Strike while the iron’s hot I say…
Please note that the Eric Young article will happen but I'm still trying to get it right, so in the mean time I thought I'd go with something more on topic...
Some may say that this one is a bit recent to call Historical (or even Significant, for that matter…) but to me the saga of poor Karrion sums up the massive issues that WWE is now reckoning with.
You see, from 2015 to 2018, you essentially had TWO WWE’s. The main roster one, where Vince had his way and he "makes movies" with the odd great wrestling match butting in. And you had the other one, run by his son-in-law.
NXT during this period was not the antithesis of main roster WWE, as many would claim. Rather it was a promotion that invoked the ethos of where WWE should go. Instead of being mildly ashamed of the ‘marks’, NXT embraced them, using WWE production quality to tell great matches and let Indy stars show what made them different and compelling while at the same time finding lesser known names and giving them stories to make people care. NXT was not so much about the future generation of workers, but rather what Triple H saw as the future of WWE.
And it was going fine! Til an interloper stepped into the ring.
Dynamite’s decision to line up against NXT was a shrewd one for several reasons. For all of it’s great points NXT was a essentially a hermetic promotion for most of its existence- being watched on the Network. And when it was on the Network Hunter could probably say that it was a way to bring in subscribers to showcase Indy talent. However, when it had to suddenly measure up with ratings metrics against the now Bischoff-like obsessed McMahon, NXT could no longer have the same luxury. Particularly when up against a promotion that had great independent talent AS WELL as a bunch of workers who wanted nothing more than to flip the bird to WWE (all who floundered, it must be said ON THE MAIN ROSTER, NOT NXT). NXT had essential become the younger brother of the school bully who no one wanted to be friends with.
And that’s the situation that Karrion Kross found himself in. And all the repercussions that came with it.
I say all this not to trivialise his main roster clusterfuck but rather to contextualise it and point out that the guy was not the seeming slam dunk that people thought a Keith Lee or a Bray Wyatt seemed to be when they were called up (at least to the NXT faithful).
Y'see NXT circa 2018-19 worked on a tried a tested formula. Major indie/loved talent (Joe, Nakamura, Roode, Balor, etc.) would come in and cut a swathe through 'established' talent, while putting on stunning matches- most of which may be moving on to the main roster (Nakamura's debut match against Zayn is essentially the template for this). Kross on the other hand squashed up and comers like Bronson Reed and Leon Ruff- guys who were there for the long haul, as well as NXT stalwart Tommaso Ciampa. None of his matches before his NXT champion match lasted 15 minutes and only one lasted more that 10. Kross didn't feel like he was a) being passed the torch by a guy leaving for pastures new, or b) was really showing his skills to the NXT crowd.
All of this could have been deliberate of course to create a character that could be smashed over to appeal to a certain Head Honcho when he would be called up to the main roster. And (perversely) fate gave the perfect opportunity to do this! Because although there was a method in the way that Kross was booked up to his match with Lee at TakeOver 30, but when he was laid up with injury they should have pulled the trigger on him and got him on the main roster!
Instead, not only did he return to NXT, but he dawdled without the title for four months. Now, to be fair I imagine a lot of this was because they wanted to give him a crowd when he won it, but it made for a strange time where everybody knew in kayfabe who the champion was supposed to be (Kross) but the booking team seemed to want to hold it off him because they wanted the champion that would keep the loyal fan from going over to Cody and co. (Balor). Indeed, it seems telling that it was only when NXT retreated from the Wednesday Night War that Kross was elevated.
And again, I say all this not to show Kross' NXT run as a total bust, but to show that due to the circumstances surrounding NXT- both internal and external...if we are looking through the prism of how to set up a guy for a main roster run...Kross was booked pretty ordinarily.
Even when he won the championship for the second time, he stayed as part of the NXT roster for four more months. And during this time, every agent and booker in NXT suddenly got it in their head that Kross needed to be seen as more of a NXT worker than the massive Shao Kahn-like figure he was before. By putting him in a 5-way with 4 workers who could work the NXT way with their eyes shut (Dunne, Cole, Gargano and O'Reilly), it polarised Kross' standing more and his effectiveness as a character diminished.
But worse for Kross, by keeping him on NXT, Hunter allowed Kross to be defined by the failure of NXT in the Wednesday Night War.
And it should be said here that this is a TOTALLY unfair assumption to make on Vince's part. Of all 75 weeks of NXT when it was going up against Dynamite, Kross had the title for 4 days. It is incredibly absurd that if Vince wanted to send a message to the NXT locker room about losing the ratings war he takes a guy that a) is essentially has everything he is looking for in a star apparently and b) is as about as 'responsible' for the 'downfall' of NXT as Palpatine's garbage man is in creating the Galactic Empire.
I want to emphasise this because I truly do believe Kross was a guy that was set up to succeed on the main roster- to show Vince that NXT (and Triple H) knew how to make a talent that would synch into Vince's idea of wrestling. But by the time he was called up, Vince was more interested in proving a (psychotic) point- that these wrestlers seemingly couldn't get the job done without Hunter there to hold their hand and give them cool entrances and the like.
And this is obviously not a new theory that Vince is working on- we've seen it time and time again that he is more than willing to obliterate the subtlety of a gimmick in order to shape it into something he considers to be better (see Wyatt, Bray) or changes something perfectly good in order to see "what the worker can do on his own" (see Lee, Keith). But with Kross it was so damn obvious.
And for a guy like Vince, who used to pay so much attention to details for guys like the Undertaker and Mankind, the fact that you would want to strip that all away just cause they were part of NXT seems...vindictive at best. Kross' entrance was unique, it was television friendly (one of the big pluses in a pandemic era), while also feeding into Kross and Scarlett's overall gimmicks as a couple who would wait til the time was right to dismantle you and make you fall and pray. There was no manager/wrestler partnership like them and the vibe between them really made sense.
So Vince split them up. Oh well, at least he's booked against Jeff Hardy, that'll give him some momentum when he-
I'm sorry he's going to lose?! IN TWO F**KING MINUTES?! How in the hell will that make him look great?
"Oh but what about the post-match promo Vectron where he got to say that Jeff Hardy made the biggest mistake of his life?"
Y'know why debutants should win matches?! Because it's uncomplicated and piques the crowd in a new star (particularly when its the FRIGGIN NXT CHAMPION!!!). When a guy loses like Kross did with a pin with feet on the ropes, then has to cut a promo about "next time..." the crowd response will automatically be "why couldn't ya do it this time? On your RAW debut?" And even then the promo is so wishy washy. Why should Jeff Hardy care, when it doesn't look like he escaped a beating? Why should the crowd care, when they've only seen TWO MINUTES of this guy with next to nothing of what makes his offence great?
And what's more, why should they care about NXT? If your complaint is that NXT isn't performing, why make it harder for them? Well, at least they could get back on track the next week when Kross could get his hands on Jeff H-
Oh he's not? Well, who is he facing?
FOR F*#K'S SAKE!!!!
You know one of the big differences between Raw and Dynamite? AEW finds ways to protect its younger stars when they are on the way up!!! Why on earth would you get two workers who are FUTURE STARS and get them to fight on Free TV with no stakes? Imagine if MJF and Darby Allin fought on AEW Dark in 2019, rather than 2021, when both guys had momentum? That's what Vince has done! And then, to compound it- he changed his mind the next week so that Keith Lee had a win over Kross and vice versa! So it just looked like two guys who Vince hasn't got any investment in showing themselves to be at the same level.
And then, just to make things even more bizarre, when Kross lost the NXT title to Samoa Joe, the next Raw he came out in this number.
I can just imagine poor Karrion Kross' face when he first saw that helmet masquerading as a haemorrhoid held by a grinning Bruce Pritchard. He'd probably wonder what he did to piss off the top brass so that they were willing to move away from a proven decent gimmick and partnership with his wife to something that was not only definitively worse for Kross, but made for laughable television. And then, rather then letting him attempt to make this gladiator-who-left-his-costume-in-the-washing-machine-with-his-pinks feasible and interesting, they just let him go a few weeks later. Almost as if the whole gimmick change was a bit half-arsed...
And this brings me back to the idea of the two WWE's. Back in the old days, hardcore fans could bask in the glory of NXT and then live in eternal hope that maybe, just maybe Vince would occasionally accidentally switch it on while searching for a Matlock marathon and suddenly would realise that Shinsuke/Joe/Bobby Roode/Keith Lee/etc. actually were over. Sure, it would never happen and we were burned many, many, many times, but we could dream.
But thanks to several factors, Vince now sees NXT as needing an intervention. And for no good reason other than 'he was there', Karrion Kross was caught in the crosshairs. This wasn't Vince 'not getting' a gimmick, this was Vince actively sabotaging a star's push in order to make a point to a bunch of other wrestlers who arguably lost their ratings war in a large part because they are saddled in no small part to his toxic stench.
It seems bizarre that Vince has now decided that NXT needs to be a 'developmental' territory, as if he suddenly woke up, looked at a picture of the Undertaker and said: "Shit!! He's not going to wrestle at Mania next year!!!!' Because NXT did give Vince stars to work with- fresh stars that could have taken the WWE by storm. But instead, he and his 55+ year old yes men (thanks Phil!) have decided that rather than have a roster and a show that appealed to the hardcore fanbase, they would neuter it- even when they attempted to create a star that was arguably tailor made for Raw. Vince may see NXT as the future of WWE wrestling, but his treatment of Karrion Kross shows that such ideas are clearly superfluous for him when he sees fit.
And that's the end of Part One! Because in Part Two, we'll attempt to rescue poor Karrion from the depths of Vince's vindictiveness in order to give him a decent shot at a main roster career.
#1 Owen Hart vs Stone Cold @ SummerSlam '97
#2 December to Dismember 2006
#3 The Fingerpoke of Doom
#4 The Scott Steiner vs HHH Feud
#5 Ryback vs Mark Henry @ WrestleMania XXIX
#6 Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon @ WrestleMania XXVI
#7 The Jerry Lawler/Michael Cole Feud
#8 The Curtain Call
#9 Bash at the Beach 2000
#10 Royal Rumble 2014
#11 Warrior/Hogan II @ Halloween Havoc
#12 The Cena/Laurinatis Feud
#13 The Firing of Ric Flair From WCW
#14 The Brogue Kick of Doom
#15 Lesnar vs Goldberg @ WrestleMania XX
#16 Immortal Revealed @ Bound for Glory 2010
#17 Sting vs Hogan @ Starrcade 1997
#18 Triple H vs Booker T @ WrestleMania 19
#19 The Corre
#20 The Undertaker vs Big Boss Man @ WrestleMania 15
#21 Jeff Hardy vs Sting @ Victory Road 2011
#22 Road Wild 1999
#23 The John Cena/Kane Feud of 2012
#24 Hulk Hogan's Mancow Interview of 1999
#25 CM Punk vs the Rock @ Elimination Chamber 2013
#26 The Reign of Bill Watts in WCW
#27 The Claire Lynch Affair Part One And Two
#28 Triple H vs Kevin Nash @ TLC 2011
#29 The Cactus Jack Amnesia Angle
#30 Hulk Hogan Leaving TNA
#31 HBK vs Hulk Hogan @ SummerSlam 2005
#32 David Arquette: WCW Champion
#33 Katie Vick
#34 nWo Souled Out 1997
#35 The Vampiro/Sting Feud of 2000
#36 Once in a Lifetime, Episode II
#37 The Angle/Jarrett Feud of 2010/11
#38 The McMahon/Lashley Feud
#39 The Shockmaster
#40 CM Punk vs Ryback @ Hell in a Cell 2012
#41 Hulk Hogan vs Roddy Piper @ Starrcade 1996
#42 The WWE Championship Reign of Diesel
#43 Cena vs the Wyatts
#44 The Main Roster Run of Emma
#45 The WCW Run of Bret Hart
#46 John Cena vs the Miz @ WrestleMania 27
#47 The Lone Wolf AJ Styles
#48 Alberto Del Rio vs Jack Swagger @ WrestleMania 29
#49 The Transition of Mike Awesome from ECW to WCW
#50 The Dolph Ziggler Conundrum Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five
#51 The Rise and Fall of Damien Sandow/Mizdow Part One and Part Two
#52 DDP & Jay Leno vs Hollywood Hogan & Eric Bischoff @ Road Wild 1998
#53 Triple H vs Randy Orton @ WrestleMania 25
#54 Lord Tensai
#55 LOD 2000
#56 Sid Vicious vs Scott Steiner @ Starrcade 2000
#57 Bret Hart vs Yokuzuna (feat. Hulk Hogan) @ WrestleMania 9
#58 Royal Rumble 2015
#59 The Crucifixion of the Sandman
#60 Brock Lesnar's First Year Back in WWE
#61 Bo Dallas' Main Roster Run
#62 Vince Russo vs Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
#63 Randy Orton vs the Big Show @ Survivor Series 2013
#64 AJ Styles vs Abyss @ Destination X 2010
#65 EV 2.0
#66 The Summer of Punk Part 1; Part 2; Part 3
#67 The Lex Express
#68 Goldberg's first WWE Run
#69 Paige's Main Roster Run 2014-2016
#70 Seth Rollins' First World Title Run
#71 Hulk Hogan vs Sgt Slaughter @ WrestleMania VII
#72 Sting vs Abyss in a Last Rites Match
#73 The Undertaker vs Big Show in the Punjabi Prison
#74 Ric Flair vs Hollywood Hogan @ Uncensored 1999
#75 Roman Reigns' Road to WrestleMania 32 Part One, Part Two. Part Three
#76 Hulk Hogan vs Sid Justice @ WrestleMania VIII
#77 Muhammad Hassan
#78 Sheamus' World Heavyweight Title Reign
#79 The Ghastly Match
#80 Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton @ Wrestlemania 33
#81 Goldberg vs Steiner vs Nash @ New Blood Rising'
#82 The Lesnar/Angle/Big Show feud of 2002
#83 Aces and Eights
#84 Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar @ WrestleMania 32
#85 Jinder Mahal: WWE Champion Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
#86 DDP & Karl Malone vs Hollywood Hogan & Dennis Rodman.
#87 Triple H vs Sting
#88 The 1992 Run of the Ultimate Warrior
#89 Jenna Morasca vs Sharmell
#90 The Lesnar/Reigns Feud of 2018 Part One, Part Two, Part Three