Exclusive interview: Kassius Ohno on NXT’s “bias problem,” becoming NXT’s gatekeeper

Bitterness or truth? Jealousy or conviction to a cause? It is those questions that have seemingly found an appropriate target when it comes to NXT’s Kassius Ohno. Ohno has been quite vocal in recent weeks regarding his displeasure with the attention given to NXT’s newest Superstars. This week, WWE.com speaks to Ohno about his frustrations, his purpose and his plan to teach the NXT Universe to think for themselves. 

WWE.COM: How do you feel about the state of your career since returning to NXT nearly two years ago?

KASSIUS OHNO: Contrary to popular belief, I’m exceptionally happy with my career. Surely there have been moments of frustration, but after 20 years in the ring, my body of work speaks for itself. My focus lately has been to identify the source of these frustrations and confront them head on.

WWE.COM: What exactly is the source of your frustrations?

OHNO: There’s a recent bias here in NXT. No one wants to partake in that difficult discussion, so I’m here to force everyone to face the truth. New isn’t always better. And when respect is given rather than earned, it certainly isn’t appreciated. That’s a problem. 

WWE.COM: Specifically, you’ve claimed the bias nature favors a number of NXT newcomers. Why is this?

OHNO: When you give a child a new toy every day, some toys will inevitably find their way to the bottom of the chest. For what? The child doesn’t know any better. Plus, lots of these new toys are cheaply made and easy to break. It’s a waste of money, and I think that it’s time to start taking some of these toys away.

WWE.COM: Who are some of the Superstars that you would classify as the “new toys”? 

OHNO: I’m going to name some names, and I’ll let you decide who fits into this category and who doesn’t. Ricochet, EC3, War Raiders, Keith Lee and Dominik Dijakovic. You’ve also got some of these NXT UK guys. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

WWE.COM: Are you willing to admit that at least some of those aforementioned competitors deserve praise?

OHNO: Listen, no one is great just because you’re told they’re great. Think for yourself! By the time people make their debut, they’re surrounded by all these preconceived notions. No one wants to be wrong, but it’s impossible for every single NXT Superstar to live up to their hype. Let them earn some respect before you roll out the red carpet.

WWE.COM: When you made your own return to NXT, do you feel you were surrounded by preconceived notions? 

OHNO: I made my return in a non-televised segment just to show the fans I was back and put the NXT locker room on notice. My first match back? Oh, that was in Largo, Fla. — one of the many times I defeated Andrade “Cien” Almas. Oh, and I sent Elias packing shortly thereafter, so you’re welcome for that.

WWE.COM: Do you feel you’ve become an afterthought to the NXT Universe?

OHNO: I think the NXT Universe knows that I’m “good,” but they’ve either forgotten, or they can’t quite grasp how good I truly am. Nearly 20 countries, nearly 40 states, every single wrestling style imaginable … who else can do what I can do?! I’m seen as a figurative gatekeeper here in NXT. Maybe I should anoint myself the literal gatekeeper.

WWE.COM: How do you respond to critics who suggest you are just jealous of those Superstars who receive more attention?

OHNO: Jealous? I’m not jealous of fake hype. I’m not in search of hollow admiration. That type of energy just floats to whoever’s on deck. There will always be someone new, and their buzz will last until it doesn’t.

WWE.COM: What is your current goal?

OHNO: This is a “don’t call it a comeback.” It’s an “I’ve been here for years.” It’s time to remind people who I am and what I’m capable of. Leave some Superstars lying flat, knock ‘em out the box. I’m tired of looking across the ring at my opponents and seeing looks of optimism and opportunity. There should only be one thing going through their mind: sheer, unmitigated dread.

WWE.COM: What satisfaction will you receive if you successfully achieve that goal?

OHNO: I want people to think for themselves. I want them to do more than just scratch the surface. I’m all about pushing things forward in a positive direction and leaving them better than I found them. Maybe what I’m doing and saying will inspire others to do the same further down the road. That would be satisfying.

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