WWE has reintroduced Bray Wyatt to the fans in the guise of a children’s TV host. His vignettes to date have been littered with hints that his dark old persona lurks beneath his sunnier disposition and cleaned up appearance. Nonetheless, there remain more questions than answers about his future in WWE. Will he be a heel, not so different from his old self? Or will he be an offbeat face who is sincerely trying to overcome his past demons? Which brand will he show up on, given his clips have aired on both Raw and SmackDown each week?
WWE seems to be taking its time with Wyatt, as of press time only having him appear in pre-tapes after having spent the better part of a year off of television. Sooner or later, though, he’ll be back in the ring. This article considers five great opponents for Wyatt in his new character, and five opponents WWE should avoid booking him against.
10 Great Opponent: Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman has a history with Bray Wyatt, having debuted on the main roster as a part of the Wyatt Family faction and having stated publicly quite a few times that Wyatt was a real-life mentor for him behind the scenes. There’s a natural story to be told between these two, and their real-life camaraderie may set them up to bring the best out of each other in the ring.
On top of the aforementioned considerations, Strowman is a big enough star to give Wyatt the kind of buzz he needs in this comeback. Moreover, Strowman could benefit from working a more substantial program against an offbeat rival to help give his character more depth and direction.
9 Avoid: Matt Hardy
Bray Wyatt felt as though he were in a downward spiral before disappearing from the WWE main roster. He went from a steady upper card presence and former world champion to working an offbeat, otherworldly feud with Matt Hardy. The Hardy program might have been something special, but the powers that be in WWE never seemed to fully buy in, including Michael Cole going so far as to apologize to fans in advance of a climactic match between the two on Raw. Hardy not only won the feud, but took on Wyatt as his tag team partner and de facto sidekick in the aftermath.
The best thing for WWE to do is to help fans forget all about this unfortunate chapter in Wyatt’s history. While beating Hardy could make some sense in accomplishing that end, it’s probably better that WWE steer clear of the storyline altogether and keep these two Superstars far apart.
8 Great Opponent: Aleister Black
Bray Wyatt’s character is largely based in his offbeat, cultish tendencies. Aleister Black represents the next frontier of opponents for Wyatt because he has such similar underpinnings (not least of all a character he has said was inspired by his own father’s involvement with a cult).
In addition to these two dark characters waging an unconventional war, there’s also the matter of Black as an in-ring performer. He’s smaller in size and athletic in ways that could accentuate Wyatt’s work as a big man who can physically dominate opponents. Either as someone who can make Wyatt look like a bulldozer, or as a young gun who could gain instant credibility by beating Wyatt, either route has potential to serve WWE.
7 Avoid: Elias
Elias has connected with WWE fans based largely on his promo work in a way that few Superstars have in recent years. One might even go so far as to suggest that Elias and Bray Wyatt’s talent on the mic overlaps in getting them more over than their ring work has.
However, the problem with booking Elias against Wyatt is that they are too similar. Elias is in many ways a poor man’s Wyatt. He’s a skilled orator, but not as good as the Eater of Worlds. And though Wyatt’s better on the mic than between the ropes, the gulf is even wider for Elias, who has yet to prove himself in a good match. Wyatt could use a dance partner to help elevate his game, not one who he has to carry.
6 Great Opponent: The B-Team
WWE has teased a slightly more serious edge for The B-Team with a heel turn and Shane McMahon enlisting their services on SmackDown. It’s yet to be seen what their longer-term trajectory will be, but the veteran pair of mechanics, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, could be well suited to put over Bray Wyatt early in his comeback tour.
Better yet, if WWE wanted to add some depth, it could at last address the fact that Dallas and Wyatt are real-life brothers and have more than a surface level interaction between them. Maybe that leads to Dallas ultimately teaming up with Wyatt, or else facing total annihilation. As a bonus, The B-Team did take the Raw tag titles off of Wyatt and Matt Hardy last fall, so there is even some continuity from that perspective for WWE to explore.
5 Avoid: Finn Balor
While Bray Wyatt’s decline over the last year or so we saw him on WWE television was slow and not entirely traceable, it’s clear his rivalry with Finn Balor did him no favors. On paper, the idea of Balor invoking his demon persona to go after a character as evil as Wyatt made sense, and Balor is a top tier worker.
The two never altogether clicked, though, and rather than complementing each other’s more mystical elements, the program largely came across as both men biding their time while WWE figured out what to do with them. Wyatt would be best served at this point to steer clear of past opponents - particularly from his less exciting rivalries, in favor of moving forward.
4 Great Opponent: Kevin Owens
While Bray Wyatt represents the more magical, off the beaten path style of camp that WWE largely left behind in past eras, Kevin Owens is more emblematic of the modern era with his more realistic and straightforward portrayal of a bruising prizefighter.
Wyatt and Owens could make for a fun pairing in the ring given their comparable size and style as fast-moving heavyweights. Add in each man’s talent on the mic and they could build a compelling storyline, too. The feud probably would have made more sense during Owens’s stint as a face, but could still work as a heel vs. heel rivalry, or if Wyatt does re-debut as a face.
3 Avoid: Roman Reigns
It may well be a consequence of rising through the ranks in a very similar time frame, but Bray Wyatt and Roman Reigns have feuded quite a bit in the past, including on opposite sides of the Shield vs. Wyatt Family angle and in a singles rivalry that culminated inside Hell in a Cell in 2017.
WWE could go back to the well on this match, but for now, it’s better to keep them apart. That’s not just a matter of avoiding redundancy, but also because Reigns is a dominant enough force that he’s likely to steamroll most opponents at this stage. Wyatt could, at minimum, need the better part of a year’s rebuilding to get back his credibility before facing The Big Dog again.
2 Great Opponent: The Miz
At every turn of the current brand split era, The Miz has been a surprise success story. First he thrived as an upper-level heel on SmackDown. Then he did the unlikely in keeping ahead of the pack for a year on Raw. He went on to a great better part of a year as a heel again for the blue brand, before pulling off the most unlikely successful move of all in a face turn.
As a face, Miz is cashing in on his veteran credibility, while also showing good fire. His character isn’t the most natural fit opposite Bray Wyatt, but that may be what makes him the best fit of all. The clash of styles, and particularly continuing to play off of Miz’s family life could make him and Wyatt and a hot program as 2019 progresses.
1 Avoid: Baron Corbin
If there’s one current WWE talent who has done nothing to help any other Superstar’s prospects, and has more often than not actively hurt opponents through lackluster mic and ring work, it’s Baron Corbin. Sure, Corbin is a competent worker and he’s tall, but has otherwise come up short despite a wealth of featured opportunities.
Bray Wyatt is reentering the WWE landscape in a tenuous position after a lackluster most recent year or so on Raw. Working a deadweight opponent is as sure of a way as any to tank his comeback story before it has the chance to get off the ground, let alone take flight.