41-year-old wrestling veteran Jon Huber was never a World Champion for a major promotion. He never truly had that mainstream crossover, yet his influence on the wrestling business and the people around him is seemingly a lot larger than a lot of those who did. Huber, who made a name for himself as Brodie Lee on the Independent circuit before gaining prominence as WWE’s Luke Harper and returning to the Lee moniker over the last year of his career, is one of the most underrated talents in the history of professional wrestling.
Brodie Lee made his debut on the Independent circuit in 2003 and was at the helm of the boom of Chikara Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate in the mid-2000s. At 6’5, 275 lb his menacing stature and eerie persona stood out among others on the independent scene, working a more hard-hitting big man style in an era where the independents were full of talents such as The American Dragon and Claudio Castagnoli putting technical wrestling at the forefront (who later went on to be Daniel Bryan and Antonio Cesaro). It was in 2012 that he inked his WWE developmental contract and was aligned with Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan as a swamp cult. They became one of the most dominant trios in WWE history.
The first time I saw Huber was right before their main roster debut as the Wyatt Family in May of 2013. It was my uncle who had followed Brodie Lee on the Independents that told me that Brodie Lee would become one of my favorite performers. He was spot on. From there, I went back and caught myself up to speed on just who Brodie Lee was. I was left in awe.
Adopting the name Luke Harper, he’d go onto win three tag championships in WWE alongside the Wyatt’s with Rowan and Randy Orton, who joined in late 2016. But, unlike the typical big man tag team, Harper and Rowan wowed audiences with their gaudy athleticism. A man the size of Luke Harper should not have had the slickest tope suicida you’d ever see. He should not be doing hurricanranas. However, Brodie also used unique big-man maneuvers not commonly used today, including a viscous gator roll and a discuss lariat that helped his matches stand out. Not to mention, he was armed with the most dangerous big boot since Test. The talent that Luke Harper possessed as an in-ring worker is second to none for somebody with his build and stature. While with the Wyatts, their two out of three falls match with the Usos and their six man tag match with the Shield at Elimination Chamber 2014 are two of the greatest tag matches of this millennium. You can watch the Shield match in full here.
Following the disbandment of the Wyatt Family, Harper was used more sporadically as a solo competitor, but the highlight was a tremendous feud with Dolph Ziggler that culminated in an Intercontinental Championship victory and one of the greatest ladder matches of this generation. That was the highlight of his solo WWE career. When he was used, he was commonly the match of the night, including his match at Elimination Chamber 2017 with Randy Orton and Worlds Collide 2019 with Dominik Dijakovic. He was granted his release on December 8th of 2019.
Upon his release, he debuted in All Elite Wrestling, Tony Khan’s upstart promotion on TNT that’s been knocking it out of the park, as Mister Brodie Lee, a spoof on the Vince McMahon persona (much like NXT has spoofed Khan with the Robert Stone Brand). He was revealed as “The Exalted One” who was the leader of the Dark Order. The Dark Order, a faction that had previously been dead on arrival, were granted instant credibility under the guidance of Lee and eventually saw it becoming one of the most intriguing stories in wrestling today. Talents such as John Silver are becoming the most over thing in AEW, which is a credit to how Brodie Lee changed the perception of the group and its members. In his first major feud, he challenged for the World Championship at Double or Nothing, AEWs biggest pay-per-view of the year and had an absolute banger of a match with then-champion Jon Moxley, the same Jon Moxley who competed as Dean Ambrose in the aforementioned Wyatt vs Shield encounter.
From there, Lee would annihilate the legendary Cody Rhodes to become only the second ever TNT Champion in AEW history. He held the championship for 46 days (recognized, 55 days in actuality as it aired on tape delay) before losing to Cody in a dog collar match. It was Lee’s last televised appearance.
The wrestling world was left stunned at around 8:30 PM EST on December 26th. Huber’s wife, Amanda, announced that Lee had passed away due to complications with lung disease, a condition that hadn’t been disclosed to the public previously.
It was from there that the floodgate of tribute poured out. The stories of a career heel was that as a gentle giant and one of the best overall men in wrestling. Very few people are universally beloved by every single person they work with in an industry such as this one. Mick Foley, Eddie Guerrero, Owen Hart and Becky Lynch are the only talents that came to mind off the top of my head but Brodie Lee is absolutely on that list. Bray Wyatt released the following statement on his Instagram:
In a statement released by Becky Lynch through Instagram as well, she noted that “Brodie Lee talked her off the edge when she was struggling more times than she should count.” That seems to be a common theme: nobody cared for people more than Jon Huber.
I got a message earlier tonight from Logan Rights, an Independent Wrestler for Tampa Bay Pro Wrestling, who got to meet and work hands on with Huber earlier this year right before his AEW debut. He cited it is one of his most eye opening experiences, noting that Huber was extremely friendly and helpful as well.
Many other coworkers have gone on record with tributes:
One common theme here is that Brodie was the ultimate family man. I’d like to share the following clips:
To Brodie Lee, Luke Harper…Jon Huber: thank you for years of your unique brand of entertainment. Yeah, yeah, yeah! Rest easy, Big Rig.