WWE released NXT star Kassius Ohno, aka Chris Hero, who has worked in main event level positions for Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling NOAH, CHIKARA, IWA Mid-South and CZW, among other promotions all over the world, PWInsider.com has confirmed.
According to multiple sources, Ohno was released by WWE officials while waiting to begin training Friday morning at the Performance Center.
Ohno had just returned to WWE NXT after being held off of TV for some time. What will turn out to be his final appearance, a loss to The Wyatt Family's Luke Harper, aired this past Wednesday on NXT. He had been signed to WWE developmental in 2012.
Ohno, a Dayton, Ohio native, broke into the business in 1998 and was trained by a slew of excellent trainers, including Les Thatcher and Dory Funk Jr.
Similar to the career path that Daniel Bryan took, he traveled the world, most notable Germany, England and Australia, learning all sorts of different styles and adding them to his in-ring repertoire. I've always likened him to a young Barry Windham because of his tall frame and working ability.
Like a lot of other independent stars of the early 2000s, Hero made his name with a lot of travel, not just internationally but all over the United States, driving with a crew that included Antonio Cesaro (then Claudio Castagnoli) and the late Larry Sweeney, among others, and worked pretty much everywhere. He clicked in just about every major independent promotion of the era.
Hero originally built his name in Ian Rotten's IWA Mid-South, where he ended up having a great feud with CM Punk (as recounted on Punk's Best in the World DVD documentary) as well as a long run in CHIKARA, where he was a top name there as well as one half of the Kings of Wrestling tag team with Cesaro.
He soon made his way to CZW, where he worked as a top heel there and began working regularly for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in California as well.
The one promotion Hero wasn't getting booked for was Ring of Honor, which was considered the top independent promotion in the landscape, so when he showed up as a mystery opponent representing CZW against then-ROH champion Bryan Danielson (aka Daniel Bryan), it was a huge, legitimate shock for that audience and helped kick off a CZW vs. ROH feud that drew great numbers for ROH as well as an audience that was as legitimately split down the middle as a New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys game.
Hero morphed into a regular member of the ROH roster, capturing their Tag belts with Cesaro, who he held a number of other tag straps with. He began training and wrestling for Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan and did well there, including having the mate Mitsuharu Misawa "gift him" the roaring elbow, which Hero used even in WWE as a finish.
When Hero was signed in 2012, it seemed like just a matter of time before he joined Punk, Bryan and others on the main roster, but for some reason - whether it be politics or mistakes made, he never made it to the main roster. I don't even believe he was sent on the road for dark matches, which boggled my mind. His work in the ring was good. He had obviously, based on his last TV appearances, worked on his physique. He had a decent speaking ability and his charisma always sort of reminded me a quiet version of a young Mick Foley. As a heel, he portrayed a great d***. He knew all sorts of different styles and honestly, should have been training the talents he was instead training with in the Performance Center. All the elements were there, except, apparently, WWE didn't see it, so he begins a new chapter in his career, returning to the independents.
Note from Mike: This release will go down, to me, as one of those moments in history where you wonder what the hell went wrong, and how WWE couldn't see the potential in someone just about every independent promotion in the world will be scrambling to book once they read this. This is absolutely going to be a case where this, long term, will be WWE's loss.