Karrion Kross targets Dominik Dijakovic in midst of rapid rise to top of WWE NXT

WWE NXT Title Credit: WWE.com
WWE NXT Title Credit: WWE.com /

Karrion Kross talks to Daily DDT about his upcoming clash with Dominik Dijakovic, making an immediate impact in WWE NXT, having Scarlett by his side, how he’s taken what he’s learned elsewhere and applied it to his NXT run, and more.

Despite recently arriving in WWE NXT, Karrion Kross is already well on his way to contending for, and potentially winning, the NXT Championship. The only man standing between him and a shot at the title is Dominik Dijakovic, who he’ll go one-on-one with for the first time ever on Wednesday’s episode of NXT on USA Network.

It’s a match that almost happened on the independent scene several times but never came to pass until now. Kross is chomping at the bit to get his hands on Dijakovic, especially because of the implication that an NXT Championship match could be in his immediate future if and when he emerges victorious.

“It’s going to be personal, but it’s going to be professional,” Kross told Daily DDT in an interview over the phone on Tuesday. “I think that by the end of it, all of the questions are going to be answered as far as who should be getting the next title shot.”

Although this encounter will mark the first time that Kross and Dijakovic have locked up, it’s almost guaranteed to be great given their respective in-ring styles. Kross has worked well with a variety of opponents thus far in NXT, from Bronson Reed to Tommaso Ciampa, and Dijakovic should be no different.

Even before coming to WWE, Kross gained experience wrestling against athletes with all sorts of styles and feels he’s had some of his best bouts with wrestlers who excel in lucha libre.

“I’ve always thought that lucha libre compliments my style the best and the reason being that I’m not someone who uses a lot of lucha libre. However, I’m very well versed in it,” Kross said. “I know how to identify it, I know how to see it, and ironically, Dijakovic uses a hybrid style of lucha libre despite how big he is, which makes it really interesting. I think the styles clashing like that makes for a really good match.”

Speaking on his multi-year stint in AAA, Kross mentioned that among the many things he learned was learning a completely new language in the ring. Developing fluency in Spanish came later, but body language ultimately played a much more important role than he could have imagined.

“Lucha libre is completely different from what would be perceived as general professional wrestling,” he said. “Also with the language barrier, I had no choice but to to read body language and so forth. Eventually I learned Spanish, but to learn body language and see people coming, know when to go and how to spot things, it made me a better professional wrestler and sports entertainer light-years ahead of where I was before I got there.”

In addition to AAA, Kross spent some time in Lucha Underground, working a handful of dark matches early on before debuting as an actual character on the show in 2018. He was introduced as The White Rabbit and was a part of a cult-like group with Paul London for a brief period.

Lucha Underground seems to be talked more about now than it was during its four-year run because of how it essentially innovated the cinematic match. With cinematic matches more popular today than ever before, Kross credits the promotion for starting that trend and specifically former WWE creative writer Chris DeJoseph for bringing that vision to life.

“I always thought Chris DeJoseph was a genius. He came over from WWE and he went over to Lucha Underground and he brought his creative mind there,” Kross said. “It doesn’t surprise me that things have circled back to what we’re seeing right now in terms of the cinema stuff. I think that sometimes when things become a really big deal and they’re really cool and they’re really interesting. They were kind of done in similar ways prior to that. It’s almost like it was ahead of its time. I think it’s really cool that we’re doing cinematic stuff and I think now more than ever it’s the perfect time to start introducing stuff like that. We are in the business of telling stories and what better way to do that, especially with WWE. I mean, it’s the best entertainment company in the entire world and they can do anything. It’s definitely something they should be doing and I’m glad to see it.

“I really found myself there,” Kross added about his time in Lucha Underground. “I think that everything that people are seeing right now, while I wasn’t necessarily doing it on screen, I think inside myself I found it working there. I put that away because I knew one day when I got here to WWE, I really wanted to let that out. Chris DeJoseph really helped me find that.”

Kross signed his NXT contract at the onset of 2020, which was announced on an episode of WWE Backstage soon after. Once he was released from his IMPACT contract late last year, there were plenty of rumors regarding where he’d wind up and how sought-after of a free agent he was by many promotions.

He revealed that he contemplated going elsewhere throughout his entire wrestling journey but didn’t because he knew WWE was always the endgame. He wasn’t completely positive when it would happen, just that it would.

“I had considered signing in other places the entire way to getting here and the only reason I did that was because I wasn’t even sure when it was going to happen,” Kross said. “I knew in my heart it was going to happen, but when, I couldn’t tell you. What I wanted to do in the meantime before we got to that day, whenever it was, was to become as valuable as possible and to get as good as I can before I get here. That was always in the back of my mind what I was doing. Aside from doing my best to entertain and improve, I wanted to try to find the best version of myself so when I got here, I was going to be in the best position to contribute to what we’re doing.”

On the May 6 edition of NXT, Kross and Scarlett made their debut on NXT TV to critical acclaim from fans worldwide. While Kross’ quick decimation of Leon Ruff was impressive, it was their awe-inspiring entrance that truly blew everyone away.

From Shinsuke Nakamura to Aleister Black to Bobby Roode, the black-and-gold brand has hosted some stellar entrances over the years, but Kross’ could very well be the best of the bunch. He stressed the importance of entrances in wrestling and how crucial they can be to getting fans familiar with that character before the bell rings.

“I think it’s absolutely essential to have an entrance that is going to prepare people to know what you’re all about as if it’s the first time that they’re seeing you. I think it’s absolutely imperative, it’s totally critical,” he said. “I had a lot of engagement… I was just there I guess you could say on the front lines, in the mud creating this whole thing creating this whole thing together with the NXT community. I was heavily involved with it.”

Perhaps the only downside to the debut was that no one was in attendance to see it. This was before WWE started having NXT Superstars and Performance Center recruits serve as the crowd, so it unfortunately didn’t receive the reaction it deserved, at least not in the building.

Online, however, the NXT Universe offered strong praise for Kross’ incredible entrance. Kross was able to experience the satisfaction of the moment in waves due to the uniqueness of the circumstances.

“There is the preparation for it. That in itself, in a way, is kind of a process of that hitting you, that’s happening,” he said. “Being out there presently doing it is a whole other wave and the aftermath of it, assessing it retrospectively, and then there’s seeing it on television. There’s also the social media following, so it kind of hits me in waves. The energy the crew that the NXT crew has is very positive, very strong, very infectious, so we all kind of rally together and support and improve and try to bring out the best version of ourselves every week. We have that. It’s going to be awesome for the future when we have fans there as well. That’s going to be a whole other way for things to set in, as you could say.”

The real-life couple Kross and Scarlett previously worked together in IMPACT, but not as an on-screen act. Scarlett signing with NXT at the end of 2019 caused fans to speculate that Kross wouldn’t be far behind, and that was exactly what ended up happening.

“We worked together elsewhere before and it worked really well and it was really fun,” he said about their partnership. “It was something that we wanted to do and we were happy that we got to [in NXT].”

Simply by watching Kross, it’s clear he’s been heavily influenced by characters similar to his own. Sean O’Haire, whose SmackDown stint in 2003 was short-lived, has proven to be one of his biggest inspirations, especially with how he carried himself and screamed “star” through his mannerisms and with what he had to say.

“I definitely think him among a few other people were really inspiring towards something I wanted to bring to life that I felt really confident and sincere that I could pull off on a consistent basis,” he said. “I think character continuity is really important and essential for a television show. When you’re trying to find your confidence to stick to something, you have to be really sure and a lot of the influences that I’ve had, Sean O’Haire being one of them, I always felt really positive that I could do what I’m doing right now because I was always bringing back that energy for television programming and stuff like that.

“Brian Pillman Jr. was another guy. He had something that was so… I guess the world that comes to mind is intangible. He had a magnetic energy where if you were flipping through the television and you had no idea you were watching wrestling and Brian Pillman was on screen, he could capture your attention and you were not going to change the channel until he was off of it. You might stick around just to see if he comes back. I don’t know what to call that, I don’t know what that is. But it’s a feeling, it’s a feeling that people make you feel.

“Steve Austin, The Rock, all of those guys. They had that thing where people knew when they saw them that there was something special about them and I don’t necessarily know if you can find that. I think it’s something you need to feel yourself and chase it.”

The Karrion Kross we see on NXT TV today is nothing like who he is in reality, and that’s done intentionally. The former Lucha Underground, AAA and IMPACT player grew up a fan of the business and loved the emphasis on characters.

As essential as relatable characters in wrestling are, it was those larger-than-life performers that WWE was built on decades ago. Kross wants to bring back that magic in his own way and stand out from the rest of the pack by being something special.

“I am a very big believer in character work for television, especially with sports-entertainment and it’s always been predicated toward larger than life characters,” Kross said. “I think there is a very, very strong, high value in relatable people in sports-entertainment without question, especially with the charity work and all the public stuff that we do. Relatable people are good, but there is a great value in creating characters that you can’t see or find anywhere else and that’s the direction I wanted to go in. That’s what made me fall in love with what I’m doing right now as a kid. I wanted to contribute toward the business in that direction.”

Having turned 35 just this past week, Kross is looking forward to the future, not only on NXT but on Raw and SmackDown as well. In addition to the obvious suspects such as NXT champion Keith Lee and Brock Lesnar, Daniel Bryan leads the list of opponents he one day hopes to step in the squared circle with.

“I think Daniel Bryan will be an outstanding match one day when we get to it. I believe it’d be absolutely killer,” he said. “Bray Wyatt is another one that many people want to see and I think Shinsuke Nakamura will be an excellent match.”

Next. Why Kevin Owens should move back to WWE NXT. dark

Before then, Kross could soon be holding gold in the form of NXT Championship if he can get past Dijakovic and Lee. Only then will doomsday be officially be declared on the black-and-gold brand and beyond.

Catch Karrion Kross in action against Dominik Dijakovic this Wednesday on WWE NXT at 8/7c, only on USA Network.