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WrestleMania 33: Explaining Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton's convoluted, swampy feud

Swamp cults, arson, demons, unholy baptisms. This feud has everything!

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Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt will fight for the WWE World Championship at WrestleMania 33. The short version of this feud is that Randy Orton won the 2017 Royal Rumble and therefore the right to challenge the WWE World Champion, who, two weeks later, turned out to be Bray Wyatt.

The short version is a waste of your time, though. What you need to know is the detailed story that brought us to the point where Randy Orton has possibly put the fear of God into the godless Bray Wyatt thanks to beatdowns, betrayals, burning down a swamp hillbilly shack that housed the remains of Bray Wyatt’s possibly demonic mentor/girlfriend(?), and ... OK, you know what? Let’s just start from the beginning.

Orton, at some point or another in 2016, gained the attention of Wyatt and his cult, the Wyatt Family. Orton is a third-generation WWE superstar who is one of the most decorated performers of all time.

He’s 6’5, 250 pounds, and has as many muscles as he does skull tattoos. He’s also not a good person! Orton is a popular wrestler and has the most popular finishing move in WWE, the RKO. But all in all, he’s just not very nice and would definitely hurt you just to feel things.

WWE.com

Bray Wyatt takes ... more explanation. He’s a cult leader from the bayou who may or may not be inhabited by the soul of a demon and possibly the devil himself. Well, he’s definitely inhabited by the soul of a demon. But the question is whether or not “Bray Wyatt” is just what he calls himself after he was possessed and became a cult leader, or if he was always Bray and now he just has demonic powers.

This mostly matters if you want to geek out about a former wrestler who mysteriously looks like Bray for some reason making it back into WWE but only after he made a literal deal with the devil.

What we know for sure is that Orton was supertired of getting the heck beat out of him by Bray and his followers, and eventually was just like, “OK, if I start helping you beat people up, will you stop beating me up.” And Bray was like “obviously” and Orton responded by saying “good because my whole thing is I hear voices in my head telling me to do bad things, and I’m pretty tired of ignoring them so this works out well for both of us.”

Randy Orton (left), Luke Harper (center) and Bray Wyatt (right) after winning the SmackDown Tag Team titles.
WWE.com

So Bray and Randy joined forces and even won the SmackDown Tag Team Championships together. Meanwhile, Luke Harper, Bray’s lieutenant in the Wyatt Family, never trusted Orton. Randy kept gaining more influence and trust from Bray, and eventually the Family fractured, with Harper losing a one-on-one match with Orton before Bray beat him down as an invitation to kindly leave his cult forever.

So Orton inevitably wins the Royal Rumble in January, which sets him up to be in the main event of WrestleMania 33 as the challenger for the WWE World Championship. He’s ready to do this, but then Bray Wyatt suddenly becomes WWE World Champion, taking the belt from John Cena in the main event of the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view two weeks after the Royal Rumble. There is possible tension in the ranks here, as Orton should have to face his master.

However! Orton says, basically, “You know what Bray, it’s cool, you’re my boss, I’m the servant or whatever, and so long as I serve the master, I won’t be challenging you at WrestleMania.” Wyatt is like, “Yeah this checks out, I definitely have master-like qualities, and I’m riding high on this whole being champ thing, so I’ll take Randy Orton’s word for it.”

Bray believed so strongly in Orton that he was like “You know what? Take the week off. I got the Family covered on SmackDown this week. Here are the keys to our swamp hillbilly cult fortress. Can you water the plants while you’re there?”

This was exactly what Randy wanted to happen! Now he had earned enough trust in Bray that Wyatt chose him over his longtime follower, Luke Harper. Randy had access to the Wyatt compound and all of its secrets — including the location of Wyatt’s dead mentor/girlfriend, Sister Abigail.

Now we’ve never actually seen Sister Abigail on television, but we have seen the results of her work. She helped Bray escape from a locked shipping container offscreen after Bray prayed for assistance, which confused Orton, regular human being, a whole lot. Bray always discusses the lessons she gave him and the power she entrusted him with, and she is seemingly the source of that power.

Randy decided to use his time alone in the Wyatt swamp shack to test that theory by burning it down to the ground while Bray watched from inside the ring during an episode of SmackDown Live:

This was so important to Orton that he wore pants. We weren’t even sure he owned pants! Bray should have known something was up once Randy used the Family’s joint checking account to purchase pants.

Orton would explain that he never actually lied to Bray about his intentions. It’s just that he used wordplay, and it was supereffective. “I said I wouldn’t attack you while I served the master. Well guess what? Here’s my two weeks notice in the form of me burning your house down.”

Bray did not, uh, take well to this:

He took a week off to recuperate and think things through, and then when Orton was in the ring feeling himself just like Bray had two weeks prior, it was Wyatt who showed up on the video screen with a surprise.

See, it turns out that Bray didn’t need Sister Abigail to rest comfortably underneath the floorboards of the Wyatt compound to feel her power flow through him. Nope. He just had to bathe himself in the ashes of his deceased demon girlfriend to absorb her essence into his body, therefore making himself strong enough to defeat Orton. You know, wrestling stuff.

Yup, just your typical demonic baptism in the ashes of the undead(?).

Wyatt then confronted Orton backstage on a later episode with an army of Wyatt followers in sheep masks, brandishing a crusix, which we’re pretty sure is just how WWE is explaining what a satanic crucifix is but it can’t actually say those words without offending someone.

Somewhere between this confrontation and this last Tuesday, Orton had the bright idea of stealing the crusix, returning to the site of Sister Abigail’s ashes, and then stabbing the ground with said crusix, severing the connection between Wyatt and his demonic powers.

And that’s where we’ve left off until their showdown at WrestleMania 33. The idea behind that last segment is we’re supposed to believe that the magic is gone, and Orton and Wyatt will battle in a fight between mortals. After all we’ve seen them go through in the last six months, though, there is little chance of that.

You want my theory? Well, you’ve read this far somehow, so, probably!

What if Orton once again unwittingly made Bray stronger? Before, burning Abigail’s resting place allowed Bray to perform unholy baptismal rites on himself in her ashes. This time, it’s entirely possible that all Orton has done is set the evil spirit of Abigail free, to, oh, I don’t know, inhabit the body of someone here on Earth and then use her new corporeal form to join Bray Wyatt in the flesh and help him defeat his nemesis Randy Orton at WrestleMania 33?

Man, I love wrestling.