Two-time WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair was among many who attended the funeral of Windham Rotunda, better known as WWE star Bray Wyatt, Wednesday. Rotunda died at age 36 in late August.
The wrestling community was in shock when news broke of Wyatt’s death, and Flair was among those in disbelief.
“The Nature Boy” spoke to Fox News Digital about how his relationship with Wyatt’s grandfather, Blackjack Mulligan, and Wyatt’s father, Mike Rotunda, during their wrestling days led to admiration for what Wyatt did for the sport.
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“Bray was a genius,” Flair said while promoting his Wooooo! Energy, which became the official energy drink of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. “That gimmick he came out a couple of years ago with Bray Wyatt and the lantern and all that. I’d seen a lot of stuff catch on over the years, but God, that caught on.”
Wyatt’s entrances became a quick hit with wrestling fans. Wyatt used a scary supernatural persona that included holding different lanterns and wearing horror masks at times with all the arena lights shut off.
While Wyatt had a wrestling lineage, he was an all-around athlete, Flair noted.
Wyatt attended Hernando High School in Brooksville, Florida, where he grew up. He became a state wrestling champion at 275 pounds in 2005 as a senior, but football was also a major interest.
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He played at College of the Sequoias for two seasons, where he earned All-American honors as a sophomore offensive guard at the California junior college program. That success led to a scholarship from Troy University, where he played another two years of football.
“He can work for a big kid, man,” Flair said. “He can work. Really good all-around athlete. It’s tragic.”
Wyatt died of a heart attack, and it was discovered he was not wearing a doctor-recommended heart defibrillator that night, according to reports. It was reportedly found in his car.
“If he’d worn it that night, he’d still be here,” Flair said.
Wyatt was dealing with what was described as a “life-threatening illness” in August, though it wasn’t known at the time what he was battling.
Wyatt was trying to get back to wrestling, eyeing a September return before his unexpected death, according to Fightful Select.
Wyatt made a return to the WWE in October in one of the most mysterious buildups the company had done in a while. A white rabbit, mystery QR codes and other messages appeared on WWE programming leading up to Wyatt’s eventual return at Extreme Rules. The hints pointed toward his return about 15 months after he was released by the company in July 2021.
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Wyatt’s Fiend character was among the favorite programs WWE ran in recent years. The character thrived through the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and he was put into epic feuds with John Cena and Randy Orton.
Wyatt thanked fans for their support when he returned to the WWE.
“I am incredibly grateful,” he said during a promo. “I’m really, really nervous to be here. I never thought this would happen. This right here, this is just me, OK? This is a version of me I never got to introduce to you guys before. This is just me being me — genuine me — for the first time.”
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Wyatt is survived by his fiancée Joseann Offerman, who was known as “JoJo” during her days with WWE. They have two children together, and Wyatt had two other children from a previous marriage with Samantha Rotunda.