Moments after Keith Lee’s NXT title win at The Great American Bash, Karrion Kross was shown watching the celebration from above with a vested interest. Now, in a new interview, Kross tells us the reason is simple – he wants BOTH of Lee’s belts.
Kross burst onto the NXT scene in May with a unique entrance and intense presence that makes it hard to take your eyes off he and his manager Scarlett. The two performers had something to prove after the way things ended with their former employer and wasted no time in making a statement once they were put on NXT TV as a unit.
This is due, in part, to the dominant fashion in which he’s been winning matches. But also the work that has been put into fleshing out the character behind the scenes to make the presentation of Kross feel different than everything else in NXT.
Pro Wrestling Sheet spoke with Kross via telephone this week and learned his character’s progression will continue to evolve this week on NXT, possibly in a more villainous way, where he’s scheduled to face-off against Dominik Dijakovic for the first time. He’s also got plans for Keith Lee’s NXT title and NXT North American Championship.
Read our full interview with the NXT Superstar below where he additionally talks about debuting in NXT without fans present, wrestling Tommaso Ciampa at In Your House, his thoughts on Randy Orton criticizing the brand and more!
PRO WRESTLING SHEET: In less than 6 months of being in NXT, you’re nearing the main event scene. How does it feel knowing the company has that sort of faith in you and your character already?
KARRION KROSS: It feels very good. More so how Scarlett and I have been received by fans. That’s first and foremost the most important thing to me. Because, as you know, depending on how things are booked, you can be put into different types of situations and can be plugged into the top of the food chain, so to speak. If fans reject that, then it’s all for nothing. So, more than anything, the way I’ve been received by the WWE Universe has been awesome.
PWS: Your character hasn’t really done anything too villainous since arriving on the brand. He’s just been kind of a bad ass, for the most part. If fans were allowed to be at Full Sail right now, do you think that you’d be getting cheered by them or boo’ed?
KROSS: I think it would be a little bit of both.
We have to scale villainous here. I mean, a couple of times I’ve come up behind people and I’ve dive bombed them on the floor for absolutely no reason. That’s gotta count for something!
PWS: Fair. Fair.
KROSS: I’m bringing the blowtorch! The blowtorch is coming. I’m gonna set people on fire. Just give me a minute, alright?! I ordered it from Amazon in February. It still hasn’t gotten here. But when it does, Ryan Satin, people are going to be lit on fire.
PWS: Good to know! But I do like that your character is still kind of somewhere in the middle of things right now. It seems like he just does what he wants to do and has a vision of his own path, which I enjoy.
KROSS: Yes. I would definitely agree with that. And I plan to change that perception. I think it’s going to be very clear in the immediate future whether I am a guy who just likes to go for a nice walk in the rain or a guy who likes to go for a nice walk in the rain in the cemetery. I think it’s going to be very clear in the immediate future which guy I’m going to be. Maybe people will get that reference after Wednesday.
PWS: When I interviewed Tommaso Ciampa prior to your guys’ match at In Your House, he said something along the lines of how he feels like he’s sometimes a test for people in NXT. And that afterwards the people in the back would probably be asking how you did. Did you feel the same way at all going into it? That it was a test of sorts to see if you can hang with the main players in NXT?
KROSS: Actually, to be quite honest with you, it didn’t occur to me at the time. But perhaps he’s right. It may have been. I think I get so tunnel-visioned on the task at hand. I deliberately developed a very militant state of mind on when there is something to be done, to put all my energy in that direction.
PWS: Were you happy with the match afterward?
KROSS: Very! Very very very. It was everything that I wanted it to be. From a selfish standpoint, if I can say that. It was everything I wanted it to be in terms of the back and forth, the violence and just the vibe.
I feel like Tommaso and I really accomplished a big fight feel. And that’s really what I’m always going after. I’m going after that. I want people to feel like they’re about to watch something go off that is going to feel different from everything else that they are going to watch on the show and I want them to be pumped about it on the way there. I’m always aiming for that. Always.
PWS: Whose idea was it for Scarlett to have an actual hourglass as a prop? Because I loved everything about her using it to show Adam Cole his time was running out, to Keith Lee smashing it and then her bringing the broken one to the ring weeks later after Keith’s match. Very cool imagery all around.
KROSS: I actually had some ideas about hourglass stuff when I got on board. I don’t remember who I conveyed them to, but that particular situation was not something that either one of us suggested for that time. Maybe it was a part of creative ideas that they kind of jotted down that they were going to do at some point, but I was talking about hourglass stuff.
Actually, one of the t-shirt ideas and concepts that I had suggested just recently came out with the hourglass. So we’re going in that direction, which is great! I always try to create tangible things for people on social media for an association with character. Always used hourglasses. I’m glad that we have a literal one now. It’s real cool.
PWS: You’re one of the few people in wrestling who’ve, unfortunately, had to debut in a new company without fans present. What was that like for you?
KROSS: Again … when it was happening, I was just so pumped to be there. And I know that she was too. Scarlett I think for ten years has been trying to get to WWE. For me it was six. Just being there, we were on cloud nine. And having the opportunity to contribute, I mean … it’s awesome.
We looked at it without the fans as a situation where it’s like, her and I like to be challenged with our work. Because it’s all the better when you have a challenging situation and knock it out of the park. You really feel like you’ve accomplished something. And then when people enjoy it too, that’s like everything. That’s what we’re all about is trying to power through difficult situations to create something awesome for people to enjoy. So that was, in a weird way, kind of the perfect situation.
You know what we do is we feed off of the crowd. That’s why they’re there. We didn’t have that. So we trained extra hard. We had our minds right for it. We just went in there laser focused on these are the things that are not here and there’s nothing that we can do about them, we’re gonna subtract that from the equation. This is what we DO have, and we’re gonna focus on this and get the absolute most out of it. We’re gonna kill this. That was kind of our mindset for that situation. We wanted to give it to the fans. We knew that there were millions of people all over the world that would see that and we just tried to focus on that to give them the best version of ourselves at that time.
PWS: I also think that you have an advantage there because you are already focused, prior to WWE, on vignettes and cool videos where you didn’t have fans present when you were making them, but you were able to still make them feel intense. I think it gave you a leg up on the competition a little bit because you were already making cool stuff like that for your character outside of the ring.
KROSS: Humbly, I one-hundred percent agree with you. I really do.
That was something that I was already attempting to focus on. Before being here, I thought what’s the one thing that WWE has that no other place has. And that’s global distribution and viewership. And I thought, what’s the closest thing that I could even get to that. Which isn’t even gonna compare. It was YouTube and social media.
So I thought, well … in the meantime, if I’m working a show where there’s only a thousand or a few thousand people, and I want more people to see what I’m doing than is currently here, I’m gonna have to create content and footage and get that out to create a brand. So as I began to do that, it helped. And I think it definitely helped fix my perspective and my focus and know where I should be coming from during the times that we’re currently in right now.
PWS: How do you feel regarding fans that are so focused on competition on Wednesday nights and ratings? Does it bum you out at all to see them focusing on that as opposed to just the content of the shows?
KROSS: Not at all because they can be or do however they want. To me, those people are just as important as the people who don’t pay attention to it. Fans are fans. I don’t really categorize which fan is more important than the other, because that is an equation to go completely psychotic.
There are people online that are in our industry that spend way too much time and energy on that type of stuff. Where my energy goes is trying to make sure that the time that I am given to be seen on television I get the most out of.
I know all of that stuff is important, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be THAT important to me. In the priorities of what’s important to me, making sure that my segments are as entertaining and sincere as possible is where all of my energy goes. I’ll hear about those things on the backend. There are people that have jobs in this company where it’s their occupation to be consumed and concerned with measuring those things. It’s not mine.
So I just don’t allow my energy to go there. I save it for the fans.
PWS: You’re good at staying above the noise on social media. Like, for example, even when Randy Orton criticized NXT after In Your House, specifically talking about Tommaso Ciampa, who you wrestled against that night. You didn’t say anything at all. I was impressed.
KROSS: Well, here’s the thing. He’s funny. He’s actually funny. I think he’s funny. I find the things that he says funny. I’ve never met him before, but I’m assuming he probably has a great sense of humor and on social media, when I’m reading something, and I learned this years ago, I do my absolute best not to attach my own personal context to what I’m reading. That can happen in text messages. That can happen on social media. And I think what happens sometimes is, people’s comprehension of something that is written, the context of it just takes on a life of its own. And, who’s to say, there may have been absolutely nothing malicious about what he said. I don’t know. It’s a jab. Yeah, of course you can see that. But whether it was malicious or not, I would have no idea. So I just wouldn’t assume that it is. Does that make sense?
PWS: Yeah, of course. And I think you’re right. I’m pretty sure he was just having fun.
KROSS: Me personally, I can only take Twitter so seriously. And I’m sure a lot of people are like that as well. They don’t mean to set the world on fire with it.
PWS: Tomorrow you’ll be facing off against Dominik Dijakovic for the first time. I believe he called you a cosplay Goldberg on Twitter this week. What are your thoughts going into the match?
KROSS: I think that people are expecting a good match. From what I’ve read and what I’ve seen. I think we are going to surpass what people are expecting to see. Because [Dijakovic] specifically, I’ve never been in the ring with someone with a style like his. Specifically because of his size. He, in my opinion, has a striker’s lucha libre kinda hybrid style. Which is crazy because he’s very tall. And I think that the clash of styles is going to make for really interesting chemistry.
I can guarantee people it’s going to be a lot more violent than they are anticipating. That much I will go on record to say. Very pumped for people to see.
PWS: Lastly, Keith Lee is a dual champion in NXT right now and you were gazing down at him as he celebrated the big win. Are you focused on just one of Keith Lee’s titles? Or do you want both of them?
KROSS: Ya know … I got big pants … and I don’t think one belt is enough. I think I’m gonna need two to be able to walk around comfortably. That’s just where I’m at currently with it right now. I’m gonna need two belts, I think.
Watch Kross and Dominik Dijakovic do battle tomorrow night on NXT at 8pm ET on USA Network.
*INTERVIEW SLIGHTLY EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY*