The wrestling world was shaken to it’s core in early November with the stunning announcement that Chris Hero, known to NXT followers as ‘Kassius Ohno’ had been released from his WWE contract. That shocker effectively shattered the hopes and dreams of not just Chris Hero himself, but also the thousands of fans, supporters, and fellow wrestlers who were rooting for the indy legend to make it to the ‘big time’ and justify an incredible journey that has lasted more than a decade. The realization that Chris Hero’s chances of global superstardom has been ripped away at the very moment when many believed he was poise to burst onto the WWE television scene has only just begun to set in, and with those in the RF Video offices just as confused as the thousands of fans around the universe, it was only natural that we would reach out to Hero and ask him to sit down with us and tell everyone just went wrong in Orlando and what went through his head as he was told the news that NOBODY saw coming. Hero was more than willing to sit down for the RF Video cameras and answer every question we had for him, and in the process he gave us an in-depth and never before told look at life in the WWE developmental system. What resulted in our five hour sit-down was an interview that not just every fan will want to see, but also an interview that all aspiring young wrestlers should be required to view if they hope to one day succeed at NXT.
Chris Hero entered the WWE Developmental system in 2012 and was off and running from the second he stepped foot in the sunshine state. He worked with every top prospect under contract, including many who now headline WWE programming every Monday night on RAW, and appeared on the fast track to success. Fans followed along with excitement as it appeared that Hero’s debut on RAW was not just a forgone conclusion, but imminent. As the months went by, and other young ‘Superstars’ were called up one by one as he was left behind, it became apparent that something just wasn’t right. In our exclusive interview, Hero will tell you when he started to wonder if something was wrong, and how he reacted when he realized something needed to change.
Hero got to work with not just every top talent at NXT, but also developed a relationship with every trainer, WWE producer/agent and even Triple H himself. Chris detailed his relationship with every trainer and regular face at NXT, from Dusty Rhodes to Ricky Steamboat, William Regal, Joey Mercury, Norman Smiley and also the controversial Bill Demott. He witnessed the development of current WWE Superstars like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, Fandango, and Antonio Cesaro too name a few. In our interview, Chris goes through the entire cast of characters one at a time, and tells us what he witnessed and experiences with each and every one of them.
Hero spent nearly 2 years at WWE developmental, from his start at FCW in Tampa to the transition to the world-class developmental center in Orlando and for the first time ever, Chris takes through a day in the life of an aspiring wrestler under WWE contract at NXT. You will find out what happens from the second a young wrestler walks through the doors in the morning, to the moment they walk back out the doors and step into their cars. He will tell you who leads the training, and what training at NXT means from drills, to practice matches, to daily promo class where the superstars of tomorrow perfect every aspect of their game in hopes for a shot on the main roster.
Chris came into developmental with a brilliant resume, and relationships with many of the top stars in the game including multiple time WWE Champion CM PUNK. In this interview, Chris told us what his relationship with CM Punk is like today, and just what role if any Punk had in his hiring, and eventual dismissal. What was Punk’s reaction? You’ll find out in this interview.
Chris was able to give incredible insight on the inner workings of the WWE offices, and the grueling politics which exist on every level from NXT all the way up to the weekly grind at Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown. He had a personal relationship with the man who has the future of World Wrestling Entertainment in his grips – Triple H. What’s Triple H’s role in the day to day workings of NXT? What does he look for in young superstars? What does he like to see and what pisses him off? What kind of advice did he give Chris what was Hero told during his very first meeting with Triple H at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, NY?
So many legends and WWE Hall of Famers walked through the doors at NXT from the Undertaker, to Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Jim Ross, Bret Hart and many many more. What kind of role do they take when they enter the facilities at NXT and what was Chris’s interactions with each of those icons of the industry? He will break down the legends one by one and tell you what he experienced with each one.
What exactly goes on when you are offered a WWE contract and what are the requirements for you to actually sign and report to NXT? Do second generation superstars and future divas receive special treatment from the trainers? How are other indy legends like Sami Callihan, PAC and El Generico doing in their quest for Superstardom? What was Chris told when he first signed with the WWE, and did the company live up to it’s promises? What happened when Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon first stepped foot in the new NXT facilities in Orlando? What’s the deal with Bill Demott and are the accusations of his alleged inappropriate conduct true? These are just a few of the questions and topics that were covered.
As we learned almost from the first question we asked, Chris looks back on a majority of the time he spent in the WWE Developmental system with great fondness and he made a point to share some of his favorite stories from his time in the Sunshine State. Chris tells us his memories of each and every individual he shared a ring with and tells us who he thinks are going to be the next major stars on the road with the WWE.
In addition to his time in the WWE system, alot has happened since the first time RF Video sat down with Chris Hero back in 2005. While we couldn’t cover everything that happened during the last 8 years of his illustrious career, there were several major topics we just had to ask him about in this interview. Among those topics we managed to squeeze in was his relationship with his long time friend or foe (depending on who you ask) Eddie Kingston, and the untimely and tragic passing of a man he considered to be his brother in “Sweet and Sour” Larry Sweeney.
Finally, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t ask Chris to take us through his final days in the WWE system, and Hero didn’t shy away from detailing every excruciating last day and even minute, right down to the moment he was asked to hand over his NXT badge and escorted out of the building. Chris will tell the world for the first time who delivered the message, when that message came, who was there when it happened, and his feelings when he realized his dream had been de-railed, at least for the time being. It couldn’t have been easy for Chris to re-live that dark day, but he did so with class, integrity, and the dignity that when paired with his top notch talent made him not only one of the most popular wrestlers on the planet, but also one of the most respected, not just by the fans, but also his peers. RF Video is proud to be the first to speak with Chris after his release, and the five hours of tape that we recorded is an exclusive look into the NXT system and the life of Chris Hero that every fan needs to see.
– Take us through the process of being offered a WWE contract and what goes between the time you are offered a contract, you sign, and you report to Florida…
– Who came up with the name ‘Kassius Ohno’ and did you have any say over the name you would eventually take? What were some of the other names that were discussed for you? Was there ever any discussion or possibility of you keeping ‘Chris Hero’ as your name?
– Did you have any dark matches or “tryouts” at actual WWE TV Tapings before the live crowd or were all your tryouts “behind closed doors” without a live crowd? Did you ever get sent to any TV tapings or house shows while under contract and if so, what happened?
– Take us through a typical day at NXT on a non-show day from the time you walk in the door to the time you leave. What were some of your favorite or least favorite parts of the training?
– NXT Trainers: I’m going to name some of the other trainers and staff that ran the program during your tenure at FCW/NXT. Tell us about your relationship with each of these guys and how valuable you think they are to the talent at developmental.
– STEVE KEIRN – RICKY STEAMBOAT – ROAD DOGG – BILLY GUNN – NORMAN SMILEY – JOEY MERCURY – BILL DEMOTT
– There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Bill Demott and the way he runs training. Did you ever see or experience anything with Demott that you think was inappropriate?
– Despite the fact that you came into WWE having spent more than a decade on the indies and were generally considered one of the best unsigned talents in the world, did you feel like you had to start from the bottom and prove yourself to all the trainers and your peers? Were you nervous at all when you first arrived or were you excited to get started?
– Did any of the trainers or the people in creative tell you to change your style or anything about your character? How much input did you actually have in the Kassius Ohno character?
– TRIPLE H has publically been given a lot of the credit for the success and the changes in the way things are done in WWE’s developmental system. How involved is Triple H in the actual day-to-day operations at NXT and how often did he actually visit the facilities? What was your personal relationship like with Triple H and what kind of advice/feedback did he give you?
– During your time at FCW and NXT, did VINCE MCMAHON or STEPHANIE MCMAHON ever visit the facilities, and did you ever have any interaction or discussion with either of them? Did they give you any advice or feedback? Were you guys told whether or not Vince/Stephanie followed NXT TV?
– One of your best friends on the indies was CM Punk. You guys had the famous 93 minute match for IWA Mid-South and played a large role in each others early careers and you even appeared on his DVD. What is your relationship like with Punk now and has it changed since he became a major star on WWE TV? Do you think he had a role in you getting signed to WWE in the first place?
– Dusty Rhodes has been a major star in the wrestling business for over 30 years and he has had a major impact on every level of the business. What is Dusty’s official role at NXT, and what was it like getting to work with such a bonafide legend like Dusty on a day-to-day basis? Can you tell us a funny Dusty story from NXT? Do you think your former peers at NXT were able to appreciate just how important Dusty was to the history of the business?
– NXT has had a lot of 2nd and 3rd generation wrestlers come thru developmental over the last few years. Do you think you and some of your peers were treated the same as the ones who came from wrestling families or did they get certain advantages and opportunities that others didn’t?
– In addition to your peers from wrestling families, there were also a lot of guys and girls who were signed without any background at all in the wrestling business that were either models or athletes from other sports. Was it frustrating seeing them get signed so easily and even getting rushed to TV while you and some of your friends had to work for a decade just to get signed?
– Another guy who has been a big fan of yours is Joey Mercury and there are rumors that he has a lot of influence in getting guys signed to developmental contracts. What is Joey’s official role at NXT/WWE and what is your relationship like with him?
– You got to know WILLIAM REGAL long before you first arrived at FCW, what was Regal’s official role at NXT, and can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with Regal over the years? How influential has he been in your career and your in-ring style?
– You got to work an extended program with Regal at NXT, what are your memories of that feud and those matches?
– Before he officially “retired” from the business, JIM ROSS spent some time down at NXT and even called some of your matches on NXT TV. What was it like getting to watch your matches back and hear JR on commentary and did you have any personal interaction with him outside of the TV tapings?
– Shortly after your arrival in FCW, WWE announced that they were going to close up shop in Tampa, rename the product NXT and eventually move the program to Orlando. What were you guys told about the move, and were there ever any discussions that you remember of them actually moving developmental up to Connecticut? (Rumored in various newsletters)
– Did the WWE help you guys out with moving costs since you all had to move to ORL?
– Can you tell us a little bit about the differences between the facilities and the environment in Tampa at FCW and those in Orlando for NXT?
– One of your students and longtime friends, ANTONIO CESARO ended up signing with WWE before you and became a regular star on WWE TV by the time you got into the mix at NXT. What was it like seeing one of your students make it big in the WWE? Knowing the way the WWE system works, do you think Cesaro will ever get a chance to take it to the next level or do you think they’ve gone as far as they can with him?
– Was there ever any discussion during your tenure in NXT of putting you and Cesaro together as a tag team (The Kings of Wrestling) on WWE TV?
– You worked for every major indy promotion by the time you arrived in Tampa. Do the trainers, writers or talent discuss or watch what’s going on at the top indies and if so, which ones were discussed the most?
– Did the Divas/Fitness Models that came into NXT without a wrestling background get treated any differently than you or the other guys who came from the indies? Do you think they had it easy or did they have to go thru all the same training that you had to?
– You got to work several matches with Mike Rotunda’s son BO DALLAS at NXT and he’s seemed to be on the verge of a long-term call up for almost a year now. What do you think about Bo as a worker, and did he seem to be overly frustrated with their hesitation to call him up?
– Seth Rollins/Tyler Black is another guy you spent a lot of time with on the indies and had a lot of matches with over the years. You also worked a couple matches with him at FCW/NXT before he got called up to TV. He actually spent over a year at FCW before he got his big break. Did his experience give you any extra encouragement/faith that you would eventually get your opportunity? Memories of your matches with Tyler Black over the years?
– Sami Callihan, now known as Solomon Crowe had a ton of buzz when he was signed to WWE and a lot of people think he can become a big star on TV. What are your memories of your matches with Sami from the indies and how do you think he will do long term in the WWE system?
– Before you were finally signed to WWE, you actually had a lot of experience training talent at the Chikara school and other wrestling schools around the country. You are pretty widely known as the person who trained Antonio Cesaro. Did the trainers at NXT ever ask you to help out with the training of the newcomers?
– Because of her relationship with Claudio/Cesaro, you got to know SARA DEL RAY pretty well over the years and you also worked with her extensively on the indies. What is her role at NXT and why do you think she hasn’t been given a chance to be on-screen talent? Did she ever express any frustration over that or does she seem content in her role as a trainer?
– You and Colt Cabana are longtime friends as well and you guys had countless matches over the years. Do you think Colt ever got a real chance to succeed in WWE? Do you think he could become a legitimate star on WWE TV?
– Following his release a couple months ago, Dolph Ziggler’s brother BRILEY PIERCE was very outspoken about his release and angry about the way he was treated and the lack of opportunity he felt he received while under WWE contract. Do you think he was justified in any of his comments? Were his comments discussed or even acknowledged by NXT management?
– Dean Ambrose aka Jon Moxley is another guy who was signed to WWE developmental with a lot of buzz, much like yourself. He was called up pretty quickly and has become a major star on TV with a bright future ahead of him. Are you surprised he was able to fit in so well and what are some of your memories with Moxley from the time you guys shared on the indies?
– While at NXT, you worked a program with the Wyatt Family – Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. What do you remember about your matches with them and the development of their characters at NXT? There have been rumors that you were possibly going to be a part of the group at one point, was that ever discussed with you?
– You got to work a match at NXT with one of the bigger stars on RAW right now in CODY RHODES. What are your thoughts on Cody and what do you remember about that match?
– You got to spend some time at FCW/NXT with Johnny Curtis who was eventually called up to TV and became a pretty big star as ‘Fandango’. What are your memories of Fandango at NXT?
– You did a lot of vignettes and promos at NXT with BRAD MADDOX. What do you think of his work and do you think he could succeed as an actual wrestler?
– Fandango’s dance partner SUMMER RAE also came from NXT and you got to spend a lot of time around her. What do you remember about Summer Rae at NXT?
– BIG E LANGSTON has become a regular on TV and is already working with some of the bigger names in the company on RAW and PPV. What are your memories of Langston at NXT?
– Along with Dean Ambrose, ROMAN REIGNS is often discussed as one of the big future stars of the WWE. What do you remember about Roman Reigns at NXT?
– You had a chance to work a few matches at NXT with HUNICO/CAMACHO who are now part of the Smackdown roster. Memories of your matches with them at NXT?
– MASON RYAN has spent a lot of time down at NXT since he was injured and you actually worked a match with him. What do you think about Mason, and is there more to him than just a big muscled-up “body”?
– You got to work a match against TYSON KIDD and JUSTIN GABRIEL in the NXT Tag Team Title Tournament. What are your memories of working with them?
– At one point ALEX RILEY was a part of the main event at Wrestlemania along with the Miz but lately he’s been back at NXT. Thoughts on Alex Riley and his potential?
– Besides you, Curt Hawkins also appeared on the CM Punk DVD and has been known to be a big fan of yours. What are your thoughts on Hawkins work and do you think he has another run on WWE TV left in him?
– You worked a bit with Yoshi Tatsu, Derrick Bateman and Trent Baretta as well – any thoughts on any of their work or opinions on their potential as TV stars?
Sami Zayn (Generico) – Kallisto (Samuray Del Sol) – Bull Dempsey (Smith James) – Percy Watson – Richie Steamboat – Byron Saxton – Luke Harper – Mike Dalton – Leo Krueger – Xavier Woods – Adrian Neville (Pac) – Oliver Grey – Garrett Dylan – Aidan English *** – Enzo Amore – Jason Jordan – Rick Victor – Corey Graves (Sterling James Keenan) – Tyler Breeze – Angelo Dawkins – CJ Parker – Sawyer Fulton – Mojo Rawley – Travis Tyler – Danny Burch – Scott Dawsom – Sylvester Lefort – Jake Carter – Colin Cassady
– One of your best friends and one of the guys you worked most extensively with during your time at Chikara and Ring of Honor was ‘Sweet and Sour’ Larry Sweeney. Obviously, what happened with Larry was very well documented through youtube videos, message board posts by Sweeney himself, and very public breakdowns of his relationships with ROH, Chikara and others. What were your feelings as you watched one of your closest friends suffer though such a painful ordeal, and looking back, do you think there was anything you or any of his others friends could have done to prevent it? What are your fondest memories of Larry Sweeney?
– Depending on who you ask, Eddie Kingston has either been one of your best friends, or biggest adversaries during the course of your career. What is your relationship like with Eddie Kingston today and how has it changed throughout the years? Do you think Eddie could ever become a star in the WWE if he was given the opportunity?