Q&A: Karrion Kross Impresses in NXT TakeOver Debut vs. Tommaso Ciampa

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A key part of Sunday’s NXT TakeOver: In Your House was Karrion Kross’s victory over Tommaso Ciampa. The match was extremely one-sided with Kross dominating the NXT mainstay, delivering a very effective TakeOver debut.

Kross is Kevin Kesar, formerly known as Killer Kross. He has starred in multiple wrestling promotions, most notably Impact, FSW and AAA, but never quite on the level he currently resides in NXT. A key part of his success is his success working with Scarlett, who brings a much different look and feel than the nonstop intensity of Kross. The two real-life partners play off each other in convincing fashion, and they are one of the most entertaining pairings in all of wrestling.

For all of Kross’ talent, he has always needed a promotion to believe in him. He finally has that with NXT, where there is potential for noteworthy programs with Finn Balor, Keith Lee and Kushida, as well as a prolonged feud with Ciampa that is only in its initial stage.

Kross spoke with Sports Illustrated to discuss his NXT debut, the transition from Killer Kross to Karrion Kross, Scarlett’s standout qualities and his goals moving forward.

Justin Barrasso: You have worked incredibly hard to project and present yourself in an elite manner. You can go in the ring, you’ve fine-tuned your body, and haven’t stopped critiquing your promos since you first picked up a microphone. But wrestling is often more about the moments than the matches. Was your NXT debut entrance the most meaningful moment so far in your career?

Karrion Kross: Yes, it definitely is. Introductions are some of the most defining moments of your career, that is definitely number one at this point for me.

JB: That was not the typical entrance we normally see on weekly television. Shot in a cinematic style, with smoke filling the ring, it didn’t leave any room for the viewer to look away. Could you feel that energy when you were making your way to the ring?

KK: I definitely could, we both could. We felt that we were on to something very special. I could feel it. I read that through my own personal feeling, I read it through Scarlett’s feeling, and I read it through the energy in the room.

Looking at the reaction from people who’ve seen everything in wrestling, everything you could possibly imagine, when I saw their reaction, I knew what we were doing was going to translate in a very big way.

JB: It looks easy now because Paul Levesque is firmly supporting the character, but not all of your former bosses had that type of belief in you. In a field as subjective as wrestling, how did you stay grounded in the belief that you were a star?

KK: Not to sound cliché or like I’m reading something off the back of a Hallmark card, but with anything challenging you’re going to do in life, the belief needs to start first from within. That’s the truth, there is no other way to say it. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else is going to believe in you. Potential is just potential until you can pull it off, and you need to show up ready to exercise the plan in mind. I’ve always come from that place in everything I’ve ever done.

JB: That moment was certainly different from the last time you stood in a WWE ring in February 2015. Did that memory enter your mind, or were you focused solely on the match?

KK: Never, and I really mean that. I’m very militant with my state of mind. I’m very task at hand and I don’t let any interference ever enter my mind.

JB: You needed to present yourself as a monster against Tommaso Ciampa, an NXT cornerstone, and you destroyed him, Clubber Lang style, in just over six minutes. Is that exactly what your character needed?

KK: That’s really a question for the fans. Virtually everything I do is predicated on what will be the best way to contribute to the program. If we elicited an emotional response out of the audience where they felt something, really felt something watching that, then for me, both personally and professionally, it’s a home run. So I leave that up to the fans. I felt very good about it, but I gauge everything on how people feel about what they are watching.

JB: And this is something you better than anyone: What does Scarlett add to the world wrestling unlike anyone else?

KK: She is completely unique. She’s bilingual. She can sing. She can beat people up. Her presence is definitely something you can feel through the television.

JB: The two of you are a perfect example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I can’t picture Kross without Scarlett or Scarlett without Kross.

KK: Definitely. We have a synergy where we’re essentially one. I would describe her as the angel of death. She’s going to be the very first thing you’re going to see before everything comes to an end.

JB: That’s quite a visual. There is so much potential for you as Karrion Kross, but was there ever a chance you would be Killer Kross in NXT?

KK: I think it’s fair to say anything is possible, so I wouldn’t discount it. On the other hand, I have not been stifled whatsoever creatively since I have arrived here. I feel like what we have done, from Killer to Karrion, is expand the character. This is something I personally always wanted to do. I’ve been sitting on concepts and ideas for an extended period of time, exercising the patience over the past few years not to do them. I’ve been waiting for the right platform. Now we’re here.

JB: What is the origin of the name Karrion?

KK: I didn’t want to take something directly, I wanted to take different pieces. I exercised some mythology to the presentation in terms of Charon. He was a ferryman and would carry the souls from the land of the living to the land of the dead. There is another character named Cheiron, who was the son of Cronus, the god of time. My inspirations come from many different places, and I’ve rolled everything into one presentation.

JB: Were you part of the development of your entrance music?

KK: Yes, they have had me part of every single piece of the process, which I absolutely love.

JB: That must mean a great deal to you as a performer, knowing that NXT is so invested in Karrion Kross and willing to include your input in the character’s formation.

KK: Being part of the process, it’s everything. That allows [the character] to organically breathe when people are watching. That’s always been my main goal—make things feel as organic as possible.

JB: What is your end goal in NXT? The title? A program with Finn Balor? Adam Cole? Keith Lee? And not to steal Lee’s line, but your options seem limitless.

KK: I want it all, let’s be clear on that. I am someone who pays attention to the currents that are going on socially in terms of what people want. When I catch wind of the types of matches people want, those are the matches I want, too. I’m very much a pleaser in terms of giving people what they want. And not to steal someone else’s line, but I think that’s best for business.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.