The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
July 5, 2022

Awesome Kong On Retirement, AEW, GLOW, Her One Match In WWE

Awesome Kong On Retirement, AEW, GLOW, Her One Match In WWE

Kia Stevens (@meanqueenk) is an actress and professional wrestler better known as Awesome Kong in AEW and TNA Wrestling and as Kharma in WWE. She joins Chris Van Vliet to talk about her recent retirement from pro wrestling and what went into that decision, her role as Tammé Dawson on the Netflix series GLOW, what inspired her to become an actress, her only match in WWE as an entrant into the men's Royal Rumble in 2012, working for AEW, being part of the Nightmare Collective with Brandi Rhodes and much more!


On if Awesome Kong had any part in the name Awesome Kong:

“No, zero, none. My first wrestling name was Vixen, Okay. Oh my Gosh, your first wrestling persona is all the things you have built up in your mind and stole from your favorite wrestling characters. I remember at the tie Trish Stratus being the chick, and I had just gotten off this wright loss show. I had this figure going on, so I had to get this black spandex on, my hooker boots and my hair down to there and my face beat baby and coming out sweet. My booty is 100% au natural baby, there are no fillers, and I had to go out there and show it. Everyone will tell you that the first one will not work out, but all that indulgence to get out there and work through it before you get to the persona that is right to you.” 

On the reaction to the name Awesome Kong:

“I don't know if you heard the story of my first name, it was Amazing Kong. So I am training at the new Japan Dojo in Santa Monica, and they are training me for my first show out there in Japan. Shinsuke Nakamura, when he is brand new, was there on a rotation, they would rotate some of the new boys in and out of the USA. I walk in and he points at me like ‘Amazing Kong!’ And I’m like what did you [just say?] Wait a minute, is that what they do in Japan, they just point at black people and call them Kong? You can’t do that! You are in the USA now, let me teach you some manners. Once we got the miscommunication out of the way where he showed me a magazine where there was a press conference where they had announced that Amazing Kong was coming to be the main event of that show that they got coming up. So I’m like OK, they didn’t tell me or didn’t ask me about that. They didn’t ask me how I felt about exploiting your people essentially playing a Minstrel character. But I don’t think the Japanese promoters understood the context or that this is a lot of nuance. I told them I had to think about it, I was in my apartment in Hollywood. I remember an NWA song came on, and NWA can be NWA, and I could be Karma. I could turn that into something that people would respect, so if the people are here for me, they will be sitting up straighter or respect me, because that is a name that people would respect.” 

On if Awesome Kong found wrestling or if wrestling found her:

“A little bit of both. Fast forward and I am a social worker at a facility called St. Anne’s in Los Angeles for pregnant teenagers. You know, teenagers are already volatile, you add some pregnancy hormones and oh boy! It’s a battle royale every night! We would watch wrestling in the rec room and even though they say don’t do this at home, we would emulate it. Not to the point of contact, but we would cut promos in the hall and if my favorite worker was on the tv my girls would call and I would run. It was a very fun and calming activity for the girls watching a violent show, ironic. So Tough Enough came out, the second season, and my brother in law wanted to try out for it. This was the early days of the internet, he didn’t know how to download an application. So because of where I was working, he asked me to download his application, and I printed one out for myself. So I did, read it, filled it out and sent in a tape, and they called me in for an audition. There was a line that was 2 days and the wait time was 18 hours. I was right behind Kenny King before he was Kenny King, we bonded on that day, so when his name got called I was so happy.”

On the Tough Enough audition:

“They told to us to initially that we had to come up with a promo and then we would come up with some physical stuff in the ring. Then when they had us do the physical stuff, they told us they had to do a kip up, which I had to learn what that was. This was an 18 hour process where we had to stand in the line, but it was over 2 days. So me, Kenny, a guy that looked like a rip-off of The Rock, a girl that was friends with Stacy Kiebler but had fallen out with her, I don’t know there was some drama there. My mom went with me and got all the tea from her. We went and made a trip of it and I got  a suite at Caesars Palace. So we went to my suite and we are all trying to learn the kip-up. Even though I was a big girl I was very athletic at the time, and I learned how to do it. It was hard on the abs but I got it. However, when we got in the ring, they had me do the physical stuff first, rolling around, jumping jacks, and we had to do the kip-up last. So you are blown up and then have to do this difficult move. By the time that came around, I hadn’t impressed anyone, I was a fish out of water. When it came time to do the promo, I was proud of my promo, because I had come from acting. So I can’t remember the whole promo, but the last line was ‘Hell has no fury like a woman scorned!’ I was proud of myself, but it was like crickets. All of the judges were like, we don’t know what to do with this, and JR was like ok, bye. I was like what? No, no, I’m not going anywhere! I just dragged my raggedy ass from LA and through the mountains to get here and I spent my last cheque on a suite! I put it all in because I am going to be a millionaire! I’m like you at least need to ask me one or 2 questions. JR asked me some questions, I can’t remember the first one but it was a snarky one. But then Bob Holly was there and was like ‘No I find her interesting and I want to ask her some questions.’ And then that engaged the rest of the judges, and we got to talking. JR, bless his heart at the time, it was like ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think a girl your size can make it in wrestling. You are too big to make it in wrestling and will never make it.’ I was like what?! He was like ‘You will never make it in WWE, you are too big.’ He was gracious enough to not use the word fat, but I didn’t think I was fat, I thought I was thick. I had the build back then of Megan Thee Stallion, or she has the build of me back then. But that was the fire, remember that 200 bitches hated on me back in high school. My clapback was ‘You will kneel because I am going to be your queen!’ ‘You’re gonna have to give me flowers.’ JR said that to me on national TV so I had to clap back, but we are friends today and we have reconciled.”

On interacting with JR later:

“He didn’t remember me, but had heard about it from interviews I had done. So I’m sure that people would have brought it up to him. But the first interaction was at Cauliflower Alley Club, we saw each other at CAC and he was very happy that  had proved him wrong. Not only that, but he advocated for my signing to WWE. Him, Stone Cold and Mick Foley, personally contacted Vince McMahon. They had seen my work in TNA, not only that, but WWE contacted me the year before. There was some miscommunication and I went to TNA. What happened was that everyone who sent their best matches to WWE, I was on all of their tapes. So I mean, I never reached out to WWE, I had a plan of what I was going to do. But they called me before the part of me calling them was in my plans. So every time they sent a tape in, they are like who is this?”

On the matches with Gail Kim:

“That was a spark to the inferno that is women’s wrestling. They are not just women but they are workers now doing the deal. No more popcorn underwear matches. They used to put us on second so that the people could get their popcorn. The woman are now demanding and getting more respect. Outside of Gail and I and our programme being successful, I’d like to say I had a lot of influence in women advocating for themselves, because in TNA I would not keep my mouth shut. I just couldn’t understand some of the things that were going on, that’s backwards. You can’t tell me that when Kong and Gail are on TV, and you are telling me that the numbers are spiking every night, you can’t tell me that I am not worth x amount on paper. For example, they would put you through the gauntlet and the maze of asking for a raise or to implement change. One of the times that I asked, I found out what Kurt Angle made. All I was asking for was 1/10th of what he’s making. You look in my eye and tell me that I am not worth 1/10th of Kurt Angle, if you can’t then pay me that, one or the other.”

On leaving TNA the first time around:

“There were a lot of different aspects that would snowball. It was mainly the attitude of that I couldn’t go anywhere else. I can’t remember word for word, but it was along the lines of if you quit, then don’t think that you will be on Raw on Monday, because they ain’t interested. But that wasn’t the point to me, I made big cheddar in Japan. Tokyo ain’t cheap, and Kia was living large in Japan, that kind of burned me up. When I left, I had $70 in my bank account, and they owed me money. They thought that if they starved me out, then I would shut up. But no I am from California, I will sell oranges on the freeway to make my cheddar. I will pluck some hair off of dogs and make me the finest wig! Don’t play with me and think that you got me over a barrel because of some money.”


“Well after losing my baby emotionally and psychologically, I was not in the place physically, emotionally and physiologically to deal with the okie doke. Now I say the okie doke, anybody who has had a WWE contract knows what that is. It is the politics, the mind games, the expectations, the standard that you have to live up to. I’m not saying that it is bad, but it is vigorous, and I wasn’t up for the okie doke. I’m not into playing games, especially with I had gone through what I had gone through. First my mother had gone, cancer, then my grandmother gone, my best friend from high school suddenly, my manager, God rest his soul, gone. Then now my baby has gone, that is a lot of death back to back. I hadn’t taken time off, I was just me being me. The day we buried my mother, I went straight to the airport for Bound for Glory. So it was working, and the way they wanted me to come back was not healthy. I was like you can bring me straight back so I can go into autopilot and work, or let me go somewhere where I can really process all of this. A lot of people like to paint WWE as the villains, but it is not as easy as that, it is very nuanced and archaic. For the most part, they were extremely supportive, they were invested in someone, excited about it, and it didn’t turn out the way that they wanted it to. And of course just my luck, Mystico had to go and fall every damn week. I’m like get it together, Triple H just got this job, you are falling and it’s not looking good right now, this sucks! At the end they asked me what do you need to come back, and I told them what I needed. It was very simple, it wasn’t money, I felt bad that they were still paying me. But no they were going to pay me, and I told them I needed to go to a facility in Colorado, because they wanted me to lose the baby weight. There is a facility where The Biggest Loser people train, it was just a coincidence. It had what I needed to get my physical and emotional wellbeing in alignment so I can go back quickly. I told them and I told them I would pay for it. They called me back and said that they were going to send me down to Florida for a while, and that’s the opposite of what I need! They send me down there to a hotel that was filled with roaches and bed bugs. They do change and send me to a nice place, but it was so not what I needed, it was never going to work.”

On Awesome Kong possibly retiring:

“It was an off and on continuously running thought in my mind. Think of Double Dutch jumping rope, you’ve got to know when to jump. You have to be at peace of knowing when to not continue. Let me put it this way, Awesome Kong retired. I think towards the end of one of the seasons of GLOW when I thought about retiring, but then I went to AEW.”


“AEW they love to give it to you all. They are constantly brewing up what they can do to pop it again. I love what they do to give it to the fans, it always makes you feel so good. It’s something [retirement] that has been brewing for a few years now.”

On The Nightmare Collective:

“Here’s the thing. We had a lot of leaders that have an idea and a vision, but everyone only gets a piece of that vision. Sometimes it doesn’t work. The thing is, I don’t ant to sound like I am bashing the crew over there at AEW, we were just up and running, all new executives and trying to think outside of the box and give it to you all, something new. You reference big moments in wrestling history to put something together, because we had seen it all, so we tried to give you something that you haven't seen. For me, I felt unheard, I felt uncontrolled, I just said that I had X, Y and Z. I couldn’t get into that room where the decisions were made, and believe me I stalked that room. I would stay for the big meetings, pick up the water bottles and be like ‘anything you need?’ I tired to get into that meeting where decisions were made, but never had a chance to. After a while I am like that’s not going to happen, I’m not so pushy. It’s out of my control, if I had my control, give me 15 minutes of every show saying that this is Kia’s 15 minutes of fame! Go out there and steal the show from the boys.”

On IMPACT owning the name Awesome Kong:

“Yeah but they gave it to me. I owned it, they put me through the ringer, it’s the least that they could do, it was good karma.”

On what Awesome Kong is grateful for:

“Feeling blessed, my loved ones are in a state of health and I am not content.”