The legendary Awesome Kong has opened up on the impact Chyna had on her career, as well as Jim Ross’ initial reaction to a plus-size female pro wrestler.
Though Awesome Kong ultimately became one of the pioneers of modern women’s wrestling through her work in IMPACT Wrestling, this was a completely different story in the early 2000s when she was just starting out. Prior to her in-ring success, Awesome Kong went through a number of hardships that led to forming a working relationship with Chyna.
Speaking on an Inside The Ropes live show to Kenny McIntosh, the two-time IMPACT Knockouts World Champion detailed how WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross reacted upon seeing her when she applied for Tough Enough:
“I mean, you know, I had just got out there to Las Vegas. I sacrificed a lot, I was a social worker and at that time, I wasn’t making all that much money, so just taking two or three days off to go do this meant a lot, and to make a reservation for the expensive Caesar’s Palace room, that was a lot for me.
And this was like 100 pounds ago, so I weighed 100 pounds less and I was like, ‘What you talking about? I ain’t that big.’ So when he said that, it lit a fire up under me to be like, ‘Okay, well now I have to prove you wrong.’ Now I have this thing floating out in the universe to just prove this one man wrong. And I’m a stubborn person, and I will devote years to just say, ‘F*ck, yeah’.”
Awesome Kong continued, detailing how her time on North American reality series Discovery Health Body Challenge led her to forge a relationship with legendary performer and WWE Hall of Famer Chyna, a relationship that aided Kong’s soon-to-be flourishing career:
“So since he said, ‘Okay, you’re too overweight or you’re too big, you’ll never succeed in wrestling, you can never be successful in wrestling, I’m like, ‘Okay, well, step one, I guess I’m gonna have to lose some weight.’ And I grew up in the entertainment industry. I grew up as an actress first actually, I used to be an actress as a child, like, you know, my mom would push me out to go do auditions because she was an actress herself. And she would push me out to do auditions as a shy child. I was shy in front of strangers, but with your family, you know how with your family, you will do whatever?
So we would practice the lines and I would say, you know, ‘Sunshine cookies are the best!’ And then she’d get me in the audition and I would just [groans]. And then we’d get back in the car and I’m like, ‘Sunshine cookies are the best.’ My mom was like, ‘F*ck yeah, you should of said that earlier.’ So I grew up in the entertainment industry, so we knew a lot of people in entertainment and a friend of ours said they’re looking for people for this weight loss show called Discovery Health Body Challenge, kind of like The Biggest Loser way before The Biggest Loser was a thing, and Kia [Stevens, Awesome Kong’s real name] should go out for it.
So I went out for it and actually, they told me that I was too big for their show, and I was like, ‘What the [f*ck]? I’m like, ‘Are all my mirrors like funhouse mirrors, am I seeing something different?’ But they liked my personality, so they cast me for the show, and they knew I wanted to be a wrestler, so the segments that we focused on was me working out and trying to make it in wrestling. And so that was the next step, for me to lose weight.
[In] One of the segments, they wanted to surprise me with a WWE wrestler. And they sit there and, I’m sure someone has seen a reality show in this room, and you know how you do your interviews and you sit there and you talk in your interviews, and they kept saying, ‘Who’s your favourite wrestler?’ And I was like, ‘Lita! Oh, Lita is great. I want to flip around like Lita.’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, but didn’t you say Chyna was one of your favourites?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, Chyna’s great. She’s fantastic, yes. But Lita! Have you seen what Lita does?’ I just couldn’t get that they were pushing, they were trying to follow me to say Chyna.
And then I’m like, ‘I’m missing something here.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, yes, Chyna’s a great wrestler, she’s one of the greatest, she’s my favourite.’ And then, next thing you know, Chyna comes out and we meet and this is a surprise meeting at the New Japan Dojo in LA, the Inoki Dojo. And they told me, ‘Any time you want to come out and train, you can do that.’ And so she kind of mentored me, took me under her wing to help me move on to the next phase of my career.”
Wrapping up, Awesome Kong explained how she got her start in Japanese wrestling through the All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling organisation, a journey that was kickstarted by her friendship with ‘The Ninth Wonder of the World’:
“Well, I was enamoured and just starstruck at first because this is a living God that I’m associating with who wants to help me become, to live out my dream. And she was doing big things in Japan at the time and that’s actually how I got to Japan was since she was associated with the New Japan Dojo, they kept in touch with me, and so when they were looking for a girl to go out to Japan, they call and say, ‘Hey, there’s a promoter that’s out here looking for a girl to come in and try out, so knowing that I had her as a cornerstone, cheering in my corner was surreal, like the first door that opened for me.”
Awesome Kong enjoyed a seminal 19-year run spanning the globe. Her work in IMPACT Wrestling led Kong to superstardom, holding both the Knockouts World and Knockouts World Tag Team Championships twice apiece. Kong’s last run in the company came in early 2016, where she briefly joined Taryn Terrell’s Dollhouse faction.
Short stints in WWE and AEW have also come her way, the former of which saw her dubbed Kharma. She last wrestled on 1 January 2020 during the tapings of the 7 January Dark broadcast, ultimately announcing her official retirement from the ring in August 2021. That October, Awesome Kong became the second female to enter the IMPACT Hall of Fame.