Once upon a time, I was critical of a young man named Husky Harris. Judging by his name alone, I was skeptical he was going to make it far in WWE. Without doing much to prove me wrong, he eventually faded away, but came back rebranded as Bray Wyatt.
Suddenly, I was much more into the character. I saw potential in this new gimmick. It felt different, but not “different for the sake of different” like some things that try too hard. He had a great thing going with The Wyatt Family and was an engaging character.
Eventually, my level of excitement went down considerably and I found myself being a negative voice toward Wyatt. It was all “future potential” and never currently as entertaining to me as everyone claimed it would be down the line.
But, then again, he reinvented himself with his Mr. Rogers parody and I was extremely intrigued. Then, sadly, the roller coaster went down once more and I found myself yet again the critic saying all his matches were the same, The Fiend gimmick had grown thin and it wasn’t doing it for me. On several occasions, I had arguments that my future projection of “this Randy Orton feud heading toward WrestleMania isn’t going to be worthwhile” was unwarranted, just to be able to say “I told you so”—and, admittedly, not enjoying that I was right. I wanted to be proven wrong.
So you can imagine when Joe Gacy went from just a random name to his current gimmick how I immediately thought it had a familiar stink, but that I was hoping to be proven wrong.
Sadly…it doesn’t seem as though that’s the case.
Instead, Gacy is even worse. He’s a bad photocopy of Wyatt, and it didn’t need to be like this. There was a better direction WWE could have taken.
Just in case you’re not seeing the parallels, let’s quickly recap them:
- Wyatt and Gacy are both on the heavy side.
- They both had entrance themes with a folky “sit around the campfire with your hippie friends in the 60s” vibe.
- Wyatt had Erick Rowan, Luke Harper and Braun Strowman as his minions. Gacy had Harland and was reaching for Draco Anthony until both were fired.
- Wyatt had random people in sheep masks while Gacy has these druids, for whatever reason.
- Indoctrinating followers is key to both characters. Amassing friends and allies is a goal, as well as “teaching” other Superstars that their philosophy is the right mindset.
- Both have iterations of their character that says what a nice person should say, but in a creepy manner.
- Wyatt was vignette-heavy. Gacy is getting one or two per week.
- Both abduct people and torture them.
- In typical bad acting school fashion, both fall into the trope of thinking the creepy guy has to smile and laugh a lot until their mean-mugging “serious face” comes out where they slow their speech down, lower their voice register and try to be intimidating.
I’m sure I could pinpoint even more, but you get the point.
Granted, everything has been done before in pro wrestling. There have been a thousand Million Dollar Man ripoffs who get heat on being the rich snob. Hundreds of Ric Flair wannabe cocky heels, countless generic “I’m a wrestler in trunks” people with no personality whatsoever, everyone can name 10 Rock ‘n’ Roll Express knockoffs and so on.
But if you’re going to do something that has been done before, you should improve on it and/or at least give it your own spin. Gacy isn’t far off from donning a mask like the featured image above and skipping straight to The Fiend with a split personality.
Gacy is Less Charismatic on the Mic
Up until the promos became repetitive, I was engaged by what Wyatt would say. He would speak in riddles, but trying to decipher the messages was part of the fun. It was like old school Undertaker amped up to another level. Eventually, it got to feel more like words for the sake of sounding interesting and poetic, rather than getting a message across in an interesting fashion, but it took a while to get to that point.
Gacy is already there. I’m bored with his speech patterns. Everything has the same flow. It comes off very monotonous—and not in a creepy, but entertaining way that a character like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho exudes. I don’t feel like if I miss out on a minute of the promo that I’m going to be lost in it, but that I just missed 60 seconds of stock bad guy talk.
Let’s take how NXT ended last night:
“On our journey together, Bron, I’ve predicted your every step, your every move. Tonight, declining my offer, but accepting my match, we all know you have uncontrollable rage inside of you. You won’t be able to control your anger next week, or at In Your House. Your lack of control will deliver me full control of the NXT Championship, the brand, and the world. (Laughter for 20 or so seconds).”
God. Damn. It takes a full minute for him to just restate what they said earlier in the night when he pitched the stipulation to begin with, and nothing more! They flat out had the discussion about how Bron Breakker is angry and if he gets disqualified, he loses the title. All this promo does is say “That thing from earlier. Muahahaha.”
Close your eyes and listen to the video above. Tell me at what point he sounds like he’s even mildly rising above the same monotonous level. You can’t. He’s flat lined from start to finish. Even the laughter is muted. It’s like he took diction lessons from an auto text-to-speech A.I.
Gacy is Less Physically Threatening
Husky Harris was marketed as an army tank with a Ferrari engine; the idea being that he was big and powerful, but deceptively quicker than most people his size.
Admittedly, Gacy is more athletic than most people of his stature. Hell, I weigh much less and I can’t do any of what he does. But at no point in his matches so far have I ever felt like he was wrecking his opponents, even if he’s up against enhancement talent.
Being No. 1 contender because you’re a big fish in a small pond and one of the more “established” (so to speak) characters on a brand with a revolving door and little to no character growth for 75% of the roster doesn’t mean you’ve actually been built up as championship-caliber material.
To put it in another, more old-timey wrestling phrasing, “Who’d he ever beat?”
I mentioned before that WWE is hitting the fast-forward button on Gacy. They want Wyatt without Windham Rotunda and without spending the time to invest in building that up. Skipping the character development for the sake of impatience has neutered Gacy, since he’s had no chance to win any decent feuds to make him a viable threat.
Gacy had something interesting going with his idea to mess with the 205 Live rules. He preached a more inclusive approach that would allow wrestlers above the cruiserweight limit to compete. In a perfect world, that story would have led to Gacy winning the NXT Cruiserweight Championship to turn that division on its head. Since he’s a heel, he could have only accepted challenges from people far smaller than he is, just so he could keep the title. Ideally, he would have jumped through hoops to justify it, too, saying he was offering those people a chance to reach a higher level by overcoming him and really, he was the good guy here, not someone to boo.
Instead, Roderick Strong kept the title. Then, Strong decided to just allow people above 205 pounds to face him, anyway. A few weeks later, he lost a title unification match to Carmelo Hayes, the belt was eradicated, 205 Live eventually became a free-for-all that was thankfully rebranded NXT Level Up, and all of this was for nothing. Gacy didn’t spark the change. He didn’t even beat the smaller guy.
So what is Gacy good at? He’s not made good on a single physical threat. Even his recent abductions have been lackluster. He takes Rick Steiner just to let him go, but he keeps the ring, just long enough to give it back. Pushing Breakker off the set? Breakker was fine the next week. Abducting Breakker recently? Totally fine again. There are no repercussions, meaning Gacy’s threats are meaningless.
The Only Way to Save Gacy’s Career
This act has already cemented itself as what you’d see an indie wrestler at a shitty local fed doing as a copycat Wyatt to pop the 25 regulars in attendance who passionately love their hometown guys and consider them revolutionary. Believe me, I know. I’ve worked with a knockoff Bushwhacker, The Rock, AJ Styles, Mick Foley, Rey Mysterio, Bully Ray and more.
The only way to salvage Gacy as a performer is to step away from it and either full-on repackage him to something entirely different, or strip things back to the original gimmick and trim all the Wyatt-esque trends WWE shoehorned in.
By that, I mean Gacy would need to hyper-focus on cutting promos about safe spaces, inclusivity, preaching tolerance at an obnoxious level and getting under everyone’s skin by being holier than thou. Don’t make him the creepy cult guy. Make him the “kills you with kindness” douchebag that you want to see get punched in the face even if you agree with what he’s saying.
Think Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons. Won’t someone PLEASE think of the children?! Her character is painfully annoying, which makes her great. At no point do you think you’re going to discover that she has someone in a gimp mask locked up in her basement. You dislike her because she’s hypocritical in putting herself on a pedestal built upon the idea of how you shouldn’t put yourself on a pedestal.
Instead of hooded druids attacking wrestlers, his followers should be smiling ear to ear, protesting that the lights for someone’s entrance are too triggering for people who might be sensitive to strobes. You can play into the idea that he’s a masochist who gets off on taking pain in the ring while preaching how everyone should get along, like what he did at first, rather than make it so he’s just a guy trying to inflict punishment on others. Make him tough so he wants to take the pain for as long as he can, until he reaches a point where he needs to win the match, then dishes it out right back at that person to prove a point. In a sense, give him the justification that a lot of abusive, manipulative, narcissistic people do, where he would say “I’m only hurting you as much as you hurt me, to prove how you shouldn’t have done that”.
Maybe there wouldn’t be legs to take him to the main event of WrestleMania, but if he stays on this Wyatt ripoff course, he’s not even going to make it out of NXT.