I am learning as I go here, but your advice sounds right on. It appears the BLE/BT/WiFi options are laden with hardware and protocol layer complexity that slows things down and eat batteries for real-time demands.
I believe I want something that does not exist:
All with FCC approval:
Side A - like a garage door opener - simplex, batteries last. sub 20ms from sleep state.
Side B - Hears side A and does work.
Side B - Wifi/BT allows user to configure product behaviors/options on a smart phone.
In other words, side A is a dumb transmitter, where side B has both a dumb receiver, and a smart Wifi/BT transceiver. All with FCC stamp of approval. The ESP products have a CPU (with space and memory for my code) it also has FCC and BT or Wifi, but the radio architecture can not be reconfigured to detect and decode raw FSK.