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By Kendall Jenkins on 2020-05-22 07:31:00

Traditionally in recent years, the WWE has used the Royal Rumble match as a way to introduce Raw and Smackdown fans to the best talent that NXT has to offer.

One of the most destructive forces to emerge on the development roster in the past year or so has been Keith Lee, the powerhouse who can also fly high with the best of them.

The 35-year-old has put in the hard yards, grinding for Ring of Honor, Evolve and PWG before getting his break for the WWE brand.

April 5, 2018, which seems like a lifetime ago, was when Lee made his NXT debut – defeating Kassius Ohno. It was the start of a glorious journey which has taken the Texan to the North American Championship, as well as PPV turns at the Royal Rumble and the Survivor Series.

It was at the January showpiece where Lee really made his mark on the wider WWE audience, spending an entertaining three minutes in the ring before being thrown over the top ropes by a combination of the Monster Among Men and Brock Lesnar.

It’s no secret that Vince McMahon loves his beasts that can be portrayed as unstoppable machines, and especially those whose move set also includes moonsaults, five-star frog splashes and suicide dives through the ropes. Lee has got it all, and it’s difficult to conceive the notion that he won’t be moved to the main roster sooner rather than later - featuring in PPVs like Wrestlemania and Money in the Bank.

The man himself has done little to quell the speculation either, revealing to the Chasing Glory podcast at that he is ready to ‘make a statement’ on WWE’s flagship brands. "I know that a lot of the fans are interested in seeing Keith Lee mix it up with some of the guys on Raw and Smackdown," he said.

In one of the more interesting twists, the best sportsbooks such as those listed at offer odds on PPV futures, and a handful have installed Lee as their favorite to win the Royal Rumble in 2021. With sign-up bonuses and free bet offers listed on that site, maybe now is as good a time as any to get behind the Keith Lee runaway train.

To celebrate, here’s a look back at his five best moments in WWE so far:

#5 – When Monsters Collide

Standing 6ft 2in and weighing 320lb, it’s not often that Lee is made to look physically inferior.

However, when he tackled Lars Sullivan on an episode of NXT in November 2018, this was two genuine behemoths colliding.

Sullivan, you may recall, was being promoted as something of a beast at the time, winning a series of squash matches and demolishing the likes of No Way Jose along the way.

So, maybe it wasn’t a huge surprise when Lee was defeated by Triple H’s pet project of the time, but the pair served up a high octane contest that suggested the vanquished party might just go on to enjoy a longer, more satisfying career.

#4 – The Bush Administration

When Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa cut a promo in the parking lot of NXT back in January, it turned into your classic trash talk episode when the Undisputed ERA turned up.

However, nobody accounted for the presence of Keith Lee, who entered the scene flanked by countless security guards.

Well, they didn’t last long as they were tossed and thrown onto cars and metal railings, before Lee memorably shoulder tackled one guard through a five-foot hedge. It was surreal, hilarious and another demonstration of his incredible power.

#3 – Taking Down the Big Guns

The huge 12-man tag match at Survivor Series 2019 was littered with some of the industry’s leading performers.

Two of them, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, found themselves face-to-face with Lee in the middle of the ring, but it was the NXT man who prospered – pinning Rollins and closing in on victory over Reigns until a missed moonsault cost him the W.

It was, however, a tantalising introduction to his talents for the main roster.

#2 – Striking Gold

You could tell by the wild celebrations in the crowd and Mauro Ranello’s feverish commentary that Keith Lee winning the North American Championship was a hugely popular moment in NXT history.

Bask in his glory as @RealKeithLee remains limitless and your #WWENXT North American Champion!
Next Week: TWO title matches as @AdamColePro puts his NXT title on the line and @shirai_io gets her shot at @MsCharlotteWWE and the NXT Women's Championship! See you there at 8/7c!

— USA Network (@USA_Network) April 30, 2020

He locked horns with the champ Roderick Strong back in January, and after a back and forth tussle he delivered the Big Bang Catastrophe before pinning his rival for the three-count.

#1 – A Royal Tear-Up

When Lee, Lesnar and Strowman found themselves facing off in the Royal Rumble, it was a true coming-of-age moment for the NXT man.

But he stood tall, and the three minutes or so that this trio were in the ring together offered fans a tantalising glimpse of the future.

Keith Lee looked right at home, and it surely won’t be long before he’s fighting on PPVs as a main roster athlete.

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