It’s been a weird week.
There have been long, elaborate dreams this week including Jon in a substantial role — those I have successfully awakened from — the stuff on either side feels like a cruel nightmare in the unsolicited gut punch known as “2020.” The outpouring from all corners of the globe in honor of Jon has been as wonderful as it can be, but you typically don’t see those things for people who were just wrestling on TV — perfectly healthy — two months ago. And it certainly doesn’t happen when you know them personally. Who have been at your house. On your couch. In your car. Who you were proud to call a friend.
Jon Huber, more popularly known nowadays as the larger than life Mr. Brodie Lee, was once very down to earth with the rest of us, doing normal things, and often without a massive beard. That came way later. Though he was the first to have “Huber hair” (more on that later), he was a pretty special ordinary dude, if that makes sense.
I think this picture above is from my college graduation party and we decided to go rip some softballs or something. I have no idea how this group came together otherwise. Some of us had played on a softball team together, but some of them were definitely not. In addition to the wrestling, Jon had been on a few of those teams. I’m big into videogames, and I took to the create-a-player liberally in MVP Baseball 2005. I put our softball team in there as the Frederick Keys (the A-ball team to the Baltimore Orioles). I paid careful detail to their appearances, their intricacies, their position of choice, etc. There is an element in baseball games that takes the look of a 3×3 grid for the batter, blue being a cool zone, red being HOT, white being neutral. So, if you had wanted to bust Barry Bonds high and inside (ask the Dustytaker), that zone might be blue for him. ANYWAY, my cousin Mike (pictured, far right) said that his “box” looked like a “J” – he likes pitches high in the zone, straight down the middle, or low and away. When I asked Jon via AIM one night, he told me “ALL RED.” That would suggest “I can hit anything, and I’m great at it.” (He also showed up in NHL Hitz as a “Grinder,” and ALWAYS wore #2.)
He took his name in the backyard as Huber Boy 2, younger brother to Chris: “Huber Boy 1.” My very last match in AWF I dropped the belt to him after getting powerbombed into some cardboard boxes off of a wooden tower (you may have seen a GIF of the celebration circulating the interweb). Later on, when we started out our in-ring wrestling career together in Roc City Wrestling, we took some time settling on the names we’d use there. For a moment we considered me being “Huber Boy 3” (similar to the Dudley Boyz; fittingly, Jon would hail from Huberville, British Columbia) before I settled on “Superstar” Rob Schulz. He came up with our tag team name which I thought was awesome the very first time I heard it. The Roc City Wrecking Crew. He was into older wrestling, and it was a while before I had even heard of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Nevertheless, it was that or the “Heat Seekers,” and so the RCWC was born.
I had seen some stuff around lately where it said that Jon had often helped to elevate less-appreciated wrestlers, and I realized that I might be Patient #0 for that. We started as a six-pack: Tom “Mr. Czarniak” / “The Czar” / Noble, “Sweet Lou” Englert, Ed Delaney “Freddy Franchise / Freddie Midnight,” Gardner “Big Daddy Watts,” and then Jon / Brodie Lee, and myself. Tom was wrestling face that show, and Lou and Freddy formed the JV Club. On the heel side, we had the rougher-than-sandpaper Big Daddy Watts, and then myself and Jon as the Roc City Wrecking Crew. (In later years, we’d have Colin Delaney and Chris Harrington join the fold from our friend group, too). Looking at that list now, I’m probably the least in tune with the physicality of wrestling, and maybe that is why we ended up that way?
It was such an honor to have Jon select me for his tag team partner, and I was initially confused when he suggested it. Granted, we were the two tallest guys on the roster, and putting people “in the woods” is something we always got a kick out of. “Wait, Rob, what the heck are you talking about?” Listen. Hold your arms high like a “Y.” Make your hands scary — like claws. Find a friend to do the same thing. Stand WAY too close to someone between you. Congratulations!: you’ve successfully put someone in the woods. Like scary trees. Because we’re huge. Works best if you’re both well over a foot taller than whoever is in the middle. (I distinctly remember us putting his future-wife Amanda in the woods, too, wayyy before she was to be his future-wife. I can’t pinpoint the event, but I was wearing my mom’s bellbottoms, and we were ultra entertaining on the mic.)
I saw a tweet (on Twitter!) from the wrestler recently known as WWE’s Mustafa Ali. He said “Jon saved me from a broken neck once.” Brainmatch, dude; same. There was a time in the lead-up to our third show where I wanted to get the plancha down just right. Something was wrong with me that day, feeling sluggish or whathaveyou, and when I went to dive over the ropes I came up WAY short of where I thought I’d land. Instinctively, Jon thrust both of his hands out forward and cupped my face and side of my head, and the rest of my body followed suit. I didn’t end up headfirst on the concrete as I should’ve, but rather landed safely on my side. I had a jolt of adrenaline through my body then knowing I’d just dodged a really big bullet, and shook it off and asked him to move in a little bit come show time. During the match, with adrenaline naturally flowing, I took to the sky and FAR overshot the new landing spot. AGAIN, Jon thrust his arms into the sky and now grabbed me around my waist between his neck and shoulder. Now, that night I went to the hospital after the show, haha, but to no fault of his. I would’ve been in much bigger trouble than a banged up elbow that I couldn’t bend.
I had the time of my life with this whole wrestling deal. When Ed joined us we got even better somehow. There was a time when we were in a rumble together and the ring was empty but us three. Jon did that deal where he laid up in the corner like Eddie Guerrero to wonderful applause, and without missing a beat, Ed and I laid on top of him to make some weird sandwich to a mix of louder laughter and horrified gasps. We were, dare I saw, untouchable for a while there? Just super chemistry of three like-minded guys having a good deal out there. RCW was a little different before we joined, but it wasn’t long after that Huber was walking around backstage before the show smacking people in the calves with a kendo stick and telling them to “stay loose!” Jon would eventually outgrow me though as he was destined to do. He’d occasionally say “I’m leaving the Wrecking Crew” and I’d immediately say “I’m going with you!” We’d both laugh.
After RCW came NWA Upstate and P6W. Beyond that, he’d go onto to travel the US, then the world (literally) gaining experience and popularity. He’d come back to Rochester after all of that and touched life after life here. He’s made special appearances up and down the phone book, be it at an Amerks game or a school for kids with special needs. When he got signed to NXT it was huge, and when he made his WWE debut as Luke Harper we formed smiles that still haven’t fully faded. With the advent of AEW, Jon got to flex his creative muscle and return to a name that he coined — Brodie Lee — and be more of who he wanted to be. –And KUDOS, gentlemen, for a fantastic tribute show on Wednesday night. I know you made a LOT of people very happy, and earned the respect of people who maybe weren’t AEW fans just yet. They are now.
Pictured above: all kinds of Huber hair! This is at my Fantasy Nascar Banquet. We all had very masculine “dude” hair for a long time. Jon was the first to adopt a shaggier length. I told Tom one time “you should get a mullet!” and he said “why don’t YOU?!” So I thought about it, said “why not?”, and grew my hair longer. I haven’t had short-short hair since. But see? Tom, Gardner, Brian Delaney, Colin in the far right with a ponytail (ponytail not pictured). Huber had an influence on all of us. Heck, even now (as I type this) I look like a lost Wyatt Family member, with a beard that would make a wonderful nest for an albatross.
Pictured below, the AWF / RCW Totem Pole. In the back, Jon and I have “Snake Arms” (see: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin T-shirt where his arms are snakes), and we run down to HB1 at the bottom. He and Jason would ref a lot of our matches through the years. I haven’t looked at some of these pictures in years and years, and seeing them now takes me right back. And it all feels current. And this week doesn’t feel real. I’m not sure when it’ll fully sink in. I’ve thought about it a lot during the day, dremt about it during the night, I’ve seen the tributes, I’ve seen Amanda and little Brodie on TV. And still.
Jon, we’ll miss ya, buddy. I wish we could’ve spent even more time together, but I know that time apart was spent making someone else infinitely happy. I’ll never forget watching Greg Biffle win his first Cup race with you (and only you; 2003 Pepsi 400, where the heck was everyone else??), and that time we owned a business and submitted our DBA forms, HAHA!! What in the world.. Thanks for everything you did for all of us on this big, blue marble. Your seeds have been planted in everyone you’ve met, and the lives you’ve touched are better for it.
Rest easy, brother. Catch ya down the road.