Erick Rowan Returns To WWE For Emotional Bray Wyatt Tribute

Tonight, WWE SmackDown opened with a large swath of the roster standing onstage, paying tribute to the late Bray Wyatt, real name Windham Rotunda, and Terry Funk with a 10-bell salute. Standing near the center of the stage, next to Triple H and Cody Rhodes, were Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman, Rotunda’s longtime Wyatt Family stablemates. Rowan was released by WWE in April 2020, while Strowman is currently dealing with an injury keeping him on the sidelines.

Following the 10-bell salute, an emotional video package played, highlighting Rotunda’s WWE career. The clips ranged from the early days of the Wyatt character in WWE NXT, all the way through the Firefly Fun House and Fiend eras, up until his final run onscreen starting last fall. Rotunda was taken off TV starting in February, with an illness being cited as the reason behind the scenes. The WWE star died yesterday morning due to a heart attack, with later reports indicating that Rotunda had experienced heart issues exacerbated by a COVID-19 infection.

Over the last day, following the news of Rotunda’s death, countless reactions from friends, co-workers, and fans have been expressed on social media. Those who knew Rotunda shared stories of his kindness, with a number of WWE performers recounting tales of the wrestler going back to his days in FCW, WWE’s developmental territory prior to NXT.

For years, Rotunda partnered with Rowan, Strowman, and Luke Harper as a group of swamp-dwelling, lantern-carrying cultists known as the Wyatt Family. The group’s feud against The Shield helped put both factions on the map, with their 2014 Elimination Chamber bout a career highlight for all involved.