After years of feeling underused and unappreciated, Jon Huber finally got an opportunity to show what he was fully capable of in the world of wrestling. In March, merely a week after the pandemic drove America into lockdown, the former WWE wrestler best known as Luke Harper made his debut in All Elite Wrestling. Returning to his original wrestling name, Brodie Lee, and debuting as the heavily hyped Exalted One of the Dark Order, Huber immediately established himself as one of AEW’s top stars. Over the next few months he’d erase any doubts anybody might have had about him, creating one of AEW’s most vibrant characters, wrestling fantastic brawls against the likes of Jon Moxley and The Elite, and helping turn the formerly mocked Dark Order stable into a legitimate highlight of AEW. At the end of the summer Huber was the unquestioned star of what many consider the best wrestling segment of the year, when he shockingly dismantled AEW cover boy Cody Rhodes for the TNT Championship in two minutes, and then oversaw a systematic beatdown of Rhodes’ entire family. Huber lost the title back to Rhodes two months later in a brutal dog collar match, but that original title change, and the superlative work Huber had done throughout his AEW tenure, solidified him as one of the best and most valuable stars in the company’s short history.
Sadly that dog collar match in October was Huber’s last. He died of a lung illness on December 26, 10 days after his 41st birthday. He leaves behind his wife, Amanda, and their two young sons, Brodie and Nolan. Pro wrestling has seen more than its fair share of tragedy over the last few decades, but between his youth, his family, and the sheer sudden shock of it all, Huber’s death is especially tragic.
Huber’s death feels different from wrestling’s litany of catastrophes because it is. Even fallen wrestlers who were clearly beloved by their colleagues didn’t see the universal outpouring of love and respect that has followed in the wake of Huber’s passing. Between his first decade in the indies, his long run in WWE as Luke Harper, and his final year as AEW’s Mr. Brodie Lee, Huber developed a reputation as not just a great big man wrestler, but also as one of the kindest, most supportive, and most unselfish people in the business. I don’t think there’s a single prominent American wrestler of the last 20 years who hasn’t publicly grieved Huber’s death, or shared stories of his selflessness. The whole business has been paying tribute to him throughout this week, with stories that are often uplifting, often funny, and always heartbreaking.
Huber’s unexpected death is hitting both his friends and his fans especially hard because of how unusual this once too frequent occurrence has become. Huber’s the first high-profile active wrestler in a major American promotion to pass away in over a decade, as well as the first star from his generation of indie wrestlers to pass away while on top of the business. Huber’s closest peers in wrestling experienced the procession of deaths that swept through the previous generation of stars in the ‘90s and early ‘00s the way most viewers did, as fans, and not colleagues. Wrestlers who came up through the indies in the ‘00s seem to have built a far more convivial and considerate culture than what came before, one built on friendship and respect, and you can feel that closeness through the stunned, heartfelt reactions to Huber’s death.
Many of those friends will get to pay their respects to Huber once more on tonight’s episode of AEW Dynamite on TNT. The entire two hour program will be devoted to Huber’s memory, with a lineup of matches built around his Dark Order stablemates, and a main event featuring his son Brodie’s three favorite wrestlers—Cody Rhodes, Orange Cassidy, and Preston “10” Vance of the Dark Order—teaming up together. AEW’s commitment to Huber’s family has even extended to signing his oldest son to an actual contract, a long-term deal that could result in the young Brodie Jr. following his father into the ring, if he so chooses (and assuming AEW is still around whenever he’s old enough). It’ll be a time to mourn Huber’s passing, but also to celebrate the lives he touched both inside and outside the ring. For his family, his friends, and his fans, Huber’s memory will always endure, and tonight’s tribute show should be a sad, loving testament to that legacy.
As Huber wrote on Twitter every day, it’s Wednesday. You know what that means. And today it means more than ever.
For a deeper, more comprehensive, and far better written look at Huber’s legacy, go read Colette Arrand’s tribute at Fanbyte.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, music, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.