Windham Rotunda, known as WWE star Bray Wyatt, died suddenly at age 36, WWE announced on Thursday.
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…
— Triple H (@TripleH) August 24, 2023
WWE is saddened to learn that Windham Rotunda, also known as Bray Wyatt, passed away on Thursday, Aug. 24, at age 36.
WWE extends its condolences to Rotunda’s family, friends and fans. pic.twitter.com/pabVuaKlnP
— WWE (@WWE) August 24, 2023
Details of Rotunda’s death were scarce initially, but Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com reported that Rotunda suffered a heart attack as a consequence of other heart issues "exacerbated" by a bout with COVID-19. Rotunda last wrestled against LA Knight at this year’s Royal Rumble in January, he had been absent from WWE programming since.
Born into a lifelong wrestling family, Rotunda began his WWE career in its developmental system, Florida Championship Wrestling. Rotunda, then known as Husky Harris, was a part of the Nexus storyline in 2010, feuding with John Cena and working with CM Punk.
Rotunda's true rise to fame came shortly after a rebranding in the wake of the Nexus story. During his return to developmental, now known as NXT, Rotunda developed his Wyatt character, a backwoods bayou-inspired persona, and led a faction known as the Wyatt Family in the early 2010s. Rotunda, alongside the late Jon Huber (Luke Harper), Erick Rowan and eventually Braun Strowman, was a primary foil for the Shield stable (Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose).
Rotunda's entrance was an immersive experience for the crowd at every arena and show, as he carried a lantern during his slow, purposeful walk to the ring — with only fans' cellphone cameras lighting the crowd — drawing some comparisons to that of WWE legend The Undertaker. In fact, even as his career changed, Rotunda was always considered a spiritual successor to the iconic figure.
Rotunda’s evolution as a character was unmatched creatively, as following a brief hiatus from WWE, he introduced a Mr. Rogers-esque persona alongside his “Fiend” alter ego. Rotunda would alternate between a friendly Wyatt, accompanied by puppets, and the sinister, destructive "Fiend" for several years in what was inevitably the last run of his career.
The creativity and talent both inside and outside of the ring made him a fan-favorite throughout his entire career. He was an outside-the-box thinker when it came to professional wrestling, evidenced beyond his characters in various promos, vignettes and even matches.
Rotunda won five championships throughout his career, including the WWE Championship and WWE Universal Championship (twice), the company’s top two individual titles. He wrestled Cena, The Undertaker, and Randy Orton at WWE's biggest event, WrestleMania, throughout his time with the promotion. Rotunda's lone victory in those matches came at WrestleMania 36, in a psychologically thrilling contest against Cena.
Rotunda is survived by his partner, former WWE ring announcer JoJo Offerman, their two children together, his brother Taylor Rotunda (former WWE star Bo Dallas), father Mike Rotunda (former WWE star IRS), uncles Barry and Kendall Windham, and two children from a previous marriage.
Rotunda was a third-generation WWE talent, as his late maternal grandfather, Robert Windham was better known as Blackjack Mulligan.
Other figures from the wrestling world, including Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (who briefly shared the ring with Rotunda at WrestleMania 32), expressed their sympathies on X, formerly known as Twitter:
Im heartbroken over the news of Bray Wyatt’s passing. Always had tremendous respect and love for him and the Rotunda family. Loved his presence, promos, in ring work and connection with @wwe universe.
Very unique, cool and rare character, which is hard to create in our crazy… pic.twitter.com/i9zlbJIOL3
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) August 24, 2023
I’m at a loss for words….I’m grateful to have witnessed his greatness and been around his sweet spirits, always so nice and kind, and willing to help. My prayers to all his family 🙏🖤 https://t.co/FVTLoVbiul
— Daria/Sonya Deville (@SonyaDevilleWWE) August 24, 2023
Devastated to hear of the passing of Windham Rotunda, Bray Wyatt. My deepest condolences to Mike, Bo, Barry and all his family. Rest well my friend.x
— William Regal (@RealKingRegal) August 24, 2023
Man…the first dude that took me under his wing when I got signed in 2009. We spent so much of our adult lives together. Praying for Jojo. Praying for his kids. I will miss your laugh & your boyish charm, my friend. Goodbye, Windham.
— Ettore “Big E” Ewen (@WWEBigE) August 24, 2023
Damn man.. Rest Easy Bray Wyatt https://t.co/fNrYqPZbU5
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) August 24, 2023
Very sorry to hear of Bray Wyatt’s passing. It’s very sad. Unfortunately, I never got to know this man, but watching him perform, you can instantly tell he was extremely talented & creative. And more importantly hearing how great of a person he was. My condolences to his family.… pic.twitter.com/rSsT4hi1Ej
— taz (@OfficialTAZ) August 24, 2023
Bray Wyatt was an incredible performer. One of the rare ones who changed what it was to tell stories in this medium.
He was also an amazing human- with a wonderful family. RIP to one of my favorite wrestlers- and someone I feel incredibly lucky to have met. pic.twitter.com/Qpk4uNiYUP
— Sam Roberts (@notsam) August 24, 2023