WWE Hot Take: Keith Lee Is the Secret Weapon to Saving Raw on Road to SummerSlam

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2021


It's no secret WWE Raw has been in a major rut since WrestleMania, especially when compared to its weekly companion, SmackDown.

Much of the issue has to do with the main event scene, where Bobby Lashley has got the midcard involved by feuding with Braun Strowman and Drew McIntyre. That last name had his momentum brutally halted—seemingly permanently—thanks to his run to 'Mania and what unfolded there.

But one name might be able to salvage the mess: Keith Lee.

Lee has been missing in action for a long time. A report from Fightful Select (h/t Wrestling Inc's Marc Middleton) in March said he missed time because of health-related issues. He briefly popped up on a random show, was advertised as competing in a title match at Elimination Chamber but was then yanked from that too.

Essentially, one of WWE's best chances at long-term success has been gone since February, and fans haven't heard as much as a peep about his status. Which is a shame because he would liven up this main event scene.

In fact, it sure feels like whatever WWE had planned for Lee at 'Mania got derailed by his absence. Maybe Lashley never wins and the long-term buildup of McIntyre would have been put to use by anointing Lee as the next top guy.

So why not do it now?

WWE can't afford to drag feet while hoping for another amazing moment that will help Lee establish himself right away. There isn't going to be another lighting-in-a-bottle moment that allows it to use McIntyre's yearlong run—including a takedown of Brock Lesnar—to help strap a rocket to Lee.

So do it gradually.

Meaning now. Organically. Yes, this is a down period for WWE before bigger events like Money in the Bank and SummerSlam. But Lee is beloved enough among the hardcore NXT fanbase and intriguing enough to the casual crowd to draw in viewers and make it work.

Lee, after all, was dominant before getting promoted and then had that unforgettable encounter with Lesnar in the 2020 men's Royal Rumble. While his usage after was a bit scattershot before he up and disappeared, the reaction and usage seemed to suggest he could be a fan favorite.

Not that his being a fan favorite would be anything other than the expected. Lee can play a variety of roles on the mic, stands tall against even the biggest of bads physically and has a unique, often surprising move set.

That's just the sort of thing WWE needs on Raw. Jinder Mahal's recent addition to the mix isn't doing much fans haven't seen before, which will only hurt McIntyre and the title scene itself even more.

Lee is fresh by comparison, never mind has the potential to be one of the all-time modern greats. Now would seem to be the perfect time to start unfolding that plan.

Imagine, for instance, Lee lurking in the background of the title scene with a Money in the Bank briefcase in hand. Not Otis. Not some part-timer in the hopes of boosting ratings. Lee, a dangerous threat and near guarantee to win the title whenever he decides to cash in that briefcase.

Call it the perfect scenario for WWE as it seeks out a worthwhile title situation as it builds for SummerSlam. Pretty much regardless of what Raw does, it will take a backseat to Roman Reigns and the SmackDown title scene. So instead of a rehash of old midcard feuds or something else, why not use the platform to build up Lee?

Maybe this all sounds way too obvious. But the predictable can be good. Doing what fans want, as demonstrated by Reigns lately, can be amazing.

And it sure would be amazing if Lee bullied his way into the Raw title scene, making the three-hour weekly slog more viewable while building toward something epic for the company's second-biggest event of the year later this summer.