The entire wrestling world is still in shock following the sudden and unexpected passing of Windham Rotunda, known by his in-ring persona, Bray Wyatt. The WWE superstar passed the day before SmackDown, a live show where the WWE rarely halts its plans. There are rumors, however, that in the wake of this massive tragedy, the company is switching up how tonight's event will play out, and lots of suggestions are floating around.
While the WWE has said goodbye to quite a few memorable superstars in 2023, this will be the first death of a major member of the active roster in quite some time. Bray Wyatt was reportedly returning to the WWE, and his father, Mike Rotunda, spoke about his progress only a week and a half ago. Wrestling site Xero News reported a rumor that currently, all plans for SmackDown have been "scrapped":
Tomorrow is going to be tough. Everything is scrapped. All meetings are off till further notice. Everything being focused for Windham’s family. #BWEAugust 25, 2023
By "scrapped," it's not entirely clear what that means. The show might be canceled, given the vast amount of main-roster talent who worked with Bray Wyatt over the years and expected to see him return soon. It's possible that many of them won't feel like performing and instead wish to honor the legacy of a fallen star who left entirely too soon. As such, a tribute show feels wholly appropriate:
Tomorrow’s #SmackDown should not be anything but a full on Bray Wyatt tribute show.A full 2 hour episode tribute show to celebrate a legend.To celebrate one of the most gifted minds ever. pic.twitter.com/EHPCSGvAZdAugust 25, 2023
Bray Wyatt died at 36, yet there is no shortage of great matches for the WWE to highlight. Those with a Peacock Premium subscription could easily search out a number of them, though in light of the circumstances, it would be acceptable for the WWE to run some of his most memorable matches and moments:
I really hope this week’s SmackDown becomes a tribute show to Bray Wyatt. Someone who put himself through a lot for our entertainment. Can’t imagine how all his coworkers feel right now. My heart goes out to all of you who knew him.August 24, 2023
A tribute show of that nature would likely require SmackDown to refund its ticketholders for tonight's event, so it's possible a tribute show could be a mixture of memorable moments paired with in-ring tributes from those who knew him best.
Bray Wyatt was one of WWE's top heels for a long time and had no shortage of fans who were captivated by his presence. At the same time, Wyatt was a relatively private figure who rarely let his actual real life shine in the public eye. It would be great to hear from fellow superstars more about Windham Rotunda, in the same way John Cena memorialized the wrestler after he learned the news:
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.August 25, 2023
Another likely scenario is that SmackDown might consist of a hybrid variety of tributes to Bray Wyatt and his legacy, with clips and wrestlers performing in his honor. No doubt there will be "fireflies" seen in the crowd throughout the evening, as well as group chants of "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands." I have no idea what to expect, though many can assume it will be a heavy episode for all involved:
Gonna be an emotional night of television for sure. #SmackDownAugust 25, 2023
It wouldn't be surprising if the WWE continues to honor Bray Wyatt in some way beyond a tribute show on SmackDown. The 36-year-old superstar was beloved by many and even had a warm moment where The Undertaker passed the torch to him earlier this year, seemingly making him the new "boogeyman" of the company. There's plenty to celebrate about Wyatt's legacy in his tenure in the WWE, but there's definitely a lot of talk now and in the years to come about what could have been.
SmackDown airs on Fox on Fridays at 8:00 p.m. ET. As of writing, the show is still scheduled to air, but it will be interesting to see what the WWE announces and how Bray Wyatt will be honored at upcoming WWE events.