From Japan to the United States, few members of the All Elite Wrestling roster are as well-traveled as Awesome Kong. What began as an attempt to be signed by World Wrestling Entertainment resulted in a professional wrestling career lasting over a decade and a half. What might be scarier than her immense power and undeniable presence, however, is her unstoppable drive. With years of experience under her belt, Kong made her AEW debut at Double or Nothing this past May, starting a new chapter in her storied career.
This week’s AEW talent preview dives deep into a talent that created a reputation spanning numerous promotions. Whether it’s All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling, SHIMMER, Impact Wrestling, just to name a few, you know her simply as Awesome Kong.
In 2002, Kia Stevens appeared on Discovery Health Body Challenge, a reality TV show focused on weight loss. That same year, Stevens appeared on season two of WWE Tough Enough but failed to make the cut. According to Stevens’, during the Netflix Scene Stealers panel this past June, she was told by Jim Ross she wouldn’t make it in wrestling due to her size. With a fire lit inside of her, Stevens began training at the School of Hard Knocks, a San Bernardino, California-based facility owned by Jesse Hernandez. After spending some time in Empire Wrestling Federation, also owned by Hernandez, Stevens would travel across the Pacific Ocean to train in Japan.
In Japan, Stevens began with All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling. She learned how to speak Japanese and underwent different types of physical training, mixed martial arts included. Stevens would also be granted the name Amazing Kong by Masatsugu Matsunaga, who sought a replacement for Aja Kong. From late 2002 to early 2004, Kong cut her teeth in AJW, working with the likes of Reina Takase and Kayo Noumi. In April of 2004, Awesome debuted for GAEA Japan at its Yoyogi Limit Break event. Though Amazing Kong lost against Aja Kong in singles action, mutual respect was shared. Later in the night, the powerhouse duo interfered in the main event, attacking both competitors and establishing themselves as W Kong.
W Kong made an immediate impact the following May when they defeated Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo for the AAAW Tag Team Championship. In August, alongside Chikayo Nagashima, Amazing Kong would go on to OZ Academy to compete in the Iron Woman Tag Team Tournament. The duo would go on to the finals and win. In September, W Kong dropped the AAAW Tag Team Championship to Carlos Amano and Manami Toyota.
Amazing would continue to wrestle throughout Japan in 2005, working for such promotions as NEO Ladies, and even making appearances for Pro Wrestling NOAH and New Japan Pro Wrestling. W Kong made their way to HUSTLE, where they would be known as the comedic duo of Erica and Margaret; Amazing Kong wrestled under the latter moniker. In mid-2006, Kong’s work in Japan caught the attention of American wrestling promotions. In May, Kong appeared for SHIMMER, defeating Nikki Roxx in her debut match on Volume 5. In June, the duo of Erica and Margaret won the HUSTLE Super Tag Team Championship, which was held mostly by men’s teams up until then. In July, Kong teamed with Kyoko Kimura to defeat Kyoko Inoue and Etsuko Mita for the NEO Tag Team Championship. By the end of the year, both championships would be dropped to other competitors.
As WORLD-1 Women’s Champion, Kong challenged AWA World Women’s Champion Nanae Takahashi in a title-for-title match in January of 2007. Kong would emerge not only the victor but joint champion. The following month, Kong lost the WORLD-1 Women’s Championship in a three-way match to Natsuki Taiyo. Kong’s quest for gold continued in May when the AWA World Women’s Champion defeated MsChif for her NWA Women’s Championship. In September, Awesome made her Ring of Honor debut at Man Up, teaming with Daizee Haze to defeat Lacey and Sara Del Rey. In October, Kong debuted for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, where most fans in America were first exposed to her. It was also in TNA where Amazing Kong’s ring name changed, albeit slightly, to Awesome Kong.
Heading into 2008, Kong established herself as a force in TNA. Though she lost to Women’s Knockout Champion Gail Kim at Final Resolution in January, Awesome, alongside new manager Raisha Saeed, defeated Kim the following Impact for the championship. Kong would lay waste to the challengers that stepped in her way, including Kim and ODB. At Lockdown, in April, Kong and Saeed teamed up in a losing effort to Kim and ODB in a cage match. In May, Kong introduced a $25,000 challenge, in which female audience members could challenge her for the Women’s Knockout Championship. After defeating such opponents as Melissa and Serena Deeb, Awesome was defeated by Taylor Wilde in July. Awesome and Wilde would enter a feud thereafter. In October, Awesome defeated Wilde for her second Knockout Championship. Two weeks later, Kong gained another ally in Rhaka Khan, who turned on Wilde. They, along with Sojourner Bolt, became collectively known as The Kongtourage.
In early 2009, Bolt became the number one contender for Kong’s Women’s Knockout Championship. Bolt, along with Khan, would leave The Kongtourage during this time. In March, at Destination X, Kong retained her championship against her. Not long after, Kong and Saeed entered a feud with The Beautiful People, Angelina Love and Velvet Sky. The Beautiful People attempted to cut Kong’s hair, as part of their gimmick, sparking her face turn. Kong’s hair was eventually cut by the heel tandem. This led to a three-way cage match at Lockdown, in April, where Kong defended against Love and Wild. Despite her best efforts, Kong lost her championship to Love, due in large part to Sky tying Kong’s hair to the cage. In May, Kong defeated Sky and Cute Kip in separate stretcher matches.
Following an unsuccessful title match against Love at Sacrifice, in May, Kong focused on the women’s tag team scene. In August, Kong and Saeed entered a tournament to determine the first-ever TNA Knockouts Tag Team Champions. They defeated Sharmell and Traci Brooks in the first round but lost their semifinal match against Wilde and Sarita. In October, at Bound for Glory, Kong unsuccessfully challenged for the Knockout Championship in a three-way match, largely due to Saeed’s involvement. The following night, on Impact, Kong defeated Saeed in a grudge match, powerbombing her through the stage. To close out 2009, Kong formed a tag team with Hamada, who she wrestled in singles action numerous times before on Impact.
On the first episode of Impact of 2010, in January, Awesome and Hamada defeated Sarita and Wilde to win the TNA Knockouts Tag Team Championship. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t be able to drop them in tag team action. Kong experienced difficulties behind the scenes, largely with a backstage interview and media personality Bubba the Love Sponge. Kong took umbrage with Bubba’s negative comments about the Haiti earthquake relief project, an endeavor Awesome was passionate about, which led to a physical altercation. Kong left TNA not long after. During the remainder of 2010, Kong largely worked independent shows. She also made a few appearances for ROH, working with the likes of Del Rey and The Briscoe Brothers. In December, reports surfaced that Kong inked a deal with World Wrestling Entertainment.
In April of 2011, vignettes of a mysterious woman breaking dolls and laughing evilly began to air on WWE television. Soon, it was revealed that the woman was the former Awesome Kong, her new ring name being Kharma. In May, Kharma made her WWE debut, laying waste to Michelle McCool following her loss in a Loser Leaves WWE match against Layla. Kharma continued to attack female talent, including Eve Torres and Maryse. In May, on an episode of RAW, Kharma interrupted yet another tag match. Instead of attacking the participants, she dropped to her knees and began to sob. The week after, she revealed that she was pregnant in real life, prompting her leave of absence. Kharma would make a surprise return in the 2012 Royal Rumble match, in January, entering at number 21. She eliminated Hunico before being eliminated herself by Dolph Ziggler. Kharma also became the third woman in history to enter a Royal Rumble match. This would be her only official match with WWE; in July, she confirmed her release from the company. According to her, she wasn’t ready to return to life on the road, though she left on good terms.
Following her farewell to WWE, Stevens made her independent wrestling return as Kong. In November of 2012, at SHINE 5, Kong was revealed as the mystery partner of Jazz, defeating the team of Rain and Mercedes Martinez. In early 2013, Kong made additional appearances for SHINE. In January, she won the Resistance Pro Wrestling Women’s Championship in a four-way match. In April, she appeared in SHIMMER Volume 53, defeating Mia Yim. She would continue to wrestle throughout different independent promotions, though she remained a consistent figure in SHINE. She even challenged Rain for the SHINE Championship in December, only to come up short. 2014 saw Kong continue to work for SHINE, defeating such opponents as Taylor Made and Athena, along with other independent events.
On January 7, 2015, Impact Wrestling debuted on Destination America. During this event, Kong made her return, standing off with Jessicka Havoc, who lost a battle royal match moments earlier. This led to Awesome and Havoc squaring off in the Lockdown edition of Impact Wrestling, which Awesome won. During the spring, Kong challenged TNA Women’s Knockout Champion Taryn Terrell. Following repeated attacks by The Dollhouse, comprised of Marti Bell and Jade, Awesome joined forces with long-time rival Kim to even the odds. Kong would then compete in the TNA World Title Series, in which she advanced to the finals, where she ultimately lost to Jessie Godderz. By the end of the year, Kong feuded with Kim over the TNA Women’s Knockout Championship.
Kong remained with TNA until early 2016, when she was released from the company. She would return to the independent scene not long after. In May, she won the vacant CCW Alabama Women’s Championship. In July, she returned to Japan to wrestle at Aja Kong’s 30th-anniversary event with OZ Academy. In the main event, W Kong and Hamada defeated Rina Yamashita, Hiroyo Matsumoto, and Chihiro Hashimoto.
In 2017, Kong temporarily stepped away from the wrestling scene to star in the Netflix TV series, “GLOW,” based on the 1980s women’s wrestling organization of the same name. On the show, she plays Tammie “The Welfare Queen” Dawson, a women’s wrestler whose character is focused on wealth. Though Kong worked events in 2017, they were few and far between. In 2018, she was practically absent from the wrestling scene entirely, largely due to her TV commitments.
In May of 2019, Kong made a surprise return to wrestling at the first event under the All Elite Wrestling banner, Double or Nothing. Introduced by Chief Brand Officer Brandi Rhodes, Kong was a surprise entrant in the three-way match between Kylie Rae, Britt Baker, and Nyla Rose; Baker would ultimately emerge supreme. Nonetheless, Kong received a huge ovation from the audience at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It goes without saying that AEW supporters declare her as #AllElite.
One of the most commonly asked questions in wrestling is, “what if?” What if Kong ended up not only passing Tough Enough tryouts but being signed by WWE? Would she go on to build a reputation as a monster that fostered in Japan? Would she wrestle highly regarded bouts against Kim, Wilde, among other opponents? Given the career Kong made for herself over the years, “what if” may be best regarded as a rhetorical question. The long road has led to AEW, where Kong finds herself a veteran among a pool of talent that must prepare for this force of nature.
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