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Before Kassius Ohno was knocking fools out in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) and the sixth season of WWE NXT, he was known as Chris Hero on the independent wrestling scene.
And as Hero, he accomplished just about everything there is to accomplish on the indie circuit.
He wrestled for IWA: Mid-South, Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), CHIKARA and Ring of Honor (ROH) amongst others while also wrestling across the Pacific for Big Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH.
Interviews with a Hero: The Chris Hero Story from Smart Mark Video sits Hero down for a long, exhaustive shoot interview highlighting his time before signing to WWE.
And I don't mean exhaustive as in it's a shore to sit through. Quite the opposite. It's really enjoyable and breezes by even though it's nearly eight freakin' hours long.
It combines an interview which took place in 2003, this 2011 shoot interview is a delight.
Check out some the highlights from the first half after the jump.
The first quarter of the interview focuses on Hero's run in IWA: Mid-South and how he met current WWE Champion CM Punk. He said he had wrestled for the promotion a couple of times but it was Punk's first go-round so he attempted to break the ice.
Assuming Punk was into hard rock, Hero said he had attended a Deftones show recently. Punk's reply?
"Yeah, The Deftones suck."
"Punk is a smartass... he can definitely be a dick... He's very aware of who he is and how people perceive him."
He then went on to say he and Punk had no chemistry at first but finally were able to gel and put on matches which ranged anywhere from 45 minutes to an half and a half. He also went at length about various injuries wrestlers suffered while wrestling for Ian Rotten's company.
Hero relayed a story about how he had started wrestling for CHIKARA and had a lot of fun with those guys on road trips. He said he didn't want to "deal" with Punk during that time and lied to him by saying there was no room on a particular trip Punk asked about.
Well, the WWE Champion found out and was furious which led to a breakdown in their relationship. Eventually, time healed all wounds and after Punk signed with WWE, they were able to mend fences.
Speaking of Rotten, he has a... less than stellar reputation but Hero defended him:
"A lot of the people giving him shit are people that didn't really deal with him that much."
Hero explains he or Punk or any number of guys wouldn't have become who they are without Rotten and IWA: MS since he gave them chances. The way Hero described Rotten reminded me of Paul Heyman as Rotten had a great mind for wrestling but awful with finances.
The conversation steered toward his tenure with CHIKARA and his run as a trainer for the Wrestle Factory. Hero says Mike Quackenbush has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which shows in the detail-oriented product he puts put. He also says Hallowicked is the most underrated and under-appreciated wrestler in the business and describes him as a "wrestler's wrestler."
But unfortunately, CHIKARA is a niche product according to Hero. He says a lot of talented guys work for the promotion but can't get experience anywhere else because Quackenbush won't let them
"Mike wants what's best for Mike and Mike wants what's best for CHIKARA."
He said only the guys who spoke up got the leave the CHIKARA bubble, guys with strong enough personalities to break the "Mike Quackenbush aura."
"Who has transcended CHIKARA? Eddie Kingston. Larry Sweeney. Two guys with strong personalities..."
Hero says especially in 2004, it was an unwritten rule not to cross Quackenbush and a lot people either love him or hate him while he's in the middle.
The former King of Wrestling relays a story about his way. He was wrestling for CHIKARA for two years, making $75 a show the entire time. He asked for a raise and got $5. When he brought it up, he was then offered $100 but Quackenbush demanded a bunch of stuff including going to boards and talking up CHIKARA.
He discusses his departure from the promotion which was due to some inappropriate text messages he shared with his trainee Shane Storm's girlfriend. Hero says it was a case of him simply being immature and pretty much falls on his sword.
His time with CZW closes out the second disc and the funniest part has to be his absolute burial of Justice Pain, long-time CZW veteran.
"His lack of skill plus his attitude makes him the worst wrestler in the world."
He relays a story where Eddie Kingston legitimately breaks his ankle during a three-way match with himself and Pain where Pain attempts to slap a submission ON THE BROKEN ANKLE. Kingston, afraid this no-talent is going to further injure him, taps out immediately. Pain panics and wants to go to the finish but Hero calms him down since it's the main event.
After the show, Pain heads backstage with his newly won title and asks Kingston how he is. According to Hero, Pain didn't even wait to hear "War King's" answer.
With Kingston temporarily out of commission, Pain and Hero continue their feud. He continues to bury Pain when describing how awful their successive matches were. It was bad enough, Hero made a shoot comment about wrestling Kingston in a Loser Leaves Town match simply to give himself an out from the company.
That's just too funny.
One of the best quotes from Hero I took in the first half was this:
"Most people in wrestling talk a lot of shit but when it come to it... they don't really confront. That's kinda how wrestling is."
Join us next weekend for a look at the second half of the interview!