What is Going On With Keith Lee?

12/24/2023 5:58 AM

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What is Going On With Keith Lee?

What is Going On With Keith Lee?

December 24, 2023 5:58 AM
What is Going On With Keith Lee?
AEW News

What happened to a man who once seemed destined to main event WrestleMania.

Keith Lee’s WWE and AEW careers have been a roller coaster ride. The veteran was once deemed a “future WrestleMania headliner” when he was officially called up to the main roster in late 2020. Unfortunately for Lee, his main roster run didn’t have the outcome many of us expected. He was eventually released following a short return as a repackaged character with Bearcat in the middle of his name. 

When he transitioned over to AEW, the outlook on his career seemed better. It didn’t take long for Lee to win championship gold. More importantly, the former WWE star showcased why he was such a hot commodity on the independent scene before his NXT run. Then he dropped the belts to The Acclaimed and his AEW run hasn’t been the same. Why does it seem that neither WWE or AEW know how to properly push the former PWG World Champion?

Keith Lee’s Incredible Rise In NXT

In 2017/2018, the former NXT Champion was one of the hottest prospects in the professional wrestling landscape. Given Lee’s size, strength, and explosive speed, it wasn’t a surprise that WWE snatched him up in 2018. But the company barely did anything with him in the first two years down in his developmental run. 

It wasn’t until Lee had an incredible showcase against Roman Reigns at Survivor Series 2019 that the WWE alumni was getting more television time down in the black-and-yellow brand. Things continued to look up when he won the NXT Championship while holding the North American title at the same time. 

His title reign was cut short when Lee was called up to the main roster, but even then, it appeared that WWE had plans for the former NXT star since his first feud was against Randy Orton. Lee beat Orton clean at Payback 2020. But he never got a true sustained push. That was due to suffering an undisclosed injury in February 2021. Lee was continuously hovering around the WWE and United States title scene before then, so it was clear that officials were high on the former NXT Champion.

But nothing was the same since the COVID-19 illness and their attempt to repackage him was an immediate failure. Lee didn’t need a new gimmick. The company could’ve simply given him another hot feud on his return and continued to bill from that momentum. Like they did with his huge win over Randy Orton a year prior. Lee’s release from the company was quite strange because he had so much potential, yet it appeared that Vince and WWE lost faith in him following his sudden illness.

Keith Lee’s Time In AEW Has Been Strange

As mentioned in the intro, Keith Lee still came in with some nice buzz and got a nice spotlight on him for a good while. Sure, it was weird that he was randomly partnered with Swerve Strickland, but their tag team worked because the two wrestlers had some good chemistry with one another. 

Plus, it was apparent that these two would end up feuding with one another once their partnership ended. When it did, it was an exciting development as Keith Lee vs. Swerve Strickland had money written all over it. Admittedly, the big breakup angle was somewhat silly, but it helped establish the two characters going forward. Then, nothing happened.

Keith Lee just disappeared. Again. It was first rumored to be due to selling the cinderblock angle, but Lee has been barely featured in 2023. However, it was also reported that he was dealing with a major illness. However, his match against Swerve never happened for some odd reason. They even re-teamed for a blind tag team tournament that seemed to further plant a match down the line. It seems that Tony Khan just lost interest in giving Lee a singles push as a star. It’s shocking that Swerve Strickland is the one from their group that’s on the verge of possibly winning the AEW World Championship.

The Issue With AEW

A big issue going on in AEW is that their roster is way too big and Tony Khan has yet to figure out how to use every member on it in a meaningful and organic manner. Lee should’ve been a main event star by now. Though there’s no denying that he’s slowing down recently. Still, the man is talented. This can all change in 2024, and his recent development on Collision is promising. We may finally get that match against Swerve, though it would be surprising if Lee won since Swerve is on a hot streak. However, he’s nowhere near the cusp of reaching his full potential on AEW television like his former tag partner. 

The exciting and dynamic wrestler who had fantastic matches with the likes of Donovan Dijak or even Roman Reigns has somehow fallen down the card for no clear reason. Whatever the case may be, hopefully, Lee finds his footing in AEW and finally gets more screen time on Dynamite and Collision. The fact that he hasn’t squared up against names like Kenny Omega, Claudio Castagnoli, or Jon Moxley is shocking. 

Lee isn’t the only one who isn’t being properly used in the company, but it’s such a strange case how the former NXT Champion was on top of the world in 2020. Less than three years later, Lee is a name that’s barely mentioned amongst fans or critics.