Highspots Shoot Interview with Mike Awesome

This was filmed in 2003

It runs at one hour and twenty-nine minutes long.

The interview is filmed at his home in Tampa, FL after he wrestled at a local show. The interview started at 1am.

Awesome said he got started in wrestling through his cousin, Horace Hogan. Awesome himself is not related to Hulk Hogan but said that he and Horace decided to go through with training, although Awesome ended up training before him and at different schools.

He said that he was a fan of wrestling growing up in Tampa. His friend’s dad would take them to the shows and cheer for the heels just to get the kids upset. He was a fan of Dusty Rhodes and Jack Brisco at the time.

He said he was hitting the gym hard for a year before he started to train as a wrestler. Someone came up to him with a number for Steve Keirn’s wrestling school that he got off of the TV. At the time, Awesome was taking classes at a Junior College and working in construction. Awesome said both of his parents supported his decision to train as a wrestler.

Awesome said his training was “old school.” His biggest memory was the first day of orientation. Awesome went into the ring and took a body slam as did a few others and the next day, half of the class did not show up. Awesome said that Keirn was slamming them hard too. Jimmy Del Ray also helped train them. Awesome said that only two people finished training when he started: Dennis Knight (Mideon) and himself. He also said that Al Greene came in a month afterwards and trained with them. He also trained for about a year until he had his first match.

When asked, Awesome said that Keirn did not smarten him up to the business at first. He said that Lou Perez was the one who finally did smarten him up.

He used the Mike Awesome name in his very first match. He started out wrestling in 1989 ding independents in Florida. In 1990, he went to USWA for three months and maxed out all of his credit cards as he made no money so he went home to go back to college while wrestling on the independents. He was wrestling for free as the guy would buy them beers instead and Awesome was the champ. At that time, an agent named Billy Mack was looking for a guy to go to Japan as Al Greene backed out as he signed with WCW, and Mack asked Awesome, who agreed to go.

Back to Memphis, Awesome said it was nuts. He said the fans were “hicks” and “toothless people” who would try to fight you.

Awesome talks about the culture shock he got when he went to Asia. At first, he toured in South Korea. He worked for FMW in Japan. Awesome said that the guys do not speak English but know the names of the holds. He also said that kayfabe was big over there and as a whole, the company was young.

He wrestled as J. The Gladiator in Japan. Awesome said that the fans cannot correctly pronounce the name but call him “Gradji” for short. Awesome says that he knows enough Japanese to get buy in Japan. He said that after staying there a few years, they warmed up to him as you have to earn respect over there at first.

When asked about Onita, Awesome says that he saved his wrestling career and if it wasn’t for him, he’d be an accountant, which is what he was studying to be in college. He puts him over for putting the hardcore genre to the mainstream in Japan.

Awesome talks about once match he was in where the ring was floating in a pool and two sides were surrounded in barbed wire as the other two had water mines. He said the president of the company came through with a diagram of the ring and said that the bombs in the water could really hurt you bad and not to land on the bombs when tossed in the water. He also said there was a rescue swimmer who would take them back to shore when they got tossed into the water.

He then talks about how the traditional wrestling companies in Japan did not respect the FMW promotion at all, thinking it was indeed garbage wrestling. Awesome then notes how those companies have now used table spots and others in their matches.

On Hayabusa, Awesome said the other Japanese guys would torment him as he was just starting out. Awesome tells one story when the other guys stripped him down and put a bottle rocket near his ass and lit the wick.

Awesome talks about splitting a ball joint in his elbow while performing a tope in Japan. His rehab should have been close to a year but he rushed back in five months as the company wanted him back. Awesome said he never reinjured it though.

He met Sabu and the Sheik in Japan. Awesome talks about how the Sheik recently passed away then said how he was mean and rough back in the day but developed a friendship with him during the bus rides in FMW and said he was a nice man. They rode on the “Gaijin” bus with the rest of the Japanese heels as FMW was big on Kayfabe.

When asked about doing a tryout match for the WWF, Awesome said that he had a knee brace on because of a hurt knee and wrapped it up in tape as he did not want to get the job but also did not want to tank but by making it look like his knee was in bad shape it would shy the WWF away from signing him as he wanted to stay in Japan. He said that Jake Roberts told him to come back when his knee got fixed.

He talks about his brief time spent in ECW during 1993-1994. Sabu said that he should give it a shot and Awesome did not want to do it as he was home during his time off but Awesome said that Sabu is a great motivator and he decided to go to Philly. Awesome said that he was shocked at how easy the American fans were pleased.

Initially, Awesome said that Paul Heyman would talk you up like you were a million bucks. Overall he said that he is alright then adds how he doesn’t like to talk bad about anyone.

Awesome talks about the spot of him hitting JT Smith with a tope that remained in the opening credits for years. He originally thought that he killed him at first the way his back bent over then lunged to the ground and asked if he was okay and he was then Awesome got up and yelled as the fans went nuts.

When asked about first meeting Masato Tanaka in Japan, Awesome said he was a young boy and got the shit kicked out of him on a regular basis but you could see just how talented he was. He puts over his toughness and how he would never complain, no matter how hard you would hit him.

He talks about the change in style when Onita was no longer in charge of FMW. He wasn’t feeling obligated to be there as the office changed and the matches did too. He did say he was trying to topping himself by doing crazy moves. He said that he learned a lot of top rope stuff by watching Damien 666, who was on tour with them. Awesome said he wanted to pattern himself after that style when watching it at first.

Awesome said that Heyman offered him a job in the airport at Tokyo. He did not accept at first but Heyman told him that he had a job whenever he wanted. Heyman then brought over Masato Tanaka and Heyman wanted Awesome to put him over.

He said that he and Tanaka had a hard-hitting match that he never ended up getting paid for that. A year later, Awesome said that Heyman wanted him to sign a contract but Awesome refused unless he got paid for that PPV match against Tanaka and he still refused. Awesome said Heyman begged him to work for ECW and wound up hurting his knee, did a tour of FMW and broke his ankle then after two weeks worked for ECW and blew out his other knee taking a leg lariat over the top rope and told Balls Mahoney to roll him into the ring and pin him because he couldn’t do anything. He sat home for a year then worked for All-Japan Pro Wrestling then came home as Heyman told him that he wanted to make Awesome his champion and to sign a five-year contract.

Awesome talks about the three-way match in which he became the ECW Champion. He said that only himself, Heyman, Tanaka, Taz, and the referee knew he was going over. Awesome talks about how Tanaka was being groomed for the spot. Speaking on the match, he said once they got the dead weight out of there(Taz) he and Tanaka tore it up. When asked about the technique of tricking the “smarks,” Awesome laughed and said that he liked it but it shocked the locker room. He then said a month or so later, Justin Credible came up to him a little bit upset as Heyman promised him that he would be the next champion.

He is asked about his match against Spike Dudley at the “Guilty as Charged” PPV. Awesome says that Spike is a nut and that he put the match together but Spike came up and wanted Awesome to powerbomb through stacked tables.

Now, Awesome is asked about leaving ECW as Champion to sign with WCW. He said that he was not under contract at the time and while driving to the show, he was thinking how he has not been paid in a few weeks and left his job in Japan for this as he could barely make his mortgage payments. He called his cousin Horace, who told him that he was crazy for working without getting paid then turned around and went back home. He then spoke with Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff and signed a contract with WCW. Awesome spoke about how Heyman wanted to bring lawyers into it but at the end of the day, he was not under contract to ECW so he was within his legal rights to leave and sign elsewhere. Awesome then talks about how while it is cool to be the champion it doesnt mean everything as being able to provide for your family is number one. And when he was not getting paid, he was unable to provide so he left. He also said that other promises that were made to him never came to fruition.

On dropping the belt to Taz, Awesome said that he was not even allowed in the locker room and got a paper faxed to him by Heyman’s attorney saying they had a hotel room for him (which they never did but Awesome did not want it anyway), and did not want him in the dressing room and they would lay the match out. Awesome says this was all conducted by the lawyers. Despite all of this, Awesome said the atmosphere was great with everyone chanting “You Sold Out” at him. He knew he was not selling out and just providing for his family but the only thing he did not like was that he wrestled Taz instead of someone like Rhino, who he trusted and could have a good match with. Awesome said if you watch the match, he put his hand up to protect himself.

His first night in WCW, there was an injunction and he was not even allowed to be in the arena. His lawyers hammered it out and he got to wrestle there after a few days.

Originally, the plan was for him to be used like he was in ECW. However, none of the top guys wanted to do the stuff that he did and names guys like DDP and Lex Luger and how they were only out there for themselves and not the company. He then said it all fell apart for him at Bash at the Beach 2000 when Hogan refused to lay down for Jeff Jarrett and fired Horace Hogan right off the bat and thought he was too close to Hogan and he became the “Fat Chick Thriller” which did not get over at all. Despite saying that wrestling is all just a work, he felt bad having to make fat jokes at the expense of the girl “Heidi.”

The Fat Chick gimmick died when Russo one day approached Awesome backstage and noticed his hair and style and wanted to make him an 80’s guy but instead became the 70’s guy. He said it was lame but sometimes it was fun for him.

As a person, Awesome did not have a problem with Russo but was unhappy with the gimmicks he stuck him with.

On the WWE buying out WCW, Awesome said that he thought things were turning around for him in WCW as they paired him up with Lance Storm then they got bought out and were unsure of what was happening. e met with Jim Ross who told him that Heyman put him over and had no personal issues with him and he got hired by the WWE.

Awesome recalls the first day of the WCW guys being in the WWE locker room was intense. He said that if you did not play the politics, the WWE guys would bury you. Awesome said that he knew the atmosphere but the young guys did not know you were supposed to shake the Undertaker’s hand and stuff like that so they all got heat on them for really nothing at all, which Awesome calls ridiculous. Awesome even recalls Booker T finishing his match and left the arena afterwards to get some food, which is what they all did in WCW, but the next day Booker got heat for not sticking around and shaking hands with Steve Austin.

Speaking about the politics in the WWE, Awesome said he knew right away when Heyman came up to shake his hand and was smiling and knew right away that Heyman was going to fuck him over. He also said that he did not fully realize how political the WWE actually was until he left the company.

He said that while Taz was a “total jerkoff” in ECW, but a humble guy in the WWE. Awesome says that you won’t last in the WWE if you act the way that Taz did in ECW.

On winning the Hardcore Championship, Awesome said that it didnt matter as he kept jobbing at house shows and how he was booked like an afterthought until they found someone else.

When asked about working with Edge & Christian, Awesome said he had some ideas with them but they did not want to take his moves (powerbombs off of the ladder through a table), citing the fact that there jobs were safe as the reason.

Awesome blew his knee out while wrestling the Big Show when he got caught coming off of the top with  chokeslam. He said that he felt pressured to return early and did after six months, when it was a ten month recovery time, and he came back and was not ready then got cut shortly after that. Awesome said that he kept getting called by the WWE at home while he was recovering. On what reason they gave him for the release, Awesome said he did not get one but saw the writing on the wall. When Johnny Ace called him to tell him he was fired, Awesome told him that he was relieved. He said he would not have quit and is not the type to quit when things do not go your way.

When asked if he had any enemies in the WWE and if that was why he got let go, Awesome said that it could have been part of it and having Heyman in the office was not going to help but he was not wrestling his style of matches and he came back too quickly from injury, which he thinks was the main reasons.

He said he is happy to be back in Japan and his knees feel fine. He is going back in two weeks to tour All Japan for the third time. When asked if he had heard about the financial troubles of All Japan, Awesome said that the Great Muta wants to bring in his guys and its just a changing of the guard.

His biggest friend in wrestling is Sabu. He also is a friend with Shawn Stasiak, who he said is going to become a chiropractor and leave wrestling. He also said that Horace is trying to be a physical trainer.

They go back and ask him about the time he wrestled Vampiro in WCW when a fan dived on his back. Awesome said the guy dove and grabbed him but was able to shove him off and hit him only once but accidentally hit some of the security guards as they were dragging away the fan.

Awesome then tells a crazy story while in Japan. He said that the mafia will sit in the front and you are not supposed to go near them but Sabu was wrestling Tiger Jeet Singh and ended up fighting near the mafia guys and wound up fighting one of them. They almost had a riot as the mafia guys brawled with Sabu up to the dressing room and Awesome peeked out of the certain and saw Sabu getting hurt and ran out and hit a few guys. After things settled, they had to lock all of the Americans in the locker rooms for a few hours as they had to calm things over with the mafia, who wanted to kill them. Eventually, it all got taken care of and smoothed over.

He talks about Vampiro claiming he injured him in WCW and how that was a crock of shit and when he saw him backstage at a MLW show, Vampiro would not leave him alone and Awesome said he just wanted him to stop talking.

He talks about how he played a rib,as a rookie, on Mark Starr, who would constantly brag about how he was never ribbed and pulled a ton of them on others. One night, Starr passed out after a night of drinking so Awesome ran up to his room and got his clippers then shaved his eyebrows off and wrote on his face with markers.

Awesome closes by thanking the fans for their support.

Final Thoughts: Solid Interview. Awesome seemed like a really good guy too. He did not have an agenda but was willing to shoot straight and that is really all I want out of an interview.

It’s a shame that Heyman bad-mouthed him the way he did when Awesome left the company. Awesome was completely justified in leaving for WCW and smart for not signing a contract with Heyman to begin with. Like he said, he left a job in Japan that provided for his family to work in America then was not being paid what he should have been. The fact that the ECW guys and the PWInsider.com guys blame Awesome for screwing over ECW is laughable.

Overall, I recommend this interview. Its also another example of how badly the ECW guys were getting fucked over by Heyman and a nice glimpse into the career of Awesome, who spent a lot more time in Japan than I realized.

The interview is available on Highspots.com for $9.99