AEW, Impact or Other: Where Will 'The Fiend' Bray Wyatt Land After WWE Release?
"I'm not so sure what their investments are as far as their talent is concerned, but perhaps we can give them some more," WWE Chairman Vince McMahon said earlier this week during a Q2 2021 investors call (h/t WrestlingInc.com for the transcription).
It appears his company may just have done that.
The former WWE and universal champion had not been seen on television since a head-scratching loss to Randy Orton at WrestleMania 37 back on April 11, but his stature within the company was such that an outright release as part of WWE's ongoing budget cuts still stunned fans and co-workers alike.
Beyond the unexpectedness of the release is the potential for Wyatt to take his talents elsewhere and continue to contribute to the industry. Or, maybe, to captivate a new audience in Hollywood.
In the wake of Wyatt's sudden dismissal from a company he has called home since 2009, here are three landing spots the enigmatic performer may find himself in sooner rather than later.
On the surface, Impact Wrestling may appear too small to house an industry giant like Bray Wyatt.
He may be damaged goods creatively thanks to WWE's inability to see through any of his visions, but he has battled the top stars in WWE and held the company's top two heavyweight titles during his run. He is an established star who could easily demand a pretty penny from any company he wishes to perform for.
So why Impact? Easy. The creative freedom.
The company has never shied away from the over-the-top characters and storylines. There is the "Demon Assassin" Rosemary and "Undead Bride" Su Yung. They have both dabbled in magic with the Sinister Minister himself, Father James Mitchell.
Characters have been killed off and brought back to life. They've even been teleported on occasion. Then, there was the whole Wrestle House story that demanded quite a bit of television time over the summer of 2020.
Wyatt would almost certainly have the creative freedom necessary to not only reimagine one of his own personas but create one from scratch and see it to fruition. Matches against former world champions like Sami Callihan, Rich Swann and Eddie Edwards, or X-Division wrestlers like Ace Austin, Chris Bey and champion Josh Alexander, would be fresh and exciting.
The possibility of a feud with Tommy Dreamer, the Innovator of Violence himself one of the most creative minds in the business, would be appealing to fans familiar with everything the ECW original has done in his Hall of Fame-worthy career.
Options of both supernatural and realistic origins are on the table for Wyatt in Impact. A lighter travel and taping schedule that would allow him to be at home with his young family would not hurt, either.
Hollywood: Let Him in
Pigeonholing Wyatt into a supernatural role, or professional wrestling at all, would be doing a disservice to his storytelling ability.
When he first arrived on the WWE main roster following his time in NXT, he portrayed a disturbed, enigmatic cult leader inspired heavily by the Max Cady character in the 1991 film, Cape Fear. He used big words, spouted complex theories and appealed to the broken parts of men.
He was a captivating performer who clearly invested all of himself into getting that character over with the fans. And he did, on a grand scale. There's a reason he was immediately thrust into feuds with Kane, Daniel Bryan and John Cena.
WWE Creative shortcuts may have halted his upward momentum, but they did not extinguish Wyatt's captivating presence. He commanded the attention of the audience every time he was on television. His eyes, facial expressions and body language suggest he could very easily go on to a film or television career.
Wyatt has that "it" factor and devotion to character work that could very easily score him roles on the silver or big screens.
It's unlikely he would ever star alongside Meryl Streep in an Oscar-winning period drama, but the critically acclaimed performer could find considerable success on projects where he doesn't have to worry about the whims of an old billionaire who could rip up the script five minutes before showtime.
That may not be the most exciting option for wrestling fans who would love to see the third-generation competitor remain in the business, but it is an option for a performer who may be weary of the business and its false promises.
All Elite Wrestling
While Impact Wrestling and Hollywood are options for Wyatt in his post-WWE career, the most obvious landing spot is All Elite Wrestling.
The company is coming off three consecutive Wednesdays as the No. 1 show on cable, and it has the wrestling world in a tizzy over the rumors of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan's rumored signings. AEW is also preparing to launch its second TNT show, Rampage, on August 13 and will make its New York City debut on September 22 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens.
It is arguably the hottest wrestling promotion in the world and a landing spot for the disenfranchised and underutilized. Look no further than Malakai Black, who shook off two years of creative hell in WWE to sign with the company just under a month ago.
With two cable TV shows, two successful YouTube shows and a growing wrestling empire, AEW needs as much talent as it can get to keep things fresh and keep fans excited about the future. Wyatt, conversely, will be looking to make a splash if he does intend to continue his in-ring career.
There is no place that he could do that more than in AEW.
Yes, he would likely find success in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, but that promotion isn't nearly as popular as it was at the height of Kenny Omega's time as IWGP heavyweight champion and his series of matches with Kazuchika Okada.
He could easily sign with Ring of Honor or Game Changer Wrestling. He could do spot shows at indies or appear at conventions for premier booking fees.
But it feels like Wyatt has unfinished business in professional wrestling. It feels like he will be more motivated than ever to show his former employers just who exactly they let walk out the door. Not just a top merchandise mover or former world champion, but a visionary mind with the ability to change the industry in a way he was never going to be allowed to in his now former place of employment.
AEW is absolutely the place for Wyatt to do just that, and the number of fresh opponents (The Elite! Adam Page! Cody Rhodes!), stories and opportunities that await him make it the most exciting and invigorating option for fans, too.
And then there is The Dark Order, a group headed by the late, great Brodie Lee. While the idea of replacing the former TNT champion is unappealing to many, for a totally understandable reason, if there ever was going to be someone to fill those giant shoes, it would be a man whose career will forever be linked to Lee's.
With so much untapped potential at play, it is impossible not to imagine Wyatt popping up in Tony Khan's company, even if it is not immediately following this unexpected release.