Now that Bray Wyatt is back in the WWE, there’s one thing I hope he doesn’t bring back with him: The Fiend. A great character, but awful in-ring competitor. Perhaps WWE didn’t know what to do with him, but the whole indestructible monster’ gimmick wore thin pretty quickly. But The Fiend did have one truly great bout to his name…and it wasn’t even much of a wrestling match. I give you the ‘Firefly Funhouse Match’ at WrestleMania 36.
The Fiend gave us some truly awful bouts, such as the infamous Hell in a Cell match against Seth Rollins (click here for my review). One problem with being an indestructible monster is that you need to be impervious to pain. So The Fiend simply shook off finishing moves, chair shots, etc. It worked with The Undertaker, to a degree, because The Deadman didn’t overdo it. You could shoot The Fiend with a shotgun and he’d stand straight back up, like a horror movie villain (which was the point, I get it, but it constantly broke my suspension of disbelief).
Another problem was when you need the monster to lose, you can’t have him lose cleanly (unless the opponent is Goldberg). You need some silliness to end the bout to protect the monster. It hampered almost every end to his matches, especially those matches where you knew he wouldn’t win (lile the aforementioned Cell bout against Rollins). Add to that mix the red lighting for his matches, and many of his bouts were unwatchable.
However, the Pandemic Era of wrestling gave bookers no chance but to innovate. With no crowds present, they had Cate Blanchett to do pretty much what they wanted. From the WrestleMania 36 2 Night PPV (yes, it was a PPV then, not a PLE), everyone remembers the fitting end (one hopes) for The Undertaker’s career in thr barnstorming Boneyard match. Filmed like a Hollywood fight, it masked ‘Taker’s age-associated weaknesses and accentuates his strengths.
No kne knew what to expect of the Boneyard match, amd the same applied to the Firefly Funhouse Match pitting John Cena against The Fiend. The Fiend/Bray Wyatt took umbrage with Cena after The Doctor of Thuganomics vowed to skip ‘Mania 36 in order to let new talent grt the spotlight. Wyatt, on the other hand, wanted to face Cena at ‘Mania. At ‘Mania XXX, Cena pinned Wyatt, plunging Wyatt into a crisis of confidence that would plague him until ‘The Fiend’ unleashed itself. Now, Wyatt/The Fiend wanted to defeat Cena on the grandest stage of them all.
Of course, the Pandemic Era caused a flourish of creativity, and I doubt the Firefly Funhouse match would have arisen (or even worked?) without Covid-19. Because it isn’t a match. It’s more of a Lynchian short, a psychological horror tinged with comedy (or vice versa?). Wyatt takes us through a journey of John Cena’s wrestling history, making us re-evaluate Cena’s various characters (and character). He portrays snippets of alternate history, one where Cena was part of the late 80s WWF (where big men with no talent were all the rage), and one where Cena turned heel (NWO John Cena, super-clean John Cena going Hollywood).
At the beginning of the bout, Wyatt shows up in the Firefly Funhouse and posits that the most crucial question of all is: ‘who are we really?’ Even with all the fame and fortune, Cena still doesn’t know who he really is. Wyatt/The Fiend holds a mirror up to Cena. In the run-up to the match, Cena called Wyatt “The most overhyped, overvauled, overprivileged WWE superstar in existence.” Perhaps he was talking about himself…
This, my friend, is a work of art. A short surrealist film that plays with audience’s expectations. We’re given a brief history of both Wyatt and Cena, recontextualised with Wyatt’s bitterness. Time, place, Wyatt himself…they all become malleable, tools to force Cena to look deep inside, deep at the biggest opponent he’ll ever face: himself. One of the biggest highlights of the WWE Pandemic Era.
(As an aside, it’s a shame that this never impacted Cena afterwards. The Fiend changed the characters numerous wrestlers, like Rollins and Daniel Bryan. Using this ‘match’ to change Cena’s character would have been fascinating.)
Hammy’s Rating: ***** (out of 5)
(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)
This match was a spectacle in a good way, especially if cinematic matches aren’t a major stumbling block for you. It’s a great piece of work.
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I loved it! One ‘match’ I’ve rewatched every three/four months. Find something new each time.
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