After being called up to the main roster in late 2020, Keith Lee had to step away from WWE for a while and until recently, that reason was kept private. It was revealed by Lee in August that doctors discovered he was dealing with heart issues after having tested positive for COVID-19.

The former NXT Champion spoke more in depth about his heart issue as a guest on the latest episode of the Out of Character Podcast with Ryan Satin. Lee went into detail why he was away for so long and how the situation forced him into thoughts of death or having to retire from wrestling.

“I wasn’t feeling bad at first of all originally,” Lee said. “There were things that were going on that I didn’t really understand. The problem is with this COVID thing is that no one really knows what’s going on right. It’s this trial and error and everyone is experiencing different things and sometimes these after effects hit people differently, sometimes COVID hits people differently. Some people, it doesn’t really hit at all and in my case, I just assumed I would be fine. I tested positive and I came back after three weeks and then I had that match with Riddle February 8th and then the next day I got a call saying there was something odd in my blood which kind of gave the idea that there was an inflammation. That led to multiple MRIs and really uncomfortable machines that jammed up my shoulder, at the time I felt some things that were odd but I didn’t understand them to be that.

“I just assumed because other people were having different scenarios that were odd post COVID that it was going to take me a little bit longer to get back to normal than others. It led to ‘Hey man, we need you to not work out, not do anything until we figure this out.’ Then it became very uncomfortable because even though I knew what the potential endgame could be, I wasn’t telling my family, I wasn’t telling the media and that’s because it’s something that’s not in our control. It’s something I didn’t want them to stress about so it was a personal battle that I took on on my own and for the most part stayed quiet about regardless of timing.

“Me, I’m generally a pretty private person so it took me a long time to be okay with sharing what was going on because it was my own personal fight and I wanted to fight it. There was nothing more important than fighting it to me. To this day I still have some friends that are suffering from effects that are post COVID. At the end of the day I’m just grateful I was able to come back and be back in the ring. That fourth or fifth MRI when I had to go to Pittsburgh, I was resigned to the fact that my career was done. I was just ready to be like okay, I guess it’s time to pursue some extra projects that I have interest in and then I got some good news. It took a lot of work to come back because when you’re a 330-340 pound athlete, the amount of training and power and explosiveness it takes to be a guy that does backflips.”

Lee spoke about his comeback in July and how difficult it was to wrestle having not trained or prepared himself. The 36-year-old said he still feels he has work to be done before he feels 100% again but is grateful to be back in the ring.

“Five months of being out, then coming back out of nowhere, it was five weeks of just dying,” Lee said. “Trying to comeback was like oh god, how have I not trained a thing and then I come back and just try to cardio everything just trying to get back to normal man. I didn’t know what normal was anymore so it was very strange, now I can get back and have higher intensity workouts so it was nice when I could feel like okay, I’m about where I felt like I should be. I still feel like there’s work to be done at the end of the day but the grind continues and I will keep on grinding.”

Lee also spoke about the lessons he learned from his health scare and why he’s so grateful to be able to come back and wrestle in WWE. The former NXT Champion mentioned how he had lost friends to COVID-19 and that experience gave him a new view on life.

“Absolutely, it made me grateful for a lot of things,” Lee said. “It made me grateful to come back to work because there are some people that can’t. There are some people, not just in this industry but in other fields, there are people that go through this and not only that but I lost several people to COVID in general. Friends and yeah, it’s not an easy thing to think about but I could’ve been one of those people that was gone. So it’s very much a reminder of the value of life and the view that is there to just be able to do the things that I do and have the opportunity to do the things that I do and it also lights a fire under my butt to continue to be that guy that pushes other people along. If we’re not trying to be better versions of ourselves, maybe opportunities are missed. Always chasing something, something better, something great.”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Out of Character with Ryan Satin with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.

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