WWE's SummerSlam was a rather ho-hum sort of pay-per-view—with one unforgettable, demonic exception.
That exception, of course, was Bray Wyatt's new character, The Fiend, making his in-ring debut for an official match against Finn Balor.
And make no mistake—the match itself was fun. But everything surrounding it and the long-term implications are where The Fiend's highly anticipated debut really stick out in the best possible way.
An endless array of video packages and a brief appearance or two is all fans got from Wyatt before Sunday night, almost making it seem like he'd have an impossible time living up to the hype.
Wyatt merely stepping on the stage made this a silly thought:
The music, lighting, everything about it was 100 percent jaw-dropping, which is an interesting phrase to pull out right now given The Fiend's new-look lantern that accompanied him to the squared circle:
To say he stole the show before he even hit the ring might be an understatement:
The Fiend in the ring easily defied expectations too. Fans are more than accustomed to the Wyatt formula established over the years. His offense is habitual, his comebacks and upside-down walks typical. It was seemingly rare when he'd even win, too.
But this was something else. There were past shards of Wyatt in The Fiend's performance, yes. We've seen some of the moves in the past. But the mannerisms and visible internal conflict going on within the character were brilliantly done.
So was the finish. A non-Demon Balor was always going to lose but they found a way to make it interesting. That The Fiend choked out the Irishman, cutting off his oxygen and ending the match, was about as demonic as it gets to fittingly match the rest:
The character's exit was well done, too. The lights cut out, the Wyatt laugh cut in, the lights came back and flickered over The Fiend. It capped off a fresh-feeling and much-needed development for WWE programming, to say the least.
By comparison, the rest of the SummerSlam card fell a bit flat. Becky Lynch and Bayley retained in their title fights. Trish Stratus had a fun showing. Kevin Owens put down Shane McMahon. Kofi Kingston and Randy Orton inexplicably ended a title match with a double count-out. The latest in the semi-exhausting Seth Rollins-Brock Lesnar feud saw The Architect win in rather deja vu fashion.
The show as a whole wasn't bad, but words like "expected" and "predictable" are fair. The fun stuff like the mystery surrounding Roman Reigns mostly went without a mention and there weren't any major unexpected results.
All of which works to make The Fiend's arrival all the more impressive. Consider this: WWE just saved one of its top performers and at the same time created arguably its top asset.
This is a character reinvention of the likes WWE rarely accomplished. It also silences the doubters who suggested this character was good in video packages but would fall flat in the ring.
This stealing of the show by Wyatt's reinvented character will be looked back on as the beginning of a new era. This was the launching point where WWE finally found itself another Undertaker-style character. The company doesn't have many of those supernatural old-school types anymore. Most of the top guys are Joes with social media accounts who work hard for what they have earned, which is why the company so often dips back into the Lesnar well—he brings a bigger-than-life presence.
Well, so does The Fiend.
Fans will have to wait and see how WWE plays this. Is The Fiend a pay-per-view only attraction? Is he even rarer, like Balor's Demon? Is he a monstrous arrival every now and then like a Kane? Does the cartoon-show host Wyatt and his sweater vest show up on regular weekly programming? Is he aiming to win titles?
There are endless questions, yet the handling of his character in all facets Sunday night has to be comforting to fans asking them. So far, so good. If this care and smart deployment we've seen so far continues, there isn't any reason to believe The Fiend can't be a special draw for a long, long time.
And based on the rest of the SummerSlam card, WWE needs that right now. If The Fiend can be a consistent looming threat over the entire roster, perhaps even working outside the boundaries of the brand split, everyone is better for it.
In hindsight, WWE's summer of 2019 and SummerSlam, its biggest event, will be most remembered for The Fiend—and he's just getting started now that WWE has...let him in.