By Jeffrey Lutz
Fans are supposed to to fear Bray Wyatt and his sinister cult following, the Wyatt Family, as they make their highly anticipated debut tonight on Raw. Instead, I fear for them.
Factions are all the rage in professional wrestling, but only one organization, TNA, seems even remotely close to pulling off an aspect of the business that the industry has passed by. There was hope for The Shield, and for a long time Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns fulfilled it. Those three are probably even on their way to becoming major stars in WWE, but the group itself has lost momentum because WWE wasn't quite prepared to go all the way with them. The same thing could happen with the Wyatt Family, no matter how charismatic and effective Bray Wyatt proves to be.
It's difficult for new factions to survive longer than six months because they're not developed organically and the "take over the company" aspect of their presence can only last so long before their individual members are reduced to typical guys on the roster. It happened with The Shield, and if WWE hasn't planned a long story arc with the Wyatt Family, it will probably happen to them, too.
The worst thing that happened to The Shield was winning championships, because they weren't, unfortunately, the championships that matter in WWE. The Shield started its run by defeating main-eventers in six-man tag matches, but we eventually found out that those victories didn't really mean much. Their win against Big Show, Randy Orton and Sheamus only forwarded the story line for their opponents, and later The Shield were essentially background players in the story involving Daniel Bryan and Orton.
That was the beginning of the long journey down to the mid-card for The Shield. Their six-man matches against random mixtures of three babyfaces clearly wasn't leading anywhere important, so WWE had the Shield lose a meaningless match on Smackdown and began to condition fans that these guys weren't as much of a big deal as we originally thought. Their involvement with the Usos and Christian may churn out several quality matches, but it's a major drop-off from working with the likes of John Cena, Orton and Sheamus.
WWE stalled The Shield because it recognized the need for a sustained program with a clear end point, but weren't ready to make it a main-event program. The Shield's individual members are so closely connected as characters that it would be difficult for one of them to break away to the top of the card while the other two languished in the stagnant tag-team division. Ambrose is probably going to become that breakout star eventually, but as the U.S. Champion he won't get the level of exposure that will make him immediately believable to fans as a WWE or World Heavyweight Championship contender. Perhaps he'll win Money in the Bank and wait long enough for fans to view him as a worthy champ.
While TNA is slotting main-event players as leaders of its two factions, Aces & Eights and the Main Event Mafia, WWE is using stables to introduce characters from its developmental organization, NXT. I probably prefer the first approach because the presence of a major star in the group makes the entire group a major star, and a clear pecking order within the faction is established. WWE once pulled this off masterfully with Evolution. It can be argued how successfully TNA is pulling off two main-event-level factions, but at least it has the tried-and-true formula.
The problem with bringing developmental wrestlers to the main roster as part of factions is that if WWE isn't prepared to ride the group's momentum, it can easily fizzle out. The Shield doesn't talk much anymore about bringing justice to WWE, and we never found out what that meant, anyway. They come through the crowd, but since they won championships fans know that they're as much a part of the roster as Cena or Drew McIntyre or Curt Hawkins.
WWE clearly has major plans for the Wyatt Family -- an episode of Raw wouldn't have gone off the air with a reminder that "We're coming" this week if they weren't going to make an immediate impact. It feels too much like The Shield for my tastes, though. That should be a good thing, but since The Shield has lost its edge in recent months, its easy to worry that the Wyatt Family won't have much staying power, either.
They're three developmental wrestlers in a faction that looks unique from everything else going on in WWE. As we've seen with The Shield, that's a good start toward producing and building new stars. The key is to keep their star power going beyond the initial big plans and to give them something meaningful that matches the importance and the hype of their debut. If in six months the Wyatt Family is coming off a no-consequences loss on WWE's "B" show and feuding with the Usos, we'll know WWE didn't quite make it work.
Jeff Lutz has written for the Wichita Eagle newspaper in Kansas for over a decade and debuted with Prowrestling.net on November 4, 2012. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lutz's Blog: The Shield's loss of momentum is a cautionary tale for the Wyatt Family
Jul 8, 2013 - 02:25 PM
Jul 8, 2013 - 02:25 PM
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