Keith Lee has recalled how he rubbed people up the wrong way while in WWE, explaining how this caused issues for him within the company.
On February 9th, Keith Lee made his debut on AEW Dynamite after being released by WWE back in November. At the time, Lee’s release caused much consternation among sections of WWE’s fanbase with many believing that he should have been given the opportunity to climb to the top of the company.
Speaking on a recent episode of Talk Is Jericho, with fellow AEW star Chris Jericho, Lee opened up about his three years with WWE.
The former NXT Champion explained that he felt his personality rubbed some people up the wrong way as he was not what they expected him to be.
“I think that my personality is something that kind of threw people off at first. Because I am very to myself and I am very laid back,” he said. “I don’t really seem like what I exude out there, and I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay to turn it on when it’s time to turn on. But that apparently rubbed some people up the wrong way when I got there. You know I wasn’t, ‘hey, hey, how you doing?’ I will shake hands and go about my business, that’s as much as I feel like is needed. But some people took that as maybe disrespect.”
However, Lee revealed that a conversation with Triple H helped change his fortunes, adding that he felt the “handcuffs were off” after the meeting.
“I was just kind of sitting around,” he said. “Until one day, I had a conversation with Hunter, and he wanted things. I told him, ‘I think there’s maybe a difference of understanding, or people don’t trust me here or what have you. But it’s hard for me to do the things you’re asking because I am being asked to do these other things and there are issues.’ After that conversation, it’s like, ‘listen, handcuffs are off, just be you.’”
Despite this, there were more issues on the horizon. Lee confirmed that he was asked to tone down his in-ring style and perform less athletic moves. Reflecting on the change, he said he believes it was a test to see if he would follow instructions.
“Yeah, and I am 100 percent certain it was some sort of an attempt at a test or such,” he said on being asked to cut down the agility. “Like, ‘I wonder if he will listen to what we say?’ Guys, it doesn’t have to be this complicated, but so it was. And I think there was a test to see if I was trustworthy or what have you.
“So yeah, I stripped everything. Even when I came back for the Bearcat thing, it was similar when I came back. Where the double chop I’ve been known for, they snatched that. They didn’t want me looking at the crowd at all. It’s really hard to say, but I don’t know why these things were a thing.”
The former NXT star claimed that he also drew the ire of some backstage for how he talked to fellow performers during his matches. Lee said that he only spoke to his opponents to help them avoid getting hurt.
“If I need to give directions in the ring because some people get lost, let’s be honest. And sometimes, we ourselves do, ” he added. “We may need to talk to a ref, we may need to talk to an opponent. If I helped them deliver directions, that was a problem. If I took a moment to communicate what was necessary so I didn’t have to ragdoll these people, that’s an easy way for someone to get hurt.
“I understand, I have learned it with my time being there with some of the biggest guys on the planet, obviously, that locker room size is much different than here. But even amongst that, I am abnormal. I figured it out. Me just selfishly doing whatever I want to do in the ring is a sure-fire way for someone to get hurt. That is not a goal of mine, that is not a legacy I want to leave. So I tried to make sure they know what was coming and that was an issue.”
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. Keith Lee was released by WWE on November 4th.
H/t to Wrestling Inc for the transcription.