Keith Lee openly admitted that he never thought WWE would ever give him a chance. After being rejected from the company three times, Lee worked as hard as he could, to prove why he deserved to be there. During his interview with Corey Graves on After The Bell, Lee states which wrestler helped him get recognized by the WWE and the long and winding road he had to face to finally be accepted there.
“About three years in (being a wrestler), some people know him as Lance Archer, some people know him as Lance Hoyt, was in the WWE and said to somebody that I should be one to look out for,” Lee informed. “Then, I got invited to do some work. In my case, I got thrown into a barricade by one Mr. Triple H and also got poked in the eye by Shane McMahon and punched in the face by Vince. That was my introduction to the bosses of today.
“At some point, I gained interest in that first meeting and ended up with my first try out. That was in 2008. I was turned down. In 2011, I did some extra work, and I got asked to come back for another tryout. I was also turned down. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do-wrestling wise going forward. In 2013, when the Performance Center first opened up in the fall, I was part of that first class. Then, I was turned down a third time, so, I wasn’t really sure if I was going to continue wrestling.
“Then, I had a conversation with Dusty Rhodes and William Regal and some brief words with Jim Ross. If I hadn’t spoken with those first two (Rhodes and Regal), I don’t think I would have continued wrestling. Eventually, I did enough good deeds and turned a few heads and shocked enough people, that eventually, they (WWE) came looking for me.”
After his official acceptance to the WWE, Lee was on the hunt to become the next top guy. He states in his interview that Rhodes and Regal words of advice helped him realize that all it took was for him to just be himself and that was how he was going to win others over in time.
“I think that conversation with Dusty and Regal was the point where I decided to just be myself,” Lee mentioned. “I spent a lot of time coming up in wrestling, trying to be what everyone thought that I should try to be in terms of what a ‘big guy’ should be. I’ve always been a very versatile athlete. I’ve never been stuck in one thing. I thought I should be in wrestling. A lot of other people didn’t think that. After that talk, I decided to just listen to myself and bet on myself. At the end of the day, it was the greatest decision I’ve ever made.”
As for what the future holds for Lee, he is focused on becoming the new NXT North American Champion. But, he isn’t going to shy away from any opportunity of going to the main roster if he is asked to do so, either.
“I don’t know what my future is in NXT right now,” Lee addressed. “I know I have an opportunity to earn my first piece of gold in the WWE, and that’s extremely important to me. I think it’s something that can be a defining moment in everything that I’ve said about myself, and proving it. My focus is there right now, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down any opportunity of going to other places, in terms of Raw or SmackDown. It’ll just depend on how, for lack of better terminology, how the cookie crumbles.”
After winning a fatal 4-way match last week on NXT, Lee may have to take a backseat on his title opportunity against Roderick Strong as he sustained a storyline injury at the hands of the Undisputed Era this past Wednesday.
You can listen to Keith Lee’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE’s After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.