Wednesday 13 November 2013

The KO Blow

On 9th November (a Saturday for those keeping score) it was announced that Kassius Ohno, real name Chris Spradlin, had been released from his WWE developmental contract. For anyone who’d been following his WWE career it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. There had been rumours going around since the summer that key members of the WWE management team were not happy with his appearance and attitude towards hitting the gym.

Whether these rumours were true or not is impossible to say. What can be stated as cold, hard fact is that Ohno was absent from NXT TV tapings for a couple of months and when he returned the weight he’d lost was noticeable. A case could certainly be made for him being taken off of television until he’d got into better shape.

NXT will suffer without this guy
Ohno’s short term future is already shaping up nicely. He’s already been confirmed for a CZW iPPV and, a little more interestingly, a Dragon Gate USA show. The latter will see him wrestle Open the Freedom Gate champion Johnny Gargano. Assuming his WWE contract is the same as everyone else’s he’ll be precluded from appearing on another wrestling company’s television show for three months. That means appearances in TNA or Ring of Honor are unlikely until around next February and he’ll be appearing for indy companies for the time being.

The Kassius Ohno name is, of course, trademarked (or copyrighted, or whatever) by WWE. So he won’t be using that again. Which is fine. The name Chris Hero holds more cache with wrestling fans anyway. Plus it sounds better.

In the long term I expect we’ll see Spradlin head to either ROH or TNA. The choice he makes will be interesting.

In ROH Hero would be a known quantity who could instantly slot into the top of the card and work against established names, either as a fan fave or as a villain. Fans would be delighted to see him back, he’d be more familiar with the locker room, style, and political situation, and he’d have goals to accomplish despite having worked for the league, on-and-off, from 2005 to 2011. Chris Hero targeting the ROH world championship would be something I’d personally love to see in 2014.

In TNA he’d possibly be able to make more money, although tours of Japan would be hard to work out and those would supplement his income nicely in ROH. It’s possible, thanks to his status as a former WWE guy and indy standout, he’d get a strong push as soon as he debuted. Even if he didn’t he could earn himself one with hard work. He’d have far more goals in TNA than he would in ROH and more fresh opponents to wrestle.

If I had to guess I’d say we’ll see Chris Hero in TNA next year. The company is heading back to Orlando for their TV tapings and Hero’s already based in the area from his stint in NXT. The better money and easier travel would probably appeal, as would the fresh set of goals and roster and the potential to earn decent money. The lack of NOAH tours may be balanced by Wrestle-1 tours, thanks to TNA’s supposed working relationship with that league.

Personally I think a move to TNA would be a disappointment. TNA have shown throughout 2013 that they haven’t got any fresh ideas and Hero would almost certainly drift down the card. TNA tend to be pretty good at initial debuts, they just can’t follow up on them. But perhaps things are going to turn around. Perhaps Hero (under whatever new name he’d go with in TNA) would be a part of helping them turn things around. One thing that’s practically certain is that he’d have to come up with a new ring name: as with every other aspect of their business they ape WWE in wanting ownership of ring names. That the best Spradlin could muster for his WWE run was Kassius Ohno (I liked it but it wasn’t the greatest wrestler name ever) doesn’t bode well.

I think WWE made a mistake releasing Spradlin. It’s true he wasn’t the best conditioned guy on the roster but he was never going to be. He doesn’t have the frame for it and throughout his career he’s been a guy that doesn’t have the greatest build. His strength has always been his promos and wrestling ability, with his character, well thought out and consistent to begin with, having become a highlight in 2010.

Basically he’s been good at everything except having the perfect physique. And not everyone on the roster needs to look great. Spradlin had significantly improved his physique throughout the year and is now easily in the best condition of his career. That he’s not built like Antonio Cesaro, David Otunga or Titus O’Neil and didn’t appear dedicated to becoming so could have been overlooked in favour of the multitude of other strengths he has. WWE’s loss is definitely every wrestling fan’s gain.

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