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Wednesday night, just before midnight, Andrew Soucek and I wrapped up recording the All Elite After Show. On a normal Wednesday, I would have answered a few emails and opened Twitter for one last check before heading off to bed.
This past Wednesday, I walked into my youngest son’s bedroom and sat on the edge of his mattress. I watched him sleep for what felt like five minutes, but turned out to be almost an hour.
My youngest son is named Owen. He’s eight years old, the same age as Brodie Lee, Jr., who lost his dad last Saturday night.
Every premature death has hit the wrestling community hard. Jon Huber’s has hit the hardest, at least for me.
Owen Hart died when I was 15 years old. Actually, it was my 15th birthday (May 23, 1999). When Eddie Guerrero died I was 21. When I watched both tribute shows, I remember being sad. I was a fan of both and their endings were tragic.
When I watched Brodie Lee’s tribute on Wednesday, I cried.
Lee was only five years older than me, and we had kids the same age, both of whom like wrestling. It was difficult not to replace the faces on the photos AEW showed in my mind.
What if that was me? What if my kids were suddenly forced into a life without their dad?
I can’t imagine the pain my sons would be going through, and I can’t imagine the pain Brodie Jr. is going through as we speak. His mom, Amanda, is left picking up the pieces after their lives crumbled. Their youngest son, 3-year-old Nolan, is probably struggling to understand the whole situation.
For me, and a lot of wrestling fans who first discovered the sport in the ’90s, Huber’s death cuts the deepest because he’s the most relatable. For the first time, someone my age can see himself in the same position. I’m no longer a teenager or a 21-year-old college student with not a care in the world.
I sat there on the edge of my son’s bed and after a while, I just laid there staring at him. He doesn’t know this (and shh, neither does my wife), but he’s named after Owen Hart. At least in my mind, he is. My wife and I struggled to come up with names when she was pregnant and I suggested Owen. I never told her why – I think I thought she’d laugh at me – but I always heard how much Owen Hart was adored by his peers in interviews. He was always joking and had an infectious personality. Oddly enough, my son Owen has that same personality. He also has long blonde hair and loves to laugh. It’s scary, sometimes.
I suggested Owen and remember thinking to myself, “if he grows up to have the effect on people that Owen Hart had, he’ll change a small piece of the world around him.”
The same could be said for Brodie Lee.
I watched Owen sleep for a while and I couldn’t get the image of Huber hugging his son out of my mind. You know the photo. It’s been on social media and AEW used it as part of their tribute on Wednesday night. Huber, in a red t-shirt, hugging Brodie from behind and them both smiling.
I haven’t been able to get that photo out of my mind for days.
When I saw the photo circulate on social media earlier in the week, I asked myself, “Will Brodie Jr. ever smile like that again?”
The answer was yes.
He smiled like that on Wednesday night, after smacking MJF over the top of the head with a kendo stick. The wrestlers around him celebrate like he won the world title. In that split-second moment, I was amazed at the strength this 8-year-old was showing. That moment also perfectly encapsulated the love and support the Huber family was receiving from the AEW locker room.
Wrestling fans lost Brodie Lee, and he’ll leave a huge void. AEW staff and wrestlers lost a colleague and friend.
Amanda Huber and her children lost the center of their universe.
The fact that Lee’s health issues didn’t leak to the media is a testament to much he was admired and respected by his peers. This is pro wrestling, after all. Everything leaks. The fact that most of the AEW locker room knew of Brodie Lee’s condition and it never leaked is evidence to how much respect Lee earned backstage. No one wanted to betray him.
Moving forward, I expect more of the same, from WWE and AEW wrestlers alike. Those closest to Brodie Lee will not want to betray him.
I genuinely believe Chris Jericho, who said on the tribute show that he, along with the other wrestlers, would look after and take care of Brodie Lee’s family. I’m sure they will.
It won’t replace their dad, but they’ll need the support of their wrestling family. Speaking as a dad myself, that’s incredibly comforting.
Meanwhile, I think I’ll try to live more like Jon Huber. Check up on people. Pull others up. And most importantly, be the best dad.