I am a man who swallows his pain, even when it becomes so difficult to breathe.
2020 has been, for lack of a better term, numbing. A year where a dark cloud of despair and anxiety grew large above our heads, so big that it became utterly impossible to function without calling attention to it at every waking moment. 2020 has been a PSA…a slogan that screams “no one lives forever” as loud and as shriek as one could imagine. Nothing is the same, and it may never be again.
I’ve experienced loss in my life. Tragic loss. The type of loss that is so seemingly unexpected it affects the relationships you have with those who are still with you, reminding you of the importance of their connection, and the love that comes with it. Losing a loved one is ALWAYS difficult, no matter the circumstance. But the reality is that sometimes we can foresee these things happening. We can see a loved one falter, watch them become distant, sit with them as they age towards despondency.
Then there are times when you’re in the midst of your routine. You’re standing at your tallest and existing to what you consider to be “your best self” when the unlucky role of fate strikes you in the heart. You almost try to convince yourself that what you’ve been told or what you’ve read isn’t real. How could it be? Twenty seconds ago you carried not a worry in the world, but twenty seconds later and the crack in the universe thickens. It’s not so much the death that breaks you…it’s the sudden removal of what was once normal.
Brodie Lee’s passing was a crack in the universe.
I came back to wrestling in 2014 in the midst of my twenties. The sensation that I felt as a kid watching these programs had inevitably returned, but now with an increased appreciation for the performance of the art, as I had become a performer myself. I fell deep down the rabbit-hole, and I thank God everyday for opening it back up to me. Cut to today. I’ve been covering pro-wrestling as a job for nearly four years, and have been fortunate enough to exclusively speak to a variety of players in the game. I love this stupidly beautiful ballet of brutality more than I could ever put into words, although those close to me will tell you I talk about it too much.
I always talked about Brodie Lee.
When he worked as Luke Harper I expressed immense joy anytime he stepped into the ring and unsubtly hid my frustrations when WWE continued to leave him on the bench. I like many saw his rise during the build-up to WrestleMania 33 and questioned why the trigger didn’t get pulled when his involvement only added to the tale. I remember thinking how good he would look holding the weight of a world title, an image it seemed would only ever be a fantasy. His arrival in AEW was a shot of adrenaline during a scary and broken moment in time. A debut that should have been filled with an arena of celebration rather than an empty playhouse. Despite those restrictions Lee soared, without hesitation, and proved what we knew all along… That the man was very good at the pro-wrestling business.
I never thought it was weird that he was pulled from TV. I never considered that there was something much deeper and darker going on in reality, an indication that my bubble had once again done its job of shadowing me from the truth. On Saturday I sat down with my wife preparing to play a game virtually with friends over Zoom, a tradition that had provided a nice escape during this wild timeline. Seconds before beginning my phone alerted me that I had a message from a thread of wrestling friends. Someone had shared a link to an AEW tweet, a common occurrence for that particular thread. I thought about shelving it for later in the evening, but decided to click the link in case it was anything breaking.
I don’t know how long I looked at that tweet…in a way I still feel like I’m looking at it.
Days later and the death of this stranger only gets harder to process, especially when his peers reveal that the legacy of the man eclipsed his work as a character. Even as of this writing the stories of his warmth continue to roll in, each new memory surpassing the previous, but all with one similar detail…Brodie Lee was a fantastic father, a loving husband, a dedicated friend, and a joyful human. He radiated this vibe of hard work and dedication, both in the ring and outside of it. He lived for this life, and we are lucky for being able to live with him while he did it.
I feel like a fool writing thank you to someone I’ve never met, and feel even more foolish for being pained while his actual blood mourns. But the truth is that in a year that has been surrounded by numbness, a year that has taken THOUSANDS too soon, a year that we can all agree has just been fucking awful…I can’t help but write thank you to a good man who died way too young.
So thank you Brodie.