It is the autumn of 2019. Brodie Lee sits in his Tampa house together with his spouse and two sons, and he waits.
In actuality, Lee — actual identify Jonathan Huber — has spent most of his 19-year profession ready. Ready for his alternative within the large time. Ready for his breakout singles run. Ready for the possibility to faucet into his creativity and be the most effective model of himself. And on the finish of his WWE tenure, ready to have the ability to do something.
“I used to be at house, [but it felt like] jail,” Lee informed ESPN. “I could not do what I wished to do, and that was simply wrestle.”
It takes only one have a look at Lee to see the potential in him. At 6-foot-5, 275 kilos, Lee has the dimensions and body of a prototypical wrestling star. His lengthy hair, menacing eyes and wild beard, harking back to the legendary Bruiser Brody, give him a singular look that may stand out in any room. If something, he might have made a wrestling profession simply based mostly on his look. However Lee is excess of simply an imposing determine when he steps within the ring.
AEW All Out takes place on Saturday, Sept. 5 at Every day’s Place in Jacksonville, FL
– AEW championship: Jon Moxley (c) vs. MJF
– AEW girls’s championship: Hikaru Shida (c) vs. Thunder Rosa
– AEW tag crew championships: Kenny Omega & Hangman Adam Web page (c) vs. FTR
– Mimosa Mayhem match: Chris Jericho vs. Orange Cassidy
– 21-man On line casino Battle Royale for a future AEW championship match
– Damaged Guidelines match (If Matt Hardy loses, he leaves AEW): Matt Hardy vs. Sammy Guevara
– Darkish Order (Brodie Lee, Colt Cabana, Evil Uno & Stu Grayson) vs. Matt Cardona, Scorpio Sky, Dustin Rhodes & QT Marshall
– Younger Bucks vs. Jurassic Categorical
– Britt Baker vs. Huge Swole
Within the late 2000s and early 2010s, Lee labored in high unbiased promotions around the globe, breaking the stereotypes of lumbering large males and pioneering a brand new wave of athletic giants. He grew to become a must-see attraction on the indies, mixing energy strikes with misleading agility. Lee stood out as a commodity, however an opportunity on the large time nonetheless eluded him. It wasn’t till Lee was 11 years into his profession and able to name it quits that WWE lastly provided him a contract on the age of 32 in 2012.
There, Brodie Lee reworked into Luke Harper, a self-described “backwoods hillbilly” who joined The Wyatt Household, an on-screen cult led by present WWE foremost eventer Bray Wyatt. The group grew to become certainly one of WWE’s hottest acts upon their main-roster arrival in 2013, however Lee’s success within the firm got here inconsistently. After a year-and-a-half with the Wyatts, he broke free for his first singles run, and had a quick reign as Intercontinental champion. However he not often acquired the chance to attach with followers on the microphone and in the end rejoined the Wyatt Household in mid-2015 as a supporting participant as soon as once more.
In 2017, Lee acquired what appeared to be his probability to interrupt out when Randy Orton joined the Wyatt Household. In an angle with two present main-eventers in Orton and Wyatt, Lee started to garner the loudest reactions of the group. He went solo and turned away from his function as a villain for the primary (and solely) time in his WWE profession. This led to the highest-profile alternative of Lee’s profession at that time, a singles match towards Orton on the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, the place Lee misplaced decisively, halting any semblance of a main-event push and shutting the window on a ready-made alternative at singles stardom. In a matter of weeks, Lee went from a plausible participant on the identical degree as two multi-time world champions who would not have been misplaced in a WrestleMania world championship match to an afterthought.
As Luke Harper, left, Brodie Lee had has closest brush with foremost event-level success in late 2016 and early 2017 as Randy Orton, proper, joined the Wyatt Household. Vaughn Ridley for ESPN
Lee would ultimately return to the tag crew division with former Wyatt Household operating mate Erick Rowan, even successful the Smackdown tag crew championships at WrestleMania, however the harm was achieved. Lee requested his launch from WWE in March 2019, however the firm as an alternative prolonged his contract six months on account of time missed from surgical procedure.
“I want you could possibly have talked to my spouse, as a result of she loves to inform individuals simply, not that I used to be a horrible individual, however there was a cloud virtually over me weekly,” stated Lee. “Simply affecting me, and me not figuring out that.”
On Dec. 8, WWE granted Lee his launch. Luke Harper was a factor of the previous. Lee’s ready had was preparation.
“Luke Harper had a beautiful profession in WWE, in case you actually have a look at it and break it down, he had a extremely good profession,” Lee stated. “However I do not need individuals to assume, ‘Oh, that was Luke Harper’ once they see Brodie Lee. I need them to be like, ‘Holy f—, that is Brodie Lee, and he is the person.’”
In his AEW title problem towards Jon Moxley, Brodie Lee proved he was a foremost occasion caliber wrestler. All Elite Wrestling
Upstart All Elite Wrestling, a promotion with a nationwide tv deal of its personal, a roster filled with gifted performers, and a heavy emphasis on the in-ring product appeared like a pure match for Lee. Unbeknownst to Lee, the proper alternative for him had already been set into movement: a gap in one other cult, besides this time, Lee can be the chief, surrounded by pals he made earlier than he’d ever set foot in WWE.
Evil Uno (actual identify Nicolas Dansereau) and Stu Grayson (actual identify Marc Dionne) spent 2019 establishing a heel group referred to as The Darkish Order, a “Scientology-like cult” as Grayson put it. The group was shaped to feud with AEW’s high babyfaces, however on account of a chilly debut and a disastrous main-event angle to shut 2019 that noticed certainly one of The Darkish Order’s “minions” go viral for throwing blatantly pretend punches, Uno and Grayson discovered themselves in want of a Hail Mary to maintain their jobs.
“We figured we had been both screwed, or we will have to seek out one thing to carry us again from the useless,” Grayson stated.
It simply so occurred that AEW president Tony Khan had Lee on his radar, and that “one thing” was a “somebody.”
“He is acquired the good bodily dimension. He did not accomplish that many promos in WWE, however he is really an important promo,” stated Khan. “And so he was from the start somebody that we figured to be a high individual in AEW as quickly as he signed with us.”
Khan knew he had one thing in Uno and Grayson, and insisted on re-investing within the group, bolstering their credibility amongst informal followers by inserting Lee.
“It wasn’t essentially these guys’ fault, however I felt like we needed to do a whole lot of issues so as to add to the presentation. And that was a whole lot of brainstorming in direction of the top of the 12 months and the start of this 12 months,” stated Khan.
In between letting his wild facet run free throughout matches, Brodie Lee has taken to sporting fits when he cuts his promos because the chief of The Darkish Order. All Elite Wrestling
Lee signed with AEW and was set to debut as “The Exalted One,” culminating a months-long angle revolving round a mysterious, unnamed chief of The Darkish Order. Earlier than Lee even arrived, the thriller surrounding The Exalted One breathed contemporary air into the act, and Uno and Grayson knew they’d have the proper payoff.
“We wished to have somebody we all know we might work with, somebody we might really match as the top of a cult, somebody who might speak, somebody who might wrestle,” stated Grayson. “So once we had affirmation that Brodie Lee was coming in, we had been fairly completely happy, as a result of we considered all of the individuals we might have had, we had been going to have certainly one of our greatest pals. He can work, he seems to be nice, he talks.”
The timing could not have labored out higher for Lee. His 90-day no-compete clause was set to run out proper earlier than the March 18 episode of “AEW Dynamite,” which was set to happen in Lee’s hometown of Rochester.
“It was serendipitous,” stated Lee. “It was actually too excellent to have this large reveal, large debut and reawakening, being born once more.”
It was, in actual fact, too excellent. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and the March 18 version of “AEW Dynamite” would now not happen in Rochester, however as an alternative at an empty Every day’s Place in Jacksonville, Florida. Given the unsure nature of the virus, particularly on the onset, it appeared that Lee would as soon as once more be pressured to attend.
“Early on, we did not know the severity of what was occurring, we thought the most effective factor to do can be to push it again. Wait till there is a crowd, as a result of that is alleged to be a really giant second,” stated Uno. “I believe one factor that AEW did very completely different on the time was they did not wait to debut their large issues. They did not act as if no crowd meant a lesser present. They went forward and gave you the stuff you’d been wanting for.”
The present went on, and Lee arrived in Jacksonville with a frightening mission: reboot his profession, and doubtlessly save his pals.
“It was like, now it is my virtually obligation to come back in and to carry up the sport of all people concerned,” Lee stated.
In a match that lasted all of three minutes towards Cody Rhodes, Brodie Lee eliminated any doubt as to his standing inside AEW when he grew to become the brand new TNT champion. All Elite Wrestling
Lee made his debut by way of a pre-taped promo, adopted instantly by a shock assault within the ring. He appeared snug and free on the digicam, however behind the scenes, eight years of doubt, externally and internally, was nervousness.
“I needed to perceive that my instincts had been appropriate once more,” stated Lee. “I used to be virtually searching for out so many opinions as a result of that is the place I got here from, that is what it was. It was a lot of individuals placing items in, as an alternative of simply letting myself be who I’m.”
Lee’s debut shot him straight into the main-event scene, and his first feud within the firm positioned Lee because the challenger for his previous buddy Jon Moxley’s AEW championship at Could’s “Double or Nothing” pay-per-view. Lee misplaced the match, however reaffirmed administration’s perception in him as a star, positioning him for alternatives down the road.
“I believe his most spectacular efficiency as a main-event professional wrestler at that time was the match with Moxley,” stated Khan. “And I believe that opened a whole lot of our eyes, we believed he may very well be the man and he confirmed it is true, he may very well be the man.”
Lee spent the following two months working tag matches alongside The Darkish Order and growing his character each on AEW’s weekly “Dynamite” reveals and Being The Elite, The Younger Bucks’ weekly YouTube vlog/sketch present. Lee, Uno and Grayson used these skits to refine their characters, crack jokes throughout the context of being a cult, and confirmed followers how a lot enjoyable they had been having.
Most significantly, though among the content material bordered on the absurd, showing on BTE helped everybody within the Darkish Order to revive their self-belief.
“That confidence has solely come within the final couple of months, and the final three or 4 weeks that I’ve talked, every little thing I’ve stated has been 100% true, has been 100% from my coronary heart, and to have the ability to speak about that’s cathartic and virtually therapeutic, so that you guys are seeing that come out on display screen,” stated Lee. “That nervousness, that confidence, and all of that popping out collectively, I hope you guys are having fun with it.”
Because the Darkish Order has grown for the reason that arrival of Brodie Lee, Evil Uno and Stu Grayson (middle) have loved a surge in their very own success. All Elite Wrestling
After 19 years of listening to about his potential, Lee lastly made good. He challenged Cody Rhodes, who had been defending his TNT championship regularly towards all comers since he first gained the title. In simply over three minutes, Lee destroyed Cody on Aug. 22, successful the TNT title and main a Darkish Order assault on Cody’s family and friends in one of the vital stunning angles of the corporate’s younger historical past. Lee, Uno, and Grayson stood tall — 9 months faraway from irrelevancy, and now one of many hottest acts within the firm.
After elevating one another of their time of biggest want, Lee and the Darkish Order had been the proper match. And after all the work it took to get there, they succeeded collectively.
“It was like a second that had been labored on for thus f—ing lengthy for me,” stated Lee. “And I am getting emotional proper now, so I am sorry. It is simply been a lot s— over the past three years.”
Regardless of all the ready, the near-misses and years of questioning whether or not the chance to be a real star in wrestling would ever work out, Lee lived his dream and acquired his true breakout second.
“And it feels so f—ing good to show all people flawed.”
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