When you think of Vince McMahon’s biggest unforced errors in his later years, Karrion Kross’s initial run would have to be near the top of the list (Right after “sleeping with his own employees”).
When the former Killer Kross signed with NXT in 2020, Triple H gave him a quick name change and strapped a rocket to him…
…having him beat NXT veteran Tommaso Ciampa in his debut TakeOver match. In fact, Kross not only beat Ciampa, he choked him out in six minutes.
Kross would choke out all his opponents with his Kross jacket finisher…
…a move that looks as uncomfortable for the opponent as it looks comfortable for Kross. Look at this guy resting his hand on his face like that! This man is chillin’.
At the very next TakeOver, Karrion Kross beat Keith Lee for the NXT Title.
And while an injury suffered in that very match forced the new champion out of action for four months…
… Kross was slotted right back to the top of the card following his return. Who else could claim that honor? Certainly not Finn Balor, whom, incidentally, Kross would beat to regain the NXT title he never lost.
Besides his undefeated streak and general dominance, Kross had two BIG things going for him:
His manager and his entrance.
“Fall and pray”, spoke-sang Scarlett. “The end is here.” The NXT crew had invested so much in Kross, they came up with a whole new theme song instead of recycling the Doors knock-off they used to play at Armageddon. The message was clear: Karrion Kross was not just a big deal, but an apocalyptic force.
And unlike a lot of the guys getting pushed on NXT, Karrion Kross was no small man, measuring 6’4” tall.
If any NXT guy could succeed on the main roster under Vince McMahon, it was Kross. To drive this point home, Triple H even had him beat four smaller work rate guys in one match.
While still holding the NXT title, Kross started working dark matches and choked out Shelton Benjamin on Hulu’s Main Event.
But Kross’s debut on the big stage of Raw came with almost no advance notice, save for a tweet an hour and a half into the broadcast. Whatever Vince needed the NXT champion for, it must have been important!
Like, say, a pinfall loss in under two minutes.
It would have been easy to debut Kross as the dominant force with the undefeated streak, the hot valet, and the scary, cinematic entrance — maybe too easy. Thus, WWE took away all those things for his 100-second debut.
Of course, every wrestler’s loss is another wrestler’s gain. In this case, the undefeated NXT champion would be giving the rub to Jeff Hardy. Now there’s a reliable talent with a long career ahead of him!
The Charismatic Enigma, who had spent the last two months putting over the likes of Jinder Mahal, scored the baffling victory with his feet on the ropes. That way, Mr. Doomsday Clock would have an excuse: he’d been outsmarted with the oldest trick in the book.
The match was actually cut for time just after Kross went to the ring. Instead of ending out of nowhere in the early going, it was supposed to be a competitive 10 minute match (not that that would have made things better).
After the match, the Harbinger of Sorrow looked like he was about to cry. When asked for comment, he said that Jeff Hardy had just made “the biggest mistake of his life”. Oh boy, not by a long shot!
Kross was originally scheduled to lose to Jeff Hardy a second time the following week. In fact, the NXT chump was supposed to keep losing until Scarlett showed up and unleashed the “gladiator in him”. Hopefully, those Raw viewers watching the NXT champion wrestle for the first time wouldn’t simply jump to the conclusion that he and NXT just sucked.
When Jeff Hardy tested positive for COVID, however, plans changed. Karrion Kross bounced back, defeating fellow former NXT Champion Keith Lee, who had also shown up on randomly on Raw to lose the previous week. The victory at least gave Kross a little momentum heading in to his inevitable rematch with Jeff Hardy.
Lee then beat Kross right back the next week.
Kross bounced back once more the following week, beating Jeff Hardy in eight minutes, then again in under a minute the week after that. But by then, the damage was done.
Predictably, lame duck Kross dropped his NXT title at the next TakeOver. And also predictably, fans chanted “We want Scarlett” during his entrance.
Now on Raw full-time, what Kross needed now was that extra element that would finally bring out “the gladiator in him”.
And that was, naturally, a gladiator helmet.
Everyone loves gladiator helmets, from Faarooq Asad…
…to Ric “Spartacus” Flair (no image available).
And let’s not forget the studded leather suspenders! Now that’s a Big Damn Scary Man.
It didn’t matter how many times Kross beat Ricochet…
…with this Russell Crowe bondage outfit, WWE had managed to make Kross look stupid in a totally different way from his debut.
And Scarlett? She was sidelined with a pectoral injury of sorts.
Two and a half months after debuting him on Raw, WWE pulled Kross from TV and live events for yet another re-tool. At that point, Karrion Kross likely fell and prayed that Vince McMahon had never heard of TikTok. The re-tool never came, though, as WWE fired both Kross and Scarlett weeks later. On top of that, they soon fired every Superstar who’d ever beaten Kross, meaning that even his losses benefitted no one.
Fortunately for the couple, Triple H is running the main show now. Just last week, Kross made his surprise return to WWE (with Scarlett this time) and appears to be headed for the top of the SmackDown card.
Kross’s return to the company is a vindication of every WWE fan, social media partner, or Booker T who’s ever told the naysayers to “Let it play out”. All it took was one year, a major sex scandal, and Vince McMahon’s retirement.