WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley wrote the following on his official Facebook page in memory of the late Windham Rotunda aka Bray Wyatt…
MEMORIES OF BRAY
I was on my way to Iowa this past Thursday, using the three hour flight as an opportunity to work on my article about the passing of my mentor and idol, Terry Funk. I was just putting the finishing touches on it, when I heard the announcement that the plane was making its final descent. Ten minutes later, upon touching down, I checked my messages and saw that an old friend from college had texted, asking me if I knew of a WWE wrestler named Windham Rotunda. “Sure”, I texted back. “Why do you ask?” And that’s how I learned of the passing of Bray Wyatt, one of the most fascinating characters in WWE history, and a personal favorite of mine. He was only 36.
Over the past four days, I have read many fine articles, and many heartfelt tributes about the life and career of Windham Rotunda. Many of those tributes came from friends and colleagues who knew him much better than I did. I can’t claim to have been a close friend of Bray’s, but I liked him very much, and I have some really fond memories I would like to share with you.
I felt an instant connection with Windham Rotunda going back to his Husky Harris days in WWE, not just because he was a heavyset guy in a business filled with impressive physiques, but because his father (Mike Rotunda) and I shared the ring on many occasions during my WCW run in 1990. While many remember Mike Rotunda from his runs in WWE – from 1984-1986 as part of the “US Express” team with Barry Wyndham and 1991-1995 as Irwin R Shyster – I was by far a bigger fan of his time as “Captain” Mike Rotunda in WCW’s “Varsity Club” where Rotunda, managed by Kevin Sullivan teamed with and later feuded with Rick Steiner. By the time I got to WCW in late 1989, the Varsity Club had run its course, and Mike was kind of in limbo. So I got the nod to turn on him in a tag match, resulting in Captain Mike’s babyface turn, and the privilege of facing a respected, experienced pro night in and night out – very grateful to have the opportunity to learn on a nightly basis from one of the finest workers in the business.
The first time I remember meeting Bray was in either late 2011 or 2012 when he told me about this new type of “thing” he was working on in Florida Championship Wrestling. He mentioned how much he had enjoyed a promo I did in a rocking chair leading up to my big match with Randy Orton at “Backlash” in 2004 – and mentioned that he was incorporating a rocking chair into this thing he was working on. The “thing” turned out to be “The Wyatt Family”, which took WWE by storm, and turned Windham Rotunda into one of the biggest stars in WWE history.
I remember how angry I was with the fans who chanted “Husky Harris” at the Wyatt family’s 2012 WWE debut, saying to my family how unfair it was for a small number of fans to try to ruin something that this kid had worked so hard to create. Fortunately, the Family’s debut was so impressive, so new and unusual, so downright creepy, that my fears were never realized. By week three, not a person in the place was chanting his old name. Bray Wyatt had arrived, and would be a force to be reckoned with for several years to come.
Before I began writing this article, I searched in vain for a video clip that I have searched in vain for a few times over the past 10 years. It dates back to my portrayal of Santa Claus at a December, 2013 WWE event in Texas. Bray asked me that day if I might be able to offer some guidance on the “hangman” move that I had utilized during my own career – the one that cost me an ear back in 1994. I was happy to offer any assistance I could, because Bray was not only an amazing onscreen character, but in real life, a very kind hearted and deeply respectful human being. But I told him I would only help with one caveat: someone had to film it. Bray was already a huge star in WWE, and getting bigger every day. I told him that my hope was that when his WWE career retrospective DVD came out, there would be a little bonus feature of me in my Santa regalia, teaching Bray Wyatt how to do one of the most dangerous moves in the business.
As I mentioned earlier, I did not know him nearly as well as many of his contemporaries did. But he always had a huge smile, always seemed to be in a good mood, full of positive energy. Despite the crazy nature of his character, my wife would often remark that he seemed to have very kind eyes, and I worried that the kindness in those eyes might bely to WWE fans that beneath the carefully woven, multifaceted layers of this amazing performer, deep-down, Windham Rotunda was a really good guy, working really hard to take take the WWE fan base on an invigorating weekly emotional roller coaster ride. Over the years, Bray would occasionally mention to me that he was going to pay tribute to one of my matches, as was the case with his January 2014 showdown with Daniel Bryan. It was a great match, and I was beyond proud to know that Bray had gleaned a little inspiration from my own career. It’s really a shame the match was largely forgotten in the fallout following the the main event.
As time went by, I would regularly watch WWE with my family. In most cases, I would be multitasking as I watched – working on projects, doing a little writing; multitasking in general. But whenever Bray Wyatt appeared onscreen, I would drop everything else I was doing, and just focus intently on the performer onscreen. Bray Wyatt always commanded my complete and undivided attention.
In 2019, I received a phone call from Paul Heyman, asking me how I would feel about Bray’s new incarnation as “The Fiend” using my old mandible claw finisher. I think I gave Paul a three word answer: “I love it.” if I remember correctly, it was in that same phone call where Paul asked how I would feel about being on the receiving end of my own finisher. I believe I gave him that same three word answer a second time: “I love it.”
So, a few days later I became the first victim of The Fiend’s mandible claw, and will always be proud to hold that distinction.
So there are a few of my favorite remembrances of Windham Rotunda/Bray Wyatt. I’m happy that I had a chance to play a tiny role in an incredible career. But as much as I enjoyed playing that tiny roll, I enjoyed getting to know the man behind the character just as much. Like so many of you, I will remember the eerie promos, the great matches, the Firefly Funhouse, the epic entrances that transfixed entire arenas. But, on a personal level, I will miss seeing the kindness in his eyes, hearing the warmth of his laugh – and I will miss his scent when we shared a hug. In what may have been one of WWE’s best kept secrets, Windham Rotunda was one of wrestling’s best smelling men.
Goodbye to a great performer, and an equally great man. My deepest condolences to the family, his fans, and everyone who loved him.