As great as NXT is, it serves another purpose besides just being the third show on the WWE lineup. The show does air on USA in a prime time slow on a pretty big cable network, but at the end of the day, it is still the developmental brand. That means it is also designed to help people get ready for the main roster (a term which might need some adjusting), which can cause some strange results when the promotions actually take place. We saw a big one recently and it offers a look at the good and bad at the same time.
Back on the August 24 Monday Night Raw, Keith Lee made his full time main roster debut. It wasn’t something that had a lot of hype as Lee had lost the NXT Title on Saturday and his debut was announced the following night during Summerslam. Lee has since debuted, lost a match, won a match on a bigger stage and then took part in a #1 contenders match. That’s a lot to do in eight days and there is quite a bit to unpack from the whole thing, some of which is rather encouraging.
We’ll start with the debut, which could not have gone much worse. First of all, Lee’s entrance music was changed to a pretty generic rock song. Right away, one of the most unique parts of Lee’s entire presentation is gone, as Lee singing his own song about how great he is goes away. The whole point of Lee is that he is limitless and there is nothing he can’t do. Lee singing his own song is a rather cocky way to present him, but it really does fir the overall package.
Nice to meet you:
If you have him coming up, why did WWE not have a new song ready for him? You can’t find SOMEONE who can do a song for someone who looks like him? I know there are situations involving the CFO$ deal, but it makes it seem like the idea of promoting Lee was made at the last second. Sure that is likely the case, but can we make it seem like it wasn’t? You really can’t have something better than Generic Rock #17?
After speaking with Randy Orton (we’ll get back to that), Lee faced him in a match and we found out that his was changed. I’m sure you’ve heard a description of the gear, which I’ve heard as a cross between a skirt and a woman’s tennis outfit. I know Lee doesn’t have the most sculpted physique, but it wasn’t like he was some horrible looking disaster when he was wrestling in the shorts that he wore in NXT. This has since been changed to a sleeveless shirt with the old school shorts, but it was hardly a great first impression. Lee is a big guy, but he is hardly a big fat tub of goo. Go with what has worked before and it can again.
As for the match itself, Lee lost when Drew McIntyre interfered and this is where I get even more confused. It lasted less than five minutes and was there to keep a show long story moving (because McIntyre calling Orton out, getting Punted twice, attacking Orton and then getting Punted again is now one night’s worth of plot details), but you could have done the exact same thing without having a match take place. That was Lee’s debut: a 4:47 loss to Orton which was more about McIntyre. Why even have the bell ring when McIntyre could have run out and attacked Orton just the same?
As good as he has been in the ring, Lee has a rather unique way of speaking. You don’t often see everyone come to the ring and say “greetings and salutations” but Lee managed to make it work. The more I think about it, the more I can see a Bruce Banner/ Incredible Hulk idea to Lee, where he can speak like an intellectual and then go nuts when he is forced to get serious.
Lee can smash too:
That is a unique way of going about doing things and I’m not sure what to think of it just yet. Lee’s speaking is rather different, but then you see something go down that makes you see the monster within. You don’t get someone with that kind of physical intensity very often and if you can make it seem like a special attraction (ala Bray Wyatt and the Fiend), it feels like something fans will want to see rather than something you see every week and get tired of in a hurry. I’m not sure if that what Lee is going for, but it could be an interesting path to take.
Now all that being said, there have been some very good things about Lee’s time on the main roster as well. We’ll start with the obvious: Lee is on the main roster. There are some people who are going to be major deals almost no matter what and Lee is near the top of WWE’s current list. You don’t see someone with that kind of incredible athleticism every and WWE has clearly shown a high level of interest in Lee before. In the last year, Lee has pinned Seth Rollins at Survivor Series, gave Brock Lesnar a fight in the Royal Rumble and won the NXT Title. If you didn’t realize that he was main roster bound, you weren’t paying attention.
So now Lee is here, but what did he do upon his arrival? Well that would be pin Orton clean on pay per view in less than seven minutes. The best description I have seen of the ending said that Orton was looking around for the license number of the truck that hit him and that is a great way to make Lee look like a star. Just looking at Lee you can see the obvious physical gifts, so having him use those talents to run through someone like Orton (who can bounce back from anything) was a good idea.
The big sign that this was working? The night after Payback, Lee was involved in a triple threat match for a shot at the WWE Championship at Clash Of Champions. While Orton was about the most obvious choice ever for the win, there was a slight feeling that Lee could win the match and it didn’t seem insane. He was in there against Orton and Seth Rollins in his fourth match on the main roster and it did not feel completely out of place.
That is about as impressive as you can get and all the proof that you need that Lee is someone WWE is taking seriously. They have managed to get things right enough that having him beat a pair of Hall of Famers a week after he debuted (one of which would be for the second time) is not completely out of the question. Lee has arrived and he has arrived in a big way.
I’d believe it:
I’m not sure what is next for Lee, but what matters is the way he has hit the ground running. Yes he tripped at the start a little bit, but given how badly WWE has handled some of the other callups to the main roster (where do you even begin), having one not so great start and then moving on to what he has done since is not a bad result at all. Lee could go in a lot of directions, but he certainly seems to be up there in the upper midcard/main event scene for the time being, which is not too bad for someone who just came up to the main roster less than two weeks ago.
Lee is someone who could be a big part of WWE for a long time to come because you don’t find someone with that kind of natural ability, both on the microphone and in the ring, every day. WWE seems to understand what they have with him and if they play their cards right, we could be seeing Lee as a main eventer in the near and distant future. I don’t know how far he is going to be able to go, but it is easy to see why people seem to think his potential is limitless.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books. Get the latest and greatest in professional wrestling news by signing up for our daily email newsletter. Just look below for “GET EXCLUSIVE UPDATES” to sign up. Thank you for reading!