Back in 2008, Keith Lee portrayed his first role in WWE as a bodyguard, whose job was to keep Triple H, Vince and Shane McMahon off of Legacy (Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase). Lee was almost in tears of laughter when reciting the story to Lilian Garcia on Chasing Glory.
"So 2008, - he'll never take credit for this - a gentleman by the name of Lance Hoyt [Lance Archer] got me some extra work [in the WWE], which led to my first tryout," Lee began. "From there on, they just used me whenever they came around to Texas. That particular day, it was interesting. I was obviously chosen because I looked like I could be a security guard. I really think that I got a joke played on me. Vince looked very confused when he came out because someone told me that it would be great if I went do as soon as Vince hit me. I'm like, 'Yeah, for sure. I'm going to make him really proud.'
"Lo and behold, they come out, Vince jaws me right in the mouth. I go down, then I look up, and see him start beating up on somebody else. Me going down surprised them because I was the biggest one there. So, all these guys are getting beat up, and I eventually stand up. Triple H has me in a grip. Vince is taking body shots on me. Shane comes over and tries to grab my head, but instead thumbs me right in the eye. Now, I can't see anything. Then, Triple H takes me and runs me towards the barricade. I can't see what's happening. I can't see anything - my ribs hurt. [Backstage] they told me, 'Great job!'"
Time and time again, Lee found himself wondering what was it that he wasn't bringing to the table that caused him to be rejected three times by the WWE after his tryouts. After receiving some advice from William Regal, Dusty Rhodes and Jim Ross, Lee was inspired to fight the good fight, and keep trying to become the next big WWE Superstar.
"I had a talk with William Regal, Dusty Rhodes and Jim Ross and that kept me afloat," Lee stated. "It lite a fire under my bum. It was maybe my second tryout, or the first one. One of those tryouts I spent a lot of time with Dusty Rhodes. He told me how terrible I was. From my posture to my confidence, to my projection, all of those things were horrible. In this tryout, he let me know how much I had improved, and how my presence was completely different from anything he had seen from me previously. This is exactly where the bask in my glory was created. He said that I had a presence that he could literally bask in. It was something that meant a lot to me because it was part of my personal growth.
"William Regal has always been kind of an advocate for me. He always believed in what I'm capable of bringing to the table, and he just reaffirmed that. Jim Ross told me that he believes in me 100 percent and that I'm a million-dollar talent. He said it wasn't up to him, but he hoped that someone would see the light one day."
In between his tryouts, Lee tried to find his footing in the business, by promoting himself in the indies. After wrestling Erik from the Viking Raiders, things began to change for the better, and shot at a big promotion outside of WWE was in the works.
"I met Erik from the War Raiders - excuse me, Viking Raiders," Lee corrected himself. "I ended up having a match with him in Houston, Texas. After that match, he told me that I needed to meet some people. At that time, he was working for Ring of Honor. I came, and I showed up to every show in a suit. I meet these people and I heard nothing, nothing, nothing, and then months later, they asked me if I would come to a little loop that they were doing in the Texas/Oklahoma area. I said sure. Mr. Erik was kind enough to ride with me and his buddy, by the name of Shane Taylor. It was just a car with several big brothers laying it down. That ended up being where we started tagging, me and Shane Taylor. We started wreaking havoc all over the place."
From 2015-2017, Lee and Taylor's stable, Pretty Boy Killers, would take the world by storm in ROH. However, Lee wanted to see what his chances were as a singles competitor. When trying to figure out what was next for him, two well-named wrestlers helped him move on over to Beyond Wrestling, where he began his well-established singles run.
"Moving forward, we were still tagging, but I was also doing singles work on my own," Lee noted. "Eventually, I took a shot and went to the east coast. This was right after I wrestled with a few big named gents that gave me some sound advice. One's name was Brian Cage. He said that I needed to go to the east coast. He pointed out a place called Beyond Wrestling. I wasn't so sure because I didn't have enough knowledge.
"Months later, I wrestle Samoa Joe right before he goes to the WWE. I'll tell you, that was the most nervous I have ever been in my career. He was a dream opponent for me...After that match, we had a very long talk. He sat and chatted with me. He gave me so much knowledge. He's almost been like a mentor to me since then."
In 2018, Lee officially signed on the dotted line with the WWE. Though it was a rough journey to get there, he admits, it was weird to hear that he had made it, after his fourth tryout.
"It was weird for," Lee proclaimed. "I've gone from yes, I have this following, and yes, I have a lot of fans in different places, but this is a completely different platform. Now, things stepped up another notch. At first, it was like finally, they have seen the light. I showed them the error of their ways. Then when I got there, it was like oh my goodness, how do I handle this? How do I process this information right now? I don't know! Now, I'm alongside Triple H, and Matt Bloom and Shawn Michaels. I'm like is it ok for me to be me? It took me a while to breathe."
You can view Keith Lee's full interview above. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory-Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.