The first thing I wanted to do when I heard that the man known to us as Luker Harper and Brodie Lee had passed away was to write something. Jon Huber had never been my all-time favourite wrestler but he had always been someone who I enjoyed watching immensely and was a wrestler I wanted to see do well.
As someone who didn’t know him, I am not fit to memorialise him personally, although by all accounts he was amongst the best of people, I also don’t feel fit to do a complete overview of his career, having only come in midway through.
However, this man who gave so much, excelled so highly, and is one of the reasons I’m a wrestling fan today, deserves a tribute, so I will pay homage in the way I see most fitting, a playlist of seven of his greatest matches spanning from the start of his career to the end.
Brodie Lee v Claudio Castagnoli
Steele Cage Match – CHIKARA, 2008
When I asked LOP legend Mizfan for some pre-WWE Brodie Lee suggestions he immediately told me that this match was a must-watch. Now I’ve seen it I completely understand why.
With the future Cesaro across the ring from Lee, this match is as hard-hitting as you would expect it to be. Early on Lee lands a number of chops that echo throughout the Philadelphia arena and things only get more and more physical as the match goes on. Midway through Lee busts his forehead on one of the cage posts and Claudio hits a flying European Uppercut from the top of the cage to get a definitive win at the end of a sordid rivalry.
In this match, you can see that even very early in his career Brodie Lee knew how to use every inch of his size to strike a raw imposing physical presence in the cage and he used it to be the perfect obstacle for the crowd’s hero to overcome, something you will see more than once in this list.
It is still the first and only steel cage match in CHIKARA history, you can check it out for free here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZkxAOTDH3Q&ab_channel=CHIKARAoffice
Brodie Lee v Shingo Takagi
Dragon Gate Gate Of Victory, 2011
Those of you reading this list that know who Shingo Takagi is will immediately know how good this match is and those who don’t, boy you’re in for a treat.
This match is a ten-minute sprint of fast and furious physicality. Both men lay into each other hard from the start and even briefly brawl in the Korakuen Hall crowd before trading big moves in the climax. It is simple but boy is it fun. Honestly, my favourite part of this match is just how happy Lee looks, midway through there are a few times he just breaks out into a big genuine smile and you can see that he is a man living out his dream.
If, like me, you one day hoped to see Brodie Lee wrestle in New Japan, this is the closest we’ll get and every moment is worth savouring. You can watch it here: https://www.bilibili.com/video/av841644270 (please trust me this isn’t a virus)
The Wyatt Family v The Shield
WWE Elimination Chamber, 2014
One of the greatest tag team matches of all time. From the moment the two teams, that had left a path of destruction through the WWE squared off in the ring, the atmosphere in the arena was absolutely electric. The crowd even gave it a “This Is Awesome!” chant before the bell even rang.
Once the match began it was a tornado of action as six hungry wolfs went at each other with such vigour and energy that it was impossible to turn away. Knowing what we know now about the six men in the ring you get the feeling that the match was made to be a star-making vehicle for primarily The Shield trio and Bray Wyatt, the true breakout star of that match though was the man that had become known as Luke Harper. The bearded behemoth handled the majority of the offence for his side, throwing himself around the ring with intensity, precision and speed that defied his larger stature and opened fans eyes to his unique dark intensity.
As would so often be the case in his career in the WWE, Luke Harper, went out with minimal expectation but through sheer force of performance shined as bright as any other wrestler on the card.
In the Wrestling Headlines Match of the Decade voting at the end of last year, this match came in seventh and was the only tag team match to make the top ten. In The Doc’s book, The Greatest Matches & Rivalries of the Wrestlemania Era, this match made the top 40, one of the highest tag matches in there. From a personal perspective, I may not be writing here today without this match. Elimination Chamber 2014 was the first wrestling show I watched after a three-year break, while I came back from Bryan it was this incredible match that caught my eye and motivated me to explore beyond the Yes Movement.
Wrestling at its absolute finest and Harper was all over it.
Luke Harper v Dolph Ziggler
Intercontinental Title – WWE TLC, 2014
If Luke Harper broke out as a tag team wrestler at Elimination Chamber, he cemented his position as one of the most promising big men of his generation against Dolph Ziggler at TLC 2014.
In this match Harper was the perfect foil for a face Dolph Ziggler to overcome. Harper wrestlers as not just an imposing physical presence who could easily manhandle not just Dolph and the ladders that surrounded the ring with but an imposing psychological presence. He was a character psychotic enough to dive headfirst into a ladder if it meant hindering his opponent, someone who would laugh with twisted joy after powerbombing Ziggler through a ladder.
Arn Anderson said that Luke Harper was one of the smartest wrestlers he’d met (and he has met a lot of them) and it is demonstrated here in the perfect layout of this match. It builds up slowly and sees Ziggler make incremental progress up the ladder, towards the championship as the match goes on with Harper always lurking ready to pull him down.
Harper’s timing on the near falls were absolutely spot on throughout, with Harper managing to intercept Ziggler’s climbs to the championship at the perfect time. It seems like such a small thing but it really helps the flow and adds to the tension of the match when the climbing wrestler isn’t left waiting for their opponent.
For me, this was Luke Harper’s greatest singles match in the WWE.
Luke Harper v Randy Orton
WWE Elimination Chamber, 2017
Sadly Luke Harper’s career in the WWE post-2014 would be plagued by infrequent appearances and flip-flopping between the singles and tag team ranks when he made the show. This would be punctuated by reminders of just how good he could be and Harper v Orton at Elimination Chamber 2017 was one such occurrence where Harper took a future Hall of Famer to their best match in over a year.
As with all Harper matches, this one was quite physical and hard-hitting, however, the true brilliance of it was the intelligence of the counters the two showed off as they worked their way through the match. In Orton, Harper had a very willing ally for this kind of counter heavy match, especially since his signature offence is so well known and telegraphed.
This really was the perfect post-Rumble win PPV match for Orton, making him look strong and intelligent while also progressing his larger story with Bray Wyatt. Vey unselfish work from Harper that apparently earnt him a lot of praise backstage afterwards.
Brodie Lee v Jon Moxley
AEW Championship – No DQ Match – AEW Double or Nothing, 2020
Brodie Lee came into All Elite Wrestling like a storm, taking up the position as the head of The Dark Order, berating his underlings for their incompetence up until that point and immediately targeting the newly minted AEW Champion Jon Moxley. Lee’s dark intensity was pitch-perfect for the cult leader character he would play and he injected it with a businessman like intelligence and ruthlessness that had me comparing him to the leader of Scientology David Miscavige.
When he wrestled Moxley at Double or Nothing he would put on a horror show of a match reminiscent of the first Terminator movie with how Lee just kept coming forward no matter what the champion did to him. Truly Moxley threw everything at Lee in violent desperation but Lee would keep getting up, bloody and bruised, but still coming forward. One of my favourite shots in wrestling this year was Lee, with eyes bulging out of his skull, rising from the busted entrance ramp after being Paradigm Shifted through it, while Mox stared on in disbelief from the ring wondering what he would have to do just to survive this monster.
This match felt like Lee making up for lost time, putting all his pent up frustration and creative energy into a singular act of aggression and it stands as one of Jon Moxley’s best championship defences of the year.
Brodie Lee v Cody Rhodes
TNT Championship – Dog Collar Match – AEW Dynamite 7/10/2020
When Brodie Lee stacked the unconscious bodies of The Nightmare Family at his feet after decimating Cody Rhodes and winning the TNT Championship you knew a few things, it had been one of the great narrative endings to a wrestling show in 2020, that Brodie Lee was going on a serious tear and that when Cody recovered there was going to be an absolute banger of a return match.
Boy did these two men deliver on that promise.
When they announced the Dog Collar stipulation you just knew that Cody wanted to take a run at the Roddy Pipper v Greg Valentine match from Starcade 1983, a match that remains one of the most brutal ever on such a big platform and in Brodie Lee he had a willing ally. The result was a gritty, violent match where Lee was once again able to be the dominant monster who forced the hero to go through hell to take back his Championship.
Very few men get to bow out on top Brodie Lee did putting on an incredible performance for the climax of the hottest feud of his career. It wasn’t what anyone would have ever wanted but it will always be a special match because it marked the last time one of the greatest big men of his generation would step into the squared circle.
Rest in Power.