There And Back Again: The Ballad of Brodie Lee

The WWE Universe was shocked on Tuesday when another WWE Superstar announced they’d requested their release from the company. Following months that have seen departures from the likes of Hideo Itami (KENTA), Neville (PAC), Tye Dillinger (Shawn Spears), and soon-to-be free agent Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley), plus the reported unhappiness of stars like Sasha Banks and The Revival, it appears that the current climate of indie wrestling has become more appealing than ever before over the daily grind of being a WWE Superstar and the lack of creative freedom. On Tuesday, former WWE Intercontinental and SmackDown Tag Team Champion Luke Harper announced on Twitter on that he had requested his release from the WWE, the company he’s worked for since 2012. But prior to that, he had built quite a legacy on the independent circuit as the big man (who often times thought he was a cruiserweight) named Brodie Lee.

Brodie Lee got his start in Upstate Pro Wrestling (UPW) in his hometown of Rochester, New York in 2003, where he became a 2x UPW Heavyweight Champion within his first few years. He also worked other New York indies, such as Buffalo’s Empire State Wrestling (ESW), and other East Coast promotions.

In 2007, he branched out to some bigger promotions, beginning to work more regularly with CHIKARA and Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), and by 2008, he was finding work with Ring of Honor as well. In ROH, he joined The Age of the Fall as one of the group’s new enforcers, joining the likes of Jimmy Jacobs, Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Necro Butcher and Joey Mercury in the post-Apocalyptic doom cult. He frequently tagged with fellow AotF member Delirious.

He also began to hone his more aggressive side, working in Germany with Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw) and in the US with IWA Mid South, and in 2010 joined EVOLVE Wrestling as well. He also began to work the Canadian indies with Montreal’s International Wrestling Syndicate (IWS), Ottawa’s Capital City Championship Combat (C4), and Ethan Page‘s Alpha-1 in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2009, he joined Jersey All Pro Wrestling (JAPW) as part of The Hillbilly Wrecking Crew with former Age of the Fall running mate Necro Butcher and former WWE Superstar Trevor Murdoch.

That same year in 2010, he made his Japanese debut, working with Dragon Gate. He spent the bulk of 2011 with Dragon Gate, joining recent AEW signee CIMA‘s Blood WARRIORS, alongside fellow stars like Ricochet, Akira Tozawa, BxB Hulk, Ryo Saito, and Dragon Kid.

In early 2012, he was signed by WWE and assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), as it was transitioning into NXT. During the early days of NXT, he was paired with Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan in the Wyatt Family, where he won the NXT Tag Team Championships.

During his tenure in the Wyatt Family, he was part of some of the biggest feuds in the WWE from 2012 to 2014, against The Shield, The Usos and Rhodes Brothers, as well as soon to be WWE Champion, Daniel Bryan. He briefly left the family in late 2014 and went solo, winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship, before returning to the fold in 2015 with the reunited family that also added a debuting Braun Strowman.

His second run with the Wyatts ended in 2017 when he had a falling out with Bray Wyatt over Wyatt siding with new Family member Randy Orton, but after a brief run that saw him challenge for the WWE Championship, he was soon gone from TV. He returned later in the year back with Erick Rowan as The Bludgeon Brothers, going on a dominating win streak that culminated with winning the SmackDown Tag Team titles at WrestleMania 34. But shortly after winning the belts, Rowan went down with injury and soon after, so did Harper. He made his return in early 2019 but was barely used. He had a solid match against NXT’s Dominik Dijakovic (former indie star Donovan Dijak) at the recent Worlds Collide special, but it clearly wasn’t enough. With no TV return in sight, it became time for Luke Harper, now 39 years old, to bank on his talents elsewhere and on his own terms.

Photo: WWE