I had started writing up a column on how wrestling needed to get to the new year after everything that had happened but it wasn’t exactly clicking. There was something else that I needed to talk about but I couldn’t figure out what it was. That happens every now and then and it can be a bit frustrating as you don’t know where to go with what you’re talking about that week. Then I watched this week’s edition of AEW Dynamite and it became about as clear as you can get.

This week’s edition of AEW Dynamite was a special tribute show to Brodie Lee, who passed away the day after Christmas at the age of 41 due to some kind of lung issue. There is no way to prepare for something like this and it is the kind of thing that you can’t plan for or expect to see coming. Lee last wrestled on the October 7 edition of Dynamite and then was not seen on the show again.

I’m never sure what to think of something like this and I’m not sure if anyone is. This is the kind of thing that comes out of absolutely nowhere because….well how could you ever expect it? Lee was a professional wrestler and athlete and you just don’t expect to hear about something like this. If nothing else, it tells you that there is no such thing as a guaranteed tomorrow. That’s a pretty sobering thought, but if nothing else, it should tell you to enjoy your time here, but more importantly your time with your loved ones.

Moving on from the philosophical stuff and getting back to the wrestling, I was never a huge Lee fan. I certainly didn’t dislike him or anything but he was just kind of there. During his time as Luke Harper, he seemed like someone who could do well as a monster enforcer, but I didn’t quite buy him as some kind of a main event star. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in the middle of the pack as a role player, but that’s about all I saw in Lee for most of his career.

His time in WWE did have some high points though, as he and Erick Rowan had some Tag Team Title runs and his time with the Wyatt Family was quite good. Lee was a heck of an enforcer for a monster like Wyatt and the disturbing debut when he wandered down the NXT ramp for the first time made you realize that they had found the perfect person to compliment Wyatt’s creepy look. You don’t get to see many instances where two people connect that perfectly but it worked so well with the two of them.

Lee also had a little singles success of his own, including a pretty lame (absolutely not his fault) Intercontinental Title reign and the tease of getting a WWE Title shot more than once. While his time in WWE did not end well, it was far from a failure as he fit the role of the monster enforcer rather well. Throw in a great big boot and (maybe) an even better discus lariat and he was the perfect person to stand in the way of some hero and Wyatt himself. That’s a great role to be in, but it was clear that there was more for Lee to do, which he never got to try in WWE.

Lee finally got his chance to be a big star in AEW and, after stopping the Vince McMahon stuff (because that needed to happen), he started to click a bit. Things still weren’t exactly working but then he annihilated Cody Rhodes to become the second TNT Champion. The match was a complete squash and THAT got my attention. Rhodes barely ever lost anything so to lose like that, even if it was just to go off and make the Go Big Show, it meant a lot to Lee’s career to have him win that way. You don’t see that kind of thing and for one of the first times, I saw the appeal.

What the win did was show the fans that there might be something to what Lee had been talking about. During his time in WWE, you would occasionally hear Lee talk about how he was capable of doing more and all that jazz. It would flare up occasionally, but Lee never got the chance in WWE. Now you hear a lot of wrestlers say this about their time in WWE, but how many actually get to showcase themselves later on? That’s a place where Lee stood out, and it was rather nice to see that someone wasn’t just full of themselves for once. He had a long way to go and got cut off early, but he used the chance that he was given.

This shows one important thing that a lot of people have known for a long time: there is a lot more to wrestling than what WWE presents. Yes they are the most powerful company in the industry, yes they dominate the wrestling world and yes they are a heck of a lot bigger than AEW, but that certainly does not make them geniuses of some kind (shocking indeed, I know).

Lee is a great example of what can happen when you tweak things a bit and give someone a chance. One of the biggest problems of modern WWE is they don’t let things change in the slightest. What you get is what you are and if it doesn’t work, that’s on you instead of WWE. It’s incredibly frustrating and one of the biggest things that WWE needs to change, mainly because you can see something like this (or Jon Moxley, Rhodes, or the rather long list of others who have not done well in WWE but jumped way up once they get away from the company).

In addition to all of the wrestling aspect of Lee’s career, the bigger, and much more important part, of his life has come out after his passing. There have been a lot of wrestlers to pass away over the years and several of them have gotten some form of tribute over the years. It is very rare to see someone receive the kind of tribute that Lee was given and it tells you a lot about what Lee did outside of the ring.

The overriding theme of the tributes that Lee has been given has been about how great of a family man and father he has been. As big of a career as Lee had in the ring, it pales in comparison to what he did outside of wrestling. I’ve seen a lot of tributes over the years and it is rare to see someone receive this kind of nearly universal praise. Lee comes off as nothing short of beloved, which isn’t a term that you get to see very often in wrestling, or anywhere for that matter.

You will often hear someone get some praise and maybe a story here or there with the wrestlers saying they will be missed. However, how often do you hear this kind of praise? How many wrestlers get a full edition of a television show dedicated to them? How many years has it been since WWE did such a thing? I know the Chris Benoit situation caused a few changes, but how many people would get this kind of treatment in WWE? Sure WWE did something for Lee (as they should have), but to dedicate an entire two hours to someone exclusively? That’s on another level and it seemed completely right in this case.

It goes to show you what kind of an impact a wrestler (or anyone for that matter) can make on a group of people and an industry as a whole. Lee did not have the biggest career ever or really anywhere close to it, but it is clear that he was a friend to a lot of people and someone people cared about in a lot of different ways. The tribute edition of Dynamite was one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time in wrestling and it was certainly an awesome thing to see. Yeah yeah yeah, it really was.

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!


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