This past Tuesday on the go-home edition of SmackDown Live, Randy Orton faced off against Luke Harper, as the patriarch of the Wyatt Family, Bray Wyatt, looked on from his ominous rocking chair at ringside. Bray booked the match the previous week himself as tensions in the family had begun boiling over since Wyatt and Randy lost the SmackDown Tag Team Championships.
If you recall, around the time the WWE announced it was bringing back the brand extension concept, Stephanie McMahon opined on the benefits of the split. In her opinion, the biggest benefit of dividing the roster was that it would allow for more long-term storytelling. In the seven months since, we’ve seen prominent examples like Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, Triple H and Seth Rollins and Randy Orton’s alignment with Bray and the Wyatt Family.
The brand split and injuries have played major roles in the Wyatt Family reinventing itself on several occasions. The current version is the third iteration of the family, not counting the time Bray set Harper and Erick Rowan free, before calling them back to the flock. The addition of Randy Orton came on the heels of a significant feud between the Viper and Bray Wyatt, and though it was considered odd at first, the angle has worked.
Back in September, we reported that Vince McMahon was extremely high on Randy Orton. This news came out in the wake of Randy’s return to the WWE after a 10-month absence, and an immediate insertion into a high-profile program with Brock Lesnar that culminated at SummerSlam. The thought, at the time, was that it would soon lead to a WWE Championship opportunity, if not a 13th run with the title.
This fall, it was expected that once Randy Orton wrapped up his program with Bray Wyatt, and AJ Styles’ feud with Dean Ambrose concluded, Orton and Styles would have squared off in the next main event angle on SmackDown. However, Randy was placed in the Wyatt Family instead, in an out-of-the-box booking, and the faction grew stronger than ever. It also delayed any title shot for Orton, and for Bray for that matter.
But now, according to a new report, that delay may be close to its end. There have been internal discussions about Randy Orton winning the Royal Rumble match this Sunday, which would guarantee him a championship opportunity of his choosing at WrestleMania. What’s even more interesting is the second part of the equation, which would see Bray Wyatt win the WWE Championship at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in February.
We have noted over the past two weeks that the WrestleMania card was expected to be finalized by the end of this week, as officials put the finishing touches on the outcome of the Royal Rumble bouts first. It hasn’t been totally completed, though current plans do call for Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt to face off on the grand stage in Orlando this coming April.
This year’s Royal Rumble match has been more unpredictable than in recent years with a revolving door of front-runners picked to win the over-the-top extravaganza. Leading up to Sunday, the most common names we’ve heard that have had the most consideration to win have included Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, Undertaker, Braun Strowman, or surprise entrants like Samoa Joe or Finn Balor. Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt have remained relatively under the radar.
Even though Bray Wyatt hit Luke Harper with the Sister Abigal after Randy Orton went over in the match, it’s still not abundantly clear where the family stands. At the moment, Orton and Wyatt are aligned, but it remains to be seen how Harper responds to Tuesday’s outcome.
Regardless, there will come a time, likely over the course of the next three weeks, that Randy Orton absolves himself from the Wyatt Family. He’s penciled in to face Bray at WrestleMania. In fact, it’s the only SmackDown match currently set in stone for the show. And there is now a real good chance that the match could be for the WWE Championship. AJ Styles, as it stands now, is not expected to enter WrestleMania as champion, so he’ll either drop it to John Cena at the Royal Rumble or in the Elimination Chamber match in two weeks to Bray Wyatt. Stay tuned.
[Featured Image by WWE]