Despite being removed from WWE for over a year, The Ascension, now known as The Awakening, are still tagging together on the independent scene. While most WWE fans recognize The Ascension as the duo of Konnor and Viktor, the idea behind the longest-reigning NXT Tag Team Champions actually began as a five-member faction.
One half of the duo, Big Kon (fka Konnor), joined Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman on the Wrestling Inc. Daily to discuss the group’s origins. The former Konnor revealed that the first ideas for what would become The Ascension were conceived after he was eliminated from season five of the original NXT.
“It all started when it would’ve been NXT season five, the original NXT version, where I got voted off, and no one likes be rejected. So I was pissed,” Big Kon said. “And I was hurt. So I get a text message from Bill DeMott who says, ‘Listen, we got some ideas for you, so report to practice on Wednesday please.’ And I was like, ‘Yes, sir.’ So I show up, and he goes on about the idea they were looking to do, and this is what they’re thinking. So then I saw it was Shaul [Guerrero], it was Epico, it was Tom Latimer (Bram), it was Ricardo Rodriguez, and it was me. And I’m looking at the five of us and I’m thinking this doesn’t make any sense at all. Like to me, I’m shooting straight right now, it looked to me like this is just five rejects that no one knows what to do with.
“And I was like, “this just doesn’t make sense,’” Big Kon said. “And Bill was like, ‘Just trust me, trust it, Dream sees something.’ And of course then Ricardo, Ricardo Rodriguez was the one that actually came up with this. The actual idea of this was going to be based off of the five chakras. And this was the direction he wanted to go with it. He tried to explain everything to me because I think he knew that I was a little upset at that time from the night before, he was trying to calm me down, because you know, your mind is just all over the place at this point.”
Once Kon got his mind around Rodriguez’s concept, the group began getting closer to becoming a reality. Kon recalled a promo class with ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes where Alberto Del Rio’s future ring announcer was unavailable, which forced Kon to think on his feet.
“And then one day, Ricardo was on the west coast doing TV, and I texted him early in the morning saying, ‘Hey, today’s promo day early in the morning with Dream.’ And I said, ‘We need an idea,’” Big Kon said. “Because he’s the leader of this thing. We need an idea. I don’t know what to do. He texts me back and goes, ‘Talk about The Ascension and what it means to you guys.’ I said, ‘Piece of cake.’ I sent out the mass text to everybody, I said, ‘Let’s wear black.’ I don’t know, I thought business, let’s look sharp.”
With the all-black attire and general creative freedom, Kon began to conceptualize how the faction would operate. Despite rallying behind the idea, Kon said Dusty had other plans for the group.
“I’m there in the ring, and I’m thinking we could have someone here, and someone there, and have the eye candy, Shaul, here, and then we just say whatever it is,” Big Kon said. “We didn’t even know what we were going to talk about. We were just going to say one sentence. Each person. So we did it, we get out, and Dream comes over and goes, ‘I want y’all to come over here, baby.’ And I’m sitting there and thinking to myself, ‘Oh s–t, we screwed up big time. We really messed up.’”
While Kon was convinced the faction was in some sort of trouble, it turned out to be something completely unexpected.
“So we walk into the office and he asks what we see here. And I go, ‘I don’t know.’ I said some pretty harsh things. And Dream looks at me and goes, ‘No baby. I see a bunch of VAMPIRES,’” Big Kon said. “So the thing is, at this time True Blood was the hot thing. And I know because Shaul was smartening us all up to it because we didn’t know what was going on. And we were like, ‘Okay, cool. You know what, if it works it works.’”
With Dusty’s vampire concept now steering The Ascension in a new direction, that included making some changes to the faction’s ranks.
“And all of a sudden Dream looks at me and goes, ‘Ricardo ain’t no vampire. He’s f–king fired. He’s out,’” Big Kon said. “And I literally looked at him and I go, ‘No, no Dream! He told us to do this!’ And he’s like, ‘He ain’t no vampire. You want me to tell him or are you going to tell him?’ I go, ‘I ain’t telling him. You’re nuts.’ Basically that’s how The Ascension became that goth, kind of vampire-esque look. And as time went on it kind of evolved into something a little bit more unique.”
The Ascension that made its way to NXT TV was very different than what was originally pitched. After numerous members went their separate ways, the group shrunk to just a two-man tag team with Kon and Latimer.
“Then Shaul went her own way at that time, and Epico ended up going up to the main roster to be with Primo,” Big Kon said. “And then I broke my back that year. So I was out for almost nine months. So it was just Tom Latimer, Kenneth Cameron at that time, holding the fort down. And so they gave him this whole gargoyle look. But then as time went on, I came back, we did our little faction. It was a rough night I guess for him. He ended up getting his walking papers.”
While only Kon remained from the original five member Ascension, NXT creative was still behind the concept. Kon revealed that a certain Cerebral Assassin pitched the idea of Viktor coming in, and the rest is history.
“Then, Hunter pulled me aside and goes, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about Viktor. Because Viktor looks like he could be a part of what that is, that brand.’ And I agreed,” Big Kon said. “So then we brought Viktor in, and it kind of evolved into this kind of grittier, metal version. They wanted to give us more edge. Those were Hunter’s exact words, ‘We want to give you guys more edge.’ They gave us new theme music, we just kind of started putting our stuff together from there.”
The Awakening (fka The Ascension) battle The Headbangers for their Atomic Revolutionary Wrestling Tag Team Championships on Friday February 19th. You can find more info by following ARW on Twitter @WrestlingAtomic.
Konnor’s full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here. You can enjoy the audio and video from Konnor’s interview via the embedded players below.