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" The Gravel Pit "
Mike Awesome Shoot Interview
Posted by Brandon Truitt on Mar 24, 2003, 19:00
For those of you playing NCAA tournament pools, I feel your pain. Things went okay for me the first night, went downhill the second Purdon't beat LSU (who I had pegged as an Elite 8 team) like a red-headed stepchild, went back up when I picked almost everyone right on Saturday, and crashed back down to Earth on Sunday when Xavier, Wake Forest, Louisville, and Florida all lost. On the plus side for me, UConn may knock off Texas to escape this year's Bracket Of Death, the South. *Crosses fingers for a Kentucky-Syracuse title game*
I'm sure Dr. Tom is whipping my ass at this, as usual, but he hasn't made his brackets known to me yet. I'm pretty sure I'll beat out JHawk though, considering he says he's out of it unless Pittsburg and Kansas make it to the Final Four.
Enough about Bracketology for now... and on to the shoots.
This was supposed to be posted last week but, as you probably know, the Raven shoot came in and I got it done ASAP. This one is almost as new, being released about a month ago by the good people at Highspots.com.
I'm not sure what I'll be posting for the next few weeks. I have the Sid, Konnan, and Disco Inferno shoots about ready to go and I'm going to try and work on several others of interest including Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart, Stan "The Lariat" Hansen, Dustin Rhodes, the Midnight Express, and WWE booker / jobber chicken Terry Taylor.
For those of you interested in 1970s Mid-Atlantic, you may want to check out Highspots Video's newest release, the Paul Jones Shoot Interview, which is currently $10 and comes with a free 8X10 autographed photo for a limited time only.
As always, you can feel free to Drop me an e-mail, read the archives, buy me stuff, or buy yourself stuff at Highspots.com.
Mike Awesome Shoot Interview (2003)
What started him in wrestling? Horace Hogan is his cousin and Horace’s uncle is Hulk Hogan, who was wrestling in Japan at the time. One day, Horace came up to him and said he wanted to be a pro wrestler and Mike decided to do the same thing. He was about 22 at the time. He’d always been a wrestling fan.
Early memories- In 1989, he and the Bubblegum Kid faced the Star Riders in his first match.
What did he play in high school? He played sandlot baseball.
Watching wrestling as a kid- A neighbor of his always took his kids to wrestling and would take a station wagon and load in all the kids from the neighborhood to go watch the matches at the local armory. He used to watch Dusty Rhodes, Jack Brisco, etc.
When did he first meet Dusty? He met him while he was training because Dusty was starting to run something with Steve Kiern.
Training with Steve Kiern- He was working out in the gym one day and everyone in the gym knew he wanted to be in the business. One day, a guy ended up hearing about Kiern’s wrestling school and gave Mike a number to call.
You used to be in accounting? After high school, he worked contruction for a while and went to junior college for years before deciding to go into pro wrestling.
Was his family supportive? Actually, yes. His parents were disappointed he left college but were supportive of him.
Was he trained old-school style? Yes, because it was in 1988 and 1989, when kayfabe was still alive and well.
Memories of training- The first day he went in, Kiern asked them if they wanted to see anything in particular and Mike said he wanted to take a bodyslam. They ended up taking bodyslams that day and half the class never came back after that. Hitting the ropes every day sucked because his sides would be black and blue. Gigilo Jimmy Del Ray of the Heavenly Bodies, then known as Jimmy Backlund, was Kiern’s assistant trainer back then and made them hit the ropes constantly.
Did he train with Horace? No, as Horace started a year later and trained with the Malenkos instead. Mike did end up training with Dennis Knight (Mideon, Phineas Godwin, Tex Slasinger, the imitation Mankind from the D-X “Have a Bad Day” skits in early 2000) and a few other guys in the business. He and Knight started in the same class and were the only 2 out of the 25 that started who graduated. Big Al Green came in around that time and trained, although he came after them.
Who physically trained them? Del Ray was in charge of showing them the moves while Kiern would make sure they did them right. Del Ray would be the only trainer to take a bump.
How long did he train? He trained for about a year before he had his first match.
Did they smarten them up quickly? No, he just showed them how to take the bumps. Lou Perez was the guy who actually smartened him up, although he says he didn’t need it.
What did he wrestle as in his first match? Mike Awesome, as a matter of fact.
Did he wrestle in the US long before leaving for Japan? He started out wrestling for Kiern, worked 3 months for Jerry Jarrett in Memphis, came home for a few months and started going back to college because he didn’t think it would work out. He was working indy matches on the side for free at the time when a guy named Billy Mack started looking for a guy to replace Big Al Green on a Japan tour because Green had just started working for WCW.
Memphis- He learned a lot by being there, not all of it good. There were a lot of hick fans, he could barely afford to eat, he maxed out his credit cards to stay in the business since Jarrett didn’t pay dick. He entered the territory to feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler.
Had he watched Japanese wrestling before he went? No, and he had no clue as what to expect. The tour actually started in South Korea so he was flown to Japan, into Tokyo, then was shipped off for South Korea to work for a different company, and then came back two weeks later to work in Japan. The main company he worked for was Onita’s FMW and he stayed there for about 9 years before leaving for ECW in 1999. He was one of the few Americans to work FMW for a long period of time.
FMW’s style- After working Memphis, which was very technical and based on crowd heat (“Lame-ass wrestling, basically”), he went in there where it was very hardcore, stiff, bloody, etc. One of his first matches was with Ricky Fuji and he laid out an American-style match with him. They went out and worked it and the crowd was okay with it, as they popped in the right places and got the kind of reactions they wanted. When they came back in, the president of FMW came in and told him that, while it was a good American style match, it was NOT the style they wrestled in FMW. He had no clue what Japanese style was, so he got together with Jimmy Del Ray, who was also on the tour, and started getting it. They weren’t going to bring him back before Del Ray talked them into it, explaining that he’d never worked that style, he was nervous, etc. He got a second chance and ran with it.
Working through a match with Japanese guys who don’t know English- Even if they don’t know English, they have been taught wrestling terms in English. The problem was that FMW was very kayfabe at the time, so he never met the people he worked with for about a year and the matches suffered as a result. Once they all got together and talked, they ended up putting together some good stuff.
The “G the Gladiator” gimmick- The company didn’t think that their fans would get Mike Awesome as a wrestling name, so they wanted to call him The Gladiator. “They can’t say Gladiator over there so it sounded more like ‘Gradgiator’ instead.” The fans just started calling him “Gradgi” for short after a while.
How much Japanese did you pick up over there? It’s dependant on what he’s trying to do. He can get directions to where he needs to go and order food off a menu, even though he can’t read it. He was able to get by with it.
Was he treated differently because he was an American? Maybe at first but they had a respect for him after spending several years there.
Onita- “The guy that saved my wrestling career. If he hadn’t brought me over to Japan, I’d probably be an accountant right now.” Onita had a great insight in the business from having worked in Puerto Rico and then bringing that style back to Japan. Between Onita bringing in the Puerto Rican style and adapting it as well as working with Sabu, he had a tremendous impact on the wrestling world.
Early matches- One time, he had a match in an Olympic-size swimming pool on a ring floated by pontoons. On two sides of the ring, there were barbed wire. On the other two sides, there was nothing but, however, there were mines floating around in the water. The president of the company had shown all of them the diagram before the match and talking in Japanese, so Mike couldn’t understand what the hell he was saying. He then starts saying in English “These bombs in the water, don’t land on them. They can hurt you.” Luckily for him, there was a rescue swimmer in SCUBA gear who would take them to safety after they were blown up and eliminated from the match.
We then get that match here and it’s probably the strangest thing I’ve ever seen next to the Shark Cage match from Memphis in one of the Wrestling Gold volumes. I can’t read Kanji and I’m not going to try and make any guesses about the people in this match, so you’re on your own here. It seems to be the average FMW match for the most part, as they have barbed-wire baseball bats and so forth despite the unusual setup for the match. Two sides of the ring have barbed wire and the other two sides have barbed wire AND bombs, so it’s pretty screwy all right. This match keeps turning my stomach because SOMEONE (Mr.Pogo perhaps?) has a scythe and is STABBING a guy in head with it. Screw ECW… THIS is hardcore. Awesome gets hit with a barbed-wire baseball bat into the pool and a huge explosion goes off, eliminating him from the match. I think I’d rather clean all the bathrooms in Grand Central Station with my tongue than watch THIS match again.
Do his parents watch? His mom doesn’t, as she can’t stand watching him get hurt.
Does anything else stand out besides the pool match? Yes, a show in which they had 40,000 fans there along with bands playing, with all the fans seated straight back as far as the eye could see.
How was FMW perceived by the other Japanese wrestling groups? They were outcasts, as everyone thought they were THE garbage federation. Now, though, they use elements of the garbage style such as table spots. The wrestlers in the US had unusual reactions to it as well. One day shortly after he came back from a tour of Japan, China, and South Korea, Victor Quinones picked him up and brought him to Florida in order to have a tryout match with the WWF. His knee was screwed up, he was the champion in Japan, and he didn’t even want a job there but Victor apparently couldn’t keep his mouth shut and ended up talking the WWF into giving him a tryout. He had a tryout against Justin Credible (then Aldo Montoya: Portuguese Man-O-War). He brought over some magazines with pictures of what he was doing in order to show his old tag partner Big Titan (Rick Bogner, the fake Razor Ramon). They were looking through the magazines and Bret Hart ended up walking up, looking at the magazine, and made smartass remarks about that style. He thought “They don’t understand. They just don’t get it.”
Was he paid pretty well? Yes, rather well.
Hayabusa- Hayabusa started wrestling while he was there. He started as a “young boy” there, pretty much the promotion’s all-purpose bitch boy who would set up the rings, take shots from the other wrestlers in the ring, etc. (IIRC, Tajiri, as a “young boy”, was assigned to Mick Foley when he came to Japan for the IWA King of the Deathmatch tournament) “I remember him with a bottle-rocket in his butt. I didn’t do this, now, but some of the Japanese guys had stripped him down, stuck a bottle rocket by his butt, not IN his butt, and set it on fire.” It’s a shame that he broke his neck but they’re working hard to try to get him to walk again.
What was the worst injury he sustained in FMW? He’s got a scar down most of he arm from where he hyperextended it, the ball joint sheared, it kept popping out of place, etc. and they needed to fix it surgically. They ended up breaking his arm in another spot, rotated his are so that it would set right, and now he’s only got limited movement in that left arm. It should have taken 11 months of rehab but he went back after 6 because FMW pressured him to come back. He also got hurt bad when he was working a show on loan from FMW to a promotion he can’t remember for their final show. He ended up hitting a guy with a clothesline that was too close to him and landed on it wrong, blowing out the ACL in one of his knees. They ended up sending a “young boy” to the back for a roll of tape, which he used to hold his leg together so he could finish the match. (Sounds like the average Sabu match in ECW… spot-spot-spot, use the duct tape to put your jaw back together, spot-spot-spot, use the duct tape to close the GAPING WOUNDS in his arm from the barbed wire, spot-spot-spot finish. Sabu must have found more uses for duct tape than anyone Jeff Foxworthy has ever made a joke about.)
Sabu’s uncle, The Sheik- The first night he wrestled him, it was both Sabu and The Sheik’s first night in FMW. Sheik threw a chair at him that flew end over end and smacked him in the forehead in the hardest way possible. Sheik worked for FMW for years, though, and during that time they became friends. He was a nice old guy but no one knew it because he was always kayfabing.
Was there a Gaijin (foreigner) bus? Yes, there were separate busses for the Gaijin and the Japanese wrestlers. All the heels rode on the Gaijin bus. The reason he got to know the Sheik was that they were both sitting on rows where they could spin around in their chairs and have a lot of space, so they sat around hanging out.
What was the WWF’s response to his tryout match? The crowd loved his match. In order to get the WWF to keep from offering him a job, he wore a kneebrace on his bad leg and taped it up as much as possible to make the injury look really bad. (These days, if you wrap your legs up like that but bang the bosses’ daughter, you get to be world champion) Jake “The Snake” Roberts was the guy who ended up talking to him and told him they were interested in him but to get the knee fixed and to call them back. He decided to just stay in Japan because things were picking up for him over there. He had no interest in working the US at that time.
Working in ECW around that time- He and Sabu were working FMW together and Sabu talked him into working for Paul Heyman in ECW between tours. He didn’t really want to because he wanted to enjoy his time off but Sabu talked him into it, had one match there, and the fans LOVED him. He couldn’t believe how easy the US fans were because he was used to FMW fans in Japan, which were expecting them to almost kill each other.
First impressions of Paul E- “Man, this guy’s really nice.” He thought he was all right.
Why didn’t he stay long there? He would only work there between tours. He’d work the weekend ECW shows, winning on the first night and putting someone over on his way out.
The spot where he hit a tope on JT Smith- He thought he broke JT’s back. They were too close to the guardrail so he was scared shitless that he had just ended any chance of a career in the US.
Masato Tanaka- Their early meetings were when Tanaka was another “young boy” like Hayabusa. You could tell back then that both were going to be something. “I just remember Tanaka being a tough son-of-a-gun.” He wouldn’t complain no matter how hard you hit him.
The great matches the two of them have with each other- They’ve wrestled each other for most of their careers (6-7 years), so they know how each other thinks and what each other is willing to take. Both of them aren’t opposed to taking stiff shots so they’d beat the hell out of each other.
We then get a Gladiator promo and one of the MANY Gladiator-Tanaka matches. They’re almost all great and this one is no exception. I’m not going to try and compare this to any of their other matches offhand, but this is one that most people probably haven’t seen unless they’ve gone through a lot of FMW footage. There’s at least one HOLY SHIT moment where Tanaka powerbombs Awesome from the ring through a table and onto the floor. (If Awesome can take a powerbomb to the FLOOR from Tanaka, who is not exactly a huge guy, then someone like Undertaker better take one from a Chris Benoit or Kurt Angle and not piss and moan about the size difference and how believable it is.) The match goes about 15 minutes and ends with Tanaka giving two hard punches to Gladiator’s face. This is a nice bonus for people wanting more out of these two who have only seen their matches from the ECW compilations and Anarchy Rulz 1999.
What made him go to ECW from FMW? When Onita left wrestling to go into movies, they started co-promoting with ECW and Paul E. ended up offering him a job, which he didn’t take at the time.
What changed when Onita left? It became more wrestling with tables and chairs added in. Everything kept changing so he didn’t feel obligated tot he company anymore, at which time he signed with ECW.
When Onita left, was there a point at which he couldn’t top himself with hardcore wrestling? He reached his peak after Onita left, doing a lot of stuff that he never got to do in the US.
What guy was he watching when he started doing all of his top rope stuff? Damien, who toured with them in FMW, and they’d watch the Lucha Libre tapes he brought with him when they were on the tour bus.
Impressions of Lucha Libre- He loved it to death and started to adapt his style to match it.
What style impresses him the most? If he’d been asked 10 or 12 years ago, he’d have said Lucha Libre. Now he’d say Japanese style because of the stiffness and the realistic look to it.
Was it hard getting used to the Japanese crowds, who tended to be quieter than US fans? It was at first, although they’ve adapted to be louder over the years.
His greatest match in FMW- There was a barbed wire match with him and Mr. Pogo against Onita and Gannosuke that sticks out because there were 3000 people jammed into a small building and “the crowd’s reaction got so loud that their voices seemed to merge into one melody.” Wrestling Hayabusa for the FMW Brass Knuckles Championship was up there too.
Coming into ECW- Paul had left him with a standing offer of a job whenever he wanted it. Since he’d refused at the time, Paul signed Tanaka instead. He was asked to come in and help get Tanaka over in the US so that Tanaka could be the ECW champion. It went great so Paul wanted him to come in full time.
The ECW locker room- “The easiest-going, most mellow locker room I’ve ever been in.” Everyone was happy. There was no backstabbing, etc.
First match in ECW when he went there full time- The fans perceived him well, although he hadn’t worked there in a long time. He talks about how he never got paid for one match in particular and is told “Yeah, we hear that a lot” when referring to Paul E’s bookkeeping in ECW.
Was he under contract for the Anarchy Rulz 1999 three-way with Tazz and Tanaka? He never signed a contract with Paul because he demanded a payoff from the last PPV match first (Heatwave 98, I think) and Paul never did. “He basically begged me to come work for him.”
Breakdown of events leading up to him coming in full-time: He came in to put Tanaka over and blew out his knee. He went back to FMW, broke his ankle, came back to the US, and quit that promotion. He worked an ECW show 2 weeks later and blew out his OTHER knee and told his opponent to roll him back in the ring and pin him in a match where he was supposed to go over. After the match, he got on the mic and cut a promo about how he was leaving. He was out of wrestling for a year getting his knees and his ankle fixed then said “To Hell with ECW” and went to work for WWE road agent Johnny Ace in All Japan. After a tour there, Paul called him up and talked him into becoming ECW champ, promised to pay him for the PPV he owed him before (which he never did), and asked him to sign a 5-year contract.
The Anarchy Rulz match- No one had any clue that he was winning. Everyone thought Tanaka was going to get the belt. The only people who knew otherwise were himself, the referee, Tanaka, Paul E, and Tazz. They had a great match after Tazz was out (“after we got the dead weight out of there”).
How fun was it to trick “the smarts”? It was fun. Justin Credible was pissed though because Paul had promised him the belt.
Guilty as Charged vs. Spike Dudley- “He’s a nut, a certified nut.” He’d come to the building with a match in mind but Spike came up to him with some suggestions. What Spike suggested surprised the shit out of him because Spike was going to be taking a lot of damage by going through stacks of tables and so forth.
What did he think about critics’ claims that he wasn’t getting over as champ and that’s why Tanaka was brought in? He felt like he was having good matches with Rhyno and other guys but that Paul wanted to use Tanaka
FMW- He left on good terms with them because he left to go back to the US instead of working for another company in Japan.
All Japan- He went over there after having spent 10 months off due to a double knee surgery. They ended up holding up on the tour. He was offered a spot on their tours but decided not to take it because of ECW. He worked with Misawa, Kobashi, etc. and tagged with Johnny Ace. He feels that Kobashi was one of the best in the world at the time due to his style but he’s not good anymore due to injuries.
Was he tired of Japan or what? He just wanted to give working in the US chance, his son was very young, Onita was gone, and he wanted to see if he could get over with the US crowds. There were no feelers from WCW or the WWF at the time of his ECW deal.
Jumping to WCW with the title- He was not under contract with ECW. He was driving to the show one night and realized he wasn’t getting paid, so he was wondering how much trouble the company was in and questioning why he’d left Japan. He wasn’t even going to be able to pay his mortgage since Paul wasn’t paying him. He ended up talking to Horace Hogan, who put Hulk Hogan on the phone. Hulk then told him to take his ass home if he wasn’t getting paid, so he went home and started to talk to Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo. They signed him, he showed up on WCW TV while still ECW champion, and then the lawsuits started flying. If he had signed the contract Paul wanted him to, he could never have done it.
What was the solution to the problem? He just wanted to give the belt back to them because making money to support his family meant more than the belt. He felt he’d made a bad career move by leaving Japan. He thinks that people saying he “sold out” don’t realize that he couldn’t afford to support his family while working in ECW. All of Paul’s promises went unfulfilled as well.
Coming back to lose the belt to Tazz- The stories about him sitting out in front of the ECW locker room are true… “I wasn’t ALLOWED in the locker room.” He also had a piece of paper faxed to him from Paul’s attorney spelling out where he was to stay, what would go on in the match, where he was supposed to be until they called for him, etc. They spelled out everything legally so that all would go right. Since Paul built the whole thing up on TV for a week, it was a packed house that night and they all chanted “You sold out!” at him. He loved every minute of it when they were chanting that because he knew what was really going on. The only thing that disappointed him was that he wasn’t allowed to go out there with Rhyno and put together a match that would put him over the top. He didn’t trust Tazz in the match and had his hand up while Tazz had the Tazzmission on him in order to keep him from hurting him. He says Rhyno was about the only guy he trusted enough to work comfortably against at that time.
Did he see potential in Rhyno early on? Yeah, he and Sabu did. Sabu helped get Rhyno a tryout because he saw his potential.
WCW- There were legal injunctions from Paul E’s lawyers against him the first few nights, so they kept sending him home. He agrees with what people say about WCW being a creative mess. He was supposed to come in as his ECW persona, a career killer, but none of the top guys wanted to do anything he did. DDP, Lex Luger, and others were out there for themselves and not the company.
Meeting up with people in WCW who used to work for ECW- They sympathized with him all right. “Almost everyone who worked for ECW ended up burned from what I hear.”
The dumb gimmicks they gave him- Since he was under contract, he had to do it. Things turned to shit for him after Bash At The Beach since Hulk Hogan became persona non grata and, since he was a distant relative of Hogan, Vince Russo put the screws to him. They fired Horace Hogan right of the bat, but he thinks Russo didn’t fire him because he had just hired him away from ECW and he was too concerned with what the Internet thought about things. He probably wanted to make him quit with the dumb gimmicks and through burying him. As a result, he got turned from the Career Killer into the Fat Chick Thriller. He didn’t have a problem with being portrayed like that on a personal level because wrestling’s a work but feels it was them wasting him as a talent. He knew things were bad when Heidi, his “big fat lovemate” ("a sweet girl", according to Mike), had to sit there while the office made him tell fat jokes in the ring. Things got worse when she came off the second rope “with the worst clothesline in history”, which caused him to lose a match to someone.
That 70’s Guy- Russo passed him in the hallway one day and told him that he was thinking of putting him in an 80s gimmick because he had the mullet and he was behind the times in fashion because of all the years he spent in Japan. It somehow became a 70s gimmick and he got “the Lava Lamp Lounge”, which was fun but it was bullshit for wrestling. He wanted to wrestle.
His first chance to talk for himself- He never got a chance to speak for himself in ECW because Judge Jeff Jones was his manager and Paul, for whatever reason, just didn’t give him a shot on the mic. WCW put him in there on the mic right away.
What was he thinking during the Jarrett-Hogan angle- “Oh shit…” Horace Hogan had already left the building since he was driving home to Tampa and missed the whole thing. He was in the back and HOPED that it was an angle because Jarrett was just out there doing what he was told. He was with Hogan right after it and saw he was hot. He was going to back him up but Hogan left and never came back.
Vince Russo- Fine as a person. He did what he felt was right. He’s not happy with some of the gimmicks he got stuck with, but that’s different.
The Invasion angle with the WWF- It looked like things were turning around for him in WCW right before the end because Johnny Ace came in and was pushing him. They gave him a career makeover, paired him with Lance Storm, who he feels is one of the best in the business today, and things were going good until the WWF bought them out. No one knew what the hell was going on or if they’d even have jobs. He knew he could go back to Japan, so he wasn’t desperate for work. He was one of the first to get called up, though, and Jim Ross put him over big. Paul also put him over big and claimed to have no personal issues with him.
His contract- He had a 2-year deal with WCW. His contract was bought out, he stayed on the terms of that contract for about 6 months, and then accepted the deal they renegotiated with him.
First days in the WWF locker room- “Tense”, although not for him. He talks about how the WWF locker room had its own code where you immediately had to go up to the head people and shake their hands, kiss their ass, etc. If you don’t do everything the way they want, it’s a strike against you and people start talking behind your back. He knew the politics going in but saw how younger guys got screwed over because they didn’t do things right and they didn’t know it. Booker T finished a match with Steve Austin and just left the arena one night and got heat over it for not shaking Austin’s hand afterwards. He didn’t know how political it was until after he left.
Who clued him in? He figured it out as soon as Paul Heyman came over and gave him a big handshake and made a show out of it. Nothing was mentioned about their past. It happened to be the first time he talked with Tazz since he left ECW. Tazz had completely changed, as he was a total jerk in ECW but was cool to him in the WWF. “The WWF broke him and humbled him.” “You don’t stay in the WWF as a jerk. If you’re not humbled, they get rid of you.” He’s not sure what happened with Lance Storm but he was doing great while he was there. He feels that they should use him in a stronger position.
What other WWF stories does he have? He blew his knee out while he was wrestling Big Show. At the end of the match, he tried to hit him from the top rope and Show grabbed him in midair for a chokeslam. He wasn’t supposed to hit the ground but he came down hard on his right foot and blew his knee out. He was scheduled to face Show the next night, so he taped up his knee, wrestled the match, and sat at home for six months healing up his ACL. They pressured him to come back early so he did, and ended up getting released.
Was he ready? No, he knew his right leg was still weaker than his left. He wrestled in OVW for two weeks and he knew he wasn’t ready to go, but he came back anyway.
Did he feel special being the first WCW guy to win a belt (The Hardcore belt, won from Rhyno using the 24/7 rule at a RAW in Madison Square Garden)? No, and it helped him see that they had no plans for him because he did the job in two tag matches at house shows right after that. He thought it was odd that they’d be jobbing him out and have him retaining the belt considering that the gimmick was you could win it at any time or any place. The next TV that he did, the match was all about the guy he wrestled and the guy that they would be wrestling at the next PPV. “I never really felt like the champ. I felt like the guy they stuck the belt on because they wanted that guy to become the champ.”
The InVasion match- Edge and Christian refused to do some of the stuff he wanted to do. He was disappointed because of it. He felt it was because they had a job and were over, so they didn’t want to risk their bodies to get him over.
Did everyone else have the same attitude? For the most part, yes. He felt like he sold out by going there because he couldn’t do anything close to the style he wanted to do. He should have just gone back to Japan.
What reason was given for his release? There was none given and he didn’t ask why because he could see the writing on the wall. He was brought back and immediately doing jobs on TV left and right for “little Japanese guys who were about 4’8”” He started lining up deals in Japan and just waited until he got his release. Johnny Ace called him up with the news and he thanked him for it because he just wanted to leave. He wasn’t a quitter and was never going to quit, but he certainly was glad that he got fired.
Was he fired because he had enemies or because of his knees? It was probably a combination of things. Firstly, he wasn’t working his style of wrestling. Secondly, Paul Heyman being in the office didn’t help things out although he doesn’t know of anything specifically he did. Thirdly, he got injured while he was there and he came back before he was ready.
Coming back to Japan- It was received well and he’s happy to back.
How’s his knees? His left knee’s been fine since about 1999 and his right knee is holding up after 13 months.
All Japan- He’s just done two tours, is about to start on his third, and has been reassured he will be a regular. He just wants to go out and impress the fans. He was disappointed with his match against Great Muta because Muta was sick. He also says he got sick from it because Muta insisted on doing the green mist spot, which is a bad idea when the guy doing the spitting is sick.
Is All Japan in financial trouble? No clue about it, but he figures they aren’t. He just thinks it’s a changing of the guard and Muta is bringing in the guys he wants to use. “He’s thinning the herd of the Americans” and that he and Jimmy Yang were lucky enough to survive.
The new promotion in Japan- “There’s a lot of them over there.” Guys out of work in the US need to talk to them.
Feelings about the monopoly in the US- “You’ve got TNA too but they’re just cable, so it’s not like a real company.” He thinks it won’t work out of the wrestling fans because they loved the head-to-head nature of the Monday Night Wars.
Who are his friends in wrestling? Sabu, Shawn Stasiak (who’s going to leave wrestling and become a chiropractor), and his cousin Horace Hogan (he feels that wrestling is over for him and will become a physical trainer).
Wrestling Vampiro in WCW when a fan jumped him- He was swinging at Vampiro when a guy dove onto his back and grabbed onto him. He grabbed him and started drilling him because he didn’t know what the guy would do. He only got one actual hit on the fan because the security team swarmed around them and he accidentally beat them up instead. That had happened several times in Japan. One time, when Sabu was wrestling, the Yakuza were sitting at ringside. The promoter had told everyone that they were there and what section they were sitting in, but Sabu didn’t care. One of the guys ended up taking a swing at Tiger Jeet Singh (GOOD… miserable fucker deserved it) and Sabu ended up kicking the shit out of him. It turns out there were 50 of them there, including a boss. They started a near-riot. He was in the locker room at the time and heard some commotion outside, thinking the match had ended up there, and came out to see Sabu on the floor, several guys kicking the shit out of him, and someone about to hit him with a chair. He ran out and started clearing house long enough to get Sabu back to the dressing room. All the foreigners ended up stuck in the locker room for about 2 hours until Onita could get things calmed down.
Is the Yakuza still prominently involved in wrestling today? Yes, and it was REAL prominent in FMW. They were the promoters because they’d buy a show and then sell the tickets. “If you were in a 10,000 seat arena and there were only 3,000 people there, it was sold out. Not all of the people who bought a ticket wanted to see the show, though.”
Indy promotions in the US- He likes his time off in the US but he’ll do shows locally if they pop up. He worked for promotions in Fort Lauderdale, etc.
Vampiro getting injured in a match against him- “He said he did, I don’t believe him.” Vampiro came up to him in MLW and apologized to him over stuff that had been said. He threw Vampiro’s accusations about being hurt in his face and Vamp started telling stories about how “I broke my neck, I was a vegetable” etc. He just wanted to get away from him at that point because he didn’t want to hear his BS.
How often is he on the Internet? He has two computers networked together in his den but he never looks up what people have said about him on the Internet. As far as he’s concerned, he knows when he’s had a good or bad match, etc. If he’s going to spend time online, he’s probably playing Half Life. He says if anyone wants to play him, he’s KKiller.
Best ribs he’s seen- When he first went to Japan, Mark Starr started talking smack about all the ribs he’s pulled and how he’s never been ribbed. He’d never ribbed anyone before but, after hearing that guy talk, he decided he was going to shave the guy’s eyebrows if he ever passed out around him. Sure enough, the guy passed out and woke up the next morning with no eyebrows and a bunch of stuff written in magic marker on his face.
In closing- He wishes he could have performed for the fans in WCW and the WWF the same way he did in ECW, but they can find tapes of him in All Japan if they want to see him work now.
We then cut to one of those matches, between Awesome and Great Muta. Muta looks like shit here because you can see him struggling to breathe due to this illness. Muta wins the match with a moonsault.
Comments- Mike is exceptionally honest here and goes into a lot of detail on quite a few topics of interesting, especially him walking out on ECW for WCW while still the ECW champion. I wish he’d gone more into detail on a few topics like the heat that Chuck Palumbo, Shawn O’Haire, Diamond Dallas Page, and Buff Bagwell had during the Invasion, but that’s neither here nor there.
In short, this is a shoot that covers a decent cross-section of wrestling in the US and Japan as Awesome has wrestled in FMW and All Japan as well as ECW, WCW, and the WWE in the US. He was also a key figure in a few controversial incidents in the past few years of US wrestling, so it’s definitely worth picking up.