The character of Bray Wyatt first debuted in Florida Championship Wrestling in April 2012 and initially associated himself with Eli Cottonwood. When WWE rebranded their developmental territory, Wyatt debuted on the fourth episode of the new WWE NXT, defeating Aiden English in a singles match. Wyatt is portrayed as an evilcult leader who believes himself to be more monster than human. The character drew comparisons to Max Cady of the 1991 film Cape Fear and Waylon Mercy.
In July, Wyatt suffered a torn pectoral muscle and required surgery. Despite the injury, Wyatt continued to appear on NXT by founding a faction known as The Wyatt Family in November, with Luke Harper as his first "son" and Erick Rowan as his second. Harper and Rowan entered the NXT Tag Team Championship tournament to crown the inaugural champions, and they defeated Percy Watson and Yoshi Tatsu in the first round on the January 23, 2013, episode of NXT. Following a win over Bo Dallas and Michael McGillicutty in the semi-finals with Wyatt's interference, Harper and Rowan were defeated in the finals of the tournament by Adrian Neville and Oliver Grey. Wyatt had his first match back from injury on the February 21 episode of NXT, defeating Yoshi Tatsu. The Wyatt Family later assaulted Grey (who had suffered a legitimate injury) while Wyatt prevented Dallas from winning a NXT Championship number one contender match due to Dallas refusal to join the Wyatt Family. Dallas went on to hand Wyatt his first loss on the March 13 episode of NXT. On the May 2 episode of NXT, while Wyatt was defeated by six-time world champion Chris Jericho, Harper and Rowan won a triple threat elimination tag match by last pinning tag champion Neville to earn a shot at the titles. On the May 8 NXT (taped on May 2), Harper and Rowan defeated Neville and Bo Dallas, filling in for the injured Grey, to win the NXT Tag Team Championship.
The Wyatt Family went on to feud with Corey Graves and Kassius Ohno, with Wyatt defeating Graves on the May 22 NXT, and the next week Wyatt eliminated both Graves and Ohno during an 18-man battle royal to determine the number one contender to the NXT Championship, although he was later eliminated by Adrian Neville. On the June 19 NXT, the Wyatt Family defeated the team of Graves, Neville and Ohno. On the next NXT, the Wyatt Family, together with Garrett Dylan and Scott Dawson, attacked Graves, Neville and Ohno; when William Regal tried to make the save, he was also overwhelmed. This led to the Wyatt Family facing Graves, Neville and Regal in a six-man tag match the next week, where Wyatt pinned Regal for the win.
^Namako, Jason. "WWE NXT RESULTS – 5/16/13 (BIG E VS. SANDOW)". WrestleView. Retrieved June 9, 2013. "Wyatt says that ... This is not the face of a human being, this is the face of a MONSTER!! This is the face of the eater of worlds. Everytime from now on that you gaze into my face, I don't care who you are, how BAD you think you are, you can never hurt me because I am already dead."
^Chiverton, George. "CHIVERTON'S NXT WEEKLY RANKINGS & EVALUATION 7/11: Latest evaluation of new NXT talent". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved June 9, 2013. "Bray Wyatt has been a source of great excitement for me in his run-up to this debut with fantastic video packages and promos creating a mysterious atmosphere around the preacher-based character. He's evil, scary but not over the top. He comes across as having genuinely done something evil like murder, but justifies it through the faith he follows (which faith we aren't told)."