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Konnor: A Cult Tribute
This may come to news to…no one, but I don’t watch WWE anymore. Why do I bring this up? Because despite that fact, I’m about to write about one of their wrestlers. Hey, just because I don’t support the company anymore doesn’t mean I don’t support some of the guys. And the subject of this Cult Tribute tonight is someone I’m a fan of, along with his partner. Who could it be? Sit back, grab yourself a Surge (in stores on the Northeast once more!) and welcome yourself to the wasteland son! This is a Cult Tribute to the big man in The Ascension, Konnor.
What You Already Know
Get ready for some stating the obvious 101; Konnor is a wrestler who works for WWE. Who knew?! He’s best known for being one half of The Ascension with Viktor, the little used gothic tag team that you forget is on the roster half the time that hangs with Stardust and has the best entrance music and titantron in wrestling today. I’m not joking either. Have you heard the music and seen the video? I haven’t seen music and entrance video mash up that well since the CM Punk days. On a scale from one to LUGER WON THE TITLE, it’s a solid Bill Paxton in Near Dark. That’s a good thing.
What You Didn’t Know
Did you know that Konnor is a veteran of fourteen years in wrestling? I’m not joking; he has nearly spent twenty years between the ring ropes. Trained in Florida by former wrestler Rusty Brooks, Konnor would debut in 2001, wrestling in the Florida indie scene. He didn’t however wrestle under the Konnor name, instead going by Ryan O’Reilly, a name you may remember if you think hard enough. As O’Reilly, Konnor would wrestle for four years in Florida, which most notably included a feud with former WCW/CMLL star and future WWE trainer Norman Smiley and even a short stint in TNA during the promotions early years. That’s right, Konnor was in TNA (I know, who wasn’t at this point?). He was successful enough to get the call from WWE in 2005, and would sign a developmental contract to join Bill Demott’s House of Pain…I’m sorry, I mean Deep South Wrestling. So yes, ten years before he would ever debut on the main roster, WWE signed Konnor to come work for them. That’s a pretty long journey to the top of the food chain, and that doesn’t even take into account what else happened along the way (relax, we’re getting there).
Upon arriving in DSW, Konnor saw his Ryan O’Reilly gimmick changed to Rough House O’Reilly, because…it reminded Bill Demott of Road House? I don’t know. In any event, things went pretty well for the hero of our story. Over the course of two years, Konnor would win DSW’s Heavyweight Championship twice and engage in several noteworthy feuds, notably with future wrestling stars like MVP, The Miz, Luke Gallows and Mike Knox. He also routinely flirted with being called up to the main roster, working several dark matches for both the Smackdown and ECW brand. In fact, if Wikipedia is to be believed, Konnor was originally supposed to debut for ECW in 2006, but several factors (including a Wellness Policy violation) prevented him from coming up. It was around this time where Konnor’s career changed drastically. Remember how I said you should remember the Ryan O’Reilly name? Here’s why. During his run in developmental, Konnor would start dating a female wrestler named Krissy Vaine. Not a big deal, as tons of male and female wrestlers end up dating; it’s the only thing more inevitable than M Night Shyamalan's The Visit bombing this weekend. That is, until both Vaine and Konnor requested their releases from WWE in 2007. It was a shocking move that actually became a solid story on the dirt sheets, as both were considered to be top prospects in developmental. Initially, both Konnor and Vaine were criticized for “throwing away their dream job”, but it was eventually revealed that they left to tend for family members who were suffering from health problems. They are still together today, having married in 2013, proving that love can indeed last in wrestling. While Konnor obviously did return to wrestling, Vaine has only sporadically wrestled since her departure, though she did have a short stint with Lucha Libre USA in 2011.
After leaving WWE, Konnor would take a few years off from wrestling before returning to the independent circuit briefly in 2009. Unbelievably, the WWE came calling almost immediately, and Konnor signed another deal with them in 2010. He briefly wrestled under the Ryan O’Reilly name again, before being given the name that would eventually shape the rest of his wrestling career (thus far), Conor O’Brien. Man, they really like giving him Irish names, huh? As O’Brien, Konnor would end up competing on the original NXT, which was like the current NXT in name only. He would be eliminated from both seasons, which honestly may have been the best thing to happen to him as it allowed him to continue to compete in Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). Why was this good? Well, not only did FCW eventually become the good NXT, but it’s also where The Ascension was formed.
Now for those who don’t know, The Ascension you see on TV these days isn’t the original incarnation of the group. In fact, The Ascension has had four variations over the years, with Konnor being the only constant member of the group. I guess that makes him the King of the Ascension. The Godfather of the Wasteland if you will! Alright, I’ll stop. Anyways, the original incarnation of The Ascension would be formed on August 28th, 2011, featuring Konnor, Tito Colon (better known as Epico and Los Matadores #2), Raquel Diaz (Shaul Guerrero, Eddie’s daughter), Kenneth Cameron (TNA’s Bram) and Ricardo Rodriguez. No lie, all those people were in the group. I haven’t seen that impressive an ensemble since Magnolia. Originally booked a just a normal group of guys and gals, the stable eventually eliminated Rodriguez (NO!) and took on the more demonic, darker gimmick Konnor and Viktor now have (YES!). Unfortunately, the stable didn’t last long, as Epico was called up to the main roster and Diaz distanced herself from the group, leaving Konnor and Cameron as the last two members of The Ascension. They would team together regularly for over a year, and for a time were considered to be one of the best teams in the WWE system. After Cameron was released in 2012, Konnor would embark on a brief, semi-successful singles run, before reforming the Ascension with Viktor in 2013. The rest, they say, is Wasteland history. Thank you, I’ll be here all week.
If I could, I would simply put the video for The Ascension’s theme here and that would be that. Alas, the easy way out isn’t my style, unless it involves L.A. Noire. So what’s Konnor’s best moment? Seeing as it’s difficult to find any of his solo work or even his Ascension work online, the best I can find is The Ascension vs. Hideo Itami and Finn Balor from NXT Takeover: R Evolution (my goodness, that name still sucks). What can you say about this bout? Everyone is on here, with Finn and Itami doing great work as the exciting new babyfaces and Konnor and Viktor crushing it as the most diabolical haters this side of the Player Haters Ball. Just a very good tag match all around, and aside from The Ascension’s debut on RAW (a sweet highlight considering the journey it took Konnor to get there), it doesn’t get much better than this for our hero. Hopefully though, another moment will replace this when I write the five year anniversary column!
- Hideo Itami & Finn Balor vs Ascension, NXT Take Over: R Evolution - Video Dailymotion
VSPLANET.NET: Хидео Итами и Финн Балор vs Вознесение, NXT
Clearly, the jury is still out on Konnor, as he’s only been on the main roster for a little over nine months and hasn’t even gotten a semi-big angle yet by himself or as a member of the Ascension. But I’ll gladly admit right now I’m a big fan. I love his look, I love the imagery that comes with The Ascension gimmick and I think he’s got a lot of talent that people haven’t picked up on yet. People need to remember, Konnor has several times been one of the top prospects in the WWE’s farm system, and from what I’ve seen in NXT he definitely has the chops to be at least a very good solo act as a heel. Will he get there in WWE? I have no idea, but I think you will definitely see Konnor have a moment sometime in the future. In any case, he’s got a fan in me. Despite my lack of caring for the WWE in general, I do care to see where Konnor and Viktor go, and I’ll definitely check out their work with Stardust going forward.
That’ll do it girls and boys! Hope you enjoyed at a unique talent that you see often, yet didn’t know much about. I’ll be back tomorrow with at least one column. Till next time, how about the return of DUCHOVNY to the end of the column meme spot?!
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