A hero’s return: Kassius Ohno hunts for respect, prepares to test Fabian Aichner’s mettle this weekend at EVOLVE
Kassius Ohno has been outspoken about the lack of respect he has been shown in NXT. However, if all goes according to plan for The Knockout Artist, that could change this weekend when he makes his much-anticipated return to EVOLVE Wrestling.
Ohno is set challenge new EVOLVE Champion and fellow NXT Superstar Fabian Aichner Friday night in Livonia, Mich., at EVOLVE 115, as well as face independent standout Shane “Swerve” Strickland the following night at EVOLVE 116 in Oak Lawn, Ill. The Knockout Artist, who held the EVOLVE Title in 2014 and last competed for the promotion in January 2017, was originally scheduled to make his homecoming next month in New York, but he requested that his return date be pushed up after Aichner beat Strickland for the championship in Ybor City, Fla.
“I’m having enough trouble in NXT with people taking me seriously,” Ohno said. “Maybe if I rip this championship away from Fabian, people will look in my direction a bit more.”
To represent NXT and bring back the EVOLVE Title a week before TakeOver: WarGames II would certainly help raise Ohno’s brand — both in the eyes of NXT General Manager William Regal as well as those of other Superstars. A world-traveled, 20-year veteran of the ring, Ohno has criticized the dearth of big matches to come his way in the black-and-yellow brand. He also believes NXT Superstars too often view him as a stepping stone rather than a serious threat. In contrast, he expects to receive a hero’s welcome this weekend.
Maybe if I rip this championship away from Fabian, people will look in my direction a bit more.
- Kassius Ohno
“I’m going to step into EVOLVE again, and I will be treated with respect and reverence,” he said. “It’s just a certain level of decorum that everyone will treat me with and act around me, which is awesome, and I appreciate that, and it never goes unnoticed. But at the same time, why can’t I be treated the same exact way in NXT?
“My frustration with NXT is people don’t see me as a threat,” he continued. “They don’t see me as the same guy with the same killer instinct, whereas I go to EVOLVE, I go to PROGRESS, I go to Insane Championship Wrestling, and people are like, ‘Holy [crap], that’s Kassius Ohno, that’s Chris Hero.’ Here, I’m just kind of … maybe stalwart is the right word, where I’m a guy that’s gonna be there. I’m important to the foundation of NXT, but the spotlight has never been fully on me.”
The impending EVOLVE Championship clash is as much an opportunity for Aichner to prove he deserves to be the outfit’s top titleholder as it is a chance for Ohno to make NXT management and Superstars take notice. Ohno wants to see if Aichner has what it takes to carry the crown that reinvigorated Ohno’s career after his first tenure in NXT unceremoniously ended. It’s not that Ohno doesn’t respect Aichner, the Italian roughneck who has blown minds whenever he’s appeared on WWE Network. If anything, it’s just the opposite.
“I’ve been trumpeting Fabian for the last year and a half as far as a guy who’s flown under the radar, but he’s incredibly solid and always getting better,” Ohno said.
The two have clashed on NXT TV once before, when Aichner made his NXT debut in September 2017. The Knockout Artist left Aichner laying and came away with the win that night.
“I was the party pooper to his big NXT debut,” Ohno said. “So, if he’s going to go in and get the EVOLVE Championship, a championship that is very near and dear to my heart, I’d like to give him a test to see if he’s actually a worthy champion.”
Win or lose in Michigan, Ohno’s second match of the weekend, against Strickland in Illinois, carries extremely high expectations, albeit for different reasons. Billed as a First Time Ever Dream Match, Ohno vs. Strickland is a showdown that has had EVOLVE fans salivating.
“The second I was announced for EVOLVE, he was the guy I kept getting tweets about. ‘Yo, you gotta wrestle Swerve, Swerve’s the guy,’” Ohno said. “It’s really cool to be able to go out there and have these dream matches that people assume would only happen if Shane Strickland is in NXT.”
Ohno’s matches are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to EVOLVE’s stacked lineups this weekend.
NXT’s Street Profits, who captured the EVOLVE Tag Team Titles in Ybor City, will be in action both nights. Montez Ford & Angelo Dawkins are scheduled for title defenses against WWN Champion JD Drake & Anthony Henry on Friday, and AR Fox & Leon Ruff on Saturday. Aichner, who may or may not still be the EVOLVE Champion by Saturday, is also set to battle Henry in Illinois. Additionally, WWE 205 Live’s Mustafa Ali will be in competition, wrestling DJZ at EVOLVE 115 and noted risktaker Darby Allin at EVOLVE 116.
Tickets for both events are available now. For full details on EVOLVE 115 and 116, including ticket information, visit WWNLive.com.