Keith Lee was the latest guest on Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia this week and the NXT star originally dismissed some major opportunities in football to pursue his dream in the squared circle. That dream of wrestling for Lee actually began because of the unknown partnership between his late grandmother and his adolescent admiration for Randy Savage.
“Well for the person that really inspired me at a very young age was Macho Man and it was kind of a charisma and the strength and the versatility that he instilled coming off the top rope and just his entire demeanor was so different, unique and it’s something that stuck with me pretty heavily,” Lee said, “but more than that even for me, I think it was her passion and excitement when pro wrestling was happening. The way that she would bounce in her bed or kick her feet or yell at the TV, any of those things I could see her doing and it’s something that excited me because it excited her. A transfer of emotions if you will.”
Lee shared with Lilian his experience of playing college football at Texas A&M, but said even after a year in the trenches of the defensive line, he felt the urge to pursue wrestling despite being scouted by the pros.
“Yes, I am forgoing some ridiculous opportunities. I had interests from three or four different teams from the NFL at that time and there was opportunity there, but it wasn’t the opportunity that I wanted, and so I made a decision and I stuck to my guns. That’s how that came about.”
Lee states that while his mother found his decision surprising, she was still supportive of him taking the leap. His father, however, was a different story.
“So my mother has always, always been supportive of me in terms of my decisions. She thought it was odd that I would forgo such opportunities, but she did not pass judgement upon me for it. My father is a business man and so when it comes to that decision, it didn’t make sense to him. It wasn’t logical and granted, he’s right. There was no logic behind it from his point of view. For me, it was on the inside. It was just my personal want, my own goal and that’s what caused it.”
Lilian was curious what moment gave him the motivation to go against the grain of his father’s ideals and it happened to take place at an independent event five hours away from his home.
“I had an opportunity to work an event that Mick Foley just happened to be on in San Antonio, TX and I was not supposed to go. My father, did not, he did not like the idea,” Lee said, particularly because of contention over the car his dad “gave” him.
“So he had given me this car so I could get back and forth to work and I was using it also for local events and this was a five-ish hour drive to get there and he was not okay with me taking the car there to go and do that event because it was wrestling, obviously. Financially, that grind didn’t make sense to him as a business man. Makes sense for what you have to do on your own, the independents to make this work. I felt that was something that I needed to do. It would be bad professionally for me to agree and not show up and that’s just how I function in terms of business. I said I’m going to do something then I need to do it and so, we had a difference of opinion and I chose to take my car and take my butt five hours to San Antonio.”
“Without him knowing?” asked Lilian.
“I got up early that morning and disappeared.” That move got Keith kicked out of the house and on his own.
“I had to find my own way and while figuring it out, and while finding my own way I also had to find a way to make it to my events because I didn’t want to miss anything that I committed to. I also had to figure out how I was going to live and everything else that comes along with that. So it creates some difficulty.” He had to make the difficult decision of living with his mom. “That in itself was a trying scenario because her husband is one of those guys that are slightly questionable when it comes to dealing with another person’s children. So he didn’t like the idea of me staying there.”
It was only a few weeks until he decided to room up with some friends, but “basking” with roommates wasn’t Keith’s forte. He soon afforded his own pad by working on the side doing inventory control. He even returned the car his dad gave him .
“I eventually just gave it back and bought another car because of the complications that it created in terms of this was a car that he gave me and it was an issue that I made that decision right. And for my own conscience, I decided that I should get another car and make my own way, essentially.”
His work in NXT did come up and Lee isn’t against going to the RAW or SmackDown brand if the competition ever calls for it.
“In the grand scheme of things, I know that a lot of the fans are interested in seeing Keith Lee mix it up with some of the guys on RAW and SmackDown and at the end of the day, I want to go where the competition is and it doesn’t matter which brand it is to me. If they can come to NXT, I’ll stay at NXT, but if they want me on RAW or SmackDown, I will show up and I will make a statement just like I do anywhere else I go. Wherever the opportunity is.”
(Transcription credit should go to @DominicDeAngelo of WrestleZone)
Plenty more from this interview which even includes a special run-in by Mick Foley himself. Watch it all below: