NXT Champion Karrion Kross once again appeared on Monday Night Raw this week. Unlike last week, where he lost to Jeff Hardy in a mere two minutes, he managed to beat Keith Lee in a rematch from their NXT title bout back at NXT TakeOver XXX last year. But it turns out that wasn't WWE's original plan. Kross was, at one point, advertised to take on the former WWE Champion in a rematch and, according to Fightful's Sean Ross Sapp, he was booked to lose yet again.
Ross noted that, "several members of creative, and even more of the roster were baffled by the idea to beat Kross once, let alone a second straight week." Hardy was pulled from the show after testing positive for COVID-19, which was confirmed over the weekend by an event venue in Kansas City that was going to host an appearance from him after Raw.
Kross' time on Raw so far has been met with harsh criticism from fans. On top of losing in his debut (he hadn't been beaten since arriving on NXT more than 18 months ago), Kross appeared with a fraction of his normal entrance and didn't have his manager Scarlett by his side.
The champ's appearance on Raw was briefly mentioned on last week's NXT, though Kross brushed it aside by saying he's free to go anywhere since he holds the NXT title. He did not appear in the actual Capitol Wrestling Center, instead attacking William Regal outside the arena before driving away. Kross' return to the CWC last Wednesday (when WWE taped the next two episodes of NXT) was reportedly met with loud chants for Hardy. Spoilers from those tapings reveal that Kross will face Samoa Joe at NXT TakeOver 36, marking Joe's first match since suffering an injury in February 2020 and being released back in April. Joe revealed in a recent interview with Ryan Satin's Out of Character podcast that Triple H called him within hours of his release to get him back in NXT.
"[John Laurinaitis] called me, and I thought it was a rare call from Johnny. 'Hey, what's up, Johnny? How you doing?' He told me, 'Hey, listen. We're going to have to release you from your contract.' And I said, 'OK.' You know, like '... cool.' And 'Joe, we think the world of you, we'd love to work with you again.' I was like, 'All right. No, absolutely, Johnny.' And, honestly, I did have a bit of an understanding," Joe said.
"Obviously, at the time, dealing with injuries, coming back, getting ready to get my rehabilitation going and all that stuff, we're in a pandemic, all this other stuff, so I got it," he continued. "It wasn't unexpected. But at the same time, I was relatively calm about it. I've kinda been in this situation before. A younger me probably would've been really, really freaked out. But at this point, you just roll pivot. That's really all there is to it when it comes to life in general. That's kind of the mantra I've kept. So at that point, I think I was already kind of in the works on setting up the next framework for whatever else I was gonna do. A few hours later, I get a call from Hunter, and that all pretty much kinda changed."