In early May of 2020, the WWE universe was introduced to their latest creation, a monster by the name of Karrion Kross. He is a fairly new wrestler who has spent time in the indies and also on Impact. Once the WWE got a hold of him, however, his character and mystique got watered down and translated into an incoherent package. Yet, the WWE seems to think that he is the greatest villain since Darth Vader. They are booking him like we are supposed to care about his matches, yet they have made no real effort to get us to care. Because we don’t really know who he is, or what he wants, there is no emotion behind his numerous squashes and beatdowns.
The formula for building a star should not be to come up with a flashy entrance, book a few “enhancement” matches, and expect the audience to relate. A true heel should be someone we genuinely want to get beat up, to lose at the hands of a scrappy, winsome underdog, or at least a big hero who can stand up to them. This is why the character of Mr. McMahon worked so well. The audience genuinely wanted the evil, profits-over-everything, my-word-is-law boss man to lose. When Kross wrestles, the best I can hope for are a few cool spots as he decimates the next person in his way.
The formula for building a star should be to build the character first. It should be through the story that they tell about themselves through their promos and matches. There should be things about them that the crowd can relate to, or that the crowd can rally against. In essence, a rapport gets built between the storytellers and the audience. Then, and only then, can we respond emotionally. This rapport does not get built through squash matches, or by keeping the character mysterious for months on end. You can start with mystery and intrigue, but unless the crowd starts getting answers about the character, they will lose interest. When NXT started seeing a mysterious monster with a mysterious manager who destroyed everyone in his way, they had an opportunity to cash in on the natural interest that was piqued. However, the character did not move on from there. And yet he is now the centerpiece heel of NXT.
The only moment of genuine heat I have felt for him was the ending to his match against Dominic Dijakovic, where he made Keith Lee watch as he destroyed his “frenemy.” However, that has been followed up by two confrontations where he nonsensically appeared on the video screen rather than in person, as though he was afraid to physically face Keith Lee. He continually asks Keith Lee to “make things happen” and get a match booked between them. The only problem with that is that Keith Lee has stated that he is willing to face him any time, anywhere, call-outs that Kross has not responded to in person.
He has no true motivations that we know of. His only intention has been to hurt people, with no compelling justification to his actions. Now, a monster who does not speak for themselves is not unheard of. That’s why the WWE has had people like Paul Bearer and Paul Heyman to speak on the behalf of Undertaker and Brock Lesnar. However, Scarlett’s attempts at silent intimidation using time-related props fall short of that.
The bottom line is, most of the WWE’s stars the past decade have come about despite the WWE’s efforts, rather than because of them. The stars they have pushed have been the likes of Roman Reigns, Charlotte Flair, and Shane McMahon, who for the most part are characters that the universe does not truly resonate with. The stars that have grown in spite of the WWE have been the best characters, people like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and more recently, Aleister Black. The WWE thinks that fans don’t “get” Aleister Black, but that’s not true. We love him, and he’s going to get buried. It is creating a situation where, in order for an actually good character to succeed, they have to consistently turn poor programs into magic.
And that’s where we find ourselves. Kross is getting pushed, and it looks as though he’s going to go all the way to the top. All the while, the fans at home do not really resonate with him, because he does not have dimension as a character. This serves as a case study that the WWE has a fundamental misconception about how true stars are made, and I’m going to the mat for that.