I’m a huge fan of The Doors. If you ask me, Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore changed the course of mainstream rock ‘n’ roll with their “darker than Stones” tone and absence of a bassist. I’ve said before that you play “Touch Me” to the virgin ears of a couple of 20-somethings today, the potential for them to categorize it as “modern” would be higher than any other artist during that time.
Karrion Kross, the NXT World Champion, is modern, but his character, look and persona is that of wrestling’s “classic rock” era. If allowed to fully flex their creative muscles, he and Scarlett can open plenty of “Doors” for WWE if they want to regain a long-eroding fanbase.
“There’s a killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad.” – “Riders On The Storm”, LA Woman (1971)
It was reported that Kross wrestled a dark match this past Friday night on SmackDown and is doing the same this week with RAW, but his presence at both tapings had the world wide web of wrestling stirring. Kross and Scarlett potentially showing up on network television could have indeed caused a massive shake-up before (or after) Hell In A Cell, especially if the leader of the Kross Kult crossed paths with Roman Reigns. That didn’t happen—but that doesn’t mean it won’t or shouldn’t.
If Doc Brown was a wrestling fan, he could saddle Kross and Scarlett up in his DeLorean, crank the flux capacitor to “June 21, 1998” and he’d be main eventing against The Undertaker (post-Mankind toss off the Cell) quicker than Doc could blurt out “Great Scott.” This year of 2021 however, would happen to present tougher circumstances that Austin, Undertaker, Rock or Mankind could never even fathom. Live crowds were understandably throttled and that always will be the blood pumping to the heart of the one true sport. While some have made the most of it, everyone has suffered from it. As much as I enjoy Karrion Kross destroying everyone in sight on NXT, the brand is staying put for the foreseeable future at the Capitol Wrestling Center, meaning a smaller—and mostly same—crowd every week. Having him show up, say, post-SummerSlam to suddenly unseat “The Tribal Chief” would certainly splinter the table Roman sits at the head of. For a company that should be looking for a big-name babyface, that’s a great thing.
“I’m a changeling, see me change” – “Changeling”, L.A. Woman (1971)
I’m perplexed that some critics claim Karrion Kross doesn’t have “it” because if you go back to the days before Kross put his name on the WWE dotted line, ‘Killer Kross’ was always about blending himself with production and presentation. He, along with then free agent “Death Rider” Jon Moxley, knew the immense value of getting a visual across to a fanbase. Even if they weren’t signed by a promotion at the time, the two put the work in to appropriately convey a message as to who they are and it eventually led to a match between the two. Moxley took that (along with the previous WWE name cache) and it wasn’t long before he found himself AEW World Champion. In turn, Kross knows who he is as a wrestler and blended his interests outside of wrestling (film, for example) to turn himself into a hot commodity.
“I independently went out and basically filmed a trailer promo calling out Moxley,” said Kross to Sports Illustrated in 2020, referring to the Moxley-focused vignette titled “Time Killer.” “I was very determined to showcase that I could do this, independently, on my own. Without any machine, without any company.”
Authenticity can be as rare a double turn in wrestling. Coming from New York City and evolving into a self-made journeyman, Karrion Kross has that wrestling authenticity built into him. Albeit brief, I got to experience that first hand backstage at MLW Fightland back in Philadelphia. Kross competed in a few matches on the card and as intense as his “killer” side can get, there’s a genuine kindness to him that rivals the Von Erichs (or in other words, one of the nicest groups of folks in wrestling). That is something you cannot teach and is something fans are smart enough to latch onto. He can be a Wilson Fisk Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen or its gritty defender in the Daredevil role.
“Gonna make it baby in our prime.” – “Five To One”, Waiting For The Sun (1968)
And with that, there’s reason Triple H has made Kross and Scarlett the focal point for the black and gold brand. Hunter swam in the ever-competitive Glengarry Glenn Ross-esque waters that enveloped the end of WWE’s 20th century and The Game certainly sees that x-factor in his current champion. NXT, if even at points limited to the confines of the “WWE Universe,” has been the company’s coolest property. That’s in credit to Hunter and the team he’s assembled. For them to be pushing Kross at the level he is (arguably bigger than any champ previously) says plenty, and I’ll take Triple H’s eye for talent over any of us talking heads from afar. With a potential main roster call-up, Kross and Scarlett’s main event act is built for the bigger stage of WWE and like Austin of Attitude Era’s yesteryear, Kross is in his money-making prime at 35.
“The time to hesitate is through, no time to wallow in the mire.” – “Light My Fire,” The Doors (1967)
I don’t think there’s a time limit on Kross and Scarlett’s potential for superstardom. I very much go by the Randy Savage belief that the cream always rises and just the mere aspect of giving the two that opportunity at authenticity on the grander stage in front of a live audience could have WWE “break on through” into a new era.
There happens to be a story from 1967 about The Doors performing one of their first concerts as their hit single, “Light My Fire” began setting radio stations aflame. While the majority of the band wanted ice cream before their show taking place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, frontman Jim Morrison wanted whiskey. Well, he sure got it, so much that he was unable to perform. With the rest of the band vamping “Soul Kitchen” for a considerable amount of time, the Michigan crowd turned rabid.
Missed opportunity, right? Nope.
Low and behold, The Lizard King sobered up and then ended up putting on a performance of a lifetime that sent the crowd home happy. Ironic in many ways as “Soul Kitchen” starts off with Morrison uttering, “Well, the clock says it’s time to close now.” Like Morrison, however, Karrion Kross can make the most of time.