I was prepared for the waterworks during Brodie Lee’s Tribute Show on AEW Dynamite. I didn’t know they would come so quickly.
My mere words cannot do justice to Brodie Lee’s life, legacy, and the way he impacted those who met him. I never had the privilege of meeting Lee, so I can only speak from the perspective of a wrestling fan who watched him on television and who has learned so much about him from the wonderful, touching stories shared by his colleagues and friends these last couple of days.
But even though I never had the honor of knowing Lee, I could not help but feel overcome with emotion during tonight’s episode of Dynamite. Looking across my social media feed, I wasn’t the only one. Lee’s impact on the industry and on other human beings is so profound that all of us as fans have felt this loss and are grieving collectively.
And for two hours, AEW gave us all an opportunity to celebrate, honor, and, yes, grieve Lee together.
Everything about this show was beautiful and important. The show opened with the entire roster, as well as Lee’s wife and son, on the stage for a 10-bell salute. It was a moment that immediately hit me hard, and you could see so many wrestlers in tears. Seeing Lee’s son in a suit and on the stage made it especially hard to hold back tears.
The night was based around tag matches focusing on Dark Order members. Brodie Lee, as his colleagues would state in video tributes throughout the night, made it his goal to elevate as many wrestlers as possible around him in AEW. He wasn’t there for himself. Yes, he won the TNT Championship and was a major player in the company, but he was there to help pull up as many wrestlers as possible.
And judging by the quiet, growing success of the other members of the Dark Order, his impact is visible and will be visible in AEW for years and years to come.
Each match was incredible in its own way, but they all showcased the brilliance of the talented wrestlers in the Dark Order faction. Whether it was steely veteran Colt Cabana or up-and-coming star Anna Jay, the Dark Order shined and sent a message to wrestling fans watching this episode of Dynamite; this faction is here to stay. There was a heel moment where Eddie Kingston paid respects to Brodie Lee but then swiftly said he would prove the Dark Order were nothing without him. That, of course, was placed purposefully, because those villainous words couldn’t be further from the truth. The Dark Order is here to stay and carry on Lee’s legacy in AEW.
There were so many wonderful video-package tributes to Lee that directly spoke about him as a person – his unselfishness, his love for his family, and his ability to bring joy to those around him.
But there were also tributes during the action that wrestling fans could enjoy and derive meaning from. Lance Archer wore gear reminiscent of the Luke Harper character in WWE. Eddie Kingston wore a Notre Dame jersey, because Lee would joke that he used to be an offensive lineman for Notre Dame. Dr. Britt Baker gave a shoutout and a wink to an old wrestling gimmick of his, “Big Rig”. And, most prominently of all, we saw his former tag partner and faction-mate in WWE Erick Rowan make an appearance and a save.
You have to watch this video, by the way. It’s one of the single most beautiful things you will see at a professional wrestling fan:
And so is this one, the closing of the show:
As I said earlier, my words cannot do justice to Brodie Lee, to this show, or to what he has brought to his colleagues and even to us as wrestling fans. Paradoxically, the more I write, the less adequate my words feel.
So I will leave you with this. As I fought back tears, laughed and cheered during the matches, and reflected on the kind words shared by his peers, I felt connected with all the wrestling fans I know online. It made me feel less alone, seeing so many fans go through the same emotions during the show. And it was even more wonderful, seeing everyone in AEW honor Brodie Lee’s life, coming together as a unified family to pay tribute to a man whose legacy and life we will forever cherish.
For as much as we get caught up in “wars” and trivial arguments, I have always believed in the pro wrestling fandom as a unifying force and a place where we can come together to share our love for wrestling and be there for each other through the difficult times. This is undoubtedly one of those times, and for those two hours, I felt a great sense of sadness. But also, somewhere deeper inside of me, I felt a sense of connection that I have not felt for a very long time.