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A Lantern in The Dark - The Legacy of Bray Wyatt


When I saw the message, I thought it was a joke. A reference to Bray's absence from TV in recent months. I put my phone down and kept editing the recent episode of Powerbomb Jutsu where we had to eulogize Terry Funk. Half an hour later after the episode was out, I picked up my phone to tweet out some links. Several more messages, articles and tweets had piled up. Bray Wyatt was really gone. A man that had been a key figure on television for over a decade was gone.

People die, it's part of life. We seem to mostly be past it now, but wrestlers dying young was pretty common when I was growing up. Brian Pillman, Crash Holly, who was a favorite of me at age 10, Davey Boy Smith, Lance Cade, Chris Candido, Test and of course Eddie Guerrero. Those are just names from memory, I'm sure there's hundreds. There are still accidents like Shad Gaspard and suicides like Ashley Massaro. But, people aren't just dropping dead from overdoses, pneumonia, or heart attacks anymore. 

Yet, that's what happened, a heart attack. 90-97% of people survive a heart attack. But Bray Wyatt, the tank with a Ferrari engine wasn't one of them. I admit, I could not wrap my mind around it. I folded clothes and watched IMPACT; but I kept looking at my phone. Expecting Bray Wyatt to tweet about how he was the latest celebrity death hoax. But IMPACT's social media team wasn't even tweeting and they've got a tweet for anything that happens in the wrestling world. Last night they only tweeted their condolences. Somewhere in the middle of the show, it finally hit me that Bray was truly gone.

One of the reasons I remain a fan of IMPACT Wrestling is because I love character wrestling. Guys like The Undertaker, Sting, Big Daddy V, The Hurricane, Umaga, and even Sharkboy always got my attention. Nobody was behind Broken Matt Hardy more than me other than Matt Hardy. In a time when every wrestler seems to be trying to portray a version of themselves and every promo has to sprinkle just a little bit of reality, I still love characters. When you watch IMPACT it isn't strange to see PCO running around as Frankenstein, Johnny Swinger stuck in the 80s, or Rosemary traversing between dimensions. When WWE ushered in The Reality Era of wrestling Bray was different. 

Everyone has to be real now, but then there's this guy with a Southern drawl sitting in a rocking chair, with a lantern at his feet and Hawaiian shirt on his back. Flanked by two giants, one in a sheep mask, the other in a dirty tank top who would go on to be a legend in his own right. This man would tell you he didn't fear death because he's been to the other side. The man who told you Husky Harris was just a vessel for something more terrifying. 

Bray Wyatt could never be lost in the shuffle because he was Bray Wyatt. He wasn't some version of Whindham Rotunda who wore crazy clothes and told you how he was doing it for his family. He would twist his words and use just the right projection and inflection to make you believe that there truly was some higher power guiding him. When he had a microphone in his hands, he truly had the whole world his hands. For just a few minutes, you suspended disbelief and were a child again. You were a firefly, you were following the buzzards. For just a few minutes, a chill ran down your spine and you were in awe once again like watching Mick Foley climb back to the top of a cell after being tossed from it, only to be thrown through it and still walk out on his own two feet. You felt the same fear you felt when Kane spoke of demons in a boiler room. In a world of wrestling when everything has to be real, Bray was different, he was something supernatural. He was the color red, in a world full of black and white.

In one of his last in ring segments, Bray broke character. He spoke of how he had doubts about where his career was going; the pain he felt in losing Brodie Lee (Luke Harper), and how the thing that kept him going was the fans. It was an odd segment and in the weeks after, it wasn't acknowledged. There were no threads to be followed, no hidden clues and no riddles. It was just a moment but one that left a lasting impression and gave us a glimpse of who the man, behind the man, behind the mask was. 

Social media has changed the world and let us see who people truly are. We can learn which wrestler is a racist, who is homophobic, who is sharing right wing conspiracy theories and who should be in jail for sexual assault. Social media has also allowed us to see that Bray Wyatt, and Brodie Lee, were exactly who we wanted them to be off screen. In the hours after his passing nothing but kind words have come out about Windham. Nothing but kind words ever came about him before. Nothing less should have been expected. Excerpts from JTG's book, photos from Matt Hardy of Bray playing with Matt's children. Lio Rush once tweeted about Emma being arrested for shoplifting which led to seemingly every wrestler in NXT going after him online; but Bray sought out Lio and taught him about, "the wolves," in the company. Summer Rae mentioned how he would give her documentaries, movies and helped with pitches backstage. Natalya told stories of trick-or-treating. Big E mentioned how Bray was the guide for the start of his WWE career. The man was praised as the grandfather of NXT talent. The first to go to the main roster, keep his gimmick, and succeed.

As fans, we let him in. At 36, Bray lived a life that lit the way for many. Not just in the ring, but behind the scenes as we've seen. He's made us laugh, be afraid, and now cry. One thing is for certain, Bray Wyatt has taken his "place among the gods, as the new face of fear."
Darrell S.

Hey, I write stuff, a lot of different stuff, that's all.

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