On the November 11th edition of RAW Erick Rowan brought a cage covered in burlap to ringside and left it on the announce table. Rowan has brought the cage ringside to each televised match he's had since then but has yet to reveal what is in the cage. The mystery around the cage along with Rowan's incredible care for the cage has sparked the curiosity and speculation around the wrestling world. Some of Rowan's opponents have tried to see what's in the cage, but Rowan has viciously attacked anyone who goes near the cage without his permission. Vic Joseph & Jerry Lawler both were disturbed by the cage when it was placed in front of them on the November 11th RAW. Lawler asked Vic, "Is that thing moving?" with Vic replying "Yeah, I think it is." This suggests that whatever is in the cage is alive.
It's been quite some time since a WWE Superstar has brought an animal to the ring. Bringing an animal to the ring was a signature for WWE Superstars in the 80s such as Jake "The Snake" Roberts and his snake Damien, Koko B. Ware and Frankie the bird, & The British Bulldogs and Matilda the bulldog. Jake's relationship with Damien was the most effective in that Damien added a dimension to Jake's character beyond just being a visual mascot. Jake would use Damien to scare opponents and use the tropes of snakes in literature, film, and television to inform his persona, promos, and how he related to other Superstars.
It's also possible that King and Vic imagined that something was moving in the cage and that whatever is in there is an inanimate object that Rowan likes to talk to. There is ample precedent for this as well in WWE. Al Snow carried a mannequin head named "Head" to the ring for years during the Attitude Era. Snow would talk to it and eventually use it as a weapon from time to time. Although Al Snow had been an excellent wrestler before he found "Head", Snow's relationship with "Head" was what really endeared him to the crowd and got him over. The Undertaker's urn is another inanimate object that helped get a Superstar over. Commentary often speculated that the urn had power over the Undertaker and that it was possibly the reason he was able to recover from punishment so quickly.
Regardless of whatever is in the cage, this gimmick is a huge opportunity for launching Erick Rowan as a singles star. The gimmick is mostly dependent on how committed Rowan is to the cage and its contents. Head, Damien, & the urn only worked because their Superstars were absolutely committed to them and channeled their personas through them. In the comments below, write what you think might be in Erick Rowan's cage or your favorite mascot/prop for a wrestler throughout the years.
1. A Rat
"You made me hate myself. Well, I like myself now." The spooky, yet empowering words from Willard in its original film (1971) and its remake with Crispin Glover in (2003). Erick Rowan has been a part of a team or group since his debut in WWE in 2012. Rowan started with The Wyatt Family, but broke off with Luke Harper to tag together, after a brief face run, Rowan rejoined Wyatt in a newly reformed Wyatt family for a spell before being drafted to SmackDown where he teamed with Harper again (now known as the Bludgeon Brothers) to win his first tag team championship title. Rowan run as part of the Bludgeon Brothers was interrupted by injury but Rowan returned at the 2019 Royal Rumble to help Daniel Bryan retain the WWE Championship in a match with AJ Styles. Rowan teamed with Bryan until their break up in September when Rowan serially attacked Roman Reigns backstage. Rowan is now on his own: an outcast like Willard. Perhaps Rowan's need for companionship is finally filled by whatever is in that cage. The imagery and story of Willard fits Rowan well and the contrast of a big man caring for a small animal leaves potential for Rowan to eventually turn face as well. Although WWE hasn't posted his vignettes to YouTube, there have been pretapes from the perspective of the cage with Rowan saying things like "Are you hungry?" and "I'm not going to let anything happen to you." These shots are very similar to ones in Willard. If a rat is not in this cage, then it's very likely that whoever produced these segments was heavily influenced by Willard, its remake, or its sequel "Ben".
2. Rowan's Sheep Mask
Rowan has worn a sheep mask of some sort to the ring for the majority of his career. At first it was a simple, white, sheep mask. As Rowan evolved, his sheep mask changed too. Rowan eventually sported a sheep mask painted to look like a spooky clown face. His mask later evolved into a sort of steam punk-esque sheep mask. The mask that could be in this cage could be his original sheep mask. Rowan's original sheep mask was a small spot of innocence in The Wyatt Family and it made Rowan all the more terrifying. If the sheep mask is in the cage, then it could be used as a symbol of Rowan's inner child that he wants to protect. In the early years of Mick Foley's Mankind persona, Mankind would talk about his childhood and his mother in promos. Rowan's sheep mask could be given a backstory that links it to Rowan's past. Rowan's relationship with the mask could also be similar to Al Snow's relationship to Head but with a dark twist.
3. A new mask
We've seen Erick Rowan in the sheep mask, but it seems like something new is on the horizon for Rowan and it could be a completely new mask. Bray Wyatt's new mask has been effectively terrifying and iconic. A new mask for Rowan could help him get a fresh start as a singles competitor after so many years in various tag teams. Rowan wore various heavy metal band t-shirts throughout his time with Daniel Bryan, it's likely that he'd have some creative ideas for a new and terrifying mask inspired by heavy metal album art. Heel Superstars generally have less merchandise than faces but Kane's mask was a wildly popular merchandise item for years and a new mask could mean big money for Rowan.
4. A hair doll
Rowan keeps getting presented as a bit crazy, why not make him more extreme? Having a hair doll inside the cage would be something that would give audiences the creeps while adding a layer to Rowan's story. Who's hair is it? How did he get it? What's Rowan's relationship to this person? Did Rowan make the doll himself or did he have help? Is this related to Rowan not being able to stand alone? Liv Morgan has been off TV for a while, she could be packaged with Rowan somehow as the object of his obsession or as his partner in creepiness.
5. A weapon
Throughout WWE history, certain Superstars have been associated with particular weapons but we haven't had someone who talks to their weapon and treats it like a living being, aside from when Al Snow would use Head as a foreign object. At 6'8" and 315lbs, Erick Rowan is an intimidating force. He's run through jobbers in squash matches with no outside help. Rowan could get tremendous heat if he cheated in his first competitive match by revealing that he had a weapon in his cage all along and used it on his opponent. If Rowan invests his persona into the weapon, it's impact will be much greater when it's revealed.
6. A balloon
On the May 16th 2017 edition of Talking Smack, Erick Rowan took his time to show Renee Young & Shane McMahon "something that makes [him] smile": a balloon that he popped right next to Renee's head. This seemed like the start of a new gimmick for Rowan but he never did anything with the balloon again. Rowan has had so few props and has only spoken a handful of times, but there seems to be a lot of juxtaposition with childlike objects and the aggressiveness of Rowan. Balloons are simple prop that anyone could bring from home to show their support for Rowan. Balloons are also associated with the movie "It" as well. SmackDown has "The Fiend" to scare children and Rowan could step into that role for the RAW brand with his weird balloon popping fixation.
7. A Toy
A child's toy could easily fit in Rowan's cage and it would fit well with Rowan's personality. As mentioned above, Rowan is often paired with childlike objects, suggesting he's in some sort of arrested development or has struggled with a loss of innocence from his past. Rowan was even introduced as Bray Wyatt's "son". A man as large as Rowan who talks to a child's toy as if it were alive is a compelling image. He could use the toy as a weapon or it could be his weakness. Either way, if Rowan believes hard enough in whatever creative puts in that cage, it could be successful.