Keith Lee is back on Raw with some tweaks to his character. With new ring gear, new facial hair, and a new ruthless attitude, Lee trounced Akira Tozawa in an open challenge proposed by Tozawa on Raw.
The biggest change to Lee’s gimmick is his name. Lee has adopted the nickname “Bearcat” and the initial reaction to the change was rather mixed.
While on the surface it might be somewhat random to give someone the nickname “Bearcat,” there is a historical significance to the nickname and it should be something that should elevate Lee.
Lee’s nickname is an homage to Bearcat Wright, a pioneer for African Americans in pro wrestling. Wright toured the country throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s and was known for publicly refusing to wrestle at shows that were segregated. Wright’s matches helped pack the stands and by refusing to work segregated shows, he was getting top billing among the stars of the era.
As one of the top wrestlers of the time, Wright had a decorated career, winning multiple world championships throughout the United States and Australia. Wright forged a path for Black pro wrestlers and was inducted into the Legacy Wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2017.
While his story should be more known, it’s fair to believe that not many wrestling fans are aware of Bearcat Wright and what he did for pro wrestling. Because of that, fans might not understand or like the “Bearcat” nickname for Keith Lee. By giving the nickname “Bearcat” to a modern-day performer like Lee, it gives fans the opportunity to learn about Wright and his legacy which is still being felt today.