NXT UK superstar Isla Dawn has managed to succeed where many recently have failed by pulling off a supernatural gimmick. In this article, we look at how she has managed to create a supernatural yet relatable character and avoided mistakes made by other mystical wrestlers.
The Supernatural Persona of Isla Dawn
Previous Supernatural Superstars
Wrestling has long had a history of supernatural characters with none more successful than The Undertaker. “The Deadman” refused to give interviews or pose with fans. He lived his gimmick and kept his mystique.
When his long-lost and presumed dead brother Kane made his debut in 1997, WWE knew how to write gripping and suspenseful stories. Man-monster seeking revenge for his brother nearly killing him in a fire wasn’t too wild of a story for us to get into. We all fear our past coming back to haunt us. Kane was already a character many had spent years in fear of as a result of his likeness to Halloween’s Michael Myers. Kane also lived his gimmick. He would leave the arena with his face covered and also didn’t give interviews. This led to constant wonder of what his face looked like. Sure, it was a story, but was he really disfigured? Were they actually brothers? The blurred lines helped us invest in Undertaker and Kane.
But in modern-day wrestling, mythical superstars have lacked depth or decent storylines. Time hasn’t been invested to allow us to understand the motives of supernatural characters. The Boogeyman was nothing more than a joke. Bray Wyatt’s The Fiend was at first exciting and fresh. The gimmick should have worked but poor narrative and confusing booking resulted in less good than bad. Then, WWE tried to embody Alexa Bliss with whatever it was that The Fiend was. Things got too over the top and people struggled to invest in the character.
We also live in a time when most wrestlers – such as Bliss – break their gimmicks on social media. This fails to reinforce the supernatural abilities one possesses as believable.
So it would make sense to conclude that supernatural characters won’t work in 2021. But, in NXT UK, Isla Dawn has proved how supernatural characters can – and should – work today.
Dawn’s Wiccan Heritage
Firstly, like all great gimmicks, Dawn’s is based in reality. We have never been told that Isla Dawn is a broomstick-flying witch that steals children. Instead, we are told that her family has a history of following the Wiccan faith. This isn’t too hard to believe as there are said to be almost 100,000 followers of the faith in the United States and the United Kingdom. We aren’t being forced to fear Dawn, but merely led to feel slightly unsettled by her heritage for practicing pagan witchcraft.
Nothing she has done has been too unbelievable. We’ve seen her practicing tarot to look for guidance. Thousands of people attend conferences and conventions across the globe to study tarot, including the London Tarot Conference, which runs every October. She has looked for guidance from a Ouija board. This is normal when you consider that, every Halloween since 1927, magicians have gathered in America and used similar tactics to try to contact the spirit of Harry Houdini.
The sinister @IslaDawn is prepared to make a grave sacrifice to become the #NXTUK Women’s Champion. 👀
📺 @NXTUK, 3 ET/8 BST | @peacockTV pic.twitter.com/m9gWyWjKkK
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) May 6, 2021
But the biggest success is both Dawn’s portrayal of the character and how other people have reacted to it.
Isla Dawn, the Good Witch
To reflect Dawn as a modern-day witch, NXT UK hasn’t resorted to the illusions we’ve seen from Alexa Bliss on Monday Night Raw. There’s been no vanishing or appearing in puffs of smoke. And, certainly, no crowns that leak black goo.
Instead, Dawn has been on a campaign to collect trinkets from her recent opponents. She spent the majority of her match with Dani Luna attempting to snatch a handful of hair. Against Emilia McKenzie, she may have lost the match, but seemed pleased with having cast some sort of ritual during the match. She broke into the dressing room of Jinny and drew a pentagram on her mirror in lipstick.
All of these are believable things that people could and have done outside of the world of sports entertainment. This also helps us to relate to Dawn. We may not practice witchcraft, but we have all collected something. We may not know what the desired outcome of this quest is, but we know she’s working towards something.
Dawn has also improved inside the squared circle. This is true in solo matches and in the NXT UK Women’s No.1 Contendership gauntlet match, where she eliminated McKenzie and Luna. One of The Fiend’s biggest downfalls was that his matches failed to live up to the hype.
What has @IslaDawn done to @DaniLuna_pro?!#NXTUK pic.twitter.com/GUPCQuEskj
— NXT UK (@NXTUK) August 26, 2021
Realistic Reaction To Bizzare Antics
One moment on Raw that seemingly went too far was when Alexa Bliss pulled the leg of a doll and Shayna Baszler struggled to walk as a result.
The reaction to Dawn’s behavior has been more believable. Fellow NXT UK superstars and the broadcast team have helped the character of Isla Dawn work.
Emilia McKenzie’s reaction to Dawn licking her lips and staring at her creepily wasn’t to run and scream in overblown fear. Instead, she looked her up and down and called her a weirdo. Likewise, when Dawn attempted to intimidate Kay Lee Ray, she simply said ‘nope’ and walked away. This is exactly how you would react if someone acted how Dawn did in your presence.
NXT UK commentator Nigel McGuinness has constantly helped us to understand Dawn’s character and to relate to it.
McGuinness has likened her chanting of mantra to people uttering words of encouragement to themselves to stay positive. Something as potentially unbelievable as casting a spoken spell is made to make perfect sense by McGuinness qualifying it as normal. McGuinness has also referenced Stephen King and William Shakespeare whilst commentating on Dawn’s matches. All these things make her white witch character more believable. Therein lies the success of Dawn’s supernatural character: we see people rationally react to the bizarre and this allows us to accept it.
As a result, NXT UK is quietly building up a new star of its women’s division. If her purpose can grow, we could see her realistically challenge for the top gold in NXT UK.