WWE Smackdown: RIP Bray Wyatt and Terry Funk



WWE Smackdown: RIP Bray Wyatt and Terry Funk

It was a somber start to WWE SmackDown, live from KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky following the loss of two icons: Terry Funk—who passed Wednesday, the 23rd —as well as the untimely loss of Windham Lawrence Rotunda, better known as his ring persona(s) Bray Wyatt and The Fiend.

The 34th episode of the 25th season of WWE’s “Blue Brand” began in a similar fashion to some of the dedication shows WWE has staged in the past following the untimely deaths of superstars like Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero.

Michael Cole on Wwe Smackdown

The company did the memory of Rotunda justice

The show opened with SmackDown commentator Michael Cole on the mic speaking to the live crowd, and us at home, to declare the Friday show in dedication to our recently lost legends complete with a 10-bell salute.

WWE Smackdown Roster Salutes Departed

The entire roster was out on stage, some noticeably teary-eyed as fans in attendance broke out into an acapella version of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”—a song used by the Wyatt Family in promos (Bray’s faction that included names like Bryan Danielson, Erick Rowan, Luke Harper, and Bron Stroman).

Throughout tonight’s episode, we would get video packages highlighting the amazing careers of Funk and Wyatt peppered around heartfelt messages from WWE superstars past and present posted earlier on social media.

The pain from fans and wrestlers alike was obvious, but the show still managed to further storylines leading to next Saturday’s premium live event—Payback—and it was even better considering the creative managed to achieve this with little nods to Funk and Wyatt throughout the various segments.

There was some great action tonight, but the mic work stole the show as Cody Rhodes and LA Knight both delivered heartfelt promos with Funk and Wyatt as themes within their overall narrative.

RIP Terry Funk

The Funker, RIP

Cody, the son of legendary performer Dusty Rhodes, has always had a respect for “old-school” wrestling, and Funk epitomized the very best of the “old school.”

He told a story of an interaction between his father and Funk, but it was all leading to his announcement that The Street Profits and Brawling Brutes tag match scheduled for the show would be fought under “Terry Funk Hardcore” rules.

This was a nice touch, and I think WWE would serve itself best if they utilized legends' names to signify matches that they made special.

Like the Andre The Giant Battle Royal that has become a WrestleMania staple, giving stipulation matches a connection with past legends ensures that future generations recognize those that paved the way— “Yokozuna Body Slam Match” anyone?

The Street Profits defeated the Brawling Brutes, but the match did not really hit the level of hardcore, specifically to the level for which Funk was known to deliver.

Still, the match was action-packed and there was a beautiful moment where Ridge Holland put Butch on his shoulders and used him as a battering ram—a moment that was a callback to Funk using a ladder in ECW.

Bray Wyatt’s night

Co-United States Champion Rey Mysterio defeated Grayson Waller in the WWE Smackdown opener, despite former U.S. champion Austin Theory’s attempts to interfere in the match with a save from Santos Escobar.

The U.S. title picture is a bit messy with Rey and Escobar both sharing glory, and a possible heel turn could be looming.

However, before that, we could see a tag match involving the LWO vs. Theory and Waller.

Iyo Sky and Zelina Vega represented the only action from the female locker room, but it was an exciting match as Vega came in with the momentum of pinning current women’s champ Sky twice in the past month.

But with the title on the line, Sky stepped up and was able to retain heading into Payback next week.

While Vega could not get the job done with the gold on the line, she had a tremendous showing in a losing effort as she continued to raise her profile in 2023.

The main event was put together with paying tribute to Bray Wyatt in mind as LA Knight, the very last superstar Wyatt shared the ring within January’s Royal Rumble (a match I was privileged to see live) against Finn Balor, a superstar, like Wyatt, who has his own secondary character “The Demon.”

The Deamon and The Fiend never had the dream match we all wanted, though they got close before the injury bug struck.

Before the start of the match, Knight, currently one of WWE’s hottest acts, cut a promo on his Payback opponent, The Miz, and referenced his time in the ring with Wyatt.
LA Knight

Knight (above) even ended his promo in the same fashion as Wyatt used to during his Wyatt Family gimmick—telling Miz simply: “RUN.”

Knight and Balor put on a great show, but in the end, Knight would get the clean pin on a superstar who has had a run of misfortune lately.

The momentum of Knight continues to roll, and the fans are fully behind him.

A win over The Miz on a premium live event could catapult him to even higher heights.

Overall, it was a well-executed dedication show.

There were moments that were tough to hold back tears and the video packages were designed to give you the chills as we honored giants in our sport.

Funk revolutionized wrestling globally and he is one of the few “old school” guys that was able to stay relevant throughout several different eras.

He managed to do that because he was always authentic in his performances, and he gave everything to the fans.

When he went to Japan and gained an even bigger audience, he used wrestling as the language for which he communicated with fans.

And today, there are no words to communicate his impact on the sport and fans.

Bray Wyatt will go down as a creative genius.

He was able to tap into the fears and anxieties of his opponents and fans.

In the twenty-first century, wrestlers have been left without the veil that distorted the lines of what was “real” and what wasn’t, but Wyatt managed to blur the lines once again for fans. He made wrestling cool and unpredictable.

Both men’s impact on the sport will be felt for generations to come.

For the staff at NYFights, our hearts go out to the families of these incredible athletes and artists in the ring.