Posts Tagged ‘Awesome Kong’

Awesome Kong has delivered a less-than-glowing appraisal of her time in All Elite Wrestling, doing so while speaking with Chris Van Vliet on his Insight show.

Kong, who left AEW in June 2021 and has since retired from wrestling, stating that while she didn’t want to give the impression that she was bashing the company and its personnel, she didn’t feel heard or in control during her time there. Despite her best attempts, she couldn’t get involved in the decision-making process.

Said Kong (h/t Fightful):

“I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing the crew over there at AEW, especially since we were just up and running. We are all new executives and trying to think outside the box and really give it to y’all. Something new, something that hasn’t been seen. We’ve seen it all. We were trying to give you something that you haven’t seen. I felt unheard. I wasn’t in control. All I could do was say, ‘I have this idea of XYZ.’ I couldn’t get in the room where final decisions were made. Believe me, Kia [referring to her real name Kia Stevens] stalked that room. I would stay there after big meetings and pick up the water bottles and cups like, ‘Huh, Y’all need…you need me to go? Okay’ [Laughs]. I tried to get into that last meeting where decisions were made.”

Unable to get involved in these processes, Kong stated that if she’d been able to, she’d have stood a better chance of stealing the show, using a theoretical match with Nyla Rose as an example:

“Never had a chance to. ‘That’s just not going to happen, so I’m not going to push it.’ When you see this [makes a box with her hands] is who they are comfortable with making decisions, that’s not a read or a critique, that’s just who was comfortable making decisions. What do you do? It’s out of my control. If I had control, give me 15 minutes of Kia. Kia’s 15 Minutes of Fame. ‘Go out there and steal the show from them boys. You, you, you. Nyla (Rose), go steal the show from the boys.'”

Kong made her surprise AEW debut at the original Double Or Nothing pay-per-view. Introduced by Brandi Rhodes, she faced Kylie Rae, Britt Baker, and Rose in her first match, then teased a bout with Aja Kong (that didn’t end up happening) during the following month’s Fight For The Fallen show.

Rhodes and Kong later formed the poorly-received Nightmare Collective group with Mel and Luther. This was ditched amidst overwhelming negative reactions in February 2020, preceding Kong taking time away from AEW to film the next series of GLOW, on which she was a main cast member.

The IMPACT Wrestling Hall of Famer did not return to AEW after this. By the following June, it was confirmed Kong had left AEW after her contract’s expiration. She retired during the NWA’s EmPowerrr event two months later.

Awesome Kong is the newest inductee heading into Impact Hall of Fame.

Tonight, on Knockouts KnockdownKong was awarded this induction after announcing her pro-wrestling retirement at NWA EmPowerrr in August. She joins Gail Kim as the second woman to be inducted.

In her speech, Kong dedicated this honor to Shannon “Daffney” Spruill, who she worked alongside from 2008 – 2010.

“It’s an extreme and humble experience to be considered for this prestigious and exclusive honor,” Kong said in her speech. “I was there at the birth of the Knockouts Division. To see the tenacity that these women have today is the same kind of tenacity we orginal Knockouts had back in the day. It fills me with pride that will have an everlasting shimmer.

“But it’s bittersweet. It’s nice to be acknowledged for your life’s work, but my main priority today was to come and pay homage to my friend and colleague, whose legacy will not be denied. Daffney broke barriers and went to places that were denied to most women back in the day. She opened the doors for those women. So honor my friend.

“Whether you’re a teacher [or] a mechanic, open the door for the next person. Do something that opens the door for the next generation. Cause if not you, then who? If not now, when? This is for you, Daffney. We love you!”

During her time in TNA, Kong was a two-time Knockouts and one-time Knockouts Tag Team Champion. She also won the 2015 Queen of the Knockouts Gauntlet Battle Royal.

Kong will be officially inducted into this year’s ceremony at Bound For Glory on Saturday, October 23, at Sam’s Town in Las Vegas, Nevada.

During this weekend’s IMPACT Wrestling tapings, it was announced that Awesome Kong is the latest name to be inducted into the IMPACT Hall of Fame.

As per Fightful, this announcement took place during filming of the company’s upcoming Knockouts Knockdown special, which is due to air on 9 October. Kong used this moment to dedicate her induction to Daffney Unger (Shannon Spruill), who sadly passed away earlier this month.

Awesome Kong formally announced her in-ring retirement at NWA EmPowerrr in August, sharing an emotional moment with long-time rival Gail Kim as she officially called time on a career that had spanned 19 years.

For Kong, she was pivotal in making the Knockouts ranks of TNA/IMPACT must-see TV during the end of the 2000s. In particular, her rivalry and matches with the aforementioned Kim made for phenomenal wrestling TV. With Kong as the dominant monster heel and Kim as the uber-babyface, the two made magic together whenever they stepped between the ropes.

In terms of the IMPACT Hall of Fame, Awesome Kong joins past inductees Sting, Kurt Angle, Team 3D, Jeff Jarrett, Earl Hebner, Gail Kim, Abyss and Ken Shamrock.

Across her time with TNA/IMPACT, Kong had two reigns as Knockouts Champion and one run as Knockouts Tag Team Champions alongside Hamada. Away from IMPACT, the powerhouse had a brief run in WWE as Kharma and was more recently seen as part of the Nightmare Collective in the early goings of AEW.

With NWA EmPowerrr now in the record books, one of the biggest news stories to come out of this all-female PPV is the in-ring retirement of Awesome Kong.

Kong made a surprise appearance at EmPowerrr, coming to the ring to join forces with long-time rival Gail Kim.

After Kim was interrupted by Taryn Terrell, Jennacide and Paola Blaze, Kong made her way to the ring and attacked Jennacide and Blaze. Following a staredown between the two famed foes, the real-life Kia Stevens praised Gail as her greatest rival, before then announcing her retirement and sharing an emotional embrace with Kim.

A 19-year veteran of the wrestling business, Awesome Kong is revered as one of the true greats of her time, serving as a pivotal part of making TNA’s Knockouts division must-see in the late-2000s and beyond – including two stints as Knockouts Champion and one run as Knockouts Tag Team Champion.

The powerhouse Kong also had a brief spell under the WWE banner as Kharma, and more recently made a handful of fleeting appearances for AEW. Away from the squared circle, Stevens played Tammé “The Welfare Queen” Dawson in Netflix’s GLOW.

Awesome Kong and Shanna have both been removed from AEW’s official roster listing, as pointed out by Reddit user DamieN61. There is currently no word on whether or not either has been released by the company.

Kong hadn’t been seen in AEW since February 2020, when Brandi Rhodes’ poorly-received Nightmare Collective stable split up. The veteran’s last match was a squash win over Skyler Moore on Dark’s 7 January episode, coming a few weeks before Kong left to film GLOW’s fourth season, which was cancelled that October.

Shanna, meanwhile, spent eight months on the sidelines in 2020, her ability to travel from Europe hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic. She was a steady presence on Dark between November and February, returning for one last loss to Leyla Hirsch on Dark: Elevation’s 12 April episode.

Prior to her November comeback, Shanna was embroiled in a social media scandal when she was accused of Islamophobia, calling for French President Emmanuel Macron to close the country’s borders.

Last week saw AEW’s Tony Khan claim the company was on the verge of a “huge expansion”, including new roster additions. Mark Henry has been added to the listing following his Double Or Nothing 2021 debut.

Awesome Kong hasn’t been seen on AEW screens since the 4 February episode of Dark, when she was unceremoniously booted from the doomed Nightmare Collective by Dr. Luther and Mel, who kayfabe injured the former TNA bruiser when she confronted Mel for her loss to Hikaru Shida at the tapings.

AEW’s media accounts reported the injury as “serious.” It felt like a write-off, and that’s exactly what it was, with Kong currently busy filming footage for the next season of GLOW on Netflix.

Tony Khan commented on Kong’s AEW status in his post-Revolution media scrum this Saturday. When asked about the legend’s future, he said that while she is still working as a backstage producer for AEW, she will be taking a break from in-ring competition for the foreseeable future. They knew about her GLOW commitments when she signed a full-time AEW contract last year, so they haven’t caused any issues.

There’s every chance that Khan is working here, as he wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise of a potential Kong in-ring return. Regardless, moving away from the ring and into backstage activities may suit the giant, who has 17 years of wear and tear on her mileage clock.

AEW has made it a mission to be as inclusive as possible and welcomes talent of all gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation. Nyla Rose is the first transgender person to sign with a major wrestling promotion and she talked if AEW backstage is a safe place for fellow LGBTQ talent.

“I’ve said it a million times, I’ll say it a million more. It’s such a different environment. It’s very warm and very welcoming,” Rose said on Ring the Belle. “Granted, when we’re running TV, everybody’s a little stressed. But everybody feels like a family. Like many families, we bicker and fight. We handle that all in the ring, but it’s been very welcoming.”

AEW has a mix of young women’s wrestlers and established, veteran talent. Rose was asked which of the female wrestlers has stepped up as a leader backstage.

“Our vets are the leader. [Awesome] Kong by far is the one command in that locker room, and we all fall in line because she’s Awesome Kong. Just natural respect for her,” stated Rose.

If there’s been one criticism about AEW’s women’s division, it’s been a lack of storyline throughout programming. Some think matches are just randomly made and there’s no continuity like there is for many men’s storylines.

Rose discussed that criticism and if it’s warranted.

“I think it’s a valid concern, but I think people need to slow down and hold the horses. We’ve only been on TV for six weeks. We have to establish everything, absolute pandemonium. First up, we got our world champion lined up. What’s next: tag team. On the first show, we established who the women’s champion is, so you knew some of the people coming into this. So [the women’s division] took, I don’t want to say a back seat, but it kind of ran in the background a little bit. But now if you look on TV, we have three and four segments going. Things are picking up, so just be calm be patient. There’s a method to the madness,” stated Rose.

When it comes to All Elite Wrestling’s women’s division, there are a select few who the company has relied on heavily to promote the brand. Nyla Rose is one of them. A true powerhouse, Nyla was one of the first signings by AEW when it first formed. She is considered a true face of the women’s division. 

Speaking to Women’s Wrestling Weekly, Nyla opened up about how she was approached by AEW. Originally, the guys over at AEW were utilizing social media to promote themselves, but for Nyla, something was different. She had something AEW wanted, and it got them to go towards a different approach. 

“The first call was a direct message,” Nyla stated. “We’re very candid in discussing how things have operated. So a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, they are so unprofessional and like passing out deals in tweets.’ No, that’s not what happened. There were feelers. People were saying, ‘Hey are you under contract? I’d like to discuss some things with you. You know, are you even at all interested?’ So once we got that of the way, once I realized it wasn’t a practical joke, we exchanged phone numbers and went about things the professional route. But yeah, the very first message I thought it was a joke. I thought somebody was messing with me because here I am, I’m like, who’s going to sign me, little ol’ me, right? Well, jokes on me, because here I am.”

In the first few weeks of AEW on TNT, Nyla made an immediate impact. She faced Riho for the AEW Women’s Title during AEW’s debut on the program. While she lost the match and the title to Riho, many talked about how smooth the match was. While there was familiarity, Nyla was also interested in perfecting her craft for the big match. 

“Well, there’s a lot to unpack right there,” Nyla stated when talking about the bout. “For those who don’t know me, or are not as familiar with me, I have spent some time in Japan working with Joshi-style. It wasn’t exactly completely foreign to me, so to speak, but after having been in the states for some time, I had to kind of go back and do some tape study on myself and do tape study on Rhio. I kind of shifted gears a little bit in order to just be able to match her, because she’s a squirmy, little speedy spry.” 

As stated above, her match against Riho outshined everything on the show. With a tournament to determine a champion being taken seriously, there was a lot to be excited about. Nyla believes the championship match was a culmination of all her hard work. 

“It meant everything honestly,” Nyla continued. “You know, until this point in my career, that’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done. Being crowned a world champion is no small feat. To be crowned the first world champion, especially in a new, blossoming company, you know there could never be another first so it’s kind of like, everything was poetic. You had all that going on, it was in my hometown, there was so much going on. It was very emotional.”

Just like Nyla, AEW is new to millions of fans around the world. In just a short period of time, the company and Nyla have created headlines. One of the top trending organizations on social media and on TV, Nyla is ecstatic to be a part of something that separates itself from the rest of the pack. 

“A lot of it was the unknown,” Nyla stated when talking about AEW in general. “I’m a very creative person, I love to create in every aspect of the word. So being able to be a part of this new promotion and help build it from the ground up, that was very appealing to me. Especially when I kind of heard some of the names that were interested being thrown around. I knew I had to be around some of the greatest minds in the business, like Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes, and Kenny Omega. Then down the line, I found out Awesome Kong was on board and I was like, done deal.”

Kia Stevens (also known as the legendary “Awesome Kong” to wrestling fans around the world) was a recent guest on Women’s Wrestling Weekly. During the discussion, Kia opened up about the stealthy way All Elite Wrestling got her into Las Vegas for Double Or Nothingback in May.

“Only three people on the Earth knew that I was going to be there. We snuck me into the airport, we were seriously incognito with glasses. People at the check-in desk thought that I was acting ‘super’,” Kia explained. “We got in, we did the deal; I was nervous and I hadn’t put on the Kong gear in for eons. I hadn’t summoned her. She’s a real person – Kong is real and I hadn’t summoned her in a while. I was in the bathroom… It was a whole process.” 

Kia went into greater detail about how she first heard about AEW, noting that it was mostly by accident that she stumbled upon their All In event in Chicago last September. The production value impressed Kong enough that she made sure to reach out to be a part of what the promotion had planned for future shows.

“My agent, Brian Wittenstein, who’s both in the Hollywood world and in the wrestling world called and said, ‘You know, they have this idea’. And I’m like, ‘Well, yes!’ I happened to be in Chicago when they did All In, which is a funny story in itself. I didn’t know anything about it because I hadn’t been immersed in it – the wrestling world, so I was doing Starrcast and they said everyone is going to the show, and I was thinking that it was just some random indie show,” Kia added. “I get there and they are at the Sears Centre and the production value is out of this world. I’m like, ‘Wait, I need to be a part of this next time. Someone needs to ask me next time’ and they did. I’m glad they did. Backstage, the harmony is there. People are working, people are getting paid, people are getting medical, people are happy, and people want to come in and work hard.”

Kia explained how she began training harder for her in-ring return without trying to make it obvious to the people in her life that she was becoming Awesome Kongagain.

“I hyped up my cardio [only] because I felt like I couldn’t go to anybody’s ring because they would figure out [I’m making a return],” Kia stated. “One person kind of figured it out by me just asking questions, ‘Why? What are you doing?’ I prepared as best I could since it was secret.” 

Kia didn’t want to reveal the exact plans that AEW has in store for her character, however, she is confident that they’re putting together the greatest female roster pro wrestling has ever seen.

“If I say [what’s next], it kind of spills the beans,” Kia said. “I will tell you this: after AEW happened, I’m like, it might be possible to put together the greatest female roster ever seen… I just want people to be happy. There are so many unhappy people and I know you can’t please everyone.”

Awesome Kong aka Kharma didn’t have a long stint in WWE, but it was still impactful. She was the third female to participate in the Royal Rumble and even eliminated two male Superstars in what could be seen as a precursor to the Women’s Revolution.

Kong talked about what she thinks of women’s wrestling today and what it meant to see Alison Brie of GLOW and Becky Lynch on the cover of ESPN The Magazine.

“It’s uplifting because things like that are like one more step to elevating and bringing more notoriety to women’s wrestling and wrestling in general…Things like that make me feel blessed,” Kong said when she spoke to Wrestling Inc. on the WINCLY podcast.

“When I hear about what the women are doing, I feel proud and I feel I did my part to let that happen.”

Kong is also an actress on the GLOW Netflix series and she was asked if any of the non-wrestling cast have become fans of pro wrestling.

“Sometimes the girls come to work and are like, ‘Hey did you see such-and-such last night?’ They’ll then describe a wrestling event or show that they watched and it makes me giggle,” admitted Kong. “I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh! They’re actually following wrestling storylines.’ I think it’s the cutest and if the show brings more eyeballs to wrestling that maybe never watched before, that’s awesome.”

Chavo Guerrero serves as a consultant and producer on the show and he also helped train some of the actresses. Kong talked about being able to work with another wrestling mind in Guerrero.

“It’s great because we will collaborate and think of things the girls will take to their physical attributes and capacities. It’s fun to bounce ideas off Chavo because he’s so respected and makes us feel included,” said Kong.

She then added that she’s always pitching ideas to the producers and writers and she’s happy that those in charge “make us feel heard.”

As someone who was a child actor before wrestling, and has now returned to acting, Kong has a unique perspective on Hollywood’s attitude towards wrestlers. She was asked about how the film and TV industry’s attitudes have changed in regards to pro wrestling.

“Before it was like we were in the bowels of the entertainment industry and I think that showing the range that wrestling perfomers have, I think I’ve opened [some eyes],” Kong said before comparing wrestlers in Hollywood to models in wrestling in that they weren’t taken seriously.

“I think people are sitting up and taking notice and actually respecting wrestling performers as performers.”

In addition to her work on GLOW, Kong is also a part of the AEW roster and appeared at both Double or Nothing and Fight for the Fallen. She also talked about what else she has coming in the future.

“I’m writing something with my writing partner Alexander. We are putting together some stuff because I took the name Kong which is problematic being that I’m a woman of color. And I said that I would be special one day and that’s to make other opportunities for other women of color and that’s what I’m working on right now,” said Kong.

Kia Stevens (aka Awesome Kong) returns as Tammy “Welfare Queen” Dawson to GLOW for season three. GLOW season three will be released August 9h on Netflix. Her full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it Kong discusses her GLOW fandom as a kid, GLOW’s powerful “Mother Of All Matches” episode, getting a bigger “push” in GLOW season two, her AEW future, possible GLOW – AEWcrossover, her role in pro wrestling’s women’s revolution and more.