I’ve had a rough time gathering my thoughts for this in the past few months. I keep thinking about what Bray Wyatt would be doing as the wacky environment of WWE continuously changes. I keep thinking of Windham Rotunda’s friends on the road, reminiscing the memories they made with him. I keep thinking about Jojo and the kids, seeing the gap of Christmas presents missing because someone is missing.
Months later, it still doesn’t feel real. I’m still waiting to hear the static of the arena flicker to deep obsidian to be lit by fireflies. I’m still waiting to hear that eerie signature laugh. I’m still waiting to hear the welcoming, yet uncanny Firefly Funhouse theme. Unfortunately, we’re not going to get that. All that is left is an empty rocking chair.
December 6, 2023 – the date that Windham Rotunda and Jojo Offerman were to have been wed. These amazing souls had a life planned together but life is never that easy. Nothing is that easy. Anything can be taken at a moment’s notice, and there is not much we can do about it except enjoy the good times while they last and accept these darker moments that remind us we are lucky to have felt at all. As I add this bit in after a couple of rough drafts, this hits hard.
But beyond this, I refuse to let this article be a heartbreaking accord of the inevitable nature of death and how it comes for us all; this is a celebration of a man who made us outsiders feel we belong.
Oftentimes, I’m someone who doesn’t feel comfortable being in a crowd. I don’t want to feel like a “part of something”. Contradictorily, however, I simultaneously do want that. And in being a Firefly, I take solace in knowing that I’m not the only one who would take the time to light up the sky. Through candlelight and phone light, we are interconnected, even now on nights when the buzzards don’t fly for him.
When I was jaded and watching wrestling very intermittently, there were a few wrestlers who caught my eye: Dean Ambrose, AJ Lee, CM Punk, Paige, New Day, and the many Attitude Era legends I loved growing up. In the midst of that, the Wyatt Family haunted it and I was hooked. With Bray, something uncannily familiar yet original was apparent. Inspired by the likes of Jake Roberts, Raven, and Undertaker, the mood was set – but Bray did enough to set himself apart.
A cult-like group such as the Wyatt Family should not have worked. Not with the creativity involved. Yet it did. With the menace of Erik Rowan and the late Luke Harper coupled with Bray’s promos, the ingredients were there to make something surreal. To have this team go against WWE’s then-golden boys The Shield in that unforgettable Elimination Chamber 2014 match and have it feel like interpromotional warfare of two teams built for something special, this was meant to be. Hell, I’d even include their feud with The New Day as another great bit of storytelling. Even the company saw it, how these stars did shine.
Enough, and yet not enough can be said for how Bray carried his voice. Delivering promos like a Southern Baptist preacher, he had a way to dig right into anyone’s soul. Whether it was Ms. Teacher Lady or Sister Abigail he was talking about, you were in the palm of his hands.
By character, aura, and voice, he carried his feuds with the poetry he was capable of, boosted by peers and contemporaries who would bust their ass to help see that vision through. And when the powers that be would intervene, they’d do their best to work around it.
When left untethered though, creative gold could be mined. It may not have been a hit every time, but when he could, Bray would draw you into his horror show. In these stories, there was a litany of pain and wounds that grew with time rather than healing.
Such wounds can be seen bleeding in a Wyatt Family promo or Firefly Funhouse segment, most notably in the Firefly Funhouse Match with John Cena with layers upon layers of meaning. The wasted years of body shaming and creative rejection and sitting in catering could be felt in every layer. Those moments were of a man, an artist in a struggle against a machine not made for their brush. It may not have been for everyone and not everyone was meant to understand, but they were never his target audience. This was someone tying his pain to that of niche fans.
In such pain, these things bind those who soak in the art. When you hear your favorite song as your singer strains against the emotions, you feel it. When a poem’s verse hits you a little too hard as the emotions are too well-described, you feel it. Even when he was at his silliest, there was the hurt in Bray. And it could be felt.
As someone who grew up an outcast, I relate to Bray. I was a lonely kid, misunderstood. Ignored, brushed aside, and treated like I had the IQ of a Goldfish Cracker, only to prove them all wrong later in life. Watching Bray during this process in my adulthood was cathartic.
There is no reason people who have so much positivity to offer should be shunned, only celebrated when the successes or tragedies become too big.
Where were you when we needed you? Why were we not good enough before? Why can’t you just accept us?
That was what he brought. That’s a connection that can’t be replicated. It’s a reminder even when the lies of shadows are at our tallest and none stand in the presence of shallow existence, we are not alone. Not really.
For those who connected with Bray for those reasons, let me tell you something: They can’t break you. They can bring you as low as they can, but you will get back up again and stand tall, defiant, and individual. Inside you exist worlds and dreams that cannot be crushed, not so long as you hold out your hand. Because the world wasn’t just in his hand. It’s also in yours.
Bray serves as a testament that what we do in the now, who we are kind to, how we express ourselves, it does matter. On the surface, we may be ants on a rock hurtling towards an inferno star, cremated in holy unison. But what is put out into the universe outlasts that and becomes immortal.
Windham Rotunda may not be with us physically, but everything he accomplished will be with us. His performances and creativity are in the airwaves, broadcast forever from place to place and he exists everywhere in our memories.
When Swerve Strickland traded blood for blood against Adam Page at AEW’s Full Gear, The Fiend was in the seams of the Mogul’s gear. When LA Knight referred to his time with Bray during his feud with the Miz this year, Bray was in those glassy, heartbroken eyes.
Grief is a rough song to listen to. Whether it’s a job loss, a broken relationship, or a death, it grips you by the neck when you least expect it. It’s a reminder that these things may not come back. But in that grief, there is love. Those wrestlers who traveled with him across the world will not hear his laugh, but they will feel it. Jojo and the kids won’t have his loving embrace in person but they’ll feel it. They were loved. The way they revere the man he was serves as a reminder of the man behind the gimmick.
Like him, you are good. Like him, you matter. Don’t believe me? Start walking. You’ll step farther than you’ll know; you’ll affect more than you’ll know. Once you gain enough momentum, take that speed and follow his words, the words of the buzzard: