Hernando County wrestling fans are recovering from the surprise announcement Saturday the WWE is parting ways with one of its biggest draws over the last decade, Brooksville-born Bray Wyatt.
“WWE has come to terms with the release of Bray Wyatt,” the organization stated on its official website. “We wish him the best in all his future endeavors.” Wyatt last appeared in the ring in an April episode of Raw after Wrestlemania 37, during which Wyatt was defeated by Randy Orton and lost the support of ally Alexa Bliss.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reported Wyatt was released due to budget cuts; his salary in 2018 was estimated at roughly $1 million, and in 2019 he reportedly became the biggest seller of merchandise in the company. Several sources reported WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitus phoned Wyatt and told him the move was due to budget cuts.
Meltzer stated Wyatt has been training in preparation for a return to the mat this month, but the Internet was buzzing with other possible reasons for his release. They include health issues, which explained his layoff, creative differences regarding his characters and not getting along with WWE chairman Vince McMahon.
The 34-year-old Wyatt, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 285 pounds, was one of the WWE’s most popular villains at one time.
Wyatt (real name Windham Lawrence Rotunda) is a third-generation performer, the son of retired wrestler Mike Rotunda and grandson to Blackjack Mulligan. He is the nephew of wrestlers Barry and Kendall Windham. He made his wrestling debut in 2009 after signing a developmental contract with the WWE; after first appearing as Alex Rotundo and then Husky Harris in 2010 he became the leader of the Wyatt family on Raw in 2013 along with Erick Rowan, Braun Strowman and the late Luke Harper. The WWE released Strowman in June and Rowan in 2020.
Wyatt’s trophy case includes winning the WWE Championship, the Universal Belt twice and both the Raw and SmackDown Tag Team titles. Along the way his featured characters included the Fiend and the host of Firefly Fun House
The news brought protests from both fans and wrestling sponsors who are concerned the company has cut some of its biggest attractions in the past five months. During Monday Night Raw, Chicago spectators broke into a chant of “We want Wyatt!”
The ongoing cost reductions doesn’t mean the WWE is in trouble. It has been reporting record profits this year, much of it due to billion-dollar television deals it carries with Fox and NBC Universal.