Kaun Has Spoken

by Kate Frentzel

When Jasper Kange ’12 saw his first wrestling VHS tape as a kid, he was hooked: “I became enamored. I was making collages out of magazines. I was making my parents go to live shows when I could, recording every episode of Raw and SmackDown. I was completely obsessed.”

Childhood obsessions tend to cool off. Kange’s did, for a while. But at 27, well into a successful career in art and design, it reignited. He made the bold decision to pursue professional wrestling. And he’s hit the big time.

Jasper Kange '12 has found great success wrestling for All-Elite Wrestling as Kaun.

From Visual to Performance Art

Kange, a self-described introvert, transferred to Luther from the University of Minnesota because, he says, “I wanted that smaller community feel and smaller class sizes so I could actually talk to my teachers and feel more comfortable around other students.”

He majored in art and soon lived out his college dream of art directing a magazine. But at the same time, as he dipped back into wrestling documentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, and news articles, he started plotting a parallel career in wrestling.

When a cross-country move took him to Baltimore, he seized the opportunity to enroll in a professional wrestling school half an hour from his new home. “I was like, I’m not going to be happy with my life if I don’t go for this dream. So I just made that decision. I literally just signed up and never looked back,” he says.

Jasper Kange (second from right) made history as part of multiple tag-team wins.

Making a Mark

To prepare for the first day of wrestling school, Kange visited a trampoline park and practiced rolls and bumping (hitting the ground or mat). “Signing up for something new when you’re 27 years old and sucking at it is very humbling,” he says. “It was terrifying at first, but even getting to touch the wrestling ring was so exhilarating to me.”

Kange excelled quickly. A lifelong athlete who’d played football at Luther, his natural talent and the effort he put into building his technique and physique quickly caught the attention of premier independent wrestling agency Ring of Honor (ROH). In an industry where it’s common for people to practice for a decade or more before earning a contract, he was signed to ROH in just one year. There, he made history.

At ROH, Kange wrestled as the persona Kaun, which, he says, draws on his heritage as an actual Cameroonian prince (his grandfather is a village chief in Cameroon). One of Kaun’s common catchphrases is an authoritative Kaun has spoken! 

“Kaun is the person I wish I could be all hours of the day—very confident, conceited to a point,” and intolerant of any disrespect in the ring, he says. Early on, Kange joined forces with fellow Black wrestler Moses. At a time when Black tag-teams were rare, Kaun and Moses were a dominating force, winning MCW Pro Wrestling belts. They made history again when they won the ROH World Six-Man Tag-Team Championships with a third Black wrestler, Shane Taylor.

In a sport that hasn’t historically been racially diverse, this representation matters. Kange recalls a final show before ROH ceased operations. At the end, all the Black performers ran out into the ring to pose together. The moment immediately went viral, and Kange started hearing from fans who’d been touched by it.

“I get goosebumps talking about that because I never thought I would have the ability to really affect people like that,” he says. “When I was watching wrestling 20 years ago, there were not a lot of Black wrestlers, there were no Black champions. And to see how far we’ve come—there’s this unity of Black performers, there are Black world champions, there are Black women wrestlers who are main-eventing shows. And you’re seeing how you can really change people’s lives by just wrestling on TV. That’s crazy to think about.”

“I’m literally just living out my childhood dream," Jasper Kange says.

Living a Dream

Kange now wrestles for premier agency All Elite Wrestling (AEW), and he also manages an independent wrestling career. He recently moved to San Antonio, Texas, to focus on the independent circuit, where he can easily perform four nights a week. At 32, he admits that his body feels some wear and tear, but he also hopes his best years are ahead of him: “A lot of wrestlers hit their prime in their late 30s, so I’m banking on that. If it’s scheduled lax enough, you can wrestle into your 50s to 60s. You can really build out a great career and wrestle for 20 or 30 years.”

In the meantime, he says, “I get to travel to different states, even different countries. Literally your whole time there is built around a 10- or 12-minute segment on national television. That’s so cool! People don’t get to do this for their jobs.” He laughs. “I’m literally just living out my childhood dream, and I’m so fortunate to do that.”

AEW is on TBS Wednesdays and TNT Fridays. Kange is on Instagram (@the.kaun), Twitter (@thekaun), and Facebook (Kaun).