Brodie Lee Predicts More Violence Against Jon Moxley at AEW’s ‘Double or Nothing’
Brodie Lee is the first to tell you there were a number of times he craved and wanted more out of his WWE career. The former Luke Harper spent the end of an eight-year run contemplating what would be next for him. After much speculation, All Elite Wrestling fans got the answer during March 18’s Dynamite. The star was revealed as “The Exalted One,” Leader of the Dark Order, mysterious faction of hooded disciples.
“The positivity from everyone was something I wasn’t used to within professional wrestling over the last eight years,” Lee said, recalling his first night in AEW. “It was strange to me, but it also rubs off on you. From watching shows on TV to being in the crowd, I think that positivity and energy almost comes from the people sitting in the stands, the production crew, the people on commentary and people in the ring. We’re in this together to give the industry a special product. I’m very proud to be part of that.”
Lee is gearing up for his first AEW pay-per-view aptly titled Double or Nothing. It’s there from Daily’s Place in Jacksonville he challenges Jon Moxley for the Tony Khan-led promotion’s heavyweight championship. The 40-year-old knows with this shot in the main event-level slot comes added pressure.
“I think more for myself because this is what I’ve asked for, and now what I’ve been given. Now it’s up to me to perform at a level that is apropos with that slot on the card,” Lee said. “I think I’m more than capable of doing that. There is nobody left to blame though. If I don’t perform well, I’m the one who has to look at myself in the mirror.”
Here the Dark Order’s bearded man in charge previews the big contest and takes us through his AEW journey so far.
What was the breaking point for you in WWE?
Brodie Lee: I think it’s a blessing and a curse of my brain that I’m never really content or happy. I think after the Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton angle where I was not figured into the WrestleMania 33 main event [in 2017]. I think it came after that. We broke it down. I talked to my wife about it. She looked me in the eye and said, “Look, whatever you decide to do we’re going to be fine.” That’s what gave me the confidence to ultimately make the move. Then after being off the last eight months, everything solidified itself with me. Change of scenery seemed like the best case scenario. Different options arose. AEW became a blessing in disguise for me.
Was there ever a point where you thought about not pursuing wrestling anymore?
I think it may have crossed my mind, but I’m of the belief where I was put on this earth to be a professional wrestler, as weird as it might sound to people. I’m almost bred for it. It’s in my brain. I love professional wrestling. I describe it as a beautiful, yet cruel mistress of mine. As much as it takes away, it gives you so many things in life. I think there was slight doubt, but I never had a foot out the door by any imagination.
There was a lot of anticipation where you would end up. You become a free agent as a pandemic takes hold and forces companies like AEW to produce shows without fans. Knowing this, was there ever talk about delaying your debut?
I was supposed to debut in my hometown of Rochester, New York [March 18]. Then the next week was going to be the Blood and Guts show [March 25]. Two gigantic, insane AEW crowds my first two weeks working for the promotion. It was almost too good to be true. Of course, it didn’t turn out that way. I remember sitting down on March 11 after the NBA games were cancelled and dominoes started tipping.
I was contacted by Tony Khan personally. He said, “Look, if you don’t want to do it in this environment, we totally understand and can hold it off.” I looked at it as I was a caged animal for so long that I needed to get out and be a professional wrestler again. There was really no hesitation in me to move forward with the debut. Matt Hardy debuted the same night, so that night was pretty great but in a surreal situation. Looking back, we’ll never forget it. We’re performing for a television audience, an internet audience and for our peers. It was still very important to me. I can’t wait for it to be normal out there and have a crowd out there.
Viewers have seen comparisons between “The Exalted One” and Vince McMahon, which you have said in the past is not an exact basis on him. What are some of your other inspirations for this character?
There are a lot of things. It’s based on my smart ass personality. It’s based on mob movies I adore like The Sopranos. Things where the leader is a bit rough but also a very successful leader. In a corporate world where things aren’t always what they seem. I like to say I have no ill will toward WWE. I have no ill will toward Vince McMahon. There is no reason for me to. For people to tell me that I’m angry with them and making fun of them, I don’t think that is at all what is happening. People can take it for what it is, but as long as they’re talking I’m happy with it. And as long as Tony Khan is happy with it, I’m happy with it.
What does the wife think of this transformation on TV going from the ragged jeans and worn out white tank tops to suits and ties?
It’s so fun to be creative with everything. My wife loves how I look in a suit. I’m cool with that. I actually bought the jacket custom-made in Adrian Jules in Rochester, New York way back for a WrestleMania I never wore. Now I’m happy to get some use out of it. I enjoy dressing up and looking good.
How would describe the dynamic within the Dark Order?
I’ve known Evil Uno and Stu Grayson for probably 15 years, so it’s very cool to come in and be a part of something that they helped create. And now I can help them move them to the next level. It kind of sucks they haven’t been around being from Canada, but I also think it gives us a chance to reset when everyone gets on board, and we can have our full unit.
During these tough times, unfortunately WWE let a number of people go, including your former tag partner Erick Rowan. Have you maintained contact with him? Would you like to see him in AEW?
I’m still very good friends with him. I’ve talked to him a bit. I think he is over the initial shock of everything and is able to move forward with the next steps of his career. Deciding if he should be in AEW and if the company should pursue him is above my pay-grade. I just want him to have success. He deserves it. He is a wonderful family man and person. I think WWE did him very dirty. I don’t think he will have any problem finding success in professional wrestling and assuming even in Hollywood by the way he looks. I’m hoping it happens very quickly for him. I understand the situation right now that it’s going to take time to get back to pro wrestling as normal. Hopefully, it gives him a chance to reset and decompress and figure things out.
You’ve been involved in some great vignettes fleshing out more of “The Exalted One.” What’s the creative process like?
It’s a collaboration with a lot of different ideas coming together. If I’m ever uncomfortable with something or don’t like the idea, I’m more than welcome to tell them that. And then it’s recreated a different way, which we have done. I love the way the vignettes have been shot. The team at AEW is unbelievable. They’ve made me feel like a superstar, and I can’t thank them enough for that. All the things I say are from me. Nothing is written for me. I’ve had people help me out, so there is a lot of collaboration. It’s very refreshing to have that available to you, and the freedom to be creative. It helps you sleep better at night.
Your opponent at Double or Nothing is Jon Moxley, someone you are very familiar with. How do you think working with him in AEW compares to your past outings?
I think they can expect a little more violence because we’re not being told we can’t do anything. If I know Moxley like I think I do, I think he’s going to try to take it to a level I don’t think a lot of people are comfortable with. But I’m going to have to match that. As I left the house on Tuesday my wife said to me, and this is a direct quote: “You and Moxley scare me together.” I think we both know what we’re getting into. I’ve known him since 2008. We’ve wrestled each other in 2010 in Evolve, 2011 in CZW, then several times in WWE. We wrestled for the Intercontinental title. I put him through ladders and put staples through his head. There is a lot of history there and bad blood on both sides. I don’t know who has more to lose in this. I have so much to prove, and he has the title to hold on to. It will be fun.
AEW Double or Nothing, May 23, 8/7c, Pay-Per-View and B/R LIve
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT