The WWE’s inserted a lot into the program between Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt since it began in September. There’s been light shows and there’s been parlor tricks. Luke Harper and Kane have become allies of Wyatt and Orton, respectively. But a whole new wrinkle was seemingly added to the rivalry during Tuesday’s broadcast of SmackDown.
It was on this show that Wyatt was carted to the ring in a casket by his sheep-mask wearing disciples. That’s a delightfully creepy moment in its own right and one that pairs well with the Wyatt character. Given Wyatt’s taste for the macabre and the fact that Halloween is just around the corner, this could’ve been nothing more than the latest in a long line of unique twists to this story.
However, given what we know about the WWE that’s not entirely likely. It’s rare that a casket shows up on WWE programming without it becoming directly involved in a rivalry. Those who still aren’t quite sure where this is probably headed would be well-served to consult the career of the Undertaker — a man who’s had 17 “casket matches” to date.
Since there hasn’t been a casket match since 2008, some might not be familiar with the match concept. It’s quite simple. The aforementioned coffin is placed at ringside and two or more foes square off with the goal of incapacitating their opponent and sealing them inside the casket.
In the ’90s this stipulation, though campy, was generally well-received by the WWE fanbase. Of course, the WWE, in some ways, took itself much more seriously at the time and so the over-the-top cheesiness fell right in line with much of that era’s programming. But the WWE’s far removed from that era and even its last casket match took place some eight years ago.
The company’s now fully entrenched in the “reality era.” Not only would a casket match between Wyatt and Orton stick out like a sore thumb, it also might be quite bad.
See, even when the WWE was putting out one or more of these matches a year they weren’t very good. Granted, the Undertaker wasn’t the in-ring performer he’d later become, but he’d still proven to be capable of better matches. The fact that casket matches were so consistently underwhelming falls on the stipulation, not the performers.
Casket matches are plodding by nature. There’s no pinfalls or submissions, so any high-impact moves are usually followed by the moves deliverer dragging or rolling his opponent toward the casket. But, given the very nature of the match, fans know that all but one of those prolonged attempts will end in success. In theory, it’s no different than a Superstar attempting to pin his foe and getting a two-count. In practice, though, the near-fall is much more suspenseful than the near-fall-into-a-casket.
Admittedly, the casket match does fit well into the Orton-Wyatt program. It’s a rivalry predicated on mindgames and fear. One opponent symbolically burying the other is a reasonable and even logical means to progress their rivalry. The problem is that the match stipulation doesn’t lend itself to the performers.
Orton and Wyatt are two hard-hitting adversaries. They’d be best-suited to unleash on one another in a cage or a Hell in a Cell. With the casket match, the WWE’s offering up something new, but not necessarily something good. A fresher stipulation that would fit the nature of this rivalry would be a Falls Count Anywhere Match or even a Parking Lot Brawl. In some ways, this feud has transcended a wrestling ring. As such, letting the two just fight and beat the hell out of each other all throughout (or even outside of) the arena makes sense.
Instead, a casket match looks to be on the horizon. Orton and Wyatt will be confined to the squared circle. Rather than bash each other with weapons, they’ll look to roll or drag their foe to pick up a victory.