Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mike Awesome

Mike Awesome grew up in Tampa Bay, and attended King High School, where he would meet his future wife, Delisa Bowers. They married in 1991, and have two children, Casey and Carissa. After 3 years in college, he began training as a pro wrestler under Steve Keirn. The 6-foot-6, 292-pound Awesome debuted in the Florida indies in 1989.

"I watched professional wrestling as a teenager," Awesome said in Thom Loverro's book, The Rise and Fall of ECW. "I was always interested in it. My Dad's sister married Hulk Hogan's brother, and they produced a son who was about a year younger than me, my cousin Horace Hogan, who also wrestled and whose real name is Michael Bollea. He and I grew up together. Because his uncle, Hulk Hogan, became a popular wrestler while we were in high school, my cousin got interested in it. We talked about it, and it got me interested in it."

From there it was to Japan, where after years of establishing himself and developing a cult following in Japan's FMW promotion, Mike Awesome made a big impact on the American wrestling scene. Competing in the main event of ECW's Anarchy Rulz PPV from Chicago, Mike Awesome captured the ECW Heavyweight title, outlasting Taz and Masato Tanaka in a three way dance. For Awesome, the victory was a vindication of sorts. He's long been ingnored by promoters in the U.S. In need of a new champion with credibility to replace the departing Taz, Heyman handpicked Awesome for the role of ECW World Champion.
Heyman, an astute follower of international wrestling, had been following Awesome's career in the Far East, first brought Awesome to ECW on February 5, 1994 when he wrestled J.T. Smith. Although Awesome had other matches with Sabu that year, the match with Smith will long be remembered for Awesome over the top rope dive onto Smith, nearly snapping his back into two over the guardrail. It was one of the most memorable high spots of the year.

Awesome jumped ship to WCW while still ECW Heavyweight Champion in April 2000. ECW head honcho Paul Heyman threatened legal action for the departure, and an agreement was made that Awesome would return to drop the title to a wrestler of ECW's choosing. In a surprise move, that wrestler turned out to be former champion, and WWE employee, Tazz. "We made history that night," Tazz told SLAM! Wrestling's Bob Kapur in August 2001. "Here you have a WWF wrestler wrestling a signed WCW wrestler on an ECW event for the ECW title. That's history, and I'm a part of that. And I'm happy I did it."

Once he settled in with WCW for his second stint (he was a masked jobber named The Pro and hailed from San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1989), he was part of The New Blood gang. He also became "That '70s Guy" for a spell in a gimmick that included him driving an old-school bus and hosting a cheesy segment called "The Lavalamp Lounge." Other gimmicks in WCW had Awesome being billed as "The Career Killer" (after throwing Chris Kanyon off the top of a three-tiered cage) and "The Fat Chick Thriller" along with being part of the Team Canada contingent with Lance Storm.
Awesome has been out of the wrestling spotlight since the acquisition of WCW by the WWE (then WWF). He worked a short program after the merger, but never attained the heights he had as a headliner in ECW and in All Japan. On a major scale, Awesome was last seen beating Masato Tanaka at ECW's One Night Stand in 2005. Awesome pinned Tanaka on the floor of the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City after an Awesome Bomb through a table. The match had the fans chanting "This match rules."

Mike Awesome was found dead in his home on Saturday evening, February 17, 2007. He was 42 years old.

( ...again, much of this article was taken from the great SLAM wrestling. They, as always, have my thanks and admiration )

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