Keith Lee has been absent from WWE programming since his victory over Carian Cross in the August 2 episode of Monday Night Roach. Since then he has consistently appeared in dark matches and, according to several reports, is preparing to turn a heel as his character has been re-packaged. Lee’s photos from recent matches have shown him growing facial hair, while Fightful’s Sean Ross Sap reported Monday that Leela was known as “Keith” Barkat “Lee in a dark match before Roach.
It is possible that the nickname “Barkat” refers to the popular African American pro wrestler Bearcat Wright in the 50’s and 60’s. In 2017, he was posthumously inducted into the Legacy Wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.
Lee was absent from WWE TV for five months earlier this year, after which he revealed that he was facing serious health problems related to his heart. Back in July, Lee clarified his situation in a YouTube video.
“The next day I got a call that there was something closed in my blood. Some people may have experienced this where there is inflammation of the heart or lungs, for me it was the heart,” Lee said. “And it created a very scary time. I was basically banned or given any training outside of light walking. So there was a fear that doing more than that would make me get up and go away. So, for three or four months it was kind of like that.” And I had a lot of MRIs on my heart. By the way, I didn’t sit in that machine, it was horrible and my shoulders really struggled with it. But we had to do what we wanted to do, right? So it became a battle against death, so to speak. Many kinds of things because it was thought that I might have some kind of heart disease.
“Very, fortunately, even though we took a long time, the inflammation in my heart finally allowed it to return to normal,” he continued. “Even though the first MRI was bad and the second MRI was bad, things got better here and there over time. Eventually, after that visit, I was able to try and get back in shape. That’s the real struggle. If so, I wasn’t sure if I would show up on TV in Dallas (where he returned and challenged Lashley to a non-title match). “
It was recently reported that one of Lee’s new character ideas is that NXT’s Adam Cole will be its manager. Cole said he was never told about the idea in an interview with TV Insider last week.