Alexa Bliss returned to WWE Raw for the first time in two weeks Monday, shooting a fireball at Randy Orton that, according to the company's digital team, left him with minor burns to the face.
It was Bliss' response to nearly being set ablaze by Orton, who actually did engulf "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt in flames to close out the TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view in December.
It was not the first time the company has utilized supernatural stunts to further a storyline on its show.
Nor will it be the last.
A History of the Paranormal, Superhuman and Extramundane
The Undertaker may have made the supernatural cool in WWE, but it was Papa Shango who really ushered that particular element into the company's television product in the early 1990s.
A voodoo doctor, he would make famous foe The Ultimate Warrior bleed black ooze from his head or fall suddenly and violently ill. He would light the feet of his opponents on fire and promise further dark arts to all who stood in his path.
As the decade progressed, Undertaker would become more and more associated with the theatricality, summoning thunder and lightning, raising the lights with a deafening concussion blast, and dabbling in the dark arts.
He even exhibited an ability to bring lightning bolts crashing into the arena, most famously breaking down the ring at the conclusion of the 2006 Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Kane would intensify things, using fire to send messages to his foes.
Wyatt represents a new generation of stars keen on using the supernatural to play mind games with his opponents, as Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Randy Orton (among others) found out.
From 2018 until recently, the company shied away from the staple, opting to use more practical storylines.
The COVID-19 pandemic, though, forced WWE to revert back to the days of parlor tricks and CGI to make up for the lack of fans. Utilizing the supernatural to spice up shows, the company produced several angles involving The Fiend that leaned right into the theatrical.
Wyatt was not the only one to benefit from it, either.
Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio wrestled an entire feud over the loss of an eye, which WWE ultimately produced using physical effects. The rise of cinematic matches meant the company could utilize the supernatural more effectively, as witnessed in the Firefly Funhouse Match at WrestleMania 36 and the Wyatt Swamp Fight at Extreme Rules.
The recent pyromania engulfing the Orton-Wyatt feud is further evidence of the company's commitment to venturing outside the box to make up for the absence of an audience.
WWE's long and storied history of producing reality-bending angles and storylines has helped separate it from other forms of live entertainment. Does it occasionally obliterate the line between the logical and utterly absurd?
To quote "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, "Oh, hell yeah!"
What those moments do for talent, though, is undeniable. In a company where, for the most part, all of the wrestlers are extremely talented in-ring performers, it creates intrigue. Since aligning herself with The Fiend and adopting this Harley Quinn-inspired persona that now apparently features the supernatural ability to throw fire at her enemies, Bliss has developed into one of the most intriguing characters on the entire roster.
Ditto Wyatt, who never would have achieved what he has had he stuck to the vanilla Husky Harris character he debuted as in 2010. Adding the cult leader element to his performance before transitioning into the dual-personality character he currently employs instantly made him more entertaining and engaging (not to mention successful) than he would have trying to match move-for-move with more adept wrestlers.
The theatricality of it all not only gives the less-traditional wrestlers life in an increasingly mat-based industry, but it also hammers home the entertainment element of professional wrestling.
It breaks up the monotony and ensures audiences they can never really be sure of what to expect from Vince McMahon's sports-entertainment empire.
Besides more of it, that is.
It was baptism by fire for The Fiend at TLC.
The haunting imagery of him lying on his back, burning as the show went off the air, made for a hell of an exclamation point on a year of unprecedented events, scenarios and situations. Bliss dousing herself in gasoline and daring Orton to light her up the way he did her associate was equally as disturbing, even if The Viper did not give into his urges and take her up on the offer.
All things considered, Bliss' retaliation on this week's flagship was fairly subdued.
The next major example of the supernatural will not be.
The fact that WWE can pretape angles and matches as necessary certainly helps its ability to pull off the ridiculous and unexpected much easier than it ever could in front of a live audience. It is what made the Firefly Inferno match possible and, ultimately, the spectacle it became.
It is what will allow The Fiend to send a message loudly and clearly to Orton when he finally makes his return to television.
The next major supernatural stunt produced by WWE will see The Fiend set the actual ring on fire, Orton just narrowly escaping disaster while realizing the monster he awakened within the already demonic Superstar.
Imagine an episode of Raw, or even a pay-per-view like Elimination Chamber, going off the air with Wyatt staring across the arena at a horrified Orton, the ring ablaze between them. It is an image WWE could throw on its website and across social media to get fans talking and genuinely excited for the final battle between the former world champions.
It will be a message sent loudly and clearly by Wyatt, one that will set the stage for another over-the-top gimmick bout between the two that will, hopefully, end things in time for them to go their separate ways for WrestleMania season.
With The Deadman and The Devil's Favorite Demon no longer full-time characters on WWE television, the burden of the paranormal falls on Wyatt and Bliss. Any storyline they are involved in, or match in which they compete, could break down into a fiery spectacle or mangled mess of carnage.
There may be demons emerging from out of nowhere, or Sister Abigail may pop up and terrorize his top foe. The ring could implode, the arena darken, or The Fiend could rise from the dead.
Nothing is off the table, and given how memorable The Phenom and Big Red Machine's foray's into the macabre have been, and how fondly they are recalled, the WWE Universe would not have it any other way.