A Hero’s Journey: Kassius Ohno Celebrates 20 Years in Wrestling (VIDEOS)

This week marked the 20th year of NXT Superstar Kassius Ohno‘s professional wrestling career, that has taken him throughout multiple countries and promotions, dozens of championships, both singles and tag team, that has ultimately lead the 38-year old from Dayton, Ohio to the WWE Universe. It’s been 20 years of Chris Hero and Kassius Ohno, and what a ride it’s been.

It was on September 12, 1998 that a young Chris Spradlin made his pro wrestling debut with Unified Championship Wrestling (UCW) in nearby Xenia, Ohio against Shawn “Heart Throb” Halsey. A lifelong wrestling fan, Spradlin would spend the next few years soaking up knowledge under such teachers as Dory Funk Jr., Tracey Smothers and The Monster Factory‘s Charlie Fulton, before becoming the indie legend Chris Hero in 2000.

An early star in IWA Mid South in the early 2000s, where he had singles feuds against the likes of CM Punk, Colt Cabana, BJ Whitmer, and more, Hero became a 4x IWA Mid South Heavyweight Champion. He worked throughout the Midwest territories, also claiming the XICW Intense Championship with Detroit’s Xtreme Intense Championship Wrestling (XICW). In 2002, he debuted with CHIKARA as part of the trio The Gold Bond Mafia, that featured his IWA rivals Punk and Cabana. He also made his debut with Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) that same year.

In 2003, he had a brief tryout run with TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, but after being relegated to episodes of Xplosion, he remained with the indies instead.  He would return to CHIKARA, this time pairing with Mike Quackenbush in The Superfriends. He would also strengthen his position in Europe’s emerging indie scene, becoming not just a regular with Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw) in late 2002 but becoming their World Heavyweight Champion in 2003, holding it an astounding 252 days. But CZW would become his next focal point and would lead to one of the greatest tag teams that the US indies has ever witnessed, The Kings of Wrestling.

He was already a former CZW Wired Champion when Chris Hero was paired with Claudio Castagnoli (better known today as WWE Superstar Cesaro) in a #1 contenders match for the CZW World Tag Team titles at CZW Breaking Point: Let The Kaos Begin! in October of 2005. While they wouldn’t win that night, a partnership that spanned from 2005 through 2011 would be forged in an unparalleled chemistry and combination of power, speed and technique, as the new Kings of Wrestling would go on to dominate tag team divisions through the world. By the time their run ended in 2011 (when both signed with NXT), the Kings of Wrestling were 2x CZW World Tag Team Champions, 2x Ring of Honor (ROH) Tag Team Champions, plus CHIKARA’s Campeonatos de Parejas and Juggalo Championship Wrestling (JCW)’s tag team titles. in 2010, they won the ROH Tag Wars.

But he wasn’t just a tag team specialist – Chris Hero would be a top singles competitor as well, with feuds in ROH against the likes of Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan), Nigel McGuinness, Homicide and many more. He’d also capture the CZW World Heavyweight Championship in 2006 and the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) World Championship in 2008. He also won ROH’s Survival of the Fittest tournament and wXw’s 16 Carat Gold tournament in 2007.

Photo: WWE

In 2011, both he and Castagnoli signed with the WWE and went to developmental in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) and then over to NXT in 2012. By 2013, Castagnoli had become a superstar as Cesaro, but as Kassius Ohno, Chris Hero simply wasn’t catching on. By the end of 2013, he had left the WWE Universe and returned to the indies. With a determination to show his best was not yet behind him, Chris Hero went on an even more inspired journey of redemption, solidifying his legacy as one of the undeniable legends of the indie circuit.

Not only did he return to his pre-WWE haunts like PWG, CZW, wXw and IWA Mid South, but he became an early US indie star to jump into the slowly emerging UK scene, working with Southside Wrestling Entertainment (SWE), Preston City Wrestling (PCW), IPW:UK, and X Wrestling Alliance (XWA) in 2014 and soon he would be adding PROGRESS and Revolution Pro (RevPro) to his itinerary. In Japan, he continued to work with Pro Wrestling NOAH, and in North America he would make frequent stops with EVOLVE, Beyond Wrestling, Smash Wrestling and as many promotions as he could find. In 2014, he would win the EVOLVE Championship and once again win wXw’s 16 Carat Gold.

Photo: WWE

In January 2017, Hero made his return to NXT, returning as Kassius Ohno, but with a new resolve and a new attitude. He’s become the workhorse of NXT, working matches against all the contenders and future champions, Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas, Velveteen Dream, Bobby Roode, Hideo Itami, and Oney Lorcan. He continues to be a valuable performer for NXT, but an even more invaluable mentor to the young wrestlers coming through. He’s considered by many to be one of the smartest men in wrestling and his passion for the details is what has maintained his longevity in the ring. There’s no doubt he’d transition well into just about any aspect of “behind the scenes”, from trainer to agent/producer to creative, with the depth of knowledge and experience he’s collected in his 20 years in the business.

Happy 20th, Chris Spradlin. Here’s to many more.

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