Kiera Hogan and Rohit Raju may not be as renowned as Impact Wrestling Superstars Austin Aries or Eli Drake. The same way AJ Styles or Samoa Joe were unknown in 2003 when the company started, they are the future of the company. Homegrown talents that would sooner or later put the Impact Zone on fire and cement this legacy Impact Wrestling has built over the years. During a media call last week, Kiera Hogan and Rohit Raju showed the world a Girl on Fire and a Mad Dragon could one day be the Superstars of a company that has never stopped planting the seeds of its future.
The “Girl on Fire”
Her hair is red, yellow, orange. Kiera Hogan may just be 23 but, before making her debut with Impact, she has worked with SHIMMER, SHINE and been the current WSU Spirit Champion for more than 450 days. For those who clicked on her name, here is her answer. “I’m a real Hogan. When I first started, I was a backstage interviewer and ring announcer, and I just used my real name. So once I finally started training and getting into wrestling, I didn’t really want to separate myself from being the announcer/interviewer, because I wanted to show the evolution of Kiera from announcer/interviewer to in-ring performer. I just decided to keep it to really just show the evolution and the growth of me as a performer and as a competitor.”
The long-time fan of Impact Wrestling and Mickie James couldn’t believe me when I told here other Knockouts were considering her as their peer. “I love being a part of the Knockouts roster. I still have old Knockouts posters on my wall and I just haven’t taken them down because it was just such motivation for me when I first started. I really wanted to be able to get my name out there, to be the best and get to one of the biggest companies. I felt like Impact was one of those companies I knew I had to get to in. To actually be a part of the company now, it’s still like a dream come true to me. I still haven’t grasped the concept of me being an actual Knockout yet, because I dreamed about it for so long. To finally be a part of it and to hear things like that for my peers, it’s kind of crazy. I’m just very happy to have the environment that I have, all the women in the locker room are amazing.”
Since her debut with Impact, she has had to make the fire burn even harder, with the challenge of being on national television. “It’s definitely been finding my fire. It’s so different wrestling on TV and wrestling on the independents. I feel like there’s such a big difference that people don’t quite understand. I feel like on TV, you have to turn up the intensity, you have to turn up your character, turn up everything up to 100. At the last set of tapings, in this week alone, I feel like I learned so much and that my intensity is finally starting to get there and I’m taking it now to the Indies. I feel like people are starting to notice that I’ve been learning and been like it’s defining of what the actual Girl on Fire is.”
At Redemption, a few weeks ago, Kiera Hogan did her PPV debut against Lucha Royalty herself, Taya Valkyrie. A nerve-wracking experience. “That whole day for me was so overwhelming, I almost had a panic attack. I literally had to step outside, take a couple deep breaths, and really just focus my mind. I was really just so overwhelmed with so many emotions.” But a new challenge made her first steps in the Impact Zone that same day. “Then all of a sudden, Tessa Blanchard comes walking in. Tessa has done so much in her short career span, she’s accomplished so much, and she’s definitely an overachiever. She’s definitely made a name for herself, and she’s definitely solidified her spot as one of the best female wrestlers in the world. And it did overshadow what I was doing. I felt like, this was my moment, why did she have to come in and overshadow me, and take away from what I was doing? So I have a few choice words for Miss Tessa Blanchard.” But last week, Tessa Blanchard interfered in the Redemption rematch and showed Hogan the battle has just started between them.
The “Mad Dragon”
Rohit Raju spent a long time in the indies before making his debut with Impact. For nearly 10 years, he has worked hard to prove he could be the next big thing. But things didn’t go as it was expected. “I was working a full-time job so I couldn’t make the classes in time and the money at the moment. I found a guy out in Michigan, Xavier Justice, he went out there for a year, taught me my basics and then I started to work in the Indies. I worked with Truth Martini, kind of picked his brain and he would tighten me up a little bit. And then about a year ago, we just started going onto the Can-Am Dojo, in Windsor, just to have a different aspect on stuff. That’s Scott D’Amore’s place. Guys like Bobby Roode come from there. Kushida was there for a while.”
And when an Impact Wrestling opportunity came, things took a little bit more time than expected again. “I’ve gone to plenty of big name wrestling camps and been told “man you’re good”, I worked with them a little bit but nothing ever happened. When I did my first matches with Impact Wrestling a year ago, I thought I was going to get signed and nothing happened. And then there was Global Forged. I honestly didn’t think I was going to win anything. When they told me “you got voted”, I couldn’t believe it. I’m the low man on the totem pole so I have to prove it again and start all over. Now I have to show these guys what I can do, why I’m here and why I believe in myself.”
Raju is now a member of the stable The Desi Hit Squad, under the tutelage of the legendary Gama Singh. If the stable hasn’t graced our televisions yet, they did well on house shows. “Things have been quiet and all I can say is when Gama gets there and Gursinder gets there, we plan on shaking things up a little bit.”
With The Desi Hit Squad, Gama will try to revive the old Karachi Vice era that made him a Superstar in the 1980s. Something Rohit is perfectly agreeing with. “I honestly hope we raise hell in Impact. I hope we are vile, villainous, disgusting, ugly individuals. I hope that because I want you and Impact to think these guys don’t play. I know Gama has that in him and I know he can pull it out of us. I want to replicate Karachi Vice and I want to do all that stuff. I want to get down and dirty and put Impact upside down.” And on the next set of tapings, on June 1 and 2, in Windsor, the time will be now for The Desi Hit Squad.
Being the Future
Like so many wrestlers before them, Raju and Hogan are Impact Wrestling’s bet to the future. They’re listening to other wrestlers’ advises, wrestling and improving on television, in front of our eyes. And every advice is welcomed. For Kiera, “I’ve been given so much good advice by so many different people. But I think all advice is good advice, regardless if it’s bad or good because I’ve always been wrestling for three years.”
For Rohit, “I’ve talked to Eli Drake, I’ve picked Austin Aries‘ brain, Matt Sydal too. I’ve picked the guys that were in my spot and are now the upper echelon as far as the company goes. The best guys are always the guys that transcend professional wrestling with both in-ring work and outside. At the Orlando tapings, I talked to Jimmy Jacobs and he said, ‘Oh yeah, your match was good. But it was a match. You didn’t have a moment. Go out there and have a moment. Doesn’t matter what it is. Doesn’t matter if you got five minutes in the ring, doesn’t matter if you have 10 minutes, 12 minutes. Give those people a moment, give them something to remember. It could be a look, it could be a very intricate spot, it could be something but it has to be a moment so you’re not just another guy out there playing pro wrestling, you’re being a pro wrestler but you’re also telling a story”.
Of course, they were intimidated when they started. They had to deal with the cameras, angles, and all those TV stuff they were not used to. But both are enjoying the chance they have been given. For Rohit, it means “being on the next level, learning, being in the ring with top talent. I always kept saying I need to be in the ring the top-tier guys because that is going to help me get better and so far that’s exactly what Impact has allowed me to do. Be grimy and dirty, that’s the type of style I like. I want to be the guy snatching them out of the air, putting them in armbars. I want to be a direct opposite of what people like. I want to be different. I’m intense and I can show it now so the sky is the limit right now.”
When I asked about being the Superstars of tomorrow, they proved they were perfectly aware of the role they’re meant to endorse. Rohit is focused on it. “A lot of people like to talk about Impact being this or that, but we’ve been on a roll and the talent here is phenomenal. Everything that’s going on and the direction we’re moving into is great. I think it’s really cool I’m a part of that ride. I’m going to continue to do what I have to do to stand out, make a name for myself and then get better. That’s going to help cement my legacy and help boost Impact up. Once I sit here and continue to learn my craft, get better and better, become a person that people want to see, they’re going to be wanting to tune in to Impact along with everybody else, they’re going to want to see and it’s just going to not only help the product but it’s going to also help myself out and I think that’ll help cement whatever legacy here in Impact.”
For Kiera, growing up in front of people is the key. “I definitely think growing with the company does submit your legacy. I just feel like when you grow in a company, people get to see your progression and see your evolution. They can stick to your story more and actually pay attention because they can see how you improve, how you grow and how you learn. I feel like that’s where people really grasp to certain people because they get to see what differences you make, your mistakes and your downfalls but also your victories. I feel like that’s what people are going to grasp onto. With people like us who are starting off kind of small but you can eventually see the progression and the rise, people really can hold on to that because they’ve seen us come so far. Growing in the company is definitely going to help submit our legacy.”
In a few years, some of us will remember their sentences and say “Yes, I was there when the Girl on Fire and The Desi Hit Squad intense member started their rise to stardom.” Because in a few years, they will have reached SuperStardom.