He was just 36, preparing to come back to WWE after a “life-threatening illness”, so it came as a shock to sports fans to find out about Bray Wyatt’s cause of death.

Born May 23, 1987, Wyatt—whose real name is Windham Lawrence Rotunda—was known for his unique and mysterious persona and his ability to captivate audiences with his storytelling and psychological elements in his wrestling character.

His wrestling legacy stretches back three generations, firmly rooted in the family tradition. Carrying the torch passed down by his grandfather, the esteemed Blackjack Mulligan, his father, the accomplished Mike Rotunda, and even two uncles by the names of Barry and Kendall Windham, it seemed Wyatt was born for the ring. Venturing beyond the developmental stage, Wyatt made a brief but impactful appearance on WWE‘s main roster from 2010 to 2011, adopting the persona Husky Harris. Notably, this stint saw him aligning with The Nexus.

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Following a hiatus that spanned from August 2018 to April 2019, Wyatt made his return, bringing along an entirely fresh persona—two, rather—oscillating between two distinct characters. On one hand, there was the “good side” embodied by Bray Wyatt, reminiscent of the friendly and welcoming demeanor of Mr. Rogers from children’s television. On the flip side, there lurked The Fiend, a nightmarish figure exuding horror-themed vibes, akin to a monstrous and enigmatic clown.

But Wyatt disappeared from the WWE programming in early 2023 amid a WrestleMania 39 feud with Bobby Lashley, in addition to overcoming a “life-threatening illness” that was not disclosed. On August 24, 2023, it was reported the polarizing wrestling figure had died at 36. Here’s what we know about Bray Wyatt’s cause of death.

Bray Wyatt’s cause of death

Bray Wyatt’s cause of death was reportedly a heart attack. “I was given permission to reveal that earlier this year Windham Rotunda (Bray Wyatt) got COVID and it exacerbated his heart issues. There was a lot of positive progress towards a return and his recovery. Unfortunately today he suffered a heart attack and passed away,” Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp tweeted. “I encourage those reading to respect the family’s privacy if at all possible, but his loved ones wanted some details clarified,” he added beneath.

Bray Wyatt enters the arena to fight in the pitch-black event during the WWE Royal Rumble. Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

On August 24, 2023, WWE Chief Content Officer Paul “Triple H” Levesque announced Wyatt’s passing on Twitter. “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. Our thoughts are with his family and we ask that everyone respect their privacy at this time,” he wrote.

Paul Wight, also known as The Big Show, gave a touching tribute to his prematurely fallen comrade. “It hasn’t set in yet. I’ll be honest, it really hasn’t set in,” Wight told Denise Salcedo. 

“Bray was an incredible talent, just an incredible human. The thing that I remember the most, will remember the most, is just every time he saw me; it was a big hug, and a big smile, and that laugh and just the positive energy that he had that he created around him was so special and so unique.”

He continued: ‘Obviously, it doesn’t feel real right now. I mean, it just happened. It doesn’t feel real. Unfortunately, I’ve been in this business for quite a while and lost a lot of really, really good friends. And it’s just gonna take a little bit of time. I think I’ll compartmentalize and dive into work and probably adjust all this when I get back home. Just your heart really dies for his family, his girls… It’s painful.”

Fellow WWE star-turned-actor John Cena also paid his respects. “Devastated by the news of the passing of Windham Rotunda. My heart goes out to the entire Rotunda family. Windham brought the best out of me in so many ways. I’m forever grateful for the moments we shared. A sad day for all those he reached around the world. RIP,” he tweeted.

Earlier in August, it was reported that Wyatt was preparing to make his WWE return. “Wyatt is inching closer to being medically cleared to wrestle, but WWE is taking precautions to make sure that his long-term health will be stable following the illness, which they’ve learned was at one point both career and life-threatening,” per WrestlingInc.

John Cena. Photo by KMazur/WireImage

“Wyatt’s outlook is said to have improved significantly since then. Not only is Wyatt getting closer to being cleared, but creative plans have begun to be pitched for the former WWE Champion, with September mentioned as a possible return.”

In what would be Wyatt’s second last Instagram post, shared on December 22, 2023, the wrestler detailed almost losing his uncle to a similar fate. “Normally I keep a lot of my outside life separate from anything that I do on here in the ring. I just wanted to let everyone know that I’m incredibly thankful for the support and the love that I’ve received since I’ve been back and throughout my career,” he said.

“When I was a kid, I looked at my dad, my uncles and my grandfather who are all professional wrestlers, as if they were Greek gods or something, like they couldn’t feel pain, they were immortal. … as we get older, you start to understand that that’s just not the case, nothing is forever. This week, my uncle Barry Windham had a massive, heart failure in Atlanta. He went down. And he didn’t have a pulse for 10 to 20 minutes.”

Wyatt went on to thank a random stranger who performed CPR on his uncle until EMTs arrived. “He’s the reason that we have Barry. He’s still alive, he’s with us,” Wyatt continued, with a final message to his fans. “Everyone out there that’s hearing this, I hope you take this from me: Be good to the ones you love. Always. Remind them about that how much they mean to you because Nothing is forever.”

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