NeXT: Kassius Ohno

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posted by Billy Carpenter

There have been a lot of concerns lately from fans as it regards the next wave of talent in the WWE. People speculate daily as to where the future superstars and main eventers are going to come from. For those of you who don’t have access to WWE’s weekly NXT show, it truly is a showcase for the company’s top stars of tomorrow. For those of us who do watch, there is one star there right now that seems to shine brighter than the rest.

Fans have been clamoring for Kassius Ohno, the former Chris Hero, to make his main roster debut. A well-seasoned and world traveled veteran, Kassius is one of the premier talents in the world. Vicious strikes are the calling card for Ohno these days in NXT, with a nasty rolling elbow often finishing off his opponents. There is, however, quite a bit more to Mr. Ohno and this profile will introduce those of you not familiar with him to just who exactly he is and why an ever-growing number of fans are ready to see him take the main roster by storm.

Kassius Ohno’s early training took place in Ohio at the ‘HWA Main Event Wrestling Camp’ ran by Les Thatcher and, later on, Dory Funk Jr.’s ‘Funking Conservatory’ in Florida. He gained his first experience, as Chris Hero, competing in small independents through the Midwest and in 2000, he began working for IWA-MS, where he first began to gain some notoriety on the American independent scene. Hero won the annual Ted Petty Invitational that year (at that time known as the ‘Sweet Science Sixteen’ tournament) and also challenged Sabu for the NWA World Heavyweight title that year. In October 2001 Chris won the IWA-MS Heavyweight title and while he lost the title on December 5 of that year to CM Punk, a now-legendary feud was born on that night. It reached its apex in February of 2003, when Punk and Hero competed in a match lasting over 90 minutes. That contest saw Hero come out on the winning end, capturing his third IWA-MS Heavyweight title in the process. It’s a championship that he would hold 4 times in total.

IWA-MS wasn’t the only place that Chris Hero was plying his trade during this time. He competed all over the world and in many other promotions here in the States including CZW, Chikara, PWG and even TNA for a brief stint. He found success everywhere he went, but in my view Hero’s indy career is most closely associated with CZW (other than Ring of Honor, which will tie-in with this soon). Debuting in 2002 for the promotion and becoming a regular in 2003, Hero’s first taste of championship success in CZW came at the expense of Jimmy Rave, whom he defeated for the Ironman Championship in May of 2004. He would hold that title until December 2004’s ‘Cage of Death’ event. Soon after, he would begin teaming with Claudio Castagnoli (now known as ‘Antonio Cesaro’ in WWE) and they would call themselves the ‘Kings of Wrestling’. The tandem would capture the CZW Tag Team titles on two separate occasions and would have success as a team later on down the road again.

By early 2006, Chris Hero found himself at the center of independent wrestling’s biggest storyline. While still under the CZW banner, he began calling out then ROH World Champion, Bryan Danielson (competing now in WWE as ‘Daniel Bryan’) and challenged Danielson for the ROH title on January 14, albeit unsuccessfully. The feud between the two companies raged on, and the next move was Hero leading the CZW wrestlers in an all-out invasion on ROH at their Fourth Anniversary Show.

The war would continue and would go to the next level when top ROH star, Samoa Joe, took it upon himself to declare war against CZW. The feud reached its climax at ROH’s Death Before Dishonor IV, as Hero led a 5 man CZW team into their specialty, the Cage of Death, against ROH’s 5 man squad. The end result was one of the most memorable cage matches in recent memory.

Despite coming out on the losing end, Chris Hero would find himself a fixture in Ring of Honor, teaming up with his old partner Claudio Castagnoli once more to win tag team gold. Chris would find success in ROH through the years, winning Survival of the Fittest 2007 and remaining one of the top stars until his departure in 2012. During his time here, he also traveled to Japan and worked Pro Wrestling NOAH where he began to craft the style that he uses currently as Kassius Ohno. Vicious striking, more submissions and a leniency towards a more ‘strong style’ marked an evolution in Hero and it’s this style that he would carry on with him to the next phase of his career.

On March 11, 2012, Kassius Ohno made his on-screen debut for WWE developmental territory, FCW, in which he cut a promo announcing his arrival. The next week he really arrived, defeating Xavier Woods and putting the roster on notice. I, for one, was stoked to see one of my favorites make it to the WWE, albeit in developmental. Even though I was hoping he’d be called up by now, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t enjoyed his work in FCW and now, NXT. His feud in the fall of 2012 with Richie Steamboat was excellent and a potential feud with William Regal that seems to be developing has me very excited for those in-ring contests. While fans such as myself have been waiting—chomping at the bit—for Ohno to make it to the main roster for some time now, I believe that we are on the verge of seeing that happen soon. He has all the tools to make an immediate impact on whatever show he’s placed and, as he’s done throughout his career, he will no doubt find success again. So, for those of you worried about the future of WWE, don’t be—our ‘Hero’ has arrived.

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