Randy Orton literally burned the place down last night on SmackDown Live, leaving the Wyatt Family Compound a smoldering heap of ashes, and sending a message to his former “master,” WWE champ Bray Wyatt, that things are different now between the two on the road leading to WrestleMania. The promo, which saw the eight-time champ douse a small shed in gasoline and then torch the place that, as the storyline goes, sat atop the remains of the Wyatt spiritual leader Sister Abigail. It was, simply put, really damn cool.
As Orton says, Sister Abigail’s soul has been burned to “eternal damnation.”
Pretty intense, huh? Lots of fire and hell and stuff. All that leading to a WrestleMania showdown, and now AJ Styles is going to be in the mix after he beat former Wyatt Family big guy Luke Harper. In any case, there’s sort of a possible dream matchup on the horizon: Orton, a multi-time world champ; Wyatt, who is one of the most riveting superstars in years; and Styles, who has lived up to the hype in his first year and then some. Although the WWE hasn’t confirmed there’s a Triple Threat match that will be featured at the top of the Mania card, all signs point to that with a little over a month remaining before the WWE’s biggest night. It makes sense since Wyatt has the title, Orton won the Royal Rumble and Styles beat Harper to become the number one contender.
That’s great, right? Orton, Wyatt and Styles is pretty hard to top. The strange thing about that possible main event is that, while all three wrestlers are top guys on SmackDown and maybe all of the WWE, it’s Styles who almost feels unnecessary in the trio. And no, that’s no knock on the Phenomenal One, more a comment on how there’s really nobody besides Orton and Wyatt worth his times. He’s gone through Cena, a feud with The Miz could be good if there was a title on the line, but besides that there’s nobody else who can stand with Styles. It just feels like he’s getting a much-deserved main event for the title because, well, Styles is the best. But the fact is that the two other guys he’s going up against are currently engaged in the most interesting storyline WWE has featured in some time puts him in an odd spot.
Wyatt and Orton exist in their own world right now, one that has really challenged Orton to try something new and out of his normal role, and that has also given Wyatt the extra bump he needed after winning the WWE Championship. Last night’s intense promo was hopefully just a small taste of what’s to come. What comes next could not only cement Orton’s legacy as an all-time great, but really could kickstart the legend of Bray Wyatt, finally catapulting him to the status of the WWE’s new Undertaker that some have been predicting he’d ascend to at some point. The spookiest guy in wrestling, who currently carries the championship belt to the ring, is finally getting to that next level.
It isn’t exactly like he wasn’t performing at that level, either. It’s more that Wyatt is a tough guy to put into storylines that match what he’s doing. Maybe, at first, having a few massive guys behind him in his “family,” hurt the idea that Wyatt was more than just some character of a demented cult leader who could cut incredible promos in a day and age when you just don’t get that many of those from other wrestlers, but now it’s just him and he’s rising as fast as fans figured he would.
But is it really just him? The Internet has been obsessed with the idea of Sister Abigail, whose remains we’re now told have been charred to a crisp, could actually start showing up in the flesh. That maybe Wyatt’s real-life sister, Mika Rotunda, could play the character. Nothing would really get people saying Wyatt is officially the new Deadman like giving him his own otherworldly storyline, that maybe it’s the walking ghost of the dead Sister Abigail that follows him to the ring, or maybe, in a very Undertaker move, Sister Abigail was never dead. You know, like Kane 20 years ago.
Here’s the thing: Wyatt isn’t exactly a “conventional” WWE champ. By that I mean he fits into the same story that you hear about guys like Daniel Bryan and Kevin Owens, how they’re not the kinds of guys Vince McMahon likes holding onto the strap: They’re not big and ripped, and they have beards and tattoos and might feature a little more gut than Vinnie Mac is comfortable with. Of course, what the chairman of the WWE likes doesn’t always go over with fans – and guys like Bryan and Owens prove that. If I had to guess Bryan doesn’t hold onto the belt long. It’s important that he won it, because, like the fans chant: He deserved it. It also legitimizes him and provides an opportunity for his weird legend to grow. Maybe it’s with Sister Abigail, maybe it’s his personal taking on an even weirder, creepier vibe – although I’m unsure how that would work. Whatever it is, he and Orton are engaged in a great story, one that’s great for both of their careers, and really good for SmackDown viewers.