The wrestling community was blindsided Thursday by news that former WWE Champion Windham Rotunda, also known as Bray Wyatt, had sadly passed away at 36 years old after suffering a heart attack. Bray Wyatt’s legacy is one that wrestling fans everywhere are coming together to remember.
As the wrestling world has come together to mourn the life of Rotunda, it feels more than appropriate to look back on the classic moments in the ring that he gave the fans with his limitless creativity and passion for entertainment. For more than a decade, through a variety of characters, Bray Wyatt graced the ring with class and personality.
The Daniel Bryan Feud (2013-14)
In late 2013, a red-hot Daniel Bryan placed his championship pursuits on hold when he was abducted by The Wyatt Family. Bray Wyatt and his cohorts Erick Rowan and Luke Harper defeated Bryan in a 3-on-1 handicap match at the TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs event.
The torment by the group eventually led to Bryan joining the faction. The culmination match against Bryan at the 2014 Royal Rumble was an all-out brawl. In the longest singles bout of the night, Wyatt capped off a major win with his signature Sister Abigail into the barricade.
The First John Cena Feud (2014)
This feud picked up exactly where the first one left off. After defeating Bryan, Bray and the Wyatt Family emerged to distract John Cena in his WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Randy Orton.
In the ensuing months, The Wyatts would make their presence known defeating The Shield at Elimination Chamber in an instant classic, but they didn’t forget about Cena. In the main event, they interfered, costing Cena the championship once again.
Like many stars before, Wyatt was set on unleashing the darker side of Cena, specifically targeting his fanbase, the Cenation. Wyatt would torture Cena singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” with a choir of children that represented the Cenation. Bray Wyatt’s biggest victory came at Extreme Rules in a Steel Cage match with the aid of an eerie deep-pitched boy frightening Cena.
Even in defeat at Payback the following month, it took Cena burying Wyatt underneath several pieces of stage equipment to keep him down in their Last Man Standing match.
The Randy Orton Feud (2016-17)
Much similar to the Cena feud, Wyatt found himself entrenched with Randy Orton, calling him damaged and challenging him to a few pay-per-view matches. After a No Mercy victory over Orton, the next time The Viper would appear on television would be to interfere on Bray Wyatt’s behalf and join the Wyatt Family.
Orton as a Wyatt member would last much longer than Bryan did, as the duo would serve as the sole survivors for Team Smackdown at 2016’s Survivor Series event, as well as defeating Heath Slater and Rhyno to win the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. That would be Bray Wyatt’s first title win in the company.
The reign would be short-lived as dysfunction caused the Wyatt Family to lose the titles, and Orton would start clashing with Luke Harper. Bray ended up siding with Orton and exiled Harper from the group. Orton and Wyatt would work together in the 2017 Royal Rumble, which Orton won.
A few weeks later, Bray Wyatt would survive the Elimination Chamber and capture the WWE Championship for the first time in his career, setting up a potential WrestleMania match with his Wyatt stablemate. However, Orton relinquished his opportunity crediting his loyalty.
The loyalty would prove futile as Orton appeared at the Wyatt Family Compound and officially declared himself as Wyatt’s challenger before setting it ablaze. At WrestleMania 33, Orton would come away with the win and capture his ninth WWE Championship.
The Fiend’s First Match (2019)
In 2019, Wyatt debuted a new gimmick. He served as a host of a children’s show called the Firefly Fun House which featured segments with various puppets that served as references to points of his career. Each week another layer was added to Wyatt’s character, which eventually culminated in the unveiling of his masked alter ego known simply as The Fiend.
The Fiend would make his first in-ring appearance by attacking Finn Balor to close out an episode of Raw. But that brutality paled in comparison to what ensued at SummerSlam. The Fiend would make his official debut, with a darker version of Bray Wyatt’s “Broken out of Love” theme, donning a lantern that replicated his “Eater of Worlds” face.
He’d dominate Balor in less than four minutes and debut a Mandible Claw finishing maneuver.
Universal Champion (2019-20)
The Fiend would wreak havoc on the WWE. Then he set his sight on gold. Wyatt would start a rivalry with Universal Champion Seth Rollins which initially led to a title match inside of Hell in a Cell. The first match would end in a referee stoppage as Rollins dealt whatever damage he could to the Fiend but to no avail.
This set up the Falls Count Anywhere rematch at Crown Jewel with the stipulation that the match couldn’t be stopped under any circumstance. Rollins put The Fiend through the wringer, executing several curb stomps, and inadvertently causing him to catch on fire. But there was no holding the Fiend down, as he ultimately locked in the Mandible Claw followed by Sister Abigail to capture the Universal Championship.
Wyatt would introduce a new Blue Universal Championship and even have a custom title for The Fiend. He would put on some great title defenses against former foe Daniel Bryan before losing the title to Goldberg at SuperShowdown in 2020.
The Firefly Funhouse Match (WrestleMania 36)
No other situation would show Bray Wyatt’s creativity than his Firefly Funhouse match against John Cena at WrestleMania 36. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic with no fans in attendance, this style of match was more cinematic and worked perfectly without fan interaction.
This match served as a psychoanalysis of Cena by Wyatt, having Cena essentially face himself in various parts of his career. The match alluded to Cena’s debut against Kurt Angle, Cena and Wyatt’s WrestleMania 30 match, and featured a series of disappearing acts by Wyatt. Wyatt would pick up his first WrestleMania victory to end this feud.
The 2022 Return
Wyatt was released by the company in the summer of 2021 much to the dismay of the WWE Universe. But over a year later, the company started displaying QR codes and a white rabbit which served as clues and riddles that led up to Extreme Rules 2022.
At the close of the event, the lights went out and Wyatt’s voice was heard singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” as an ode to his early feud with Cena. Live versions of the Firefly Funhouse puppets were shown in the crowd, as well as The Fiend. A mystery door was the only thing remaining onstage, which opened to a blue light and a masked figure.
The figure revealed himself as Wyatt to thunderous cheers. Wyatt would don new music and a new gimmick, which seemed much more real than dealing with leading a cult or a children’s show.
Wyatt would be victorious in his return match against LA Knight at the 2023 Royal Rumble.
Through a decade of creativity, character work, and an overall love and passion for the world of professional wrestling, Bray Wyatt always gave 110% as a performer.
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