In debates on the internet, there is one man who singularly rises to the top when it comes to indie legends who just never made it in the WWE. Depending on the story, either WWE mishandled him from the start or he sabotaged his own chances with his ego, but regardless, Chris Hero is the man most people either want to see get a second chance in the WWE or the one everyone thinks should just stay away from Stamford all together.
But the social media world was on fire Sunday evening when a rumour began to float around that Chris Hero was indeed heading back to the WWE in early 2017 sometime. And while rumours are a dime a dozen in the world of professional wrestling (even if they come from Dave Meltzer), it was the amount of response these rumours got from those within the industry itself. All of them seemed to lend more credence that perhaps this time the rumours were true.
— Court Bauer (@courtbauer) December 11, 2016
No idea if this is true or not but in my opinion, he's the best in the game right now. https://t.co/h7OxuctTil
— Joey Ryan (@JoeyRyanOnline) December 11, 2016
There’s no denying that WWE is in full signing mode, locking up some of the indie’s biggest names in 2016: AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows, Roderick Strong, Cedric Alexander, Tommy End, Eric Young, Bobby Roode, Big Damo, Crazy Mary Dobson. The WWE is finally realizing the education these performers gain on the indie circuits and the marketability of their fan bases. But Chris Hero could be their biggest coup this year.
Sure, there are other names with more splash than Hero to some. But Hero is the one who got away. When he was signed alongside his long time tag team partner Claudio Castagnoli (better known nowadays as WWE Superstar Cesaro), fans were elated that one of the most dominating tag teams on the indie circuit in the early 2000’s, The Kings of Wrestling, was now brought into the WWE. But they were nearly immediately separated, with Claudio becoming Cesaro and Chris Hero repackaged as Kassius Ohno (the KO gimmick of Kevin Owens was initially meant for Hero). Then the original blueprint of The Shield came along, with the idea that three former indie giants – Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose), Tyler Black (Seth Rollins) and Hero would unite as CM Punk‘s indie backup. Of course, we know what happened. Hero was substituted for Roman Reigns and they never aligned with Punk at all. And then just like that, Chris Hero was released by the WWE. But unlike some who are Future Endeavoured, Chris Hero actually spoke highly of the company that had just released him, in an interview with Bob Kapur for Canoe Slam! Sports in 2014.
“I don’t know, maybe because I learned so much during my time there, I grew so much as a person and as a performer, I’ve got nothing (negative to say). I didn’t end up where I thought I would, or where I hoped I would. But I’m still doing ALRIGHT…In my exit interview, they said we would take a little while and revisit later on and see if things change. (Triple H) himself told me that he’d give me another shot and look at me later on. And also, like, ‘You have a good attitude, you work hard,’ that kind of stuff.” Chris Hero to Bob Kapur, Slam! Sports, January 4, 2014
He’s spent the last few years having some of the best work of his career – after spending years on the tag team circuit, he was now going full throttle as a singles star. He’s been the Champion for Evolve and other indie promotions worldwide, including being one of Cody Rhodes‘ dream matches this year on his List.
Will he return to NXT? The possibilities are endless of match-ups we’ve never seen, such as Chris Hero vs Shinsuke Nakamura, or Bobby Roode, or Eric Young. Will he return to the main roster? Perhaps to challenge his former tag team partner Cesaro for aligning with someone like Sheamus? The storyline potentials are attractive on both the NXT roster as well as the two Main Roster brands, with potential rivals for Chris Hero like a fantasy match-ups buffet.
But one thing’s for sure. It appears that WWE does in fact need a new Hero.