WrestleMania 36 will mark the first time WWE has no live crowd for its signature show, and it will also be a two-night event. The company has decided the show has to go on, and so did we. WWE offered to media the interviews they couldn’t have done, and we will share them with you all week long. Legends, main roster, and NXT wrestlers, this week is all for them.
Keith Lee is a former PWG World Champion, WWN Champion, the 2019 NXT Breakout Star of the Year, and current NXT North American Champion. He’s also, one heck of a singer. Given the opportunity to bring you the words of ‘The Limitless One’ himself, we jumped at the opportunity. He spoke about the responsibility of being a champion, the legacy of the Performance Center, NXT, and that Royal Rumble appearance.
At a time like this, is entertainment important as a form of escapism?
“Sometimes these moments are very good, for giving us a chance to reflect on life, maybe for some, it will help them re-prioritise, and for those that don’t need it, I think it will definitely provide them with some form of escape and entertainment. People need that escape, whether it’s training, whether it’s television, hopefully, us if that’s the case, whether it’s, in my case, music and building a computer. There are so many different ways, but I think it’s good to have something to take minds off issues causing detrimental mental health situations.”
Do you feel a sense of responsibility as NXT North American Championship?
“For me, that’s a responsibility I feel with any championship I have. This is the one I currently hold. Therefore, I try to make it important, with that being said, it’s a very important job because I feel like if people aren’t honouring what they are doing in their work, they aren’t bringing anything to the table to me. If you’re going to do this, you can’t bring something that stands out, then why are you doing this? So yes, it’s definitely a responsibility. For A. Raising the prestige of the championship and B. Defending it in a manner that makes it feel as important as I feel like it is.”
What is it about NXT that has drawn in fans all over the world?
“It’s a mixture of things from being inclusive, trying to make sure the fans enjoy what they’re watching, adapting to them, giving them what they want. But also there’s a certain level of passion. I feel like there’s not a lot of talent in the world that takes the amount of pride we do in trying to produce the greatest, not just sports entertainment, but professional wrestling product we can. And my goal is to take that pride and do that not just for NXT, but for my own brand and as a representative for a larger-than-normal athlete. It is my duty to represent what makes me undeniable, not just for myself, but for everyone who comes after me.”
What do you think is so special about the WWE Performance Center?
“There’s a certain energy there, with a house full of people working their butts off to make something happen for themselves in this sport, so there’s a level of commitment you can almost feel in the building itself when you walk in. I would say that the expectation here is for everyone to come in and treat the place like our own. We are expected to give our all in order to make it. We are trying hard, trying new things, offering creative ideas, everything that we can do, we do there. We get treatment, we lift weights, we do cardio, and we have meetings, sometimes it’s where we create video packages. It’s like the jack-of-all-trades. Now, we have NXT, RAW, and SmackDown from there, it’s truly everything all in one place.”
What Performance Centre and NXT superstar has you excited?
“There’s a couple of people there that I specifically look after, one’s name is (Denzel) Dejournette, the other is Briana Brandy. Neither of them came to us from a wrestling background specifically, but their work ethic, attitudes, and willingness to learn is untouchable. Every time I see them, I like to check in on them, have little chats, see how their growth is going, see if they have questions. I just like to see what I can offer them in terms of knowledge or experience.
In terms of people in general, that excite me in terms of wrestling, there’s so much talent in NXT, it’s kind of unfair, to be honest. Guys like (Isaiah) Swerve (Scott, fka Shane Strickland aka Killshot), he’s just so exciting to watch. There are times when I see some of me in him and some of him in myself, as regards to that confidence. He’s so smooth, very dynamic when it comes to in-ring work so people like him, but good lord there’s so much talent. I wouldn’t be able to give an accurate assessment of who’s there. He’s just the first person to come to mind.”
If you could create an original show for the network, what would it be?
“I think that my goal is to have a creation that is essentially Keith Lee in animé form. I want that to be a part of my entrance from Titantron to merchandise. I think that I would have a wrestling-style animé, we’d have wrestlers with superpowers, so superhumans in a wrestling ring, but the ring would probably have to be four times the size that we have. We would have, not necessarily storylines in the ring, but animé-style storylines outside of the ring. If Keith Lee were an animé character, he would be absolutely ridiculous, wearing baby blue and pink and just as expressive as I am in real life.”
Clearly, you are a big fan of animé, how did you first get into it?
“My family is very sport-heavy. I am the oddball, and it’s all thanks to one of my two best friends, a guy I’ve known since sophomore year of high school, his name is Lascelles King. He introduced me to Dragonball Z, and he introduced me to RPG games like Final Fantasy. Really, he unlocked what was already there, and once I started to explore it, just kind of fell into the deep end (laughs). From that point on, it’s was the way my life was and unlocked who I really am, so it was really awesome that I got to do that in school.”
What advice do you have for people looking to binge-watch every WrestleMania before April 4th?
“I don’t really want people to do that as if you try to watch all of them in a week, you won’t have the energy to watch these years. However, if they have the cojones, as they say, to do so, I say kudos. And if they’ve worked out the time to do so, I’m impressed, as a maths fan. My advice would be, stay hydrated, pack yourself up some coconut water or other forms of hydration. Lemonade or something to that effect. I wouldn’t recommend remaining seated the entire time, throw a little bit of movement in there, hop off the couch and do some stretches and lunges, whatever you need to get through. Just don’t remain stagnant the entire time. Give yourself a little bit of movement, make sure your body is not misused, treat it well as that’s a long time to remain seated.”
Is there a match that you think people should go back and revisit on the WWE Network?
“When Kevin Owens first showed up and battled John Cena, that was an example of a great unexpected surprise, and I feel it really got people excited. I don’t think we do enough of that. Taking two people that have never touched, there’s a certain amount of excitement that happens because people have never seen it. You get that moment, similar to when Roman (Reigns), Seth (Rollins), and I were in the ring together (at the climax of the 2019 Men’s Survivor Series match). It creates this new excitement for possible one-on-one matches, and when you get it, it’s awesome.”
What did you think of the reaction to your face-off with Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble this year?
“At that moment, it felt like where I was supposed to be. While I felt like that, as a person, it was slightly unexpected the reaction I got from 40,000 people. They really wanted Keith Lee to show out, and they didn’t quite get that. They got something special, in my opinion, but I don’t think they got what they were waiting for. Maybe, in the future, there’s the chance of Keith Lee vs. Brock Lesnar in a one-on-one match, because I feel I’m one of the few who could go toe-to-toe with him, so hopefully, that’s something that comes to fruition not just for them, but for me as competition is one of the things that drives me.”
WrestleMania airs live on the WWE Network on Saturday, April 4th, and Sunday, April 5th. Check your local listings to see if PPV coverage is available in your area.
Special thanks to DS Communication – All pics and videos courtesy of WWE