Getting your start in Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling (FMW) seems to be the norm for most of todays wrestling superstars and Mike Awesome was no different. Competing under the name of The Gladiator, Awesome not only attracted some much needed attention to himself during his stint in FMW, he would also develop a long running rivalry with his greatest adversary: Masato Tanaka.
It wasn't just the Japanese fans who took notice of the Gladiator, ECW head honcho Paul Heymen was very interested in Awesome. Heymen first brought Awesome over to compete for ECW in February of 1994, a year that Awesome would be most remembered for almost snapping J-T Smiths back in two. Like we at Wrestlingbytes have always said, if you're going to be remembered for anything let it be for snapping a guy's back in two.
Awesome would travel back and forth between Japan and the States, putting on incredible matches including a show stealer at the ECW PPV in 1998. And its no surprise that this match once again featured his most famous rival Masato Tanaka. Then in 1999, fate gave Awesome the big break he needed.
The current ECW World Champion Taz had signed a big deal with the World Wrestling Federation causing Heymen to scramble for a new individual to carry the torch. Taz was scheduled to defend his title against Masato Tanaka at the Anarchy Rulz PPV in September of 1999. Leading up to the match, a series of promos were aired, showing the heated rivalry between Masato Tanaka and Mike Awesome. So it was really no big surprise when Awesome showed up at the PPV demanding to be put into the Main Event. Paul Heymen agreed and the match was turned into a three way dance between Taz, Tanaka and Awesome. What was even more surprising was the fact that the current champion Taz was the first one to be eliminated. And like so many times before it was Tanaka and Awesome string each other down. A feud that had been going on for years literally exploded as Awesome and Tanaka beat the crap out of each other. Finally, with half the locker room standing at the entrance ramp watching in awe, Awesome delivered his famed Awesome bomb and captured his first ECW World Title. As a show of class, Tazz came out and lead the live crowd in a chant for the new champ.
For months Tanaka and Awesome waged war over the ECW World title. Battles that were not only violent but showcased the skills these talented wrestlers, giving the American audience a chance at seeing a feud that was a favorite of FMW fans in Japan. Then, in December, Tanaka finally defeated Awesome to win the title. But once again, proving he deserved the title of "Awesome", Mike regained his title a few days later.
In between title defenses, including an incredibly brutal encounter with Spike Dudley at Guilt as Charged 2000, Awesome captured another title. This time it was the ECW Tag Team title with his partner Raven. And like countless times before, Awesome's most hated rival Masato Tanaka figured in the mix.
In 2000, ECW continued to go through financial difficulties, this prompted Awesome to look elsewhere for a more secured income. Around the same time Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo were put back in charge of WCW. Their first order of business was to start a storyline pitting the New Blood (Younger wrestlers like Billy Kidman, Shane Douglas, Chuck Palumbo, Sean OHaire etc) against the Millionaires Club (Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Lex Luger..etc) and Awesome fit in perfectly with their idea of New Blood. Even though he was still under contract with ECW as their champion, the allure of a guaranteed income was too much and Mike Awesome made the jump to WCW while still holding the ECW title.
This would prove to be one of the biggest mistakes Awesome would make in his career.
Threats of lawsuits against WCW caused one of the most interesting title defenses in the history of professional wrestling. Awesome agreed to drop the ECW title against anyone. That anyone turned out to be the man he first won the title from: Taz. Taz, still under contract with the WWF but on loan to ECW, quickly defeated Awesome to bring the title back to ECW. Awesome entered and exited through the crowd, never appearing in the backstage locker room due to tensions running high over his betrayal of ECW. Taz would head back to the WWF with the ECW title competing in a champion vs champion match against Triple H.
Awesome started his WCW career off in a promising fashion first appearing as the mystery opponent in the United States Title Tournament at Spring Stampede 2000. Awesome also got to powerbomb Hulk Hogan through a table, throw Chris Kanyon off the top of a triple tiered cage, feud with Diamond Dallas Page and Scott Steiner. Awesome even received a number of shots at the U.S. Title.. And then he slipped into mediocrity
Not knowing what to do with Awesome (WCW not knowing what to do with a wrestler? Big surprise there) he was saddled with lame gimmick after lame gimmick. First up was That 70 Guy complete with a Partridge Family styled bus and his own talk show the Lava Lamp Lounge. Awesome even enlisted the help of Gary Coleman (not a 70s star but an 80s star) to win a match against Jeff Jarrett. Talk about your different strokes.
Up next was The Fat Chick Thriller gimmick, a lover of all things large. We wont delve into that much.
With all these lame gimmicks it was surprising that WCW didn't try to make a gimmick based on Awesomes mullet haircut. Whoops, strike that. According to an interview Awesome gave WCW.com, the gimmick was implemented for a few matches before it was quickly abandoned.
Then Awesome caught another break and joined forces with Lance Storm to become a part of Team Canada, a partnership that remains to this day.
After WCW folded, Awesome was signed by the WWF to take part in the Invasion storyline. Awesome would make his mark on the June 25th 2001 edition of Raw broadcasting live from New York City. After Rhyno recaptured his Hardcore title form Test, Awesome ran in, power bombed Rhyno on a ladder and became the new WWF Hardcore Champion. The first strike by the enemy and the first title captured by the WCW.
After capturing the Hardcore Title, Awesome would face the biggest challenge in his career. With Paul Heymen, his former boss, now in charge of the creative aspect of the WWF would by-gones be bygones? Or would Heymen remember how Awesome deserted ECW to jump ship to WCW. In that same interview for WCW.com Awesome said when he first met with Paul, Heymen said that was all in the past and for another company and their relationship would not be affected in the least.
Awesome lost the Hardcore Title to Jeff Hardy thanks to interference by Edge and Christian. This lead to a PPV match between E&C vs Storm and Awesome, a match which Edge and Christian won. Since then Awesome has been kept in the background as his partner Lance Storm has gone on to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship. But if history has shown anything, it's hard to keep a man down who is simply "Awesome".
HeatWave PPV: Masato Tanaka vs Mike Awesome is viewed as one of the best matches on the PPV. (1998)
At the Anarchy Rulz Pay-Per-View, Mike Awesome defeats Taz and Masato Tanaka in a three-way-dance to capture the ECW World Title even though he wasnt advertised on the card. As a little sidenote, this was also the first ever ECW PPV to be broadcast in Canada. (September 19th, 1999)
Loses the ECW title to Masato Tanaka (December 17, 1999)
Recaptures the ECW title from Masato Tanaka (December 23, 1999)
Defeats Tommy Dreamer and Masato Tanaka to become one half of the ECW Tag Team Champion. His partner at the time is Raven. (March 2000)
Makes it to the finals of the U.S Tournament at WCW Spring Stampede. He would lose to Scott Steiner thanks to interference from Kevin Nash. (2000)
An overzealous fan tries to DDT Mike Awesome as he and Vampiro brawl in the crowd. Vampiro and Awesome turn their attention to the fan and pummel the crap out of him. Not much of a career highlight but it was sure damn fun to watch. (WCW Halloween Havoc 2000)
During the final Nitro under Ted Turners ownership Mike Awesome and Lance Storm get a shot at WCW champions Chuck Palumbo and Shawn OHaire. Unfortunately Awesome and Storm lose the match. (March 2001)
During an episode of Raw, Rhyno beats Test to regain the WWF Hardcore title. Moments later, Mike Awesome runs in, powerbombs Rhyno and pins him to become the new WWF Hardcore Champion. This would be the first time a member of the ECWCW Alliance captured a WWF Title belt. (June 25th at Madison Square Garden)
Edge and Christian take offense to Mike calling himself Awesome when they are the Kings of Awesomeness. This was one of the first entertaining WWF promos Mike was involved in. (July 2001)
Mike Awesome makes his WWF PPV debuted at Invasion in a tag match with Storm against Edge and Christian. (July 2001)