Bray Wyatt has been back in WWE for roughly a month and a half, but the specter of his return has loomed much longer, with the first hints of a White Rabbit-themed arrival coming all the way back in September. Before he stepped foot in the ring at WWE’s Extreme Rules, there were QR codes, website links, latitude/longitude coordinates, and even messages spelled out in Yautja, the language of the titular monsters from the Predator franchise.
Though the mystery of Wyatt, his Uncle Howdy, and the rest of the “Wyatt World” is still unfolding within the federation Vince McMahon Sr. built, with LA Knight earning the unfortunate honor of being the first man to challenge the “Fiendish One” in the ring – via a few slaps – it’s clear his return has been a resounding success both financially and in terms of fan appreciation. Even if Wyatt never becomes a full-time wrestler again, let alone a “fighting champion” who goes to the mat every week on television, plus house shows to boot, it’s clear his position in the professional wrestling promotion is a firm part of its future moving forward.
But how did it come together? How did Wyatt return to the WWE, and how was the company able to put together such an interesting multi-media campaign to re-introduce him to the professional wrestling world? Fortunately, none other than Stephanie McMahon commented on that very subject.
Stephanie McMahon explains the roll-out return of Bray Wyatt to WWE.
Speaking at the Sixth Annual Wells Fargo TMT Summit, McMahon explained how WWE went about bringing back Wyatt and how they collaborated with everyone from a record store in Corbin, Kentucky to QR coders to draw in eyes to the company’s website and social media accounts, as transcribed by Fightful.
“In terms of in-ring content, under Paul Levesque, it’s one of the key strengths that he was one of the biggest performers in the history of our business,” McMahon said. “He understands what it takes to be a successful superstar, one of the most successful. He understands audience connection and how to create content in a way I don’t think many do. When you think about the changes he’s made, the talent he’s brought back, not only bringing back stars, but how he’s doing it.”
“For example, we were bringing back one of our biggest stars, Bray Wyatt, whose character is a bit of a cult-type leader. We used a multi-media approach and hired a horror writer to help us craft this narrative so fans were engaged. We started doing QR codes randomly in the background. It’s what we called the White Rabbit Project. There were interactive games, there were different misleads. We had one puzzle that was coordinated to a record store in Corbin, Kentucky that was White Rabbit Records. It happened to be that the people at the store played along. Our fans would call and ask, ‘What’s going on? Is someone returning? What’s happening at WWE?’ They would use some of the language we were using in the campaign and then hang up the phone. One of the codes drove us to a date, and that date happened to be the SmackDown that was happening. It looked like it could be a date or a time code, September 23 or 9:23. At 9:23, we saw viewership increase 20% over that time period. It’s strategies like that, that work because the audience is different and they’re growing and evolving. Some people want to have a lean-back experience, and that’s great, but a lot of people want to engage deeply and have fun and have misleads and misdirections. The worst thing in the world is when things are predictable from a content perspective. We want to make them unpredictable.”
Now granted, some may take issue with the phrase “we want to make them unpredictable” when it comes to the return of Wyatt, as him being at the center of the White Rabbit Project was so overly predictable that some fans actually started to assume that it was too predictable and thus, attempted to reach for other theories, but everything else she said was pretty much true – WWE went above and beyond in crafting something interesting for fans regardless of how deep they wanted to dig into the mystery. While only time will tell how Wyatt is able to capitalize on the hype surrounding his return and if his current run is able to eclipse the excitement of the Firefly Funhouse, it’s clear the execution of his return was spot on and set the groundwork for bigger and better things moving forward if Levesque works the books right.