WWE star Bray Wyatt dies at age 36

Bray Wyatt died at age 36, according to WWE head of creative Triple H. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)
Bray Wyatt died at age 36, according to WWE head of creative Triple H. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

Windham Rotunda, known as WWE star Bray Wyatt, died suddenly at age 36, WWE announced on Thursday.

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: