Examining Kaval's Post-WWE Pro Wrestling Career

Ryan DilbertWWE Lead WriterJune 20, 2014

Credit: WWE.com

A footnote in WWE history, Kaval excelled elsewhere, thriving in Japan where pro wrestling is an even more violent art.

His story is an exploration of the difference in what WWE and Japanese promotions value. In WWE, he was expendable, quickly forgotten, a burst of lightning that didn't last. For New Japan Pro Wrestling, he was a star and a champion.

Known as Low Ki or Senshi when he worked for other companies, WWE dubbed the Brooklyn, New York, native "Kaval."

By the time he became the second-ever winner of NXT, he had already worked for TNA, Ring of Honor, NJPW and other Japanese promotions. The high-flyer was jarringly fast, athletic and kicked like an angry horse.

That wasn't enough for WWE officials to make sure he stuck around.

He faced Dolph Ziggler a few times for the Intercontinental Championship but didn't win that title. He wouldn't taste gold at all with that company, and his run on SmackDown only lasted a few months.

On Dec. 23, 2010, WWE released him

WWE may have seen him as too small (5'8", 174 lbs), but he fit the junior heavyweight mold in Japan. Before his momentum there fully picked up, though, The World Warrior made another brief stop in TNA. The folks in charge there seemed to share the same apathy about his talents that WWE did.

Referring to himself as Low Ki once more, he took on Jimmy Wang Yang and Matt Bentley on TNA Impact on June 27, 2011. This was his first match there since he left in 2008.

The story was that Low Ki and others were battling for a roster spot. He would win this match with that goal in mind but lose out to Austin Aries the next month at TNA Destination X 2011.

Watching Low Ki's work in TNA versus his work in Japan suggests that officials asked him to tone down his style. He didn't kick as hard or take as many risks. It was a diluted version of himself.

Low Ki took much of the punishment here, rolling on the mat with his head in his hands. Yang, who was utilizing a Flying Elvis gimmick at the time, dove at him and collided awkwardly with Low Ki's upper body.

Blood dribbling out of his nose, Yang looked to finish the match by crashing into a prone Bentley. He missed and Low Ki was there, waiting to pounce with the Warrior's Way.

After struggling to get signed or sustain a long run with both WWE and TNA, NJPW offered him its stage. That's where he began to pile up his career highlights.

Traveling to locales like Osaka, Yamaguchi and Kochi, NJPW featured him in tag team and singles matches alike. He faced big names like Jushin "Thunder" Liger and old foes like Prince Devitt. He and Devitt often clashed over the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, a title held by greats like Owen Hart, Ultimo Dragon, The Great Sasuke and Chris Benoit.

On May 3, 2012, Low Ki dethroned Devitt at the Wrestling Dontaku show in Fukuoka, Japan.

The two longtime enemies would meet again at the 2012 Best of the Super Juniors XIX Tournament. The event ran from May to June, with Low Ki picking up wins at every stop but one. He knocked off Tiger Mask, TAKA Michinoku, Brian Kendrick and Devitt before losing in the finals to Ryusuke Taguchi.

His fourth match of the tournament showcased his nasty side.

He tangled with Hiromu Takahashi on June 2, 2012 at Kyoto KBS Hall as fans looked on. Low Ki and Takahashi traded forearms, chops and kicks. Each blow was harder than the next, Low Ki snarling more each time he struck his opponent. 

The action took them outside where Takahashi dropkicked him into the crowd.

This was not to be Takahashi's day, though. NJPW was set to use the tournament to spotlight its new junior heavyweight champ. Low Ki relied more on viciousness than his aerial skills here, ending the bout by cranking his foe's head back in the Dragon Clutch.

For the rest of 2012, Low Ki found himself in exciting tag matches, trading the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship with Kota Ibushi and seeing Liger on the opposite side of the ring from him on many an occasion.

He outlasted Ibushi at the 2012 King of Pro Wrestling show and finally lost his title to Devitt at Power Struggle 2012 in November.

Low Ki had to wait until after the new year for his rematch. He faced both Ibushi and Devitt on Jan. 4, 2013 in the Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom 7. The annual event is bursting with tradition, previously featuring names like Kurt Angle and Toshiaki Kawada.

Under the bright spotlight, Low Ki thrived. Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Newsletter, per ProFightDB.com, awarded the bout 4.5 out of 5 stars.

In a clear homage to the Hitman video game series, Low Ki wrestled in a suit, dark gloves and a slender red tie. His chemistry with Ibushi and Devitt had been fine-tuned over several meetings, and when they collided on this night, the action flowed perfectly.

Boots cut through the air, the three foes made thrilling saves to prevent someone else from winning and each man crashed into his opponents from great heights.

Low Ki slugged it out with Ibushi on the ramp before returning to springing around the ring. In one of the match's best moments, he took a German suplex only to flip up and ram his feet onto Ibushi's chest.

As the battle wore on, Low Ki ditched his jacket. He knelt on the mat, drained, his tie flipped around his neck like a lifeless snake.

Devitt retained, but his was not the only victory. Composing such a vivid masterpiece was a boost to each of their resumes.

More recently, Low Ki has been more transitory. He knocked off Chris Sabin at the TNA One Night Only: Xtravaganza as well as performing for Preston City Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Dragon Gate USA and others. Each stop was brief. 

His time in Japan had upped his star power. He was not the featured guest for promotions because he had come and gone in WWE, but because he had built up a wealth of stunning performances on an island nation that embraces cruiserweights.

Not having a sustained run with WWE was not a failure as much as it was a brief stumble. Low Ki regained his footing in Japan and sprung into the air, embarking on a flight lined with championship gold and a wealth of respect.


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