Keith Lee has opened up about the health scare earlier this year, noting that at one point during his hiatus, he believed his career was over.
Lee was off WWE TV for a lot of the first half of 2021, not wrestling following his February 8 bout with Matt Riddle, until his July 19 return to the ring against Bobby Lashley.
The former NXT Champion has revealed that his absence was due to doctors detecting inflammation surrounding his heart. Speaking with Ryan Satin on Out of Character, Lee noted that he kept his health issues private, even from his family, while he was undergoing tests.
Grateful he was even able to make a wrestling comeback, Lee explained:
“I wasn’t feeling bad, originally. There were things going on that I didn’t really understand but I just took them as potential…the problem is with COVID is, no one really knows what’s going on. It’s a trial and error situation and everyone is experiencing different things and sometimes the after-effects hit people differently, COVID hits people differently, and for some people, it doesn’t really hit at all. In my case, I assume I would be fine. I tested positive, give me a couple of weeks and we’ll get back to what we gotta do.
“I came back after three weeks, had the match with Riddle, and the next day I got a call saying there was something odd in my blood, which gave the idea that there was inflammation and that led to multiple MRIs and really uncomfortable machines that jammed up this shoulder. At the time, I felt 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 maybe it was going to take me a little longer to get back to normal, right? I didn’t feel abnormal, but there were small things that felt odd. One MRI passed and it was, ‘give it a week or two and we’ll do another.’ The second one was worse and that’s what led to, ‘We need you to not workout and not do anything until we figure this out.’
“Then it became very uncomfortable because I knew what the potential endgame could be, I wasn’t telling my family, I wasn’t telling Mia (Yim) because it’s something that’s not in our control and something that I didn’t want them to stress about. It was a personal battle that I just tried to calm on my own and for the most part, I stayed quiet regardless of the just absurd amount of messages. I’m not sure what it is about people thinking that their demands should be met and knowing what’s going on in my personal life.
“I’m generally a pretty private person. 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 this day, I still have some friends over a year later suffering from effects that are post-COVID.
“At the end of the day, I’m just grateful that I was able to comeback and be back in the ring because that fourth or fifth MRI, where 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 other projects that I have an interest in.’ Then I got some good news. 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 that big and do backflips.
“Five months of being out of the ring. Then, coming back out of nowhere and five weeks of just dying (laughs). Trying to come back it was like, ‘Oh, God, how have I not trained a thing?’ and then I come back and trying to just cardio everything and get back to normal, and normal, I didn’t know what it was anymore, so it was very strange. Now, I can get back and have high intensity workouts, so it was nice to feel like, ‘Okay, I’m about where I feel I should be,’ but I still feel like there’s work to be done. The grind continues and I will keep on grinding.”
Lee has also discussed his thoughts on his new ‘Bearcat’ character, opening up about his relationship with Vince McMahon.
Transcription via Fightful.