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The road to where Karrion Kross currently stands was a long and winding one.
After making a name for himself for over 10 years on the independent circuit by wrestling for some of the most prestigious promotions in Japan, Mexico, and the United States, Karrion Kross erupted on the WWE scene with an unforgettable debut in NXT — and quickly captured the coveted NXT Championship not once, but twice. His whole look screamed “star power” as he was presented as an unstoppable force with a main event entrance and a partner-in-crime in his real-life wife Scarlett. Together, they were unbeatable in NXT competition.
Shortly after that, his main roster debut on Monday Night RAW landed with a thud; a 90-second loss in your debut match would do that to anybody. To add insult to injury, his iconic entrance and presentation that made the WWE Universe notice him in the first place were completely changed. Instead of being the menacing and intimidating psycho that steamrolled through NXT two times over, the Monday Night RAW version of Karrion Kross looked like a toy gladiator figure come to life, complete with perplexing attire and, perhaps most dramatically, no Scarlett by his side.
It wasn’t long until Kross left WWE altogether.
That was one year ago.
Fortunately, a lot can change in a year — and for Kross, it did.
Karrion Kross made his shock re-emergence in WWE when he arrived in SmackDown this past summer to lay out Drew McIntyre with Scarlett in tow as part of his original NXT presentation. After a memorable feud with McIntyre, he’s now set his sight on chaos and destruction as he intends to mow down everybody who stands in his path.
USA Insider had the privilege to sit down with Kross, and he was surprisingly candid, speaking about his fan support, the man behind the character, and what he's trying to accomplish during this latest run.
One of the most interesting aspects of Kross’ time in WWE was the fan reaction to his appearance and presentation once he left NXT to join the RAW roster. Despite being ceremoniously booed by the WWE Universe every time he walked down the aisle, there was a near-unanimous sentiment among fans that the RAW version of Kross was a poor, watered-down version of his NXT persona. And those fans were vocal.
“The support was everywhere. It was completely inescapable,” he said. “I would be grocery shopping, at the gym, in the airport, in a parking lot, at a restaurant. Literally everywhere I went, I was always approached by dozens of people at least every week and they were expressing how upset they were about all of that.”
When he and Scarlett were released last year, Kross managed to turn a negative into a positive: That’s when he realized he was extremely in-demand in the professional wrestling world outside of WWE.
“Sometimes it is what it is,” he said. “As a person, I tend to not dwell on negative situations or scenarios that I can't really do anything about. I tend to constantly think about how I can recover from a situation immediately, both personally and professionally, and that’s exactly what I did. The day we were released we had almost 12 months of work lined up in almost 12 hours. The fan support, the industry support ... we were really well supported throughout the whole thing when we were released.”
The fan backlash toward the “new” Karrion Kross was overwhelming. Every wrestling message board, blog, and website comment section was filled with countless variations of “What happened to Karrion Kross?” Of course, these sentiments were not directed at Kross himself, but toward WWE management, who in the fans’ eyes managed to drop the ball on a “sure thing” by stripping away everything that made Kross, well, awesome. Not surprisingly, this visceral reaction to Kross’ main roster debut and subsequent release from WWE made him a hot commodity on the free agent market without Kross having to sell himself at all to other promotions.
“I was fortunate in this particular situation because a lot of people have to go out and tell the story themselves once they’re released. And the way things played out, it played out publicly on television. So I never really felt the need to have to speak up or anything,” he said.
Being released from WWE last year wasn’t a sour grapes situation for Kross — there were no hard feelings, after all. “I’m a company man, tell me what to do and I’ll do it,” he told us.
The conversation circled back to the topic of the fans, and Kross was quick to point out that for WWE Superstars, it’s all about pulling out the correct emotions from the millions of people watching around the world. And for lack of a better term, they really don’t like their intelligence being insulted with bizarre changes to characters they’d gotten to know over weeks and months without any reason behind those changes.
“Take this conversation we’re having for example: People don’t forget. There’s a misconception that fans have a short attention span. Maybe in some regards they do, but when they see something they don’t like, let me tell you — they don’t forget. They absolutely don’t forget. And that’s why it’s so important to preserve continuity in our programming, and in sports entertainment in general. It’s important because the fans are invested and they do care. It’s part of our jobs to elicit an emotional response and we definitely don’t want to elicit the wrong response.”
This past July, when Triple H was installed as the Head of Creative, rumors were flying that Superstars such as Karrion Kross would be brought back to WWE, and that’s exactly what happened. It sure sounds like Triple H wanted to do right by the fans by bringing back somebody who — whether they booed or cheered him — they supported.
Now, Karrion Kross and Scarlett are running roughshod over the SmackDown roster. Drew Gulak got decimated, Madcap Moss got choked out, and even Drew McIntyre fell to the newly-motivated Kross. He’s currently got his sights on none other than Rey Mysterio, and when asked what he plans to do to the GMOAT, Kross wasted no time with his direct response.
“I’m going to force a new layer out of Rey Mysterio that people have never seen before. That’s what this is going to be about,” he said chillingly.
Judging by that response alone, we have to admit that things look rather bleak for Rey when he inevitably meets Kross in the ring. If Rey thought his own son turning on over on Monday Night RAW was heartbreaking, he’s certainly not going to find solace over on SmackDown now that he is being essentially hunted down by one of the most dangerous Superstars in WWE.
And with that, the interview took a turn. To say that Karrion Kross is laser-focused on destroying one of the most legendary performers in pro wrestling history is an understatement. It’s like a switch was flipped inside of Kross, taking him to a dark place — the same place where he’ll try to drag Rey.
Only one question remained. What is his plan? Is it to be an agent of chaos, constantly targeting his next victim via seemingly random turns of cards? Or does the former two-time NXT Champion have bigger aspirations?
“Competing against Roman Reigns for the titles he holds is always on my radar. But there’s a time and place for everything,” he said. “In the meantime, I am very much about showing the audience moments and stories where we can explore different aspects of the characters they’ve been watching for a very long time. I want to diversify our programming whenever I’m on. I want it to feel different whenever I’m on versus everything else you see before me or after me. That’s why I approach things the way I do, that’s why I work the way that I do, and that’s why I request to be produced the way that I do.”
It’s not exactly common for Superstars to speak so openly about their characters and how they fit on the shows themselves, but Kross managed to peel back the curtain for us and give it to us straight. He believes that when everything on a show is homogenized, nobody and nothing stands out. And Karrion Kross is certainly standing out now. Even though he has dedicated this current run to dismantling many of the WWE Universe’s most beloved Superstars, he always makes sure to listen to the best indicators of what is working for his character and what isn’t: the fans.
“The feedback that I've been getting from fans has been really good. The fans have always been my pulse, my radar on what I should be doing and shouldn't be doing. And I’m being afforded the ability to really breathe that into my work through the current office I’m working for — and I’m just very happy for all of that," he said.
And with that, the interview ended – while Rey Mysterio’s clock just got started.
Tick, tock, indeed.
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