Keith Lee’s journey on WWE RAW has been a rollercoaster, to say the least, but the 36-year-old appears to be veering off on a whole different course now that he has grown out his facial hair, modified up his ring gear, and given himself a new nickname on the show.
The Limitless One revealed a character change that had been tested during a dark match on RAW last week and again on SmackDown against local competitors, making his return to RAW after sporadic appearances over the prior few months.
Lee was dubbed Keith ‘Bearcat’ Lee in front of a live audience in Raleigh, North Carolina last week, and the moniker was reinforced on this week’s RAW with a lower third revealing the new moniker – replete with new claw-mark-adorned gear. Lee went on to defeat Akira Tozawa, whom he had previously wrestled during WWE’s Live tour last week.
If you’re wondering where the moniker “Bearcat” originates from, it’s related to another wrestler’s name from the past. From the 1950s through the mid-1970s, Ed ‘Bearcat’ Wright was a mainstay of the professional wrestling industry, performing in a variety of NWA-affiliated territories as well as New Japan Pro Wrestling in Japan. Bearcat Wright fought alongside legends of the sport including Antonio Inoki, Terry Funk, Bobo Brazil, and Freddie Blassie throughout a career that culminated in his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame’s Legacy wing in 2017.
Bearcat Brown was another Bearcat wrestler who competed from the early 1960s through the late 1970s. Brown, especially with his longtime partner Len Rossi, competed all throughout the United States and won numerous incarnations of the NWA Tag Team Championship. A plan to turn Keith Lee heel in WWE was recently rumoured, with the possibility that AEW’s Adam Cole may have become Lee’s manager if he had chosen to stay in WWE. However, Adam Cole has stated that he was not aware of such preparations.
Before this week, Lee’s last appearance on WWE television was on RAW on August 6th, when he defeated Karrion Kross in one-on-one action. Lee had missed five months of action in 2021 due to medical concerns, which he later acknowledged.