Wes Lee has a newfound edge and a title shot against Carmelo Hayes


Since losing the NXT North American Championship to Dominik Mysterio (a statement that’s still hard to believe), fans have wondered what’s next for Wes Lee. The Aug. 15 episode of NXT gave them a satisfactory answer.

Lee took on upper-midcard gatekeeper Dijak for the right to challenge NXT Champion Carmelo Hayes at the Heatwave television special. The match played out like most “big man vs. little man” bouts (which isn’t a knock on the quality) before Lee hit a Spiral Tap and scored the pin.

However, Lee’s change in demeanor was more notable than the expected result. While the 28-year-old spent most of his North American Title reign as a relatively white-meat babyface, he has cranked up the angst over the last few weeks and directed that animosity toward Hayes.

Where is WWE going with Wes Lee’s new attitude?

At first glance, this seems similar to the character shift Lee underwent when his tag team partner, Nash Carter (now in Impact Wrestling as Zachary Wentz again) got released from WWE. In the aftermath of losing his partner — and the NXT Tag Team Championship — Lee adopted a more standoff-ish personality, looking to take his frustrations out on anyone in his vicinity.

Like Tazz in his early WWE run, Lee was an undersized guy who constantly picked fights, though he didn’t accumulate losses like Tazz. And once he won the North American Title, he settled in as a more traditional protagonist. His confidence grew throughout his 269 days as champion, and he became one of the most prestigious reigns in the sport.

Since losing the title, however, Lee has reverted back to snapping at other wrestlers over his shortcomings. We saw it after Lee and Hayes lost a tag team match to Noam Dar and Oro Mensah on Aug. 1 and when Lee pestered Hayes this past Tuesday. Clearly, someone in creative thought that a sharper edge needed to accompany Lee on his trip up the card, but are we seeing him evolve as a babyface or begin his heel turn?

A heel turn would certainly explain why Lee has come across as so aggravating in his recent segments. It’s good that his character is upset over losing the North American Title — it adds importance to the matches and the championship — but there’s a fine line between being passionate and offputting. Lee hasn’t crossed that threshold yet, but it’s something worth keeping an eye on.

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Either way, a Hayes vs. Lee title match should be a lot of fun to watch. It will also give us a better idea of whether WWE plans to push Lee as an aggressive babyface or as an outright heel.