I went into the House of Horrors match at WWE Payback 2017 determined to like it. What I got was a metaphor for the Bray Wyatt character as a whole.
I love it when wrestling is absurd. The similarly-themed DDT Apartment Complex show from 2011 is one of my favourite wrestling things, as is the similarly-named Chamber of Horrors.
And yet, the House of Horrors stunk.
A match I had already decided to like forced me to change my mind. The match’s structure – a walk ‘n’ brawl with no energy that ended when both guys collapsed in the kitchen looking like heroin addicts – was very much an analogy for Bray Wyatt as a character; he’s got the groundwork laid to be interesting, but it’s not utilized.
That’s the most frustrating thing about the House of Horrors; it took what could have been an interesting premise and presented the most boring version of that possible. They took a mostly empty house and had Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt brawl unenthusiastically through its rooms, most of which had been stripped of any furniture that could have been used as the basis for interesting spots. A draping DDT over the back of the couch? That’d look cool. Sister Abigail into a glass cabinet? Awesome. Pushing a refrigerator made out of styrofoam onto Randy Orton? Uh, actually that one didn’t really pan out. Instead, they relied heavily on weird editing and “scary” imagery to convey a tone of self-important horror.
Reliance on overt, self-important weirdness really shouldn’t have been a surprise, though, as it’s the same path the Wyatt character itself as taken. He’s become a high concept without substance, the metaphorical sizzle without the steak. When he arrived in WWE in his Waylon Mercy Jr guise, Wyatt fascinated audiences with a character that projected danger. He would talk like your best friend, but at any moment his benevolence could give way to a tornado of violence. He ensorcelled his Family and his foes alike with his charisma. The cult leader elements of his character have remained, but the dangerous smooth-talker has turned into a swamp wizard. Somehow, that didn’t make me like him more, and I don’t say that sarcastically, because wizards are the best.
Papa Shango and The Undertaker were staples of many a wrestling fan my age’s childhood, and Drago being an actual dragon in Lucha Underground is the exact kind of dumb that I am all over. Like with the House of Horrors, WWE has been unwilling to decide whether they want to present something serious and unsettling or over-the-top and campy, and in doing so, caters to no audience.
Do you want a horror movie villain and an intense, cinematic brawl? Then Wyatt and the House of Horrors aren’t for you. Okay, but the people who want to see a swamp wizard are psyched, right? Nah, he’s just a dude who’s really into Slayer and can teleport. And doesn’t know how to make a cool haunted house.
Like the House of Horrors, the groundwork is there for Wyatt to be compelling, and that’s the most irksome part of the equation. When the execution of “swamp wizard” is “took a philosophy class and stopped bathing,” it replaces a character I want to love with a character that makes me hit fast forward. Somewhere along the way, they replaced an interesting character with a wizard, and the wizard with a guy who pushes fridges over.
If only someone had pushed a fridge onto this character before it subjected us to these horrors.