WWE star Bray Wyatt dies at 36

Windham Rotunda, who wrestled under the name Bray Wyatt and was considered one of the most creative minds in pro wrestling history, died Wednesday at 36, the WWE announced. Cause of death has not been announced.

Wyatt’s death was announced by former wrestler and current WWE executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque.

“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,” Levesque wrote. “Our thoughts are with his family and we ask that everyone respect their privacy at this time.”

Wyatt gained his most fame portraying a character known as “The Fiend.” At times he would appear as Wyatt, a happy-go-lucky character who hosted a children’s show, but when angered, he turned into The Fiend, during which he wore a horrific clown mask. The character quickly became popular and was one of WWE’s top merchandise sellers.

He was released by WWE in July 2021 when the company was cutting back on large contracts in anticipation of an eventual sale. He was brought back in October 2022 as just Bray Wyatt.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson reacted to the news on social media, writing, “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 the WWE universe. Very unique, cool and rare character, which is hard to create in our crazy world of pro wrestling. Still processing losing the goat, Terry Funk yesterday and now Bray today. My love, light, strength & mana to the Rotunda family and Funk family during this tough, heartbreaking time.”

Wyatt took time off in February with an undisclosed illness. Fightful.com reported that the illness was life-threatening, but that he had improved and was expected to return to the ring soon.

The son of WWE Hall of Famer Mike Rotunda, Windham Rotunda (named for his dad’s former tag team partner, Barry Windham), entered WWE in 2008 and wrestled in its developmental league in Florida as Alex Rotunda. He often teamed with his brother Bo. WWE repackaged him and changed his name to Husky Harris, making him part of the NXT TV show, which at the time was designed to choose the next big wrestling superstar, with fans voting for their favorites each week. Harris finished fifth but remained under contract. He became part of the Nexus stable from 2011-12 before eventually returning to Florida, where he was repackaged again. This time, it worked.

Rotunda portrayed Bray Wyatt as a cult leader and called his followed the Wyatt Family. Meant to be heels, they became fan favorites and were called to the main WWE roster in 2013. They entered the ring in darkness, with fans holding up the flashlights of their smart phones. Wyatt called the fans his fireflies, and the effect when he came to the ring was amazing, still considered one of the best ring entrances of all time.

He was a three-time world champion in WWE, winning the WWE Championship once and Universal Championship twice.