When NXT announces a new, high-profile signing, management loves to have them sitting ringside during a TakeOver event. Kushida. Matt Riddle. Drew McIntyre. They all pulled the same move, as did Keith Lee. Fans in attendance wait for the moment when a newly-signed star appears on the screen, letting them know that where NXT is heading next. It’s kind of like a glimpse into the future.
But despite this intro, Keith Lee’s time in NXT has not gone as well as it should have.
Before his arrival, Keith carved out an incredible career for himself in the indie scene for 12 years. He wrestled for Evolve, Ring of Honor and more, winning championships in many of them. Signing with NXT seemed like the logical next step for one of the most impressive in ring talents and athletes in the business. He should have been a shoo-in for a championship feud, if not a full-on run. At least, that’s what fans would have thought.
Keith’s NXT run has, so far, not quite been what a performer of his talent deserves. Over the course of the first several months of his tenure, Keith’s TV appearances were sporadic at best. When he did appear on TV, he was putting over other talent all too often, which is part of the game.
While he did finally start receiving title shots at house shows, fans know those matches rarely end in titles changing hands. There’s not a lot of tension in championship matches at house shows. It’s only recently that he started getting title shots on TV in a three-way match for the North American Championship against Dominik Dijakovic and Roderick Strong.
It was over a year into his NXT tenure before that opportunity came along, which is a criminally long time for someone like Keith Lee. An injury in early 2019 did slow his progress down a bit, but that was only for a few weeks. He also had a series of matches with Dominik Dijakovic that should have built to something big. Again, that feud was put on hold thanks to an injury to Dijakovic, but Lee’s overall career seemed like it was also put on hold at the same time. Once Dijakovic was healed up, their feud resumed.
It also seemed as if stars like Matt Riddle and Kushida, who came along after Keith Lee, were getting more opportunities than him, probably because they were. Riddle was undoubtedly getting more TV time in very short order despite debuting after Lee. That being said, it’s important to note that both Riddle and Kushida are also extremely talented wrestlers who deserve every shot they’ve received. This isn’t about them. It’s about Keith Lee.
Like any other wrestling company, NXT superstars aim to perform their brand’s pay-per-views, something that Keith Lee hasn’t done yet. His only appearance to date on TakeOver was when they introduced him in the audience. The Dijakovic feud may have been leading to a TakeOver match but was cut short by injuries. The upcoming TakeOver that’s paired with Survivor Series puts Keith in his first TakeOver match as part of WarGames, which is one hell of a way to make a pay-per-view debut. This is a sign that the WWE might finally be taking Keith Lee seriously.
In addition to the North American Championship title shot and the upcoming TakeOver appearance, Lee played a sizable role in the NXT invasion of SmackDown alongside Matt Riddle. Fans in the audience responded with chants at their appearance, which was good to see and hear.
Fans have recognized his talent from moment one, even if management doesn’t quite get it.
The reality is that Keith Lee is one of the most impressive performers in the wrestling world, one that any promotion should be excited to have on board. Had AEW Dynamite been on the air when he was deciding to sign with NXT, you can bet they would have floated an offer his way, too. While this sounds a bit cliché, Lee is a super heavyweight who moves like a cruiserweight. The man is over six feet tall and over 300 pounds but he’s incredibly agile with the ability to hit killer moves off the top rope like a man half his size. On top of that, he has the power you’d expect from a man his size with a level of precision most people don’t see coming.
But what really sets him apart from other big men is his natural charisma, something most larger wrestlers lack. The man has a gravitas similar to The Rock that is simply undeniable. Fans enjoy Keith Lee in the ring, without question, on the mic and off the top rope.
At this point, it’s criminal that Keith hasn’t held any NXT gold. The in-ring partnership between Riddle and Lee could yield tag team gold if their feud with the Undisputed Era continues. The fear is that Keith will drift back into catering after the end of the next pay-per-view.
Hopefully, the WWE is smarter than that. Keith Lee’s potential is truly limitless.
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