New reports suggest that Chris Hero may be returning to WWE next year, more than three years after his unexpected release from the company.
An independent wrestling standout who had also competed in Chikara, Ring of Honor, and Combat Zone Wrestling, among other promotions, Chris Hero had cut his wrestling teeth alongside several future WWE Superstars, including the likes of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan (a.k.a. Bryan Danielson), and Cesaro (a.k.a. Claudio Castagnoli). He had, in fact, teamed up with Castagnoli to win tag team titles in both Chikara and ROH, and had once held CZW’s World Heavyweight Championship. And with his reputation in the indies well established, Hero was signed to WWE in early 2012 and given the ring name Kassius Ohno.
That WWE run didn’t last too long, unfortunately. Competing for Florida Championship Wrestling, then NXT when the former FCW got rebranded, Hero/Ohno didn’t make much of a splash in WWE’s developmental territory. In the summer of 2013, he was taken off NXT television, supposedly due to “a lack of commitment to (NXT’s) strength and conditioning program,” according to ProWrestling.net. He was released from his WWE contract in November of that year, and for a lot of indie wrestling fans who felt he was underutilized as Kassius Ohno, it was just as well that the man known in real life as Chris Spradlin was back to being Chris Hero.
A return to the WWE, however, may soon be in the cards. That’s what a “WWE source” has reportedly confirmed to the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, according to WrestlingNews.co. The report noted that the chances of a WWE return for Hero are quite good. He’s been taking less independent bookings for 2017, and that’s often “an indication that a talent has committed to WWE.”
That report stated that it wasn’t sure whether Chris Hero would be returning to WWE’s main roster or to NXT, and it didn’t say either whether he’ll be competing under his usual ring name or as Kassius Ohno. An exact timeline for his return also wasn’t provided by Meltzer. But separate reports have added more information on the 37-year-old’s rumored WWE return, including one from another well-connected source, Pro Wrestling Sheet’s Ryan Satin.
Satin’s sources claim that “the ball has been rolling” on Hero’s return for quite a few weeks, which does lend credence to reports that Chris has dialed down on the indie bookings. As for the gimmick/persona he will be using upon his return, Satin added that it may be remain consistent with the old Kassius Ohno gimmick. And given that that will likely be Chris Hero’s ring name upon his return, it also looks like he will be re-debuting on NXT, where he will be joining fellow ex-ROH mainstays such as Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, and Roderick Strong in the developmental company’s roster.
“We’re told the current consensus behind the scenes seems to be that he’ll go back to using the KO name and this will be a continuation of his former character.”
Although rumors that The Young Bucks would be joining WWE didn’t pan out, with Wrestling Inc and others reporting that they re-signed multi-year deals with ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling, WWE has nonetheless been committed to signing top indie standouts from all over the world. Their most recent NXT recruiting class, for instance, included Tommy End from the Netherlands, Big Damo from Northern Ireland, and Roderick Strong and “Crazy” Mary Dobson from the U.S. And with these new rumors of Chris Hero returning to WWE, that indie focus remains as strong as ever, as the company just may be willing to give the veteran a second chance at success.