Keith Lee on North American Title Defense, Wrestling Without a Crowd and More

keith lee interview wwe nxt north american title defense usa network

Before Keith Lee defends his North American Championship tonight on NXT, we chatted with the “Limitless” one about a variety of topics.

Lee’s match this evening against Dominik Dijakovic and Damian Priest was originally planned to take place at NXT TakeOver: Tampa Bay. However, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, the event was cancelled and the matches slotted for TakeOver will now happen on NXT’s weekly show instead over the next few weeks.

But while the setting for the match may have changed, Keith’s thought process going into it has not. 

This week the 6’2, 320 lb. Superstar told Pro Wrestling Sheet that at the end of the day the focus of what he’s doing is competition – which Lee has plenty of in Dijakovic and Priest, two athletes who he believes push him to the highest level possible. 

Read on for more from Keith on his belief that Dominik Dijakovic is a “freak of nature,” what he’s doing to keep busy while staying safe at home, his upcoming role in “The Main Event” on Netflix, TikTok, how he feels receiving praise from WWE legends and much more!


 

Pro Wrestling Sheet: The life of a successful sports entertainer such as yourself doesn’t usually come with a lot of downtime at home, what are you doing to stay busy in all of this?

Keith Lee: A mixture of things. From creating home training, catching up on a lot of anime, currently building a new computer rig and making sure that I check in on friends, associates, coworkers, family, all those things that are so important to us all.

PWS: Yeah. Now more than ever you have to make sure you’re checking in on everybody. Especially since you have time at home. You have no excuse now …

KL: No excuses! I can’t NOT answer the phone now.

PWS: With the body and health of a pro wrestler being so important, what are you doing to work out at home?

KL: I tend to push my workouts to a more athletic style.

So I’ve been doing different variations of pushups and things like burpees, high knees, mountain climbers, squat jumps, lunges. Things of that sort.

Then sometimes I may go on YouTube and I’ll look up a couple of the people I like to follow. Jeff Cavaliere from ATHLEAN-X, Simeon Panda and Mike Rashid have put out a lot of good little home workouts that require no gym equipment because I am one of the unprepared in not having a home gym … so definitely been more creative and following their routines has helped a lot.

PWS: It’s amazing what you can find on YouTube. A few months ago I was like, “Man, I need to get in better shape.” I don’t feel like going downstairs to my gym though because there’s no internet service and I can’t listen to music. So I started working out in my apartment instead. Similarly, I went on YouTube and there’s just a bajillion different home workouts that you can do and it makes such a difference!

KL: I feel you on the music thing, man. Music is a big proponent of a lot of things that I do. Not just training, but from design work and brainstorming different business projects, and things of that sort. I use music to set my mood for a lot of that stuff. So I understand that for sure.

PWS: What are you listening to right now? What’s in rotation?

KL: It really depends on the mood, man. Because I listen to everything. Quite literally. I think that my favorite song right now, I guess I could use that word favorite – I like so much music it’s hard to use that word for me – but the thing that I listen to most and have no choice but to just kinda vibe to is “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton.

PWS: I like that. Right now I’m listening to the Weeknd. He has that new album out and it’s not just the one song from the TikTok videos. The whole album is pretty good.

KL: Yeah, that’ll get stuck in your head if you look at that too much.

PWS: Have you messed around with TikTok at all?

KL: Oh, no. No no. I am not a fan of social media. I use it specifically to keep in contact with fans and offer them something, insight a little bit into what I do and things of that sort.

If I wasn’t a professional wrestler, I likely wouldn’t have any social media.

PWS: No Facebook? No nothing? Twitter, Instagram.

KL: No way, man. It’s just extra. A lot of people have an obsession with that stuff. Whenever I can, like these times having downtime and such, I can kinda go on my phone occasionally and pull out a picture that I already have. Prop that up on there and I’m like, “Alright, I’m good. I don’t have to social media for the rest of the day.”

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PWS: So, you’re about two months into your NXT North American title reign at this point. How do you feel about it so far?

KL: I feel like I’ve definitely taken the championship and brought some prestige to it. I think that it’s something that’s been visibly noticeable with all the people coming after me lately and I am quite honored to have brought that level of prestige to the championship. Because that’s something, for me, that is extremely important. That’s what I do. I make championships.

That’s what I do.

PWS: Is it a trip for you to hear someone like Mark Henry speaking so highly of your work when he talks about stuff like you bringing “big guy magic” back and all that kind of stuff?

KL: Every …. single …. time.

And there’s been a lot of guys who have had something nice to say. Every time I just don’t know how to handle it, man. These are people that I’ve studied to try and get where I am. And now they’re … it’s such an honor … we’ll just leave it at that. I don’t want to get too into it, but it means a lot for me.  More than you know.

PWS: It’s no secret that WWE had to film shows in advance at the Performance Center due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Stephanie McMahon has talked about the safety protocol the company has in place at each of the shows. How has it felt for you dealing with the extreme change in both backstage protocol, as well as wrestling in front of no audience?

KL:  I think that when you have a passion for this, you do it whether there’s an audience or not an audience. There’s a certain level of competition, particularly when you’re in a triple threat match with your championship on the line with two hyper athletes, that you just kinda have to focus on the battle at hand.

But for me, specifically, I am happy that we have those things because it’s something that I feel is necessary for the sake of everyone’s safety. Ya know, it’s a big product. And if any of us goes down with that, then that means a lot of us go down with that. If a lot of us go down with that, then that puts the product in danger and I prefer to keep this ship running.

Because for me right now I feel like this is a nice … I don’t want to say escape, but I feel like it’s something else for people to focus on rather than the chaos that’s in the world currently.

PWS: In that chaos, how did you feel when you found out TakeOver: Tampa Bay was no longer happening and the matches would instead occur during the weekly NXT show on USA Network?

KL: I just shook my shoulders and said, ‘Ok, we doing business here!’ That’s all I said *laughs*. At the end of the day, it’s about the competition and making sure that people still get these matches. I know that there are people that want to be there, but there are important and pressing matters. And we all have to do our best to control that while also giving the people what they want.

PWS: Is it safe to assume your upcoming triple threat match defending the NXT North American Championship against Dominik Dijakovic and Damian Priest is one of the matches that was planned for TakeOver?

KL: I don’t know what things were supposed to be. But I know that Priest got himself involved and Dijakovic was still trying to make things happen, and now they both get what they want.

At my expense, of course!

But regardless of what happens in the match, I’m more or less just honored to even be the representative for that championship and take on two guys that I consider to be guys that are going to push me. And they’re going to push me to a level that is likely higher than a majority of guys can. So I’m looking forward to it.

PWS: You and Dijakovic, and even Damian Priest, you’ve kinda had a lot of matches together over the past couple of months … is it hard to continue finding ways to make the matches stand out in some way compared to the others?

KL: Not to me, because I feel like I don’t really even have to do that because the guy [Dijakovic] is a freak of nature! I know people tell me that I am. People say “Keith, you’re a freak of nature.” And maybe I am. But that does not discredit Dominik Dijakovic or Damian Priest because these guys are 6’5, 6’7, flipping around, jumping, leaping, springboarding.

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Just all sorts of the most ridiculous things you could think of. It’s not normal!

Yes, I’m not normal. I can catch and throw enormous human beings. I can throw myself. I can do some jumps and some leaps and some dives and some dropkicks and all that jazz. But I have never seen anything like what these guys do from an enormous human being like them.

PWS: Another person you’ve had your own history with is Malcolm Bivens, who made his debut on NXT last week. What did you think of how he debuted last by having a new team of his attack Matt Riddle?

KL: I think he’s barking up the wrong tree. That’s just my opinion.

I’m usually quite fond of Mr. Bivens. However, I don’t like the fact that he decided to debut by attacking my bro. And I am 97.36% sure that it’s gonna have some repercussions that none of them actually want.

PWS: Lastly, I want to talk to about “The Main Event” on Netflix.

KL: Ohhhhhh! Now you’re getting me excited!

PWS: I watched the trailer. It looks super fun. Do you have a handful of scenes in the movie?

KL: I don’t want to ruin stuff, man. I’m so excited about it. I would say that my role is a premiere role. An important character. So definitely more than a few scenes and there’s gonna be some special surprises about my character, but I don’t want to ruin any of it because I’m so so stoked, dude.

I had so much fun doing that, that I couldn’t even get over it. It’s been so hard to keep my mouth shut about it for these months before they announced it! It’s been the most difficult thing! And yet I’ve done it. I’m proud of myself.

But yes, please watch it. Let me know what you think! Write a freaking article about it. Tag me in it. I don’t care. But I want to know!

PWS: Sometimes people are down on a straight to Netflix movie, or they’d maybe think this was just a cheesy wrestling movie, so I went into the trailer with a cynical eye. Then I watched it and was like, “Oh, that actually looks awesome!” I really want to watch the movie. It looks like a superhero movie, but with a young wrestling fan going up against all these wrestlers I love. That’s a no brainer for me. Did you have any history acting prior to filming the movie?

KL: I’ve done small things like one little indie film, and I did nothing in that movie except play the role of a bailiff … that’s it, and then I did some small little things for some short films.

Nothing more than that.

So this was my first feature film period. And from what I understand, they’ve shown this to some critics and no one believed that this was my first time on film. So I’m pretty stoked about it and looking forward to watching it. Hearing people’s thoughts, be they positive or negative, I want to hear them all and really see what’s going on here. Cause, I don’t know, I’m just excited.

Watch Keith Lee defend the NXT North American Championship against Dominik Dijakovic and Damian Priest tonight on USA Network at 8pm ET. 


*INTERVIEW SLIGHTLY EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY*

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