By Michael Weaver, Jr. [E-Mail | Facebook | Instagram | Website | X]

Windham Rotunda passed away on August 24, 2023. (Photo Credit: WWE)
Windham Rotunda passed away on August 24, 2023. (Photo Credit: WWE)

Twenty-four hours after the wrestling world was stunned to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Terry Funk had passed away, it’s soul was gut-punched when it was made known that WWE Superstar Windham Rotunda, better known to wrestling fans as Bray Wyatt, had suddenly passed away at the age of 36.

The news broke on August 24, 2023 at 6:32 P.M. Eastern when WWE Chief Content Officer: Paul”Triple H”Levesque tweeted the following:

Just received a call from WWE Hall of Famer Mike Rotunda who informed us of the tragic news that our WWE family member for life Windham Rotunda – also known as Bray Wyatt – unexpectedly passed earlier today.  Our thoughts are with his family and we ask that everyone respect their privacy at this time.

Wyatt was part of a legendary wrestling family as his grandfather was WWE Hall of Famer: Blackjack Mulligan, his father is WWE Legend: Mike Rotunda (also known as “I.R.S.” Irwin R. Shyster), his uncles are Barry and Kendall Windham and his brother is Bo Dallas.

Windham Rotunda debuted on "WWE NXT: Season 2" as Husky Harris, with "Dashing" Cody Rhodes as his WWE Pro. (Photo Credit: WWE)
Windham Rotunda debuted on WWE NXT: Season 2 as Husky Harris, with “Dashing” Cody Rhodes as his WWE Pro. (Photo Credit: WWE)

The WWE Universe was first introduced to Bray Wyatt in the second season of WWE NXT.  Wyatt debuted as Husky Harris and his WWE Pro was Cody Rhodes.  During his time on WWE NXT: Season 2, he won four and lost four matches.  He was then eliminated on week 11.

After his elimination from WWE NXT: Season 2, he returned to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) where he feuded with a fellow WWE NXT: Season 2 competitor, Percy Watson.  The feud began when Harris attacked Watson during a tag team match.  When the two FCW Superstars wrestled against each other, they brawled out of the FCW Arena and were counted out.  The next time they faced off, it was in a No Disqualification Match and Husky lost the match.  The two then competed in a Lumberjack Match and the feud ended as Husky finally defeated his foe.

The next time he appeared on WWE TV, it was at the WWE Hell in a Cell 2010 pay-per-view during the John Cena versus Wade Barrett match as he debuted with Michael McGillicutty as the two superstars assisted Barrett in achieving a victory over Cena.  There was a pre-match stipulation that stated Cena would join Barrett’s stable, The Nexus, if he lost the match.  On the October 25 episode of WWE RAW, Harris and McGillicutty were welcomed into The Nexus.

CM Punk became the leader of The New Nexus in January 2011 and after passing Punk’s test, Harris became a member of the stable along with Punk, McGillicutty and David Otunga.  Harris was then written off WWE TV after he was punted in the head by Randy Orton.

The Wyatt Family originally consisted of Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. (Photo Credit: WWE)
The Wyatt Family originally consisted of Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. (Photo Credit: WWE)

Harris was repackaged as the competitor the WWE Universe knows him as the most – Bray Wyatt – in April 2012.  Wyatt’s new stable, The Wyatt Family, debuted on NXT after Bray suffered a torn pectoral muscle and had surgery.  The Wyatt Family included Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan.  The stable was promoted to the main roster when vignettes began airing on RAW.  Bray made his official in-ring match at SummerSlam’13 when he defeated “The Big Red Machine” Kane in a Ring of Fire Match with assistance from Harper and Rowan.

Wyatt then entered into a feud with Daniel Bryan in the fall/winter of 2013.  Bryan defeated Harper and Rowan in a Gauntlet Match on the final episode of RAW in 2013 before facing Wyatt.  Wyatt’s stablemates interfered and they then beat down Bryan until he gave up and joined The Wyatt Family.  Wyatt would punish Bryan when they were unable to find success which lead to Bryan attacking The Wyatt Family and leaving the group.

Bray’s next feud began at WWE 2014 Royal Rumble, after he defeated Bryan, when The Wyatt Family was instrumental in costing John Cena the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.  Cena would challenge Wyatt to a match at WWE WrestleMania XXX.  During the feud with Cena, Wyatt attempted to prove that Cena’s heroic image was filled with lies and Wyatt’s goal was to turn him into a monster.  After losing at WrestleMania, the feud continued as Bray then attempted to steal fans away from Cena.  Wyatt defeated Cena in a Steel Cage Match, thanks to interference from The Wyatt Family, but then lost to Cena in a Last Man Standing Match at WWE Payback 2014.

After a feud with Chris Jericho which saw Bray victorious in two of the three matches, vignettes began appearing where Bray was “setting” Harper and Rowan free.  Bray would return at WWE Hell in a Cell 2014 when he cost “The Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose a victory over Seth Rollins.  Bray would then feud with Ambrose through the January 5, 2015 episode of WWE RAW when Wyatt defeated Ambrose in an Ambulance Match to finish the feud.

Over the next several years, Wyatt would feud with WWE Hall of Famers and legendary figures such as The Undertaker, Roman Reigns, “The Big Red Machine” Kane and The New Day.

A feud between Bray and “The Apex Predator” Randy Orton began when he confronted Orton and called him “damaged” before challenging him to a match at WWE Backlash.  Wyatt would win the match by forfeit after attacking Orton before the match.  They wrestled again at WWE No Mercy and Wyatt would win the match after Harper returned and helped him.  On the October 25th episode of WWE SmackDown!, Orton would shock the world when he helped Wyatt beat Kane before joining The Wyatt Family.

Bray and Orton would win the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship but dissension with Orton and The Wyatt Family would begin after they lost the championship.  Orton was kicked out of the group on the January 24, 2017 episode of WWE SmackDown! when Wyatt delivered Sister Abigail to Orton.

Wyatt finally achieved the biggest accolade a WWE Superstar can achieve when he defeated Baron Corbin, John Cena, “The A-Lister” The Miz, “The Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose and “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles in an Elimination Chamber Match to win the WWE Championship at WWE Elimination Chamber 2014.  Even though Orton pledged his allegiance to Wyatt and stated he wouldn’t wrestle him at WWE WrestleMania 33, “The Apex Predator” would later prove that allegiance was a lie when he destroyed The Wyatt Family compound, including the grave of Sister Abigail, before going on to challenge and beat Wyatt for the WWE Championship at WWE WrestleMania 33.  The feud between the two would end when Wyatt defeated Orton in a non-title match at WWE Payback, thanks to help from Jinder Mahal.

The 2017 Superstar Shake-up saw Bray drafted to the WWE RAW brand before he feuded with Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor.

Bray would find himself in a storyline with Matt Hardy beginning November 2017 which resulted in Hardy’s “Broken” gimmick.  When they competed against each other at WWE RAW 25, Wyatt defeated Hardy and then at WWE 2018 Royal Rumble, Wyatt entered at number 8 and but failed to win the 30-man Royal Rumble Match when he and Hardy eliminated each other.  When they wrestled each other in an Ultimate Deletion Match on the March 19 episode of WWE RAW, Hardy won when he pushed Bray into the “Lake of Reincarnation.”

Wyatt returned at WrestleMania 34 and turned babyface when he interfered in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal by helping Hardy win.  They would then team up and win the WWE RAW Tag Team Championship at WWE The Greatest Royal Rumble when they defeated The Club (Ceasaro & “The Celtic Warrior” Sheamus).  They would lose the championship to The B-Team (Bo Dallas & Curtis Axel) at WWE Extreme Rules 2018.  When they challenged The B-Team again on the July 23 episode of WWE RAW in their championship rematch, they lost again.  The team would be disbanded afterwards when Hardy took some time off.

Abby The Witch, Bray Wyatt and Mercy The Buzzard on the set of "Firefly Funhouse." (Photo Credit: WWE)
Abby The Witch, Bray Wyatt and Mercy The Buzzard on the set of Firefly Funhouse. (Photo Credit: WWE)

The landscape of WWE grew a little darker in the spring of 2019 when vignettes starring a buzzard, a puppet and a witch doll began airing on WWE TV.  Later, a “new” Bray Wyatt started hosting The Firefly Fun House, which was a series of pre-recorded segments that featured a leaner Wyatt with a new shorter haircut.  The segments resembled children shows but with a more evil side.  The segments also starred Mercy the Buzzard, Abby the Witch, Ramblin’ Rabbit and Huskus the Pig Boy.

A darker more demonic side of Wyatt named The Fiend debuted when he attacked Bálor on the July 15 episode of WWE RAW.  The Fiend defeated Bálor at SummerSlam and then would go on to attack WWE Hall of Famers such as Jerry”The King”Lawler, “The Big Red Machine” Kane, “The Hardcore Icon” Mick Foley and “The Only Olympian Gold Medalist in WWE History” Kurt Angle.  The Fiend also began using Foley’s finishing move – The Mandible Claw.

The Fiend then attacked the WWE Universal Champion: Seth Rollins at WWE Clash of the Champions and when they wrestled at Hell in a Cell, the match was stopped by the referee after Rollins covered The Fiend with weapons and proceeded to hit him with a sledgehammer.  As the referees were beginning to check on The Fiend, he rose from the plunder and applied The Mandible Claw on Rollins.  At WWE Crown Jewel, he defeated Rollins to win the WWE Universal Championship in a Falls-Count-Anywhere Match.

The 2019 WWE Draft saw The Fiend and the WWE Universal Championship drafted to WWE SmackDown! and the WWE Universal Championship saw a new design under the ownership of the new champion.  When Bray Wyatt carried the championship, the strap was blue and when The Fiend carried the championship the center piece was The Fiend’s face on a black and red leather strap with the phrases “Hurt” “Heal” and “Let Me In” were on the strap, with The Fiend’s face replacing the word “Me”.  The Fiend would feud with Daniel Bryan and The Miz before losing the Universal Championship to Goldberg at WWE Super ShowDown.

Bray Wyatt at "WWE WrestleMania 36." (Photo Credit: WWE)
Bray Wyatt at WWE WrestleMania 36. (Photo Credit: WWE)

The Fiend didn’t allow the lost of the Universal Championship to keep him down as he challenged a returning John Cena to a match at WWE WrestleMania 36.  The two faced each other for a second time at WrestleMania on the second night of the two night event but instead of competing in a usual regular one-on-one match, Wyatt and Cena participated in a series of segments based on actual events that occurred in their careers, and one that was based on the New World Order’s (nWo’s) “Hollywood” Hogan and Eric Bischoff.

Coming out of WWE WrestleMania 36 there was a new Universal Champion in the form of former Wyatt Family member Braun Strowman.  A series of matches would take place between Bray and Braun during this period.  The first would be a WWE Universal Championship Match at WWE Money in the Bank 2020 which saw Braun win the match.  The next match would be a Wyatt Swamp Fight, which would be a non-title match, at WWE The Horror Show at Extreme Rules and Wyatt defeated Strowman.  During this period, it was made known on TV that Strowman had begun a friendship with Alexa Bliss.  On the July 31 episode of WWE SmackDown, The Fiend made an appearance and proceeded to apply The Mandible Claw on Bliss.  Two weeks later, an angry Strowman wanted his foe to appear so he could get revenge.  Bliss came to the ring to try to calm her friend down and instead of calming down, Strowman shocked the WWE Universe when he military pressed Alexa and threatened to throw her out of the ring.  The WWE Universal Champion then actually slammed his female friend and before her body touched the mat, the lights in the Thunderdome were turned off.  When they came back on, The Fiend were standing in the middle of the ring while Alexa was confused and in pain and then the TitanTron showed Strowman laughing.  After a few minutes of watching his former stablemate laughing, The Fiend began to laugh.  The two superstars faced off a third time at SummerSlam’20 which saw The Fiend beat Strowman for the championship but afterwards a returning Roman Reigns attacked both competitors which led to Roman beating Fiend for the title in a Triple-Threat Match at WWE Payback.

The Fiend would attack Kevin Owens on the October 2nd episode of SmackDown and afterwards extended his hand to Alex Bliss.  Bliss took The Fiend’s hand, smirked and the two disappeared.  Fiend defeated Owens the following week before being drafted to RAW in the 2020 WWE Draft.

The Fiend battled Randy Orton at "WWE WrestleMania 37."  (Photo Credit: WWE)
The Fiend battled Randy Orton at WWE WrestleMania 37. (Photo Credit: WWE)

Once The Fiend returned to RAW, he resumed his feud with Randy Orton but lost a Firefly Inferno Match at WWE TLC.  After the match, Orton set The Fiend’s body on fire.  During an Intergender Match between Orton and Bliss the following March at Fastlane, The Fiend returned appearing with charred skin while wearing singed clothes.  He nailed Orton with Sister Abigail to assist Bliss in beating Orton.  The two would face off on the second night at WrestleMania 37.  Before the match, The Fiend regenerated himself to his pre-burned appearance but during the match, Bliss appeared sitting on top of a giant box and black liquid began falling down her face which distracted The Fiend and allowed Orton to RKO The Fiend to capture the victory.  After the match, The Fiend and Bliss had a brief staredown before the lights shut off.  The WWE Universe realized that The Fiend and Alexa Bliss had disappeared from the squared circle after the lights came back on.

On July 31, 2021 WWE.com announced that the company had released Bray Wyatt and stated:

WWE has come to terms on the release of Bray Wyatt.  We wish him the best in all his future endeavors.

Over one year later, QR codes began to appear in various locations during RAW and SmackDown episodes.  The codes directed visitors to different websites that contained images, mini-games and riddles which vaguely referenced Wyatt and were connected to the October 8th WWE Premium Live Event, WWE Extreme Rules.  At the end of Extreme Rules, Wyatt officially returned to WWE with live-action versions of his Firefly Fun House characters and wearing a new mask while revealing that he was the one behind the hidden messages.  Bray Wyatt returned to SmackDown! on October 14 but was interrupted by a masked character who later called himself Uncle Howdy the next week.

Bray Wyatt at the "WWE 2023 Royal Rumble." (Photo Credit: WWE)
Bray Wyatt at the WWE 2023 Royal Rumble. (Photo Credit: WWE)

A feud between Wyatt and LA Knight began after Bray attacked Knight during a backstage interview on November 11.  The two shared the ring with WWE Hall of Famer: The Undertaker at WWE RAW is XXX in a segment that many said was ‘Taker passing the torch to Wyatt.  The first ever Pitch Black Match would take place between Wyatt and Knight at the WWE 2023 Royal Rumble.  This was a match where anything goes and the match could only end in pinfall or submission.  After Wyatt defeated Knight, Uncle Howdy appeared and dove from an elevated platform onto Knight, which prompted an explosion as Wyatt and the Firefly Fun House characters watched on.

After Wyatt’s feud with Knight had ended, he stated he would go after the winner of the match between “The All-Mighty” Bobby Lashley and “The Beast Incarnate” Brock Lesnar at WWE Elimination Chamber 2023.  Lashley won the match via disqualification after Lesnar nailed him with a low blow.  On the RAW episode that aired on February 27, a video aired that featured Wyatt’s “muscle man dance” promo on Firefly Fun House to taunt Lashley.  However; a few days later rumors began circulating that Wyatt was dealing with a “real-life threatening injury” and the feud along with Wyatt quietly disappeared from television.

Then the gut punched came as Triple H announced to the world on August 24:

Just received a call from WWE Hall of Famer Mike Rotunda who informed us of the tragic news that our WWE family member for life Windham Rotunda – also known as Bray Wyatt – unexpectedly passed earlier today.  Our thoughts are with his family and we ask that everyone respect their privacy at this time.

When Wyatt was married to his ex-wife, Samantha in 2012, they had two daughters before she filed for divorce in 2017.  Wyatt then had a son in 2019 with WWE announcer JoJo.  His son’s godfather is his former Wyatt Family member Braun Strowman.  They also have a daughter that was born in 2020.  Last year they became engaged.

Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com gave the following update on Wyatt’s health and cause of death on his X account:

I was given permission to reveal that earlier this year Windham Rotunda (Bray Wyatt) got COVID that exacerbated a heart issues.

There was a lot of positive progress towards a return and his recovery.  Unfortunately today he suffered a heart attack and passed away.

WU Online would like to send its heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and fans of Windham Rotunda.

Normally that’s how I would end an article like this but instead I want to post something that Bray wrote on August 7, 2022 on his X account:

Rest in Peace, Windham Rotunda.  (Photo Credit: WWE)
Rest in Peace, Windham Rotunda. (Photo Credit: WWE)

Wrestling is not a love story, it’s a Fairy Tale for masochists.  A comedy for people who criticize punchlines.  A fantasy most can’t understand, a spectacle no one can deny.  Lines are blurred.  Heroes are villains.  Budgets are cut.  Business is business.

But it can also be a land where Dead men walk.  Where Honor makes you Elite.  Where Demons run for office.  And Rock bottom is a reason to rejoice.  WOOOOO!  It’s an escape.  A reason to point the blame at anyone but yourself for 2-3 hours.  An excuse to be a kid again, and nothing matters except the moment we are in.

Wrestling is not a love story, it’s much more.  It’s hope.

And in a world surrounded in hate, greed and violence, a world where closure may never come.  We all know a place that has hot and cold hope on tap.  For better or for worse.

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