Karrion Kross talks pre-WWE history with Santos Escobar, previews No-Disqualification Match
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
Karrion Kross is set to battle Santos Escobar tonight on NXT TV, but it won’t be the first time in his career that he has violently crossed paths with the leader of Legado del Fantasma.
The issues between Kross and Escobar in NXT began a few weeks ago after the Cruiserweight Champion trash-talked Karrion during an in-ring promo on the weekly show.
This caused the former NXT Champion to set his sights on Santos and quickly escalate the situation in the ensuing weeks.
To most viewers, these encounters most likely seemed like the start of a new rivalry. Those who’ve followed their careers, however, know there’s a little more to it.
Their beef dates back to 2017, when Karrion (formerly Killer Kross) made his debut for AAA – a popular promotion in Mexico – by helping John Morrison defeat Escobar (formerly Hijo del Fantasma) in a high-profile match with three championship titles on the line.
Kross and Fantasma went on to have a series of intense matches, including a no-disqualification/six-person tag match, a singles tables match and a three-way cage match.
Fast-forward a few years, and both competitors once again find themselves at odds as they prepare to settle their differences inside the squared circle in another hard-core match – this time with an entirely new audience watching.
Before that happens, though, Kross joined me for a conversation in which we discuss his history with Escobar and what fans can expect from their match.
He also talks about smashing doctor’s expectations last year in returning from injury way earlier than projected, his thoughts on Randy Orton calling him out via Twitter this month, wanting to challenge for the NXT title at WrestleMania if that option were on the table and more.
R.S.: This week you’ll be facing off against Santos Escobar in a No-Disqualification, non-title match, but this isn’t the first time you guys have been on opposite sides of the ring as opponents. You two wrestled against each other in Mexico as well, right?
KROSS: Yes. We did.
In Mexico, John Morrison was wrestling for a series of belts in one match. He decided to give me a phone call. So I flew down to Mexico, and I made sure he won all of those belts. [Escobar] was in the way.
So we had to remove him from that equation, which took several months. Fantasma — he’s still Fantasma in my head — Santos Escobar. I competed against him in Mexico in almost every major city in just about any kind of match you can think of, from cage matches to six-man tags.
We competed in a tables match in Tijuana where I broke his best friend’s neck. We shouldn’t get into that because I think there’s still helicopters circling my house as we speak. But, yeah, that happened. That happened.
R.S.: It must be cool for you to continue that rivalry in NXT then, right?
KROSS: It very much is. There’s gonna be some things that people haven’t seen me do that are, in my mind, definitely going down this Wednesday.
R.S.: This match was originally supposed to take place last week, but early in the show, it was confirmed to be delayed one week. Can you share the reason for that? I ask because different reasons were reported, so I figured I’d go straight to the source, if you can talk about it.
KROSS: Yeah. I actually have no idea, and I’m really the worst person to ask in general for that type of stuff because I’m such a "show up and go to work and go home" guy. Yeah. I don’t know.
R.S.: You know I’m a fan of yours, so you know I’ve been sitting here on the sideline waiting patiently for you to get the NXT title back, which is why I’ve gotta ask … is it frustrating for you to have still not received an NXT title shot since returning from injury?
KROSS: No. Not necessarily because I believe — I guess pun intended — timing is everything. Timing is everything, and I believe that there’s a right time and a right place to do things.
I see, literally, every single day online, fans have been asking for me to go after the belt. They want me to officially take it back. And, again, it’s always very flattering to just see that interest and to see that people want me to get back on that road so we can see where that was going to lead.
I have every single intention to do that, but they’re going to appreciate when I decide to do it more than just doing it immediately, and I’ll leave it at that.
R.S.: Do you think Finn Balor has been a worthy champion since you relinquished the belt?
KROSS: Absolutely. Yes, he has. He’s gone through virtually every single major name in NXT. He’s had killer matches. And that’s what this company is all about.
When someone is not able to carry the ball for one reason or another, we’ve got the best guys in the world ready to step up, and he did that.
If the situation were reversed, I would have done it as well, and I’m looking forward to eventually stepping into the ring to compete with him.
R.S.: Since there hasn’t been a Takeover announced for WrestleMania weekend, there has been speculation that NXT might have a presence during the two-night spectacle at Raymond James Stadium. If that were to happen, would you want to have your NXT title rematch there?
KROSS: 100 percent. Yes, I would.
I don’t know where that began – whether it was online or if it was Finn’s suggestion through another interview – but people have been creating these pictures where they post the both of us with the WrestleMania background for weeks now. I hope the company is listening to that because there seems to be an interest and a demand for that.
I hope fans get what they’re looking for because I’d be more than happy to step up on "The Grandest Stage of Them All" and do that.
R.S.: Speaking of WrestleMania, you recently had a face-to-face encounter with Edge on NXT. Considering that for a long time he was someone most people thought would never be involved in wrestling again, was it wild for you to get that opportunity?
KROSS: Yes, it was. I was laughing in my head at the end of that segment. I lived in Canada for almost 20 years, and I remember as a kid, when Edge debuted, we recognized on the TV that he was running around in a trench coat in the TTC, which is the Toronto Transit.
So for some reason, my friends and I went out and got trench coats. We’d put the coats on, and every day after school, we would sprint through the TTC yelling, "You think you know me!"
I did tell him about that afterward. It’s surreal.
It’s pretty cool growing up loving this and then working around all of these people that you grew up watching on the TV. I think everyone in the business has those moments, so it was a cool moment for me.
R.S.: Well, how badly would you like to wrestle against him then?
KROSS: Oh, I would love to put him through a wall! Yeah. Yes.
I feel like that’s going to be coming at one point in our — the reaction that he and I got from people seeing that encounter, there is an interest there ... and I think, at some point, we’re going to revisit that, and it’s going to be very violent.
R.S.: It was one of those things where I hadn’t even thought of the possibility of that match, to be completely honest, but when you guys came face-to-face like that, I said to myself, "Oh, yeah. OK, I need that. That’s something I need to see for sure."
KROSS: Yeah. He’s one of the best in the world.
His story, I mean, there have been people who have been injured and taken out of this business and come back, but his story, I think, is probably the most amazing one I’ve ever seen or heard.
I’m pumped to see him versus Roman at WrestleMania.
Me, personally, I think it’s going to be awesome, and I will be patiently awaiting my turn to step into the ring with him when the time is right.
RS: Yeah, I can’t wait for that match, either.
I know that you’re a creative guy who likes to be working all the time. What was it like being sidelined with an injury just as things were heating up for you last year?
KROSS: Worst experience of my life.
As you said, I’m a very creative person. I like to create things. I like to write music. I used to love to paint. Almost got back into that as a form of rehab, but I’m too antsy.
Pro wrestling. Sports entertainment. I love to create things in that. Not having the ability or having a limited ability to do that, I was going nuts, which is one of the reasons I filmed that stuff independently. That’s, like, more therapeutic for me than anything. I love to create art.
So it was very difficult, but I came out on top, and now it feels like the injury never even happened, which is more than I thought was gonna happen on the tail end of this. I thought that I was gonna be probably living in pain for the rest of my life because I opted out of the surgery. I’m just not a fan of doing surgery in general. I took more of the holistic approach.
WWE medical set me up with the best rehab program I possibly could have asked for, and I was rehabbing my shoulder three to four times a day. I was a maniac with it, and I’m not living in any pain at all. My shoulder’s great. I have flexibility back. I’m able to do handstands and military presses, like, it’s crazy.
R.S.: That is amazing, especially considering you didn’t have surgery. I remember Triple H recently spoke very highly of everything you did to return as quickly as you did. That's incredible that you were able to make that happen without any surgery whatsoever and not feel any pain right now. That’s impressive.
KROSS: Yeah, he had a pep talk with me, like, immediately after that whole thing happened, and he was talking to me about injuries that he had sustained throughout his career. He was talking about just the state of mind.
Just suggesting a state of mind to be in, in terms of how I need to think and how I need to approach this whole recovery process. Something clicked with me right when he said it.
He goes, "You put all your time and energy into training." He’s like, "just take the same time, the same type of energy you put into training. Put it into your recovery process."
I was like, "Oh, I can do that." I live and breathe and train for pro wrestling and sports entertainment. I just need to shift that for the next little bit into this rehab for the shoulder, and I know I’m going to get the best results.
Anything I ever put my full time and attention into, I always get the desired results I’m looking for, and it worked. We had gotten a bunch of projections as to how soon I could come back, and a few of them were, like, eight to 12 months.
KROSS: When they said that, I went into a full body sweat. I was like, "There’s no way …. there’s no way that I’m gonna let that happen. There’s no way."
So I just watched tons of videos. I did my homework on everything. I changed my diet to support a faster recovery process. Again, with WWE medical, all the stuff they had me doing with that, I took that eight to 12 months, and then another one was six to eight, and I just compressed it into three months, and here we are.
R.S.: Damn. That’s awesome, man. Well, congratulations because that’s massively impressive. Now I see why Triple H was so impressed with your recovery time. That’s amazing. In all that just now, you mentioned something that I didn’t know before. You write music?
KROSS: Yeah. I mean, like, recreationally. Yeah, I do. I’m a guitar player.
R.S.: What kind of music do you write? That interests me. I feel like that’s not something that you show online.
KROSS: No, [laughs], it’s very mood-based. It just happens to be if I’m in a mood. I’m not playing the guitar every day. I used to, but yeah, it’s just sort of a recreational interest that I’ve always had for a while.
When I first got into this business, and I was learning about copyrights and how you can’t use certain music on live shows and stuff, I was a very big fan of Jim Johnston – the WWE composer – and I watched a video about how he would write music to the psychology of the wrestler and their personality.
I was always very inspired by that. So I wrote my own theme music, like, seven years ago, and I put it up online. That was the first full piece that I’d ever written other than just strumming around and recording it.
R.S.: Doesn’t it amaze you what you can learn on YouTube now? I’ll read stuff that my dad wrote about when he was younger, and he had to go through so much to learn anything.
To learn a new trade, he had to go to the library, get a million books. It was, like, a months-long process. It’s wild that now you can watch a video tutorial online and just go do it.
KROSS: Oh, yeah. Totally. Like, all of the extracurricular stuff I was doing for my shoulder I was learning online. I would watch testimonials, and I would watch people who post their post-injury videos and stuff like that. I’d be able to see where I would be in a month or two or three months based on some of their stuff. It’s a great tool if you know how to use it, right?
R.S.: It’s such a great tool if you know how to use it. When I wanted to start my website years ago, I literally was like, "Well, I don’t know how to build a website. How do you build a website, Google?"
That’s how I taught myself how to build a website, and I made a career out of it for freakin’ seven years. So, yeah, it’s amazing when you can use the internet to your benefit in a good way.
KROSS: Yeah. Same thing with me, actually. I actually built KillerKross.com prior to being with WWE, when I was on the independents. It was a great way for me to get my material out there. I did the same thing as you. I actually learned how to build my website. It’s crazy.
R.S.: I feel like in 20 years the technology is going to be insane from all the kids who grew up with all this information in their pocket. It just blows my mind.
So Randy Orton recently called you out on Twitter. He said:
What did you think of that?
KROSS: I laughed about it because I had woke up that morning, did cardio, came back, and then I turned my phone on, and that was the first thing I saw on social media.
My first, immediate reaction, because I saw what time it was tweeted, I was like, "What?!? What is this?" It was very late in the morning. I was like, "I clearly missed a very good time last night." But, yeah, it was very flattering, and I thought it was awesome, and I think the world of him.
I’d even said this before: I think more people should be having fun on social media rather than keeping it like this overly serious, overly sensitive battle ground.
I don’t know him personally, but I do know that the guy has a sense of humor. I’ve been aware of that for a time, and as flattering as it was, I know he’s only kidding around. But I can’t wait to work with him in the future. I’m definitely interested in doing that.
In order for him to hit the RKO, he’s going to have to give me his back, and a lot of bad things can happen.
Just thought I’d throw that out there for peace of mind.
R.S.: Lastly, you kind of touched on it earlier, but what can people expect Wednesday from the match between you and Santos Escobar?
KROSS: They’re not going to be able to expect anything because it’s no-disqualification. If they should expect one thing, they should expect to see me do some things they haven’t seen me do before. And I’m going to pay that off.
What I’m saying right now, I’m going to follow through with it.
I guarantee it.
Watch Karrion Kross face off against NXT Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar in a no-disqualification, non-title match live on USA Network tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
Ryan Satin is a WWE analyst for FOX Sports. Satin previously appeared on FS1's "WWE Backstage" and founded Pro Wrestling Sheet, where he broke countless news stories as editor-in-chief.