The character of Bray Wyatt first debuted in FCW in April of 2012. He first associated himself with Eli Cottonwood. When WWE rebranded their developmental territory, Bray Wyatt debuted on the fourth episode of the new WWE NXT, defeating Aiden English in a singles match.
In July 2012, 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 and Erick Rowan as his followers (Wyatt initially described them as his first and second son respectively). 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. Harper and Rowan managed to defeat 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 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 defeated Wyatt on the March 13 episode of NXT, which was the character's first loss. 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.
From the May 27 episode of Raw, WWE aired vignettes promoting the upcoming debut of the Wyatt Family. The vignettes showed the Wyatt Family's backwoods origins and Rowan wearing a lamb mask. On the July 8 episode of Raw, the Wyatt Family made their debut by assaulting Kane, thus removing Kane from participating in Money In the Bank. On the July 10 episode of NXT, Wyatt pinned William Regal when the Wyatt Family fought Graves, Neville and Regal in a six-man tag match. The Wyatt Family continued their attacks on wrestlers like R-Truth, Justin Gabriel and 3MB (Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater, and Jinder Mahal) while sending cryptic messages to Kane asking him to "follow the buzzards". Kane then challenged Wyatt to a Ring of Fire match, which he accepted. On August 18 at the at SummerSlam pay-per-view, Wyatt defeated Kane in the Ring of Fire match, following interference from Harper and Rowan. The segment ended with the Wyatt Family carrying an unconscious Kane away.