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Michael Lee Alfonso (January 24, 1965 – February 17, 2007), better known by his ring name Mike Awesome, was an Americanmarker professional wrestler best known in America for his work in Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling, and in World Wrestling Entertainment and also in Japan for his work with Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling under the name The Gladiator. Throughout his wrestling career, Awesome became a two-time world champion, winning the ECW World Heavyweight Championship twice.

Professional wrestling career

Training and debut

Alfonso grew up with Michael Bollea. As a result of Awesome's aunt (his father's sister) marrying Hulk Hogan's brother, Awesome and Bollea (the future Horace Hogan) were cousins and the two began to consider a career in wrestling during Hulk Hogan's famous WWF run in the 1980s. Alfonso received training from Steve Keirn's training camp based out of the Pro Wrestling Federation (PWF). After wrestling for the PWF in 1989, teaming occasionally with Brett Sawyer, Alfonso moved around throughout various independent promotions, including a brief stint in the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) under the tutelage of Nate The Rat, a manager there. In that same year, he made his first television appearance for World Championship Wrestling—as a masked jobber from San Juan, Puerto Ricomarker named The Pro.

FMW and ECW (1990–2000)

Alfonso moved on to Japan, joining Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) in September 1990 and using the name The Gladiator. In 1993, he joined forces with Ricky Fuji, Big Titan, and Dr. Luther in the original Team Canada stable; the stable disbanded in 1994.

In 1993, Alfonso appeared in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) for a short period (as "Awesome" Mike Awesome) before returning to FMW. In 1994, the Gladiator captured his first title, teaming with Big Titan to defeat Atsushi Onita and Katsutoshi Niyama in the finals of the FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship Tournament. They lost the title that April, but Awesome won them again with new partner Mr. Pogo in October. As the Gladiator, he faced and defeated Hayabusa for his first major singles title, the FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship in September of 1995, but was forced to vacate it due to a legitimate injury the next February. In May 1996 he won the title for a second time, then unified it with the FMW Independent Heavyweight Championship after defeating W*ING Kanemura in that December. The next August, teaming with Hisakatsu Ooya and Mr. Gannosuke he won the vacated FMW World Street Fight 6-Man Tag-Team Titles, holding all three belts at once, but within a month lost all three during a feud with Masato Tanaka.

In January, 1998, Awesome began appearing for ECW again and continued his feud with Masato Tanaka in the United States. Awesome began in ECW by losing to Tanaka on an episode ECW's weekly Hardcore TV. However, following the match, he delivered an Awesome Bomb to Tanaka over the top rope through a table set up on the outside. In his final appearance of his second ECW stint, Awesome lost to Tanaka again at the August Heat Wave pay-per-view event.

After returning to Japan, Alfonso seriously injured his knee during a match with Super Leather, taking him out of wrestling for nearly a year. When he returned, he continued to wrestle as The Gladiator for a brief period in All Japan Pro Wrestling before returning to ECW. Almost immediately upon arriving in ECW for his third stint in September, 1999, he shocked the wrestling world by winning the ECW World Heavyweight Championship at Anarchy Rulz by defeating the reigning champion Tazz(who prefers it spelled Taz) and arch nemesis Masato Tanaka in a three-way dance, which was signed on the spot. Awesome continued to be a major factor in ECW early in 2000, including teaming with Raven to beat Tanaka and Tommy Dreamer for the ECW World Tag Team Championship. He also gained a new manager, Judge Jeff Jones.

World Championship Wrestling (2000–2001)

In April 2000, Awesome made a surprise appearance on WCW Monday Nitro—aiding The New Blood by attacking Kevin Nash—while still reigning as ECW World Champion. Awesome's friend Lance Storm has said that he had refused to sign a new contract with ECW until Paul Heyman paid him overdue wages. Due to concern over legal issues WCW refrained from having Awesome appear on their television shows with the ECW belt. Eventually, a compromise was reached. Awesome (a WCW employee and ECW champion) appeared at an ECW event, accompanied by WCW's head of security, where he lost the title to Tazz (a World Wrestling Federation employee), who lost it a week later to Tommy Dreamer (a full time ECW wrestler).

Now with WCW, Awesome continued to be a major factor with the New Blood for the next month, teaming with Billy Kidman occasionally to aide him in his feud with Hulk Hogan. Awesome also engaged in an on-and-off feud with Kevin Nash, as well as feuding with Diamond Dallas Page and Kanyon. In May 2000, Awesome threw Kanyon off the top of the first level of a triple cage onto the entrance ramp, which started his "Career Killer" gimmick.

During Mid 2000, his gimmick was tweaked, with him becoming infatuated with heavyset women and calling himself "The Fat Chick Thriller" Mike Awesome, and feuded with Scott Steiner and Lance Storm for the WCW United States Championship

On the September 6th, 2000 edition of Thunder, Awesome changed his gimmick and became "That '70s Guy" Mike Awesome (a reference to the hit TV series, That '70s Show), dressing in various 1970s inspired outfits and hosting the "Lava Lamp Lounge" interview segment. At one point, he was even given a bus painted in the style of the one featured on The Partridge Family to drive into arenas for his entrance. During this time, he had a feud with Vampiro, which created many brawls between Awesome and Vampiro's allies, the Insane Clown Posse. At one point, Awesome battled Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J in a Handicap match.

On the January 3rd, 2001 edition of Thunder, Awesome dropped the '70s gimmick in favor of a "Canadian Career Killer" gimmick and joined WCW's Team Canada stable with Lance Storm and Elix Skipper. A feud with the Filthy Animals led to Awesome challenging Billy Kidman to a Hair-vs-Hair match, on January 15th, however before the bout could take place, Team Canada attacked Kidman backstage leaving him unable to compete. Konnan (who had no hair) took his place and got the win, giving the Animals the right to cut off Awesome's long-time mullet. Awesome then faded into the background, mostly helping Storm in his battles against Ernest "The Cat" Miller. On the final Nitro on March 26th, 2001 Awesome and Storm were defeated by Chuck Palumbo and Sean O'Haire in a WCW World Tag Team Championship match.

World Wrestling Federation / Entertainment (2001–2002)

After the March 2001 purchase of WCW by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Awesome became part of The Invasion storyline in the WWF. His WWF debut came on the June 25, 2001 episode of Raw is War during a match which saw Test defending his Hardcore Championship against Rhyno. After Rhyno Gored Test against a wall and pinned him he stood celebrating his new title only to be attacked by Awesome wielding a metal pipe. He then powerbombed Rhyno onto a ladder and pinned him, becoming champion himself due to the 24/7 rule. Awesome was the first "Invader" to gain gold in the WWF, stealing away with the Hardcore belt before any WWF wrestlers could catch him. Awesome's hardcore reign came to an end a few weeks later on the July 12 edition of SmackDown! when he was pinned by Jeff Hardy.

Awesome and Lance Storm were defeated by Edge and Christian at WWF Invasion, Awesome's first WWF Pay-per-view match. From here Awesome's push slowly declined after that and he began appearing mostly on WWF's B-shows. He was left off the majority of the Invasion storyline pay-per-views and was eventually sidelined with an injury in November 2001.

Awesome returned to the SmackDown! brand on the July 27, 2002 edition of Velocity where he was defeated by Tajiri. Awesome was a mainstay on SmackDown's B-Show, Velocity for the next 2 months jobbing to wrestlers such as Faarooq, Bull Buchanan, Mark Henry and Funaki.

He was eventually released on September 27th, 2002 along with Shawn Stasiak and Horace Hogan. In RD Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez's book, The Death of WCW, Awesome was quoted saying "Being in the WWE (formerly the WWF) sucked. I hated it. You had to kiss everybody's ass... You had to be on your political toes all the time. You would not believe the backstage politics. You were getting stabbed in the back constantly. I was so happy when I was told I was gone [fired]."

Independent circuit (2002–2006)

After his release, Awesome made a few appearances in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling but mainly competed on the independent circuit in both the United States and Japan. On the independent circuit, he had a short stint with Major League Wrestling where he won the MLW World Heavyweight Championship from Satoshi Kojima, only to lose it ten minutes later to Steve Corino (Kojima's employers, AJPW would not allow him to drop the title to an employee of a rival company Zero-1).

Awesome made an appearance at the WWE's 2005 ECW One Night Stand reunion pay-per-view, again facing Masato Tanaka. Throughout the match, Joey Styles (who was doing commentary) frequently made references to the way Awesome left ECW in 2000, calling him a "Judas" and making somewhat disparaging comments about him. The crowd also greeted Awesome with jeers at the beginning of the match, but by the end—which Awesome won after Awesome Bombing Tanaka to the outside of the ring and through a table and following that up with a slingshot splash—were chanting "This match rules!" and gave both men a standing ovation.

In February 2006, after 17 years in the ring, Awesome announced his retirement from wrestling, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family and adding that he felt underpaid for his work at the One Night Stand event and that he would only return to the ring "if the money was right".

Personal life

On May 11, 1991, he married Delisa Bowers, and they had two children together, a son Casey who was born in 1996, and a daughter Carissa who was born in 2000. He enjoyed mountain biking and would ride frequently at Alafia River State Park in Florida, close to his Tampa home. Days before his death, his wife had asked for a divorce, which allegedly resulted in an altercation between Alfonso and his wife.

Death

On February 17, 2007, at around 10:30 p.m, a group of Awesome's friends found him hanged in his Tampa home. It is believed he committed suicide. He was 42 years old. WWE recognized Awesome's death on-air by displaying an "In Memory..." graphic at the beginning of the February 20, 2007 edition of ECW on Sci Fi, and an article about his death was posted on WWE.com, saying that Awesome was found dead but omitting the cause of death.

In wrestling





  • Nicknames
    • "The Gladiator"
    • "That '70s Guy"
    • "The Fat Chick Thriller"
    • "The Canadian Killer"
    • "The Career Killer"




Championships and accomplishments



References

  1. Mike Awesome career highlights
  2. The Wrestling Gospel Mike Mooneyham 25 February 2007
  3. History of the Hardcore Championship


External links




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