Those who only know Awesome Kong from her time in TNA only know part of her story.
The 5-foot-9 California native Kia Stevens was trained by Jesse Hernandez of the School of Hard knocks in San Bernardino, Calif. She quickly debuted for Hernandez's Empire Wrestling Federation, and soon caught the eye of All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling.
In AJW, she trained in the dojo and began working for the Japanese promotion in October 2002 as the Amazing Kong.
Kong talked about her training in Japan in an interview with Fighting Females magazine. "[I]n Japan it's an occupation and you're there from sunrise to sundown training and we had matches so often you get a flow going. You get into a groove faster, you realize your mistakes faster and you can fix them faster so you don't make those mistakes again," she said.
Championships followed, including the AJW's WWWA World Heavyweight Championship in late 2004 (beating Ayako Hamada). An inspired pairing happened as well, with Amazing Kong teaming with Japanese legend Aja Kong -- Double Kong; the duo held several Japanese tag team titles together before going their separate ways.
Natalya Neidhart met Kong in Japan, and found her to be more than expected.
"On my very first trip to Japan she was probably the most inspiring person I worked with. She just made me take everything Iíve ever learned in professional wrestling, from every different angle, from everyone Iíve ever worked with, men women my coaches, my trainers," Neidhart said. "I had a match with her on my last day and wrestling with her just made me take everything Iíve learned and put it in that one match. Because I needed it all. The way I felt after that match made it worth it to me to live in Japan and stay in Japan for that one experience because she pushed me to every level."
Kong's reign in Japan continued into 2007, as she was AWA Superstars of Wrestling World Women's Champion.
In North America, Kong arrived in the women's promotion SHIMMER with a serious impact, taking on top names like MsChif, Nikki Roxx (Roxxi Laveaux), Cheerleader Melissa, Daizee Haze and Sara Del Rey.
On May 5, 2007, Kong knocked off MsChif to claim the NWA Women's World title, and she would hold the belt almost for a year, losing it back to MsChif.
When Kong arrived in TNA on October 11, 2007, she became even more awesome, redubbed Awesome Kong. Immediately, she was cast into a feud with Gail Kim over the newly-created Knockouts title. The two meshed beautifully and their matches were among the best of various Impacts and pay-per-views. Kim held off the challenge of Kong, including an incredible No DQ match at the Final Resolution PPV in January 2008.
Gail Kim was a fan of working with Kong, even though it left her feeling "like Iíve gotten hit by a truck after a match."
"Itís the perfect David and Goliath feud," Kim once said. "Sheís an amazing heel; she is a monster. I love the physicality. She came from working in Japan all those years, and I love it."
At the rematch on the January 10th edition of Impact, Kong had a mysterious new associate, dressed in a burkha, later known as Raisha Saeed (actually Cheerleader Melissa Anderson). It was enough to put Kong over the top, finally claiming the Knockouts belt.
Kong continued to defend the title against the likes of Gail Kim, O.D.B. and Roxxi Laveaux. She also made a foray into the men's side of the TNA roster, participating in the Deuces Wild Tag Team Tournament, where she was randoming paired with BG James. The unlikely do lost in the tournament's first round to A.J. Styles and Super Eric.
In May, Kong and Saeed issued a $25,000 challenge, and faced planted members of the audience. It was a good build for a feud with Taylor Wilde, who ended up beating Kong for the Knockouts title -- and the $25,000 -- on the July 10th episode of Impact. Months later, October 23rd, Kong regained the belt on Impact from Wilde.
After pushing aside the challenge of Christy Hemme and Sojourner Bolt, the long build began to Kong's babyface turn. On the April 16, 2009 edition of Impact, The Beautiful People (Angelina Love and Velvet Sky) cut Kong's hair. At Lockdown, Kong faced Love and Wilde in a three-way bout for the Knockouts belt, and Love emerged with the title. An angry Kong would decimate Beautiful People Velvet Sky, Madison Rayne and Cute Kip in stretcher matches, but Love retained the title.
Taking time off from the title chase, Kong was hired by Survivor grad Jenna Morasca to train her for her wrestling debut against Sharmell at Victory Road. It wasn't a stint that Kong will be likely to list on a resume, as the match was an atrocity.
Up next were battles with Tara (formerly WWE diva Victoria) and a tag team pairing with Ayako Hamada that resulted in Knockouts tag team gold.
A regime change in TNA brought in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Hogan acolyte Bubba the Love Sponge clashed with Kong backstage -- word was that she knocked him out for disparaging comments about the earthquake in Haiti. From there, her career in TNA derailed, with a suspension followed by the tag team titles being stripped. By mid-March, Stevens had received her official release -- at her request -- from TNA.
As for the future, Kong will continue to be involved in the women's mix abroad.
-- compiled by Greg Oliver
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