Keith Lee has revealed more details on the COVID-related medical issues that forced him to take a prolonged break from WWE TV, saying that things got to the point where he thought his career was over.
After a successful run in NXT that saw him become both North American and NXT Champion, Keith Lee joined the Raw roster following SummerSlam 2020. He quickly established himself on the main roster through matches against the likes of Randy Orton and Seth Rollins, and also found himself challenging Drew McIntyre for the WWE Championship.
Going into Elimination Chamber in February 2021, Lee was scheduled to take part in a Triple Threat Match for the US Championship, however, he was pulled from the bout and wouldn’t be seen again for five months.
It was later reported that Lee had been suffering from complications related to COVID-19 that had caused issues surrounding his heart. In a new interview on the Out of Character Podcast Keith Lee went into detail about the medical issues he experienced.
“I wasn’t feeling bad at first of all originally. 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 on 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.’”
He went on to explain that he treated it as a personal battle, not even telling his family what he was going through.
“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.”
Lee also contemplated that his wrestling career could well be over before he finally got some positive news.
“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.”
He was then finally able to return to training, although it was a hard road to get back to the condition he was used to being in.
“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.”
“Five months of being out, then coming back out of nowhere, it was five weeks of just dying. 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.”
Now known as Keith “Bearcat” Lee, he finally returned to the ring in July and has been able to compete regularly both on WWE TV and in dark matches since then.
H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the above transcription.