Bray Wyatt, real name Windham Rotunda, passed away this week at age 36 after suffering a heart attack. He had been missing from WWE television since February with an undisclosed illness that was revealed to be a heart condition greatly affected by Covid. The wrestling world lost one of the most creative minds the business has ever seen. His friends and family lost a loved one. Words cannot express how much I feel for those closest to them. As a fan, I can only speak to the person that was on the screen and in the ring, and he was one of the most captivating figures I’ve seen in the last decade of wrestling.
Wyatt had a stint on the main roster as the character Husky Harris with the New Nexus in 2011 and he was nothing more than a lackey for CM Punk. Fast forward two years later and Rotunda came back to the main roster as Bray Wyatt, the leader of the Wyatt Family alongside Eric Rowan and Luke Harper. He quickly became one the top heels in the company and garnered a strong fan base. His promo work was impeccable, and he was a strong in-ring talent as well. He was a tremendous storyteller when given the opportunity to show as much. One of the crowning achievements of that early run was his WrestleMania match with John Cena. I loved that match for its storytelling as much as its in-ring action. He would go on to feud with the likes of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Undertaker, Chris Jericho, and Randy Orton during thar time, but it felt like there was always something missing. It always felt like more could’ve been done with him to truly capitalize on his popularity and his talent.
In 2019, he would return from a hiatus and debut the Fiend. This version of his character was heavily inspired by horror films and achieved instant popularity with WWE fans. I had my criticisms of the Fiend’s presentation and booking, but it was undeniable that Bray had captured something special with the character. It was something different and it was interesting, even if it was a tad far-fetched. Once again, it truly felt like WWE had a gold mine with the Fiend character and let it fall by the wayside with bad booking. Despite the creative problems surrounding the character, the work Bray put into it to try and make it work was true role commitment. He believed in his work and that’s what made him so special to fans like me. WE could see what he could be if he had the opportunity. He was entertaining to watch, making it more frustrating that it felt like he was always held back to some extent.
After being released in 2021, he returned at Extreme Rules last year to a thunderous ovation. He was treated like a returning hero by fans and was positioned as a top star on Smackdown. He went on to feud with LA Knight that led to his only main roster match at the Royal Rumble during his return. He got sick and left WWE programming in February and that was unfortunately the last time we saw him. The seeds had been planted for a new Wyatt Family style stable for Bray that could’ve been a major faction until his departure. What might have come of this faction will never be known. What was more important than anything else was that the man, Windham Rotunda, was okay, healthy, and recovering from whatever was wrong. Reports had come out that he was getting better, and he was getting ready for a return. Covid took that away from us and took him away from his friends and family.
I’d like to applaud WWE for the tribute show dedicated to him and the late Terry Funk. They did a tremendous job honoring their legacies and respecting the men that they were. I never saw much of Terry Funk’s career outside of a few matches. I never saw him in his prime, but his legacy is etched in stone as one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots. As for Bray, I had the privilege of seeing his whole WWE career and we have lost a great one. His legacy of creativity will be very difficult to match in the future. From what I see from those closest to him, he was an even better person. Rest in peace. Follow the buzzards.