In a three-part series, Viktor of The Ascension shares his memories of working to get signed by WWE, his time in NXT, on the main roster, and what lies ahead for the man born Eric Thompson. In part two, he addresses the ups and downs of being on WWE’s main roster.
The Ascension promos started on Smackdown on December 12, 2014, hyping their arrival. It should have been a big deal. Instead, Viktor (Eric Thompson) and Konnor (Ryan Parameter) found themselves scratching their heads, as so much of what had worked in NXT was apparently changing.
Thompson recalled a meeting in conference room, where Hunter Hearst-Helmsley, in charge of developmental, told them that WWE honcho Vince McMahon finally understood what The Ascension could be in WWE, having watched them on the previous couple of NXT: TakeOver specials.
The NXT office slid drawings to the team.
“We flip it over and it was these stupid outfits with the shoulder pads and terrible face paint. I immediately came crashing right down because it sucked, and I couldn’t say that sucks. I probably just should’ve anyway,” recalled Thompson to SlamWrestling.net.
At the time, Thompson shared an apartment with fellow Canadian Tyler Breeze (Matt Clement). “We always have opposite opinions of everything except wrestling,” said Thompson. “He asked what happened and the meeting, and I said we were going up.” Thompson showed Breeze the drawing of their outfits, and Breeze liked them. His roommate said he was an idiot.
“I just remember thinking, what are we going to do with this? This is not us. There wasn’t much choice about it. They made the stuff, made us wear it, made us do it. When the time came to start the process of promos Road Dogg and Konnor and I were working together. Roadie was happy, excited, having fun. He wanted us to use old song lyrics and stuff, we were coming up with the most ridiculous sh** that people could ever say for their debut.”
They were having fun with the promos, but deep down, Thompson did not think they would fly. They didn’t.
Triple H saw them, showed them to Vince McMahon, and they were stopped. “Then it was back to the drawing board again. It was the same process that eventually came out to be those ones that aired, leading up to our debut,” recalled Thompson.
As was the case for most of their WWE career, the pair was left in the dark on plans.
They had filmed a few weeks of vignettes, but were never put on the travel schedule, so had no idea when they would physically debut. Thompson headed home to Canada for Christmas — and learned that The Ascension would be debuting the following week … by watching Smackdown.
Thompson quickly called the WWE travel team again, and they arranged for him to fly directly to the next TV taping.
“We debuted in Washington DC, with our new Illuminati entrance that we had no idea about, that we had never seen. I won’t even begin to go through the process of that day. I was standing at the curtain before we went out thinking, I’ve worked my dick off, done everything I’ve done, everything people have put into me the last 15 years, all for this moment right here. And I already know it sucks, cool.”
It would not improve. On January 19, 2015, the supposed hot new team of The Ascension was involved in a promo angle with Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and X-Pac on the RAW Reunion special. A lame duck promo insulting WCW, which had been dead for 14 years, and cliched lines, the segment ended with JBL, Ron Simmons, The New Age Outlaws, and the NWO beating them down. Bradshaw would continue to bury the team on commentary, despite them being heels.
“It was all very strange. We had talked with Bradshaw. I’d known X-Pac my whole time in developmental and he’d always been a big supporter. The writers were so excited by it. There were things we didn’t want to say in the promo and we could not get around it. As much as we knew what we were doing wasn’t us they were super happy with it. Konnor and I were good soldiers,” said Thompson. “Unfortunately developmental didn’t give us a choice as you’d be a good soldier or you weren’t there. We could roll with the punches and can work with anything. I know what they do to tag teams, some days suck and some days you’re amazing with no rhyme or reason. I just let it slide.”
Despite the burial, The Ascension returned to beating up enhancement talent.
“All of a sudden it would go back to us doing enhancement matches where they’d feed us a couple of guys. It was so back and forth for a while it was weird. We’d start to drift off and then something would happen. And I always felt like we always proved ourselves again that no, we’re not a write-off and some days it seemed like people would take notice again. Everyone in the locker room had been through it all as well. I couldn’t look around and not see a bunch of people who were going through it and everybody was just trying to do their best to make the best of it. I hate to say it, but that’s a lot of what WWE is. Maybe it’s changed now, I don’t know. It’s a hard thing to see everybody swimming for air. That would always happen with us, I felt like every time we would do something and get it going again something would mess it up again. There’s a lot of answers that me and Konnor have never, ever gotten and that we will never get.”
The What If? aspect is undeniable.
“It’s unfortunate that it played out the way it did, because obviously they left a lot of money on the table with us — but I could say the same with a hundred other talents. I could say the same with people that are there now. I think they know this, but I don’t have an answer why and at this point in time, I just don’t care. It is what it is and it’s the past and I’m still going and I’m still moving forward.”
Thompson took some time to talk about positive memories with the company. Despite everything, he takes a lot of pride in being one of a handful of talents that trained and worked in Alberta that made it to the main roster at some point. Harry Smith, Tyson Kidd, Natalya, Jinder Mahal, Tyler Breeze, and Emma are the only ones in that club from their generation of wrestlers. A valid point can be made that none of them have had the career that talent of their caliber should, but just getting to WWE is an achievement.
Wrestling for the first time in Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2014, against Los Matadores (Primo and Epico Colón) was also a fond memory. “We had never gotten any main roster loops while in NXT. Bill DeMott told us we were going to do a live event; our first main roster live event was going to be at MSG. I didn’t believe him. I went home that afternoon and I remember I was sitting there laughing about it. Then my phone rings and it was travel to New York that weekend to go to MSG. I was nervous, a hundred percent.”
WrestleMania 31 in San Francisco, comes up. On the pre-show, WWE Tag Team champions Tyson Kidd and Cesaro won a four-way tag battle against the Usos, New Day, and Los Matadores; then Kidd and Cesaro immediately participated in the Andre The Giant Battle Royal, where The Ascension were entrants as well. Thompson and Kidd — TJ Wilson — go way back, and shared a moment. “TJ and I were throwing back and forth and I said, ‘Man, long way from the Legion now aren’t we, buddy?’ Then he laughed, and I had a hard time ever getting TJ to laugh in the ring, usually because I’m so serious. I think it got him because he wasn’t used to me doing that either, but it was true. That was one of those moments I’ll never forget.”
Then, the first ever tag team Elimination Chamber match was in May 2015, and once again, Thompson and Wilson were reminded of those long ago days in Calgary.
“Those were cool moments. Unfortunately, they’re like any moment where it comes and goes very quickly.”
Personally, I share similar history with Thompson and Wilson, having literally travelled roads with them in Alberta and Saskatchewan for independent shows. In January 2019, I was in Saskatoon the same weekend WWE was in town, and was in the audience at the Sasktel Centre as The Ascension teamed with Rezar against Titus O’Neil, Heath Slater, and Rhyno. It was surreal to see someone I watched in legion halls and the Saskatoon Ex in a big arena. Although he only had a few shows, wrestling in Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon where he wrestled many times early in his career was special.
“I can remember looking out and seeing you guys in the crowd in Saskatoon and being like, Oh, what a trip. That was the same one where when we left Regina the next night, we flew to B.C. afterwards for a show out there. A snowstorm hit and it was me, Luke Harper and Brodie Lee. We had some crappy little rental car cause we could never get our good ones for some reason when we were in Canada and it started snowing and we were going up this hill and Brodie was like, ‘Man, I’m losing traction we’re going to start sliding back.’ I just jumped out of the car, told him to keep his foot on the pedal, I pushed us up the hill. There were people passing us, I was worried if it slipped I was going to die. We made it to the top of the hill, I ran around and jumped into the car. Brodie and Luke were like, what the hell? I replied, ‘That’s how Canadians do it, man.’” At the airport, fans that had passed them were in awe that Thompson had pushed a car up a hill. His response? “Yeah, thanks for helping.”
As for returning to Alberta, Thompson only had a few dates with the WWE back at home. “I did love coming back to Canada. The first time I did Edmonton and Calgary, it was such a crazy experience to me because where I used to live in Calgary, my roommate still lived there at the time. Johnny Devine actually had moved in that place. I wrestled at Rexall Place, which is where I got hired. I had my mom and my grandmother and a couple of friends there, it seems so surreal to me. I went and hung out with a couple of my buddies afterwards and had to leave to drive to Calgary. I drove straight to where I used to live and slept in one of my old bedrooms and waking up in that house, I never thought I’d be doing what I was doing when I lived there.”
There were downsides. Often, it was a matter of reminding the planners, like Michael Hayes, that Alberta was home and that Thompson wanted to be booked on those shows. Or the quick turnarounds, where there was a flight to catch after a show, so no time to visit with family and friends.
Over the five years on the main roster, Viktor and Konnor rolled with the punches and showed a lot of versatility.
The storyline with Cody Rhodes as the Stardust character and The Cosmic Wasteland stands out. “The Cosmic Wasteland was a lot of fun. Cody just never stops. That’s what I give him the most credit for, that guy does not stop working. We were as always having to fight for every little thing. We were really loving stuff and happy working together. I can’t remember what exactly happened to stop it. It might’ve just been Cody finally tell them to go F off. There was a couple of times he got into it with management while we were in that process and then he left shortly afterwards.”
Up next was being paired up with Breezango — Fandango and his old roommate Tyler Breeze. Despite again seeming to be set up to fail, the segments resonated with audiences.
“At first we didn’t even know what to think until we realized we had an odd fit in it. The writers started to love it, they put a lot into that. Fashion Files was originally supposed to be a lead up to just doing Breezango versus The Bludgeon Brothers. I think it was supposed to be the debut of The Bludgeon Brothers, but something kept happening where they didn’t want to debut them yet so they’d keep putting us in and it all works so well together. We were all loving it and having fun because it was funny,” he said.
Thompson recalled telling his buddies to stop the negativity on Twitter. The Ascension were having fun and not getting killed on TV, so that was a win in their books. Like a lot of things in WWE, it just disappeared without explanation or a conclusion. “Eventually it just kept getting kicked off the show. They’d say they were going to put it on wwe.com but then all of a sudden they wouldn’t air it on wwe.com. They aired at a weird point on the show and it would get lost in the mix. The only answer I can give that I know is that Vince didn’t get it.”
They were even approached at WrestleMania by Chris Chambers, who was doing a lot of the online content, and they were asked if they would do a Fashion Files for the WWE Network. Apparently, Breeze had been asking for exactly, and been told no. Thompson said that a pilot was filmed and then … nothing.
It could be argued that The Fashion Files was The Ascension’s best period on the main roster.
“It was a lot of fun. Those were good memories at least. I feel The Fashion Files did a lot for us, like it turned us babyfaces. It was funny because the company was not paying attention to what was happening. They were still booking us as heels. They started booking us against [Breezango] on live events when we were obviously very much friends. The fans were confused when we’d come out on certain live events. The agents had to go and say to the office to change the booking. I think they hated the fact that we were babyfaces. All of a sudden we were getting wins with Fandango and Breeze and out there being good guys. They just refused to understand or want to get on board, they didn’t want to do what they’d already set in motion. It was weird. It’s another question that will never be answered.”
The Ascension were traded from Smackdown to RAW in April of 2019. On April 12, the duo lost to Heavy Machinery on Main Event, which would be their last match with the promotion. They remained inactive until they were released on December 8, 2019, just four days after Thompson’s birthday.
Between frustration over his time in the company and the COVID-19 pandemic, it took awhile for Thompson to be ready to share his story. The conversation was at times emotional, but there was a sense that he had found peace.
“What’s the point of being bitter about it? My process since just before my release and after my release, it’s taken a long time for me to kind of get my head out of the negative space. I’d be walking my dog and I’d be reminded of something that happened and clinging to that. And really, I had more good times than I can remember throughout that whole process. It’s just unfortunate, I think in my case, because I was so, so busy fighting and struggling that it was hard to sit back and enjoy anything. It was just very bizarre, but the past is the past. It all gave me what I have today.”
TOP PHOTO: The Ascension at a WWE house show in Hamilton, Ontario, in May 2015. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea, www.mikemastrandrea.com
What does the future hold for the former Viktor in The Ascension? Look for our final story this week.
APOCALYPSE / VIKTOR / VIK THE SPACELORD LINKS
PAST STORIES ON APOCALYPSE / VIKTOR
- Apr. 19, 2021: The Ascension and Awakening of Viktor Part 1: Developmental days
- Apr. 23, 2021: The Ascension and Awakening of Viktor Part 3: The future awaits
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- Nov. 26, 2003: From an Apocalypse, a Shadow descends upon New Japan
- Aug. 8, 2003: Jason’s Saskatoon Diary Day 3: Apocalypse marks out