Bray Wyatt - Creative or copied?
Today Adz takes a look at and question's the originality of the Bray Wyatt character.
Bray Wyatt, quite possibly the most popular gimmick in the WWE at present, largely due to the Firefly Fun House and The Fiend side of his character. Before he was the zany kids show presenter or the demonic Fiend, he was the leader of The Wyatt Family. The Wyatt family were a cult like group consisting of Bray, Luke Harper (Now Mr. Brodie Lee in AEW), Eric Rowan and later the black sheep of the family, Braun Strowman (at the time of writing the current Universal champion on SmackDown.) Many believe the Wyatt gimmick took inspiration from Charles Manson, and while there is some reference in there, what a lot of people do not know is, who the Bray Wyatt character was actually inspired by, and it is closer to home than you may think. The WWE had tried a gimmick that was almost identical to the Bray character, portrayed by Bray’s own father’s ex tag team partner, Dan Spivey.
The Character was called Waylon Mercy who debuted on July 1st 1995. A soft spoken, southern gentleman in white pants with a Hawaiian shirt before the bell rang, and an absolute mauler after. Building up to Mercy’s debut, the WWE had him film a series of vignettes with him speaking softly, but with a sinister undertone. Sound familiar? They had him talk about squashing wrestlers like worms whilst squashing actual worms, talking about how wrestlers' lives are in his hands and that he is going to make things “peaceful in WWF when he gets there.” Spivey took inspiration from Rober De Niro’s vision of Max Cady, the main antagonist in 1991’s remake of Cape Fear. Like Cady, Mercy wore white pants, a Hawiian shirt and spoke in a soft, yet sinister manner. They also had similar tattoos, although Mercy’s were temporary. Bray wet a step further and had actual tattoos done for the character.
So, how does Bray fit into all this? Well, as some of you may remember, when Bray first debuted in the WWE, he was a rookie going by the name of Husky Harris in the original run of NXT under the tutelage of his ‘pro mentor’ Cody Rhodes. after being eliminated he reappeared on the show at the finals and beat down the eventual winner Kaval, better known as Low Ki. When the whole NXT run was done, Bray went back to FCW (WWE’s then developmental system), keeping the Husky Harris ring name and feuding with Percy Watson. When Harris debuted on RAW, he was dropped straight into The Nexus, having come from NXT, naturally. Making his main roster debut alongside Michael Mcgillicutty (now known as Curtis Axel and the real-life son of ‘Mr. Perfect’ Curt Hennig), help Wade Barrett pick up with win against John Cena forcing him to join The Nexus. The Harris gimmick was bland, boring and was quite honestly nothing to write home about. It was the same old bland gimmick WWE gives everyone at the start of their time there. Harris never stood out, he made no waves, did not even make a splash, so off he went back to developmental, the then new iteration of NXT that we know it as today.
Whilst in NXT the Bray character was born. At the time Dan Spivey was kicking around the Performance centre and Bray asked Spivey if he minded him making the Wyatt character similar to Waylon Mercy. Spicey saw this as an honour and worked with Bray to create and fine tune the character. Now, a lot of what Bray said and did with the character came mainly from himself, but he had a lot of support from one of the all-time greats, Dusty Rhodes. Dusty encouraged Bray to stay in character even as far to go to jury duty as Bray. In the book NXT: The Future, Bray says “When Husky Harris failed on the main roster, he [Dusty] went all in with the Wyatt persona. I was going to jury duty in my hometown, and Dusty made me go to jury duty as Bray, Dusty told me, ‘This is the perfect exercise. Become Bray.’ I literally went to jury duty as Bray Wyatt. I was so immersed in the character that I didn’t break once. Obviously, I didn’t get picked for jury duty, but I had the white pants, Hawaiian shirt, the whole nine yards. There were no fragments of Husky Harris. Husky Harris was dead, and he was to stay dead. I was Bray Wyatt. We were one.” Bray took Spivey's original Mercy idea and added that Charles Manson-esque cult leader vibe and recruited Luke Harper and Erik Rowan to back him up, creating the Wyatt Family, and later adopting the "Black Sheep" Braun Strowman rounding out the family.
After the Wyatt Family parted ways, Bray feuded and then going on to team with ‘Woken’ Matt Hardy as the Deleters of World after the latter ‘deleted’ Bray by throwing him into the lake of reincarnation. Wyatt then essentially became a ‘woken’ version of himself, winning the tag team championships, but losing the titles at their first PPV defence and then losing again, the following night after invoking their rematch clause.
Bray has given a nod to Waylon Mercy recently more than once. The most obvious nod being the name of the Firefly Fun House character, Mercy the Buzzard. In the segment where Mercy the Buzzard ate the Rambling Rabit, the buzzard ended his lines with “You know what I mean?”, the line that Waylon Mercy ended all his and vignettes with, and then mentioning treating the buzzard to a picnic, alluding Spivey’s picnic vignette, even down to Bray leaning on his leg. He really does have an incredible amount of attention to detail.
The Bray Wyatt character has had a few tweaks here and there, and has undergone a couple of transformations, but the essence of the original Bray is still there, the Bray that was inspired by a minor character from yesteryear. He brought that gimmick back to life, he made it fresh and exciting, he made it relelvent, breathed new life into the persona and he made us let him in.