The world of professional wrestling, known for its vibrancy and competitiveness, offers a plethora of pathways for athletes post their tenure with major promotions like AEW or WWE. While some opt for retirement, many continue their journey in the industry through various roles including announcers, producers, managers, or trainers. In this diverse landscape, the professional course charted by Chris Hero emerges as a particularly striking example.
Chris Hero, a seasoned figure in the wrestling domain, initially carved a niche for himself in Ring of Honor (ROH) before joining WWE. His tenure at WWE was marked by two phases (2011-2013 and 2016), during which he was prominently featured in NXT and the NXT UK brand. However, Hero’s release in April 2020, a decision driven by budget cuts, marked a turning point in his career. Subsequently, Hero shifted gears, embracing a pivotal role behind the scenes as a full-time producer for AEW in early 2021.
In the wake of his absence from wrestling, Hero is on the verge of a compelling return to the ring. The scheduled main event against Timothy Thatcher in West Coast Pro Wrestling’s show in San Francisco signifies his comeback. This event, which also includes matchups like Bryan Keith vs. Alpha Zo and Starboy Charlie vs. Chris Bey, is set to be a significant chapter in Hero’s professional narrative.
Hero’s prospective return has stirred considerable interest, as evidenced in his conversation with Mike Johnson of PWInsider. Discussing his future, including potential appearances on AEW TV, Hero shared, “Of course since the second I started doing stuff there, of course, everybody’s asking me questions and Tony Khan even made a tweet tongue in cheek where he’s I’m going to keep chipping away at him. But at the same time, Tony has been super, super respectful. He knows my situation. He knows my apprehension with coming back and why it has taken so long for me.”
Addressing the rigors of coaching at AEW, Hero added, “It’s hard to do the job we do as coaches there… it is just a lot of work. A lot more goes into it than people would realize. So to have my brain torn in half from trying to figure that stuff out to Alright when am I gonna wrestle? Who should I wrestle? What should I do? It’s just too much for me at the moment and I believe Tony knows that.”
Reflecting on the challenges facing new wrestlers, Hero opined, “I think it’s incredibly more difficult now… You cannot simulate experience… You need to be in front of live crowds. You need to learn trial and error.” His journey, starting as the “18-year-old kid in the locker room,” provided a rich tapestry of experiences with wrestlers of varying ages and skills. He learned the art of adapting to different styles and the importance of reading and responding to the crowd’s reactions.
Tracy Smothers’ influence on Hero was profound. Hero recalled, “I shudder to think what my career would have been or my just perception of wrestling and being a pro wrestler would have been if I never would have shared a locker room with Tracy Smothers.” He recognized the critical role of mentors like Smothers in shaping young wrestlers, stating, “So we just we need more people like that… I aspire to be that to other people, or be a version of that.”
Hero’s journey, marked by his return to wrestling and his role as a mentor and producer, illuminates the multifaceted and ever-changing landscape of professional wrestling. His insights and experiences reflect a deep understanding of the sport’s complexities and the essential role of guidance and mentorship in nurturing the next generation of wrestlers.