Keith Lee has been absent from WWE programming since his victory over Karrion Kross on the Aug. 2 episode of Monday Night Raw. Since then he's been consistently appearing on dark matches and, according to several reports, is gearing up for a heel turn as his character gets repackaged. Photos of Lee from recent matches have shown him growing out his facial hair, while Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp reported on Monday that Lee was introduced as Keith "Bearcat" Lee in a dark match before Raw.
It's possible the "Bearcat" nickname is a reference to Bearcat Wright, a popular African American pro wrestler in the 50s and 60s. He was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame's legacy wing in 2017.
Keith Bearcat Lee pic.twitter.com/ZoE88i5AqC— Colie Cashwell (@cashwellc) September 20, 2021
Lee was absent from WWE TV for five months earlier this year, later revealing that he was dealing with serious health issues regarding his heart. Following his return in July, Lee explained his situation in a YouTube video.
"The next day I got a call saying there was something off with my blood. Some people might have experienced this thing where there's an inflammation in the heart or lungs, for me it was the heart," Lee said. "And that led to very scary times. I was basically forbidden or any training outside of a light walk. So there was a fear that doing more than that there was a chance that I could up and pass away. So, for three or four months this was kind of the case and I had several MRIs on my heart. By the way, I don't fit in those machines, it was terrible and my shoulders really struggled with that. But we had to do what we had to do, right? So this became a fight against death, so to speak. It took up until the company sent me up to Pittsburgh to get looked at. And it was up to the point where I was going to have to undergo genetic testing and all sorts of things, because it was thought that there was potential I could have a heart disease of sorts.
"Very fortunately, even though it took a long time we waited that amount of time, that allowed for the inflammation in my heart to eventually go down to normal," he continued. "Even though the first MRI was bad and the second MRI was worse, over time things got better here and there. Eventually, after that visit, I was cleared to try and get back into some sort of shape. That's where the real struggle is. But it took some time, and to be honest it wasn't even certain that I was going to show up in Dallas (where he returned and challenged Lashley to a non-title match) in terms of on TV."
It was recently reported that one of the ideas for Lee's new character would be having NXT's Adam Cole serve as his manager. Cole said he was never told about that idea in an interview with TV Insider last week.