By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
On AEW and Tony Khan: “There was a story that leaked recently about me being in conversations with Tony Khan and AEW. Like, some conversations are meant to be private and I like the guy. I’m not gonna go out there and discuss what was said but, there’s a lot of people that upon getting that phone call would just take his money and maybe they’re in a position where they absolutely have to. I’m not gonna do that to him. I have too much respect for him and the place and my friends that work there to just take the money and come in and do something that I am absolutely certain in that conversation is less than what I’m actually capable of doing for him and with everybody else.
“I’d rather be upfront and honest and just say I think that this idea or this concept would be better suited for somebody else. I know what I can do and I’m not interested in doing anything less than my best work and it’s like I told you, I’m not in this to do this to set myself up for retirement. It’s not why I’m doing this. I’m doing this because I love it so, I wanna be engaged and really care and be able to feel and know that when people see that I’m gonna be involved in doing something, that it’s gonna be, you know, my best work so, I don’t wanna be pigeonholed by anything so, I’d definitely be interested and open to working there but, in the right setting under the right circumstances.”
On his WWE Release: “I was really disappointed [that we were released from WWE]. Her [Scarlett Bordeaux] and I both thought we were gonna be lifers there, we loved it. We would have preferred to be if I’m being honest with you. We loved it there, we loved everybody. We got along with everybody. I was disappointed on that level but at the same time, I was also relieved to be gone under the circumstances that I was performing under because I would compare it to a comedian going on stage in front of a hot crowd, it’s the crowd they’re working their whole careers to get in front of and then the promoter basically tells the comedian that he can’t do his best of jokes and he’s gotta wear this and he’s gotta wear that and it’s like, this is their art, this is their craft and you’re amputating essential parts of what brings them to life through bringing the audience to life and it was just strange things that were deducted from.
“They wanted me to change the order of my finishing moves, they wanted me to stop doing the forearm to the back of the head, even though it’s not to the back of the head. It’s worked but there was just weird things. They didn’t want me to cue it up, they were suffocating my cutoffs and my hopes and there was so — it was so micromanaged and suffocated. My work was suffocated. So I was relieved, you know? But again, disappointed. I really would have liked that to have worked out and I was game to do whatever they needed me to do.”
On whether he could have made his character work without his wife’s involvement on the main roster: “A lot of people, they try to pinpoint what it was that was missing or what didn’t work and whatnot [during the WWE main roster run]. At the end of the day and I say this with all due respect to my wife, the character could have worked on Raw without her. She could have been her own separate star on the same show or another show, women’s champion. She could have put her own spin, like make wrestling sexy again with her Impact stuff. She could have — she’s a very, very creative person and she was acquiescing to a lot of my ideas to create some sort of parallel simpatico, but she has many layers too. We could have been separate stars on our own and the gladiator thing could have worked if it made sense for people watching, if there was an explanation why the character was wearing a helmet, wearing suspenders, where she went and what the character’s motives are on the show. It could have worked, as silly as the outfit was and I didn’t mind the outfit. I always go on record to say that. I felt comfortable in it, but it just didn’t make any sense.”
on WWE writers: I remember the writers, the writers were asking me every week, they were like, ‘So… what do you think about doing what you were doing back in NXT with Scarlett? Would you be interested in doing that?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah. Why are you asking me that?’ They’re like, ‘We’re just wondering why you’re not doing it,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re f—ing wondering why?’ I’ve expressed interest on reprising continuity. Not even for my own sake but for the sake of the fans who watch the shows. Continuity is extremely important in wrestling.”
On his WWE presentation: [Kross laughed] “Well, what I was told was this [main roster presentation] was going to be an upgraded version of what I was previously doing in NXT, ‘upgraded’. A bigger and better version of what I did and they said they wanted to give me new music and they wanted to switch up my entrance a little bit. They wanted to incorporate more of my original logo which was the ‘X’. It was a red X. They wanted to start doing some sort of form of an X. They talked about putting a giant ‘X’ in the building on fire and they talked about going in a direction a little bit more with like an evil gladiator and then we got this mock-up of this outfit and it looked cheap and horrendous and I said, ‘Surely this is just a concept. This is not what they’re actually gonna try to manufacture or engineer because this is a billion-dollar company, this looks like trash.’ Sure enough, the day comes, we get the costume and I was like, boy, I don’t know about this. No new music, [Scarlett Bordeaux’s] still singing the song. No new entrance, no ‘X’ on fire, none of that and they just rushed the character out there with no explanation of what was going on.”
Being undefeated: “I was flattered to get a run like that [in WWE where I was undefeated]. Most people, their whole entire careers never see anything like that. People who do 25, 30 years in this business will never, ever get near anything that the company, you know — of course the company created for me to be on. I mean, was it important for the character? I mean the character is the character. The character’s always gonna be how I present it. It definitely helped the equity of the character in the eyes of the audience, that’s for sure. But as in for the identity of the character, I feel like there were many layers that people unfortunately didn’t get to see unless they’ve been with me for a long time and seen what I’ve created.
“There was so much more that I could have done. So like I said, layers man, so many different layers to show people the self-destruction of the character, how the character deals with the demise of it’s legacy, how he chooses to recover that, does he lose his identity not being the undefeated guy? These are all characters within that character that I could have shown people but in terms of being undefeated, I mean it was awesome, but I don’t think it was essential for the character to get over whatsoever at all because I wasn’t undefeated before I got to WWE and my merch sales were pretty good, so, I was pretty busy [Kross laughed].”
Kross says he had been receiving positive feedback from Canyon Ceman and William Regal: “I had done two tryouts [with WWE]. One in my first year and oddly enough, I don’t know if I’ve ever said this in an interview, it was Bill DeMott’s last day of work. He was at the tryout, it was in Columbus, Ohio at the Arnold [Sports Festival]. We were doing a tryout publicly where they were trying to just kill us, you know, in front of everyone at the Arnold to show how tough pro wrestling was. Corey Graves was hosting it as well. I’ve never even talked to him about that. I should’ve brought that up. Maybe I will sometime but, I did a tryout publicly and William Regal and Canyon Ceman came up to me after the tryout the first time around, they said, ‘You represented yourself and this company excellently. We’re gonna be in touch.’ They were like, ‘Hey, do you have any skeletons in your closet? Are you really crazy? Have you really actually killed people? Because your problems are pretty convincing’ [Kross smiled] and I said, ‘No. Everything will check out. I’m good to go.’ I said, ‘But don’t tell anybody.’
“But yeah, it was — and then I don’t know what happened. I know nothing about Bill DeMott’s departure. There’s a million stories about it. I don’t know. That whole tryout got thrown out the window and it could have been for purposes over my head to understand, you know what I mean? In terms of who’s overseeing what and evaluations, I don’t know but he basically just said, ‘Hey, the only thing we need you to do –’ Canyon said this to me, he’s like, ‘Just keep picking up more reps, more experience. I can tell that you’re a very self-motivated person that doesn’t need somebody behind you to push you. I know you’re gonna keep doing this. The longer we wait, the more money you’re gonna make when we finally sign you.’ He’s like, ‘So this isn’t no, it’s just not right now and I have no reason to lie to you. It would work against me to fish you along here.’ He’s like, ‘You got it, let’s stay in touch’ and years went by and a second tryout came around and it was right before season four of Lucha Underground and I was like, oh my God, you know, I’m in AAA right now, making [a] good living.
“I was bodyguarding at the time, all my finances were in order, I was living in Vegas and I was like, do I really wanna do this tryout? Because if I go to the tryout and I get signed, I’m probably gonna have to move. It’s gonna disrupt the whole course of this but it’s WWE. This is where I would ideally like to go. I have all these other jobs so, I go on to do the tryout and it was the most stress-free tryout ever because I knew I was going back to a very comfortable life and I had season four coming up with Lucha and they told me, you know, the same exact thing that they told me the first time around. They were like, ‘You’re just not what we’re looking for right now in terms of what’s going on in the ring.’ They’re like, ‘We’ve got — we’re looking for a specific type thing’ and I didn’t take it personally because I was kind of okay with that.”
Other topics include breaking into the business, marrying Scarlett, WWE, NXT, Vince McMahon, Triple H, Karrion Kross, Adam Cole, Samoa Joe, Jeff Hardy, how he was booked in NXT vs WWE, and more. H/T Post Wrestling Andrew Thompson for the transcription.