battleground. The Wyatts were still hot, and the iron was ready to strike at any time, propelling them to true main-event status.
Instead, Wyatt entered into a forgettable summertime singles feud with Chris Jericho, and the entire faction was removed from television shortly thereafter. When they returned to TV, they were sent their separate ways for nearly nine months. Wyatt feuded with Dean Ambrose, which should have been exciting, but instead turned into an endless cycle of no-DQ match variants that grew tiresome in a hurry.
Bray wrestled The Undertaker in a decent WrestleMania match, but the match itself was hindered by Wyatt’s reportedly injured ankle, and the buildup was a bit underwhelming because Taker didn’t appear on television at all. Meanwhile, Harper and Rowan reunited, but entered into bottom-feeding low-card feuds against Los Matadores and the instantly forgettable team of Fandango and Zack Ryder.
Once the Family was fully reunited, it seemed like they were on the fast-track back to relevance, with a seemingly high-profile rivalry against Roman Reigns, with Ambrose soon joining the fray as well. When the Wyatts cost Reigns his shot at Money in the Bank, they seemed destined for a serious, high-stakes feud. Unfortunately, the intriguing seeds planted at the start — such as Wyatt’s creepy comments about the safety of Reigns’ daughter — quickly dissipated. What at first seemed important ended up being a weak rehash of the original Shield/Wyatts rivalry, but without any stakes to make it more than midcard fodder.
Things didn’t get much better from there. Another seemingly cool rivalry started between The Wyatts and The Brothers of Destruction, but all that came of that was an unremarkable tag-team match at Survivor Series, which Wyatt and Harper lost decisively. Since then, The Wyatts have fallen back down the card considerably after battling the ECW Originals, and are now stuck in a dead-on-arrival feud with Ryback, Kane and Big Show.
I haven’t even bothered mentioning the addition of Braun Strowman yet, because he hasn’t really changed a thing for the Family. The faction already had a huge guy who can only kind of wrestle in Rowan, so adding an even bigger guy who can wrestle even less gave the faction a net gain of zero. Even the once-seemingly inevitable Wyatt vs. Brock Lesnar match at WrestleMania felt unimportant, simply because WWE hasn’t given fans a reason to care about The Wyatt Family in so long. Perhaps that’s why WWE spent the last few weeks building up an Ambrose/Lesnar feud, which will seemingly replace the original Wyatt/Lesnar plans.
This all brings me to my central point, which is that The Wyatt Family has become the most consistently fast-forwardable part of WWE television. There are several aspects to this, and hardly any of them are the fault of the actual wrestlers themselves. First and foremost are the promos. Wyatt’s engagingly cryptic brand of talking is now the same exact promo, rehashed every single week on Raw, and usually on Smackdown too. Nothing he says carries any weight anymore.
But the problem extends far beyond the promos, because let’s face it, Wyatt’s words have rarely been particularly substantive in the first place. The main issue, of course, is the booking. One major aspect of this problem is that in their few recent feuds against big-name talent, the Wyatts have been little more than mere placeholders for their opponents — Undertaker, Kane, Ambrose and Reigns. As I discussed previously, feuding with the Wyatts used to have long-term consequences for their enemies, but for the Brothers of Destruction and Shield 2.0, the Family ended up being a mere distraction.
Even worse, when they’re not in minor feuds with major stars, they’re in rivalries against entirely irrelevant opponents. WWE brought back Tommy Dreamer and Rhyno for a brief run alongside the Dudley Boyz, in a Wyatt Family feud that was never meant to be more than a fun nostalgic popcorn match in the first place. Now, the Wyatts seem destined for a six-man match at FastLane against the “these upper-midcarders had nothing else to do” team of Kane, Ryback and Big Show.
The biggest problem of all with The Wyatt Family’s booking over the last year-and-a-half is that they don’t possess the prior success that can make them instantly viable in the main event, and they’re not hot enough anymore to get there on fan support alone. What I mean by that is that they’ve never held any titles — outside Harper’s brief run as IC champ when he was a member of The Authority — they’ve lost most of their high-profile feuds decisively, and when they do win, it’s against guys like Ryback. They’ve had very little actual success in the last 18 months or so, and they don’t have accolades to fall back on. There’s no list of accomplishments for JBL to excitedly read as they make their way to the ring, reminding fans of what a viable force they are.
This is all a damn shame, because what WWE had with the Wyatts in 2013-2014 was absolute gold, and now their TV time is arguably the most consistently boring thing going in the company. Harper is a criminally underrated wrestler, and Wyatt’s excellent mic work is wasted on constantly circular nonsense writing. They still have that pure talent, they still have the cool entrance, the great theme music, the cool gear, etc.
It would seem that the one thing The Wyatt Family no longer has is anyone who views their booking as a high priority.