What Does Bray Wyatt's Loss to Goldberg Mean for 'Fiend' Character, SmackDown?
The WWE Universe is still reeling from the polarizing ending to Super ShowDown that saw Goldberg defeat "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt for the Universal Championship in decisive fashion.
Wyatt retaining his title and advancing to WrestleMania 36 as Universal champion was almost too obvious of an outcome, but at the very least, it was logical and the right route to take. The backlash Goldberg's championship win has received from fans is similar to when Wyatt failed to become the champ against Seth Rollins at Hell in a Cell last October.
In so many words, Wyatt can't seem to catch a break. He has a tendency to lose whenever it matters most, including at WrestleMania (where he remains win-less as of now).
As cool of a moment as it was for longtime fans to see Goldberg reign supreme once again as world champion, it's hard to deny that the decision was damaging to Wyatt and the entire blue brand. Whether Wyatt can bounce back remains to be seen, but this latest twist on the road to WrestleMania definitely does complicate matters in the main event scene on the SmackDown side of things.
We were left with far more questions than answers coming out of WWE's latest Saudi Arabia special, and not ones that would inspire confidence or excitement for the product going forward. In fact, this title change illustrates just how poor the overall creative direction has been on SmackDown for many months and how The Fiend's fall from grace creates more problems than solutions.
Are Bray Wyatt's Days in the Universal Championship Picture Officially Over?
Before reinventing himself as The Fiend, Bray Wyatt was far from a staple in either of WWE's world title pictures. The closest he came to attaining super stardom as champ was in 2017 when he won the WWE Championship from John Cena, only to lose it to Randy Orton at WrestleMania 33 two months later.
Many fans felt that was the end of his time on top in WWE, but Wyatt was determined to return to the mountaintop at some point. As The Fiend, he managed to work his way back up the card and reclaim the prestigious prize late last year (albeit a little later than most people had hoped but that was a whole other issue).
The assumption was always that he would walk into WrestleMania 36 as Universal champion, and rightfully so. It made sense given all the television time, attention and effort that went into making Wyatt a dominant threat again, and having him lose that title prior to that point would have been booking malpractice.
Sure enough, fans did not react kindly to Goldberg beating him for the belt at Super ShowDown, largely because the chances he gets that belt back any time soon (if ever) are slim to none.
With Goldberg now the new champion, he will likely be the one defending it on the grandest stage of them all, much like he did three years ago against Brock Lesnar. Wyatt could always re-enter the title picture post-WrestleMania, but it's doubtful Roman Reigns (or whoever wins it from Goldberg) would drop it so soon.
In other words, that may have been it for Wyatt in the Universal Championship mix, His character could even benefit from some time away (despite standing right back up after eating the Jackhammer), but of course, that would mean missing WrestleMania and he's already sat on the sidelines for two of them.
Instead, it looks like he could be gearing up for a different match entirely at WrestleMania, one that doesn't make as much sense without something substantial on the line.
The Fiend vs. John Cena Doesn't Make Sense Without a Title Up for Grabs
Once plans for WrestleMania 36 reportedly changed per Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio, Bray Wyatt's WrestleMania opponent went from being Roman Reigns to John Cena with Reigns facing Goldberg instead.
Although it wasn't made clear at the time who would be Universal champion going into WrestleMania, now we know following the events of Super ShowDown. If Wyatt vs. Cena is indeed the direction they're going in for WrestleMania, it isn't nearly as compelling without the Universal Championship up for grabs.
It would have provided the perfect dynamic with Wyatt having been unbeaten all year and Cena returning to attempt to win his record-setting seventeenth world championship. They also could have played off their history from their feud in 2014 when Cena beat him at WrestleMania 30, making the outcome of this clash that much more unpredictable.
The Fiend can still strike Cena on tonight's SmackDown because of how Cena essentially derailed his push all those years ago, but then there would be nothing in it for Cena. From a storyline standpoint, he doesn't have much of an incentive for coming back until something of importance is involved, so the match accomplishes nothing.
On the bright side, Wyatt would most certainly have to win in that case, giving him his first victory at the Show of Shows. Other than that, it seems strange for The Fiend to shift his focus from the Universal Championship to Cena so suddenly.
Unfortunately, no one else on the SmackDown roster is as logical of an opponent for Wyatt at WrestleMania.
SmackDown Lacks Believable Main Event Players
With Bray Wyatt no longer the Universal champion, it is now more apparent than ever that SmackDown has a stunning lack of legitimate main event players.
Roman Reigns will forever be a world championship contender, but no one's spot on SmackDown seems to be nearly as concrete. The Fiend's position on the card may fluctuate depending on whether he holds the gold or not, and Daniel Bryan is already back to being directionless.
There's Braun Strowman, Shinsuke Nakamura and Sheamus, but their booking has done nothing to make people believe that they are worthy of being brought up to the main event level full-time. And then there's Kofi Kingston, who reigned as WWE champion for six months and lost the belt before returning to the tag team ranks one week later.
SmackDown clearly has no idea who it wants to build around and it's hurt the brand considerably on the whole. There's no sense of consistency and nobody feels special, which is why John Cena and Goldberg are back on the brand leading into WrestleMania 36.
WWE shouldn't have to trot out part-timers to take up spots on the WrestleMania card from more deserving SmackDown Superstars. Granted, Raw is doing that too with Brock Lesnar and Edge, but at least their 'Mania matches have potential and have been built up well so far.
The same can't be said for SmackDown's state of affairs at the moment. Fans have no idea what's in store for SmackDown's portion of the card and the event is just over five weeks away. That's incredibly alarming.
Is SmackDown's Side of WrestleMania 36 Stronger Than It Was Before?
SmackDown has been a supremely flat show since its move to Fox four months ago for whatever reason and there's been very little worth getting invested in. The ongoing angle with Otis and Mandy Rose has been fun, The Miz and John Morrison have been a breath of fresh air in the tag team ranks, and then there was anything Bray Wyatt did over the course of an episode.
That's about it.
That doesn't exactly bode well for WrestleMania 36, especially since (as previously noted) everything is still up in the air and could change at any moment. Then again, if the new WrestleMania matches end up being Roman Reigns vs. Goldberg and Wyatt vs. John Cena, that is a stronger card than what we had before.
Granted, the Universal Championship should be on the line in Wyatt vs. Cena and not Reigns vs. Goldberg, but on paper, those are marquee matches. If nothing else, it's a vast improvement over Cena vs. Elias and even Reigns vs. Wyatt given their lack of chemistry over the years.
Either way, SmackDown clearly has a lot of work to do in the five weeks preceding WrestleMania. Super ShowDown did nothing to make viewers want to watch SmackDown any more than they did before because of what happened with The Fiend, but the next episode is bound to be interesting.
If SmackDown intends to salvage any credibility they have left with fans, they need to assure everyone Wyatt (and others) will be properly showcased at WrestleMania. The sooner the Show of Shows is over with, the sooner we can back to Wyatt and the rest of the full-time Superstars taking center stage where they belong.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.