In an interview with ESPN, WWE NXT superstar Kassius Ohno discussed the new era of WWE NXT that he is part of, the pressures of headlining on the independent scene when he left NXT several years ago, his NBA-inspired ring gear and more.
Highlights of the interview are below:
On his NBA-inspired ring gear: “This actually started back when I was in NXT last time. I got a set of wrestling gear inspired by the old school Orlando Magic. I graduated high school in ’98, so 1990 to the early 2000s when basketball was really vivid in my life and in my mind. Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, those guys were very influential to me when I was a kid, so I just thought, ‘Okay, well, our home base is Orlando. It might be kind of cool to get an outfit made that looks a little bit like that.’ Actually, not many people caught on at the time because I really only wore the outfit maybe three or four times, so I had that, and that was the original inspiration. My first set after that, I got three sets, and they were based on the Seattle SuperSonics, the Chicago Bulls, and Dream Team. At first, they were just teams that were vivid in my memory from my childhood, 1992 Dream Team. It doesn’t get any better than that. What an iconic team. Then, you’ve got the Michael Jordan Bulls, and I like the cursive style jersey, like from possibly his rookie year, I believe. Then, the Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp SuperSonics. How badass were they? How cool were they? I just thought all these could translate to outfits. Even if somebody doesn’t know basketball, doesn’t put 2 and 2 together, design-wise, it still looks pretty cool.”
On the pressures of headlining on the independent scene following his NXT departure several years ago: “It was really cool to see my personal evolution from the different people I was [facing]. I’ve got a target on my head. I’m at these shows, and I’m taking on their best talent, night in, night out. Sometimes, that’s Friday in Los Angeles and Saturday in Chicago and then Sunday in Toronto, so it’s a lot of travel, a lot of high expectations, and I just got into such a good groove. I was bringing out the best in my opponents. They were bringing out the best in me.”
On being part of the new era in WWE NXT: “I didn’t attain the level of success that I anticipated my first time around, and I felt like I was better equipped this go-around to just come in and tear stuff up and also to fill a gap. There’s so much talent here, [but] there was an exodus. You had Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, then you had Samoa Joe and Finn Balor. We just lost The Revival Tye Dillinger, Shinsuke [Nakamura]. To be able to step in and immediately start producing right away, whether it’s these travel shows or going on the tour to England or just in television matches, it’s really cool to represent this new era of NXT.”
The interview is available in full at this link.