Despite seemingly turning his back on Erick Rowan prior to SummerSlam, Bray Wyatt’s ongoing feud with Randy Orton brought the two back together in the effort of one-upping “The Viper” in terms of mind games on a week-to-week basis. After all, as good as Wyatt is alone, the cult leader gimmick comes across a whole lot stronger when “The Eater of Worlds” has a follower.
Plus, since Rowan has virtually zero significance to the SmackDown roster other than his Wyatt Family affiliation, it made sense to keep the two together and maintain the family brand.
That was, however, up until earlier this week when it was announced that Erick Rowan was forced to undergo surgery for a torn rotator cuff, adding to the growing list of setbacks that have already plagued Rowan’s career over the last number of years on the main WWE roster.
This development doesn’t exactly shake the foundation of SmackDown, seeing as Rowan has never quite been all that relevant as an individual, evidenced by Braun Strowman last year that he can be replaced at the drop of a hat if needs be. But that exact reason is why this change of plans has been a topic of conversation over the week as WWE fans speculate on where things go for Bray Wyatt from this point on, with the majority of the focus placed solely on the shoulders of Luke Harper.
There’s no question that, with maybe the exception of Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper is/was the blue chipper of The Wyatt Family before the draft separated the faction back in July.
An injury may have taken the man out of the equation since before WrestleMania, but now that he’s seemingly been cleared to compete once again, many have predicted that we’ll see Luke Harper officially heading to Tuesday nights to reconcile with his old mentor.
That theory is made especially strong considering how just two days after the announcement that Erick Rowan was injured, Luke Harper made his in-ring return at a house show in Chile.
OK, he teamed up with Kevin Owens against Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn — not quite the role you’d expect for him upon his re-emergence — but surely it can’t be a coincidence that he’s back in action so soon after Rowan took his leave of absence. If anything, having Harper don red could simply be a cover up for his official on-screen return in the midst of the Wyatt-Orton match at No Mercy.
Having Harper come back alongside Wyatt would certainly make the man relevant immediately upon his return and establish him as a fixture on the blue brand, but in all seriousness, would it really be the best option going forward with regards to the man’s potential?
The guy is a star waiting to be made. He’s got a fantastic character that adds a different flair to the product that some of the other Wyatt Family guys, excluding the namesake, haven’t really been able to accomplish, and his stature would most certainly make him unique to any brand.
Pair that with the fact that he is capable of throwing his body around in a way that you wouldn’t expect from a man of his size, and that he has consistently good matches inside the ring regardless of his opponent, and you have something way more valuable than that of a sidekick.
It’s no fluke that the only member of The Wyatt Family to carry championship gold on the main roster has been Luke Harper, having captured the Intercontinental Championship from Dolph Ziggler in 2014.
The company clearly sees something in him, and since the guy has a lot of support from the fans, and not just due to his time on the independent scene, it’s worth wondering if his attributes would be put to much better use as a solo star once again upon his official return.
For example, how big of a shock would it be to see Harper as Braun Strowman’s first real opponent on Raw? A big-man feud between two who clearly have a history would actually strengthen the undercard on Monday nights, and while it would send Harper up the card anyway, an intriguing feud like this might actually be enough to get Strowman over as an integral part of the flagship show as well, in a way that continuous squash matches just aren’t going to get the job done.
Having him show up to aid Wyatt to victory, however, would just serve to put the spotlight directly on Wyatt as opposed to Harper, and could even be disastrous in doing so considering how Bray Wyatt has been in dire need of singles redemption as a result of his constant big match losses.
One alternative would actually be to have Harper go against Wyatt, but unless that happens, it’s unlikely there’s going to be much in the way of progression for Luke Harper if he joins SmackDown.
It goes without saying that Luke Harper is a significantly more talented, and therefore more prospective wrestler than Rowan, so the WWE should definitely consider whether a man with Harper’s potential would be put to best use in the same role Rowan was, or if his lengthy absence has provided him with the perfect opportunity to return independently, potentially even as a babyface.
With the right exposure, Luke Harper could be money right in WWE’s pocket, so it should heavily review the consequences before pulling the trigger on any scenario ahead of his return to television.