Where Does 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt Rank Among WWE's Creepiest Stars Ever?
At SummerSlam, in front of a massive Toronto crowd, Bray Wyatt's brand-new persona, The Fiend, took on Finn Balor in his debut match. Wyatt won handily, with a painful looking neck snap followed by a Mandible Claw.
The Fiend is part of a long-standing tradition in WWE: as family-friendly as most of the roster is, there are always a few wrestlers who revel in the darker side of human nature and offer the heroes a more adult-appropriate, existential threat. These are not cowardly heels too arrogant for their own good or loud-mouthed braggarts with chintzy clothes; they are the pale, soft underbelly of human nature, and they cannot be reasoned with.
Here are the seven creepiest wrestling personas in WWE history; we've ranked The Fiend among them, though time will tell whether he keeps his lofty spot.
Dan Spivey came to the WWE at the end of a long, fruitful career, so unfortunately, audiences didn't get to see the full potential of his Waylon Mercy character. But it was off to one hell of a start.
Mercy was, on the surface, a contemplative, Southern gentleman. But once the bell rang, his eyes went buggy, He took on an exaggerated, awful smile. And he always locked in his trademark finisher, a sleeper hold, a little too long, while the commentators speculated worriedly about whether his opponent was getting enough oxygen.
Mercy was ahead of his time; he was a realistic gimmick in the midst of corny career-related ones (Duke "The Dumpster" Droese, anyone?). Wyatt, paying homage to his creepy predecessor, adopted Mercy's floral shirts and named one of the Firefly Funhouse characters, Mercy the Buzzard, after him in an oddly touching tribute.
Here's a character who, the less we knew about him and saw him, the creepier he was. Over time, The Boogeyman's appearances frequently veered comedic; he would be hiding in a closet or a stairwell backstage, chanting nursery rhymes and laughing to himself when the cameras found him.
But The Boogeyman was visually frightening to look at, and for a time, that was enough. His ringwork was never polished, and his matches rarely lasted more than a couple of minutes. It was the suggestion and potential for violence, rather than the violence itself, that sold the character. And anyone who eats worms, for real, is bound to turn the audience's stomach in more ways than one.
Luke Harper doesn't get enough acclaim.
Bray Wyatt's silver-tongued monologuing needed proof that it worked. We knew Bray was a cult leader. But what is a cult leader without his cult? And Luke Harper, with his wild hair and beard, was a true believer audiences could expect to sacrifice himself for some twisted, greater vision. Harper served as a cautionary tale to the WWE Universe; this husk of a human was the result of taking Bray Wyatt's words to heart.
That forever unwashed dirty shirt just completed the picture. Who has time to bathe when the whole world is going to hell?
Bray Wyatt (Original Version)
The first version of Bray Wyatt was a charismatic, backwoods cult leader who wore weirdly cheerful floral shirts and had a rocking chair that creaked. His promos were surreal poetry filled with apocalyptic imagery and references to the mystical Sister Abigail figure.
The Wyatt Family was the Ministry of Darkness for a modern, more cynical era; this was the demon we knew. It's easy to tell ourselves that zombies and vampires aren't real, but Wyatt was grounded in reality and shared it with real-life demons like Charles Manson.
Bray Wyatt (Fiend Version)
For months, we got little glimpses of Wyatt's new persona via his Mr. Rogers-inspired Firefly Funhouse segments. And when the Fiend finally debuted, it was more frightening than we could have imagined.
Everything about his appearance seemed designed to make the audience's skin crawl, from the remixed Wyatt Family theme to the forever-grinning clown mask. And worst of all was the new lantern: a decapitated head of Wyatt himself, with the eyes stitched shut and the mouth gaped open, as though it were attached to a hinge.
One day (unfortunately sooner rather than later), this character will lose its mystique and novelty. We should enjoy it while we can.
Doink the Clown (Original Version)
For the majority of the character's existence, Doink the Clown was emblematic of the New Generation era's worst impulses; Doink was a cloying, hokey character who was popular with kids but had little depth or characterization beyond his occupation.
But when Matt Borne first performed the character, Doink was an evil clown; his classical circus theme turned dissonant and was punctuated by evil cackles and minor chords. And Borne's persona, despite its outward appearance, was utterly humorless; his smile never reached his eyes. The creepiest moments were when his makeup started to run and you could see a glimpse of the sadistic human underneath the "happy" makeup.
When Mankind first debuted on WWE television, it was through a series of pre-taped vignettes. The cellar was dark and dingy, and you could barely see what was going on; all you knew was that this creature, with a missing ear and a high-pitched wail of a voice, was in serious, traumatic pain. This was body horror at its finest.
Familiarity is the death of horror; once we learned about the man, Mick Foley, behind the leather mask, the character became an endearing good guy. But those early days were terrifying, when we feared for his opponents' safety. It's no wonder Wyatt has adopted Mankind's Mandible Claw as his new finisher; he learned from the absolute best.