wrestling / Columns

The Fiend Never Should Have Become Universal Champion

March 4, 2020 | Posted by Justin Watry
WWE Royal Rumble 2020 - The Fiend Bray Wyatt Smackdown

Last Thursday, Bill Goldberg defeated The Fiend Bray Wyatt to become the new Universal Champion at Super Showdown. It came as a huge shock to most wrestling fans because reports had initially listed Bill Goldberg as being a one and done opponent for the Saudi Arabia show and no WrestleMania match on the horizon. Bray Wyatt had been the new ‘it thing’ with his creepy character and had run through the company’s top guys in short order. Nothing could harm the guy, nothing could stop him, and nothing could get in his way…except a couple of spears and a jackhammer courtesy of Bill Goldberg. A man who had only wrestled a few matches since 2017 and had his peak over 20 years ago, in a different company.

Weird, huh?

Not really. If you had been paying attention and following the right people on Twitter (cough), you knew this was all coming. You knew what had been building the past couple of months and finally paid off Thursday afternoon in Saudi Arabia. Ladies and gentlemen, I hate to break it to you all, but…

Bray Wyatt NEVER should have won the Universal Title from Seth Rollins last Fall.

There. I said it. Somebody had to say it. Let’s forget about Super Showdown and Goldberg for a second and go back six months.

Do you all remember the awesome re-introduction of Bray Wyatt at Summerslam? Despite the Firefly Funhouse videos getting mocked and laughed at in the beginning, the vignettes worked. There was buzz. There was interest. There was a renewed focus on Bray Wyatt after he stumbled in recent story lines. Taking time off and coming back with a new character was already working wonders for him, and he had not even returned to the ring yet! Come Summerslam, we got that moment in the form of a clash with Finn Balor.

I think I speak for everybody when I say it was a resounding success. The new theme music was catchy. The entrance was the perfect tone. The mask was marketable, yet scary at the same time. The look, the feel, the aura, the entire presentation of The Fiend was cool. The match was more of a ‘show’ than an actual mat based contest, but that was the point. The Fiend was different. The Fiend was new. The Fiend was somebody to take notice of. The Fiend was a man NOT to be messed with. The Fiend had his own universe with the Firefly Funhouse, and fans were digging it.

Then he was inexplicably given a Universal Championship bout against Seth Rollins at Heck on a Deck.

Instantly, my co-host of the 411 Foresight Wrestling Podcast Steve Madsen said it was a mistake.

“WAY TOO SOON!”

Way too soon was the reaction. There is striking while the iron is hot, and then there is rushing things. All of this was discussed back in the Fall if you are a regular listener of the podcast. WWE had a hot new character and with no other options, The Fiend was placed into the main event. Steve Madsen argued it should have been The Fiend taking out the Finn Balors of the world for a few months. Put the entire roster on notice, slowly but surely take over, and then before the Royal Rumble – reveal his master plan in ripping the heart out of the WWE by winning the Royal Rumble and taking the biggest possession in the entire industry at the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania.

Obviously a little bit of fantasy booking, but it worked. Make fans WAIT for that moment. Build it. Let viewers anticipate his takeover. Take everybody on a journey and then pay it off when the time is right. Somewhere during the build up, WWE must have realized they were screwed. We knew Brock Lesnar was going to be the WWE Champion on Smackdown going forward with the big shakeup coming, yet executives also wanted The Fiend on the show…but Seth Rollins was the Universal Champion staying on Raw. Surely, Brock was not going to be losing his newly won title. At the same time, The Fiend couldn’t lose already. That’d be ridiculous and kill the hype. What to do?

Well, the company went with a BS finish inside the cell. For the second year in a row no less. Clearly a mistake and did nobody any favors. I didn’t like it, but I understood it. Seth Rollins had more in the tank as champ, and Bray could not be defeated yet. Had to do something screwy. The problem was it went too far. Multiple finishers, a mallet was used, a ref stoppage was the finish, and fans were NOT happy with the solution. I thought it was a fair compromise but in hindsight, what happened in response to the backlash was even worse.

WWE went to Crown Jewel a few weeks later and had The Fiend beat Seth Rollins for the gold.

Forget about the disaster of the WWE Draft flip flopping, the company saw a problem and came up with a solution. Or so they thought.

Now that The Fiend was Universal Champion on FOX, there was nowhere to go with him. He was thrown into a filler feud with Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series and retained in just over ten minutes. It was at this moment that we all started to realize WHY guys like Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts and other fascinating “acts” never needed to be the top champion. We can whine and cry about Hulk Hogan holding the gold for multiple years, but it worked. Others walking around with the strap wouldn’t have looked or felt right. it didn’t stay true to their characters or the entire presentation.

More to the point of WWE introducing custom made Fiend Championship belts for the low, low price of six thousand dollars.

All the while feuding with The Miz for the month of December while Daniel Bryan got the heck out of there and stayed home for the holiday season. The Miz wrestled Bray Wyatt, and things were more about his family than the title. I mean the TLC pay-per-view was a non-title bout with Bray Wyatt, NOT The Fiend. Miz lost anyways, and nobody really cared. Just a whole bunch of stalling until Bryan returned to get his rematch (which he didn’t actually deserve use logic). Fans loved The Yes Man, so surely this would get things on the right track again, correct? Eh, kinda.

The gimmick of dimming the lights and attacking his opponent before disappearing was getting a tad repetitive. Same with the Firefly Funhouse. Ramblin’ Rabbit was hilarious in the opening vignettes. Now he was in the background. The Fiend hinting at an arrival was bone chilling earlier in the year. Now? Been there, done that. To spice things up, WWE had Daniel Bryan get his hair cut off, and their Royal Rumble pay-per-view title match was made into a Strap Match. Polish a turd and make it look pretty, I guess is the saying.

Because they have amazing chemistry and had a hot crowd in Houston, Texas that night, the bout went off without a hitch. Great match. We all knew The Fiend would retain, but they did their job, and things moved forward. It was good stuff but not WrestleMania level stuff. I was at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando. One of the low points was Bray Wyatt walking down the ramp as WWE Champion midway through the show. The bell to bell was ‘meh’ at best, and everybody in that stadium knew Randy Orton was beating him. No way would WWE allow that scene to be repeated.

Ratings were not going up. Attendance was certainly not going up. Live events were not drawing more interest. FOX originally thought they were getting Brock F’N Lesnar as their champion, not The Fiend. Buyer’s remorse is a phrase already being tossed out there on that one billion dollar television deal. The company is trying to broker another mega-deal for PPV events and needs all the star power imaginable. Bray as a supporting star and delivering wonderful promos every week? Sure, I’m a fan. As THE main guy on network TV? Yowie wowie.

Enter Roman Reigns.

The WWE Title reign of Kofi Kingston in 2019 ended up being a bust, but for better or worse, he was holding the trophy for Smackdown. Fresh off his return from battling leukemia and joining the blue brand, the REAL top star Roman Reigns stayed out of his way. He left Kofi alone. He stayed out of the title picture. Once Bray got the title, same thing. Reigns enjoyed some mid-card feuds against the likes of Shane McMahon, The Stud, King Corbin and others. The clock was ticking on all that changing though. Come WM season, The Big Dog was getting his title back. The title he never lost in the first place. That was never in doubt.

I know, I know. The Fiend could have retained and Goldberg/Reigns is the same draw non-title, right? I know that will be the reply.

First off, as mentioned, Goldberg isn’t coming back to wrestle for a likely large sum of money to lose a month before Mania. Stop it. Waste of an investment and waste of an entire build. Secondly, as mentioned, Reigns was 100% getting the WM title match this year. Anybody not expecting that needs a refresher course on the wrestling business. Keyword there, business. Thirdly, as mentioned, Wyatt was not exactly lighting up the fireflies as the title holder. When your feuds with Rollins, Miz and Bryan all fall flat and bring zero hype to their new Smackdown on FOX program, it’s an issue. Like Kofi Kingston battling Randy Orton, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, and Daniel Bryan. Needed something else. Sorry.

To answer Dylan, no, Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock didn’t need a title. Obviously. Hindsight tells us that. Just as hindsight tells us The Fiend never needed the title and as the column outlines, he never should have been in that spot to begin with. Like Edge vs. Chris Jericho at WM26 never needed the title or even Randy Orton vs…Bray Wyatt in 2017! Noticing a pattern here? Those stories wrote itself. One way or another though, the belt will make its way back to Roman Reigns. Wyatt or Goldberg as the means to an end.

The only question was would we get a WrestleMania 33 re-run or something new and something worthy of the biggest show of the year?

Unfortunately for The Fiend, Bill Goldberg was back in the fold and unfortunately for The Fiend, WWE was returning to Saudi Arabia.

His fate was sealed once the match was announced. However, it was not an overnight decision. Things had been growing stale for months, and that was apparent the second Goldberg delivered higher ratings in a two minute promo via satellite than anything Bray Wyatt had done as Universal Champion the past three months. Now that Goldberg has the belt, WWE can hold their heads high on the re-worked WM36 lineup. Goldberg vs. Reigns for the Universal Title with The Fiend taking on John Cena is a million times better than Reins vs. The Fiend with Cena vs. Elias and no Goldberg.

That much is clear.

What is even more clear is that Bray Wyatt never should have been rushed to the belt in the first place. Ask Kofi Kingston where he is now after becoming WWE Champion. How is Jinder Mahal doing these days? Short term gain for a long term loss. The Fiend was HOT as a character and instead of taking their time and figuring out what to do with the WWE Draft and Seth Rollins’ run as Universal Champion, he was thrown into a spot he never should have been in to begin with. Think Ryback in October 2013. Panic mode cost them in hindsight. Desperate times called for the desperate measures. Wrong place, wrong time for My. Bray Wyatt and his second big title victory.

For Goldberg, it is always – who’s next?

However, with The Fiend, it should now be what’s next?

article topics :

Bray Wyatt, WWE, Justin Watry