WrestleMania 36 concluded Sunday night among what could charitably be considered less than typical expectations.
Following Flordia’s “Shelter in Place” order among growing concern surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic currently gripping the globe and following almost all other organized sports and entertainment gatherings being indefinitely suspended wrestling persevered.
While expectations were understandably lowered and the show was admittedly divisive, it is hard to argue that WWE did not deliver on what was promised. It was damn entertaining.
There was perhaps no match which better exemplified this than the culmination of a six year feud that most of the wrestling public thought the WWE had forgotten about. They had not, of course, but had instead been biding their time looking for the perfect place and the perfect moment for Bray Wyatt to be his most unique self. To let Bray run free.
The match saw the culmination of a mission started six years prior at WrestleMania 30. Wyatt, then a deep south cult leader, attempted to goad Cena into the long-awaited heel turn so that he can finally finish the patriarch of the Wyatt family off. Cena relented, returning to his “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” persona and persevering for the win.
Wyatt was never able to recover from the loss fading into the midcard before resurging to the forefront of the wrestling world as his current fun-loving self and sinister alter ego the fiend. As WrestleMania season came closer it seemed that the fiend, like other personas before them was destined to fade again into the background.
Another in a long line of failed monsters put forth by the Stamford company.
But it was not to be so, as the savior of the 2000’s era WWE John Cena himself would make his triumphant return to end the fiend’s reign of terror. Or so he hoped.
What followed was a truly incredible display. We saw Cena enter the Fiends domain, the funhouse, and be faced with every failure that he has ever experienced both professionally and publicly. From his debut against Kurt Angle to his broken engagement to fellow WWE performer Nikki Bella, nothing was off-limits.
Cena’s entire life was on display for us to sit and stare in rapt attention as Bray proceeded to turn his own insecurities against him. Forcing him to confront those parts of himself he hated most and leaving Bray to pick up the pieces.
Bray has always been a master storyteller. WWE just hasn’t always been in a position to rely on his narrative and allow him the creative control to create something truly memorable.
For all its faults, WrestleMania 36 will certainly be remembered as the time that Vince got out of his own way and let Bray be Bray.