I remember when I found out that Jon Huber (known in AEW as Brodie Lee) passed like it was yesterday. He hadn’t been on TV since dropping his TNT Title to Cody Rhodes, but my friends and I had assumed he was just taking some time off. Wrestlers put their bodies and their health in danger week after week, it’s only expected that they’d need some time off every now and then.
I was scrolling through Twitter and came across a post from AEW. The first thing I saw was a picture of the Exalted One himself, and I smiled because I figured it was an announcement that he’d be returning to Dynamite next week.
I read the text next to Brodie’s picture. ThenI read it again. I paused, read the comments, and read the text again. It had to be a storyline, I thought. The idea was a flailing means of denial that was equally idiotic and optimistic. Jon Huber, the Exalted One, had passed away at the age of 41.
I’ve never handled death well, not when it strikes celebrities like Brodie Lee, and especially not when it strikes someone I know personally. My instinct is always to detach myself from them completely, to the point where their life and the time we spent feels like nothing but a dream. If I don’t think about them, if I don’t feel sadness, then the sadness doesn’t exist, right?
The most grounding effect of someone’s passing is the simple realization that they were once here, and now they aren’t. It sounds juvenile, but the realization comes like an anvil on your chest. My grandfather used to give my sisters and I pizzelles when we visited his house, and then one day he didn’t. My friend used to show me the paintings in her sketchbook, and then one day she stopped.
Brodie Lee used to make us laugh with the rest of the Dark Order on Being the Elite, and then one episode he wasn’t there.
AEW’s tribute show to Jon Huber remains the most beautiful event I’ve ever witnessed on television. The love for Brodie poured from the ring, through the TV screen, and into my family’s living room. We laughed, we sobbed (sometimes needing to leave the room for a moment to blow our noses and dry our eyes). Most of all, though, we loved. We loved Brodie for being the incredibly kindhearted man he was and for blessing us with his time on Earth. Every member of the Dark Order on the card won their matches that night, showing the audience and themselves that they were ready to carry on Brodie’s legacy. He trained them perfectly and left them as stars.
Brodie Lee Jr, known better by his name Negative One, has made appearances on both Dynamite and AEW’s YouTube shows. He is the 9-year-old son of Brodie Lee, and he’s courageously taken on the mantle of leading the Dark Order. Negative One runs a tight ship, too, don’t be fooled by his small stature! He is merciless to the Dark Order’s enemies and tolerates nothing but the best effort from his subjects.
Seeing Negative One with the Dark Order is a weekly shot in the arm of joy. To watch the Dark Order take him into their misfit family without any hesitation, and treat him with unabashed love is such a beautiful sight. We can only imagine how thankful Negative One’s father is for the love his son is being given.
This essay is a thank you to the cast of AEW for allowing us as fans to grieve with them. They’ve taught me that yes, life goes on when a loved one passes, and you can always smile at the time you had with them. You don’t need to detach yourself from the departed. Instead, you can keep them with you, and let them bring you joy even after they’ve gone.
Thank you, Mrs. Huber, Negative One, and Mr. Brodie Lee for all the love you’ve given to the crazy world of pro wrestling. It doesn’t go unappreciated for even one second!