2017 has been the year of surprise debuts and returns for professional wrestling. While WWE has maintained its top stars without any major surprises, other promotions such as NXT, Impact Wrestling, and Ring of Honor are already making this year of wrestling intriguing. For Impact Wrestling, the losses of Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy, Mike Bennett, Maria Kanellis-Bennett, Drew Galloway, and Jade were replaced with Matt Morgan, Magnus, LAX, and Alberto El Patron. The Hardys made a surprise appearance at the Manhattan Mayhem to win the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championships from the Young Bucks. That same night, Bully Ray made his ROH debut by putting Adam Cole through a table and saving Bobby Fish and The Briscoes.
For NXT, Kassius Ohno, known on the independent circuit as Chris Hero, made his return to put Bobby Roode on alert that he wants his NXT Championship. The two combatants are scheduled to compete against each other for the title on the WWE Network. After spending time in the Florida Championship Wrestling developmental territory, Ohno made his debut in NXT in 2012.
During his time spent with the brand, he would commence in some feuds, including Richie Steamboat, William Regal, and The Wyatt Family. Unfortunately, Ohno would be let go from NXT. Many believed that it was due to him not be as focused about his physical condition, as he gained a considerable amount of weight and did not look to be in-ring shape.
Ohno denied the reports that his physical shape led to the demise of his WWE career (h/t CageSide Seats).
“I came in strong, I did really well to begin with, and then I had a couple little stupid injuries that threw me off mentally more than anything else and then I, uh, I wasn’t in optimum shape for a period of time and then that did me no favors. It didn’t — some people think I got fired because I was out of shape and that’s definitely not true. Um, I was told to, y’know, tighten things up, but that was months and months before any of the rumors hit, so it’s just kind of silly when you see that kind of stuff happen.”
Although Ohno did state that his shape was not the cause of his departure, he did admit that he was advised to “tighten things up,” and that his shape did not do him any favors. His athleticism, however, stayed sharp, as he was still performing moves as if he was many pounds lighter. Ohno addressed his weight gain during an interview with WWE regarding his return to NXT. When asked about what is the difference between this Kassius Ohno and the Ohno of three years ago, he responded, “Aside from about 50 pounds? [Laughs] I’m smarter. I’ve matured and I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I’m more comfortable and I know my worth.”
Kassius Ohno has proved over his near-20 year professional wrestling career that he is an asset to the business. His success in ROH, PWG, CZW, and a host of other promotions has gained a very strong following. When I attended the NXT Live event, he competed against Patrick Clark. As soon as his music hit, the place erupted, and he certainly received a “hero’s welcome.” Full Sail University has greeted him the same way.
Obviously, Triple H understands the value that Ohno has, because he was immediately inserted as a main event talent on NXT. Although it is not known whether he will remain in the main event picture and pursue the championship, or be used to make younger talent look good, it will be interesting to see where the career of Ohno goes this time in the WWE.
[Featured Image by WWE]