CLEVELAND -- Bray Wyatt grew up in a wrestling family.
The son of I.R.S. and grandson of the legendary World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer, Black Jack Mulligan, Wyatt never thought about following his family into the business of professional wrestling, but that is precisely where he landed after his football career at Troy University. And in finding his niche within WWE, he has proudly carried on the tradition of the Rotunda family in sports entertainment.
“It’s bizarre that it’s not looked like that, at least not like that. We don’t look at it like that,” Wyatt told WKYC.com Friday. “I think it was something that was always flashed in front of our eyes, ‘Ah, this is kind of what everyone else does, and maybe, you could do this one day too.’
“But there’s always that terrifying fear of failure. You don’t want to be the only one that failed, so it’s always been like this thing, like a carrot in front of my face, but I couldn’t be more happy with what I’ve been able to portray because I’ve really given the world a piece of me and I hope it lives on forever.”
Failure has not been an option for Wyatt, as he worked through WWE’s developmental territory, NXT, with one of the most highly recognized names in pro wrestling, Dusty Rhodes, and the WWE Chief Operating Officer, Triple H. In doing that, Wyatt created a following not only with the fans, but also, fellow wrestlers, namely Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, who have been his teammates since before getting the promotion to the main roster.
“I feel like we needed NXT. NXT also really needed the Wyatts,” Wyatt said. “I don’t really believe anyone else can say that, maybe Seth (Rollins), but for a while, the Wyatt Family and Seth Rollins were NXT. We were on all the shows. We were on every show, two, three segments. It’s something we can really hang our hat on, and when the history of NXT comes out 20 years from now, the first thing out of their mouths character-wise was the Wyatt Family.
“To me, especially during that time, I was so hungry and I just wanted it so bad that I would just go off into these crazy tangents and, ‘Who knows what he was going to say’ or ‘What he was going to do when I had that type of vibe,’ and the people responded. That’s how we knew we had something real legitimate.”
It was during his time in NXT that Wyatt developed an entrance that has gained support and popularity for its crowd participation.
Prior to heading down the aisle, Wyatt appears on camera with Rowan, Harper, and his newest follower, Braun Strowman, with a lantern in his right hand. He announces the arrival of the family by telling the fans “We’re here.” It is then that Wyatt blows out the lantern and fans throughout the arena light up their phones like a modern-day lighters moment at a rock concert.
“It’s a feeling unlike anything else,” Wyatt said. “It’s so self-rewarding because they did that. I never once came out and said, ‘Hey, it’d be cool if y’all held up your lights when I come out and make this cool-looking thing.’
“They did it on their own, and they started calling themselves the fireflies on their own. It’s just like this crazy reward that I get to be able to walk out there every night and know that they did this because they appreciate what I’m doing. It’s an honor, man. It really is.”
Since debuting in WWE, Wyatt has twice carried on the family legacy by plying his craft on the biggest stage of the year: WrestleMania.
At WrestleMania XXX in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Wyatt challenged the legacy of 15-time world champion John Cena. Then, as an encore, Wyatt faced off against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 31 last spring. The Undertaker carried a 21-1 WrestleMania record into the matchup with Wyatt.
“Just being around Undertaker, I don’t even know how to explain it,” Wyatt said. “There’s really not words. He’s that amazing. He’s ‘The Phenom.’ Just being around him and seeing how he handles himself and when he’s out there, how frightening he can be, it was a privilege. It’s something I’ll take with me the rest of my life, not just in wrestling, but through all facets of life.
“When you look at Undertaker, that was my mecca. The top of the mountain for me was to face the Undertaker at WrestleMania, and now that I’ve already done that, I have so much more to give now.”
And with a solid showing at WWE Fastlane at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Sunday, Wyatt hopes it will lead to more main-event opportunities and give him a chance to write his own chapter in the family history by reaching the top of his profession.
“I want to win the title,” Wyatt said. “I want to win the Royal Rumble. I want to do those types of things, and really cement my legacy so that one day, you’re sitting here with a young kid and it was an honor to be able to face me at WrestleMania. That’s what I want. That’s how I want my legacy to be.”