WWE honored the lives of Bray Wyatt and Terry Funk with a moving tribute prior to its Friday Night SmackDown show after the wrestling icons both passed away this week.
Former WWE champion Wyatt, real name Windham Lawrence Rotunda, died at the age of 36 after reportedly suffering a heart attack, with Triple H announcing the tragic news on Thursday.
In light of the Fiend’s death, John Cena shared an emotional tribute to his on-screen rival and admitted: ‘Windham brought the best out of me in so many ways.’
His death came just one day after hardcore wrestling legend Funk passed at the age of 79, sparking tributes from the likes of Ric Flair, Mick Foley and Dustin Rhodes on social media.
‘WE JUST LOST A LEGEND,’ Foley wrote. ‘There will never be another like him.’
WWE paid tribute to Terry Funk (left) and Bray Wyatt (right) after the pair died this week
SmackDown commentator Michael Cole presented WWE’s tribute to the wrestling icons
The likes of Triple H observed a minute’s silence and the sport’s traditional 10-bell salute
Prior to SmackDown on Friday night, WWE paid tribute to both Wyatt and Funk by conducting a minute’s silence and its traditional 10-bell salute.
Commentator Michael Cole said: ‘Tonight on Friday Night Smackdown, we will honor their legacy and celebrate their lives. The lives of two incredible men who have touched all of us, with their passion, their creativity and their spirit.’
The likes of Triple H, Cody Rhodes, Bobby Lashley and Erick Rowan – who previously starred as the third member of WWE’s Wyatt family before being released by the organization – bowed their heads while remembering the pair.
SmackDown also held a separate tribute solely for Wyatt, who previously reigned as its Tag Team champion along with Luke Harper and Randy Orton under the Freebird Rule.
After showing a montage of his best moments in the WWE, cameras panned to an empty wooden chair he was renowned for sitting in, before fans broke out into a poignant rendition of his theme song: ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’.
Wyatt’s death was first announced in a post on X by WWE Chief Content Officer Triple H, who said: ‘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.’
The three-time WWE world champion, who leaves behind fiance JoJo Offerman, had not competed since his win over LA Knight in a Mountain Dew Pitch Black Match at the Royal Rumble back in January.
Reports had stated he was nearing a comeback after being cleared to return to the ring.
Wyatt had not been seen in WWE since the Royal Rumble in January in a match vs LA Knight
Reports earlier this month suggested he was nearing a comeback after battling health issues
Triple H broke the news of Wyatt’s tragic death on social media on Thursday night
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson led the tributes to the three-time WWE champion online
Although he had been medically cleared to wrestle again, WWE had been taking precautions to ensure his long-term health would be stable following the illness, which was believed to have been both career and life-threatening.
According to the report, the Florida-born star’s outlook had improved significantly, and the company was mapping out creative plans for the former WWE champion.
September had been pinpointed for a potential return, however nothing was set in stone officially.
According to reports from Fightful.com, Wyatt passed away after suffering a heart attack, having battled with health problems brought on by Covid-19 earlier this year.
Wrestling reporter Sean Ross Sapp posted on X: ‘I was given permission to reveal that earlier this year Windham Rotunda (Bray Wyatt) got COVID that exacerbated a 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.’
WWE legend turned Hollywood film star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson led the tributes to Wyatt on Thursday by posting online: ‘Im heartbroken over the news of Bray Wyatt’s passing. Always had tremendous respect and love for him and the Rotunda family. Loved his presence, promos, in ring work and connection with @wwe universe.
‘Very unique, cool and rare character, which is hard to create in our crazy world of pro wrestling. Still processing losing the goat, Terry Funk yesterday and now Bray today.’
Funk, widely considered the father of hardcore wrestling, died at the age of 79 one day earlier
Fellow wrestling star Ric Flair (left) broke the news of his passing online on Wednesday
‘My love, light, strength & mana to the Rotunda family and Funk family during this tough, heartbreaking time.
Funk, meanwhile, made his wrestling debut in 1965 and officially returned almost 53 years later.
Ric Flair broke the news of his passing this week on social media, posting: ‘In My Entire Life, I’ve Never Met A Guy Who Worked Harder.
‘Terry Funk Was A Great Wrestler, Entertainer, Unbelievably Fearless, And A Great Friend!
‘Rest In Peace My Friend Terry Funk Knowing That No One Will Ever Replace You In The World Of Professional Wrestling!’