Keith Lee has opened up about his reaction to being given the controversial ‘Bearcat’ name during his time with WWE.
Keith Lee signed with WWE in May 2018, where he immediately headed to NXT. During his two-year stint on the black and gold brand, Lee captured both the North American and NXT Championships.
The former Ring of Honor star then moved up to the main roster in the summer of 2020, and was immediately thrown into a high profile match with Randy Orton. Lee remained in and around the top of the card over the next few months. However, his momentum was brought to a shuddering halt in early 2021 after he tested positive for COVID-19. It was later discovered that the former NXT star was also dealing with a heart issue.
Lee returned to action in July, squaring off against WWE Champion Bobby Lashley on Monday Night Raw. Over the following months, Lee became known as Keith “Bearcat” Lee, a tribute to Bearcat Wright.
The name and gimmick change didn’t go down well with a number of fans, who saw no need for the star to be repackaged.
Speaking in a new interview with Chris Mueller of Bleacher Report, Lee opened up about being handed the new gimmick. When asked about his reaction to being given the name, he said he went along with it because it was his job, although he may handle the situation different today.
“I don’t really think I had [a reaction],” Lee said. “At the end of the day, it was something that was brought up while I was out doing the dance with lady death situation. And I didn’t think much of it, obviously.
“And then when I came back, it was something that [WWE management] really wanted, and they pulled me into an office and asked me to do it. And that was my job. So I said ‘OK,’ and that was kind of it. Was I fond of it? No. But you got to do what you’re asked to do at the end of the day.
“But I think that in my time there, what I learned is sometimes loyalty just doesn’t really do that much for you [laughs]. So while I was OK then, I think that if I was asked to do something that I didn’t agree with, from here on, it would not just be an ‘OK,’ but more of a ‘hell-to-the-no.'”
Despite the new gimmick, Keith Lee was released by WWE on November 4th 2021. After the expiry of his non-compete clause, Lee made his debut with AEW on February 9th, winning his way into the Face of the Revolution Ladder Match at Revolution on March 6th.