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My Take On 2.20.07: RIP Mike “Awesome” Alfonso

February 20, 2007 | Posted by Larry Csonka

A look at the career of Mike “Awesome” Alfonso

Mike “Awesome” Alfonso entered wrestling through Steve Keirn’s training camp. Supposedly he and Horace Hogan are cousins and entered the business at the same time, but Hogan went to the Malenko training camp. Awesome would train in Keirn’s PWF and tag with Bert Sawyer for a short time before moving on. His early work saw him shortly in the USWA, as well as in WCW under a hood known as “The Pro,” hailing from Puerto Rico. But the US Wrestling scene wasn’t panning out for Awesome so he headed to Japan, in what would be the best decision of his career.

Awesome would join up with the upstart FMW promotion, and be known as “The Gladiator.” Awesome would join with Boulder, Big Titan, and Mike Starr to form the Puerto Rican Army. He also spent time in the Sheik’s Army, Team Canada, Lethal Weapon, and the Funk Masters of Wrestling while in FWM, all the while making a name for himself as a title contender as well as good big man worker. In late 1993 he made a return to the US and worked some dates for ECW under the Mike Awesome name.

But Japan called and in 1994 he was back with FMW and won his first title, the Brass Knuckles Tag Titles with Big Titan. He would hold the belts three times over the next year or so with Titan and Mr. Pogo. Awesome was making his name a sound and dependable one for the company, and in September of 1995 he won the Brass Knuckles Title in a match against Hayabusa, a match which displayed to many exactly what Mike Awesome had to offer. Unfortunately for Awesome his run would end in five months due to injures.

In May of 1996 Awesome returned from injury, and was just as good as ever. He won back the title he never lost, holding it for over a year this time and also unified it with the FMW Independent Title, which he won with W*ING Kanemura. In August of 1997 he added another title to his resume as he World Street Fight 6-Man Tag-Team Titles. But all would come to an end as he would start losing the titles is some form to Masato Tanaka. The feud with Masato Tanaka was officially underway, and as they say, “the stuff of legend was born.” Awesome and Tanaka would keep feuding and in 1998 took their feud to the US and ECW. They faced off at Heat Wave 1998, with Tanaka getting the win. As Tanaka returned to FMW, he suffered another injury to his knee, which would place him out of wrestling for a year, and at the time he contemplated retirement.

In September of 1999 Awesome returned to ECW and interrupted the show. Tanaka was set to battle Tazz for the ECW Title, but Awesome got inserted into the match and it was on. Tazz would lose to both men and was eliminated from the match, leaving Awesome and Tanaka to battle for the title. Awesome then put Tanaka through a table and this chapter of their feud was over as Awesome stood tall with the ECW. Awesome would hold onto the belt for three months, battling Tanaka all the way and even losing the title to him for a few short days before winning it back. In early 2000 Awesome and Raven would win the ECW Tag Titles, for a week before dropping them to the Impact Players (Storm and Credible). Awesome was still the ECW champion, the top man in the company, but that was about to change.

According to Lance Storm: The true story is that Mike was owed a significant amount of money from ECW and he refused to sign his contract until he received all money due him. After repeatedly not receiving money promised him Mike accepted an offer from WCW that offered his family financial security. I’m not sure there is anyone in the business that would have done differently.

With that being said, controversy would now surround Mike Awesome as he would go and sign a WCW contract; while still the ECW Champion. He debuted on Nitro as part of the New Blood angle and attacked Kevin Nash. Problem was he still was contracted to WCW. After much work by WCW, they were able to buy out the contract and Awesome was a WCW property, but he had to first drop the ECW Title. In what can only be described as an odd situation, WCW wrestler and ECW champion Mike Awesome, accompanied by WCW Security man Doug Dillinger would defend that title against WWF Wrestler Tazz. WWF loaned Tazz to ECW to aid in the situation, and he would win the ECW Title from Awesome, who then exited through the crowd to avoid the ECW locker room, as they were none to happy with him. Tazz was treated as the hero for returning to help his old stomping grounds.

With the ECW controversy behind him, Awesome was set to dominate WCW. Spring Stampede 2000 he was a mystery man in the tournament for the vacant US Title. Nash would return that night and cost Awesome his match against Steiner, who would eventually win the title that night, and would continue to feud on and off with Nash as well as Kanyon. In a memorable moment, he would toss Kanyon off of the first level of the triple cage (famous from the movie Ready to Rumble) and was then dubbed the Career Killer.

DDP and Awesome would then move into a feud, and it culminated in an Ambulance Match at the Great American Bash 2000. When it looked like he had DDP defeated, Kanyon, who was watching on, rose from his wheelchair and attacked his friend DDP and cost him the match. Awesome would then feud against the man he lost to at Spring Stampede for the WCW US Title, in the end of their Bash at the Beach 2000 match Steiner was tripped of the US Title for illegally using the Recliner, which crooked commissioner “The Cat” outlawed.

But Awesome wasn’t out of the US Title hunt, July of 2000 saw a one-night tournament for the vacant US Title. Awesome took out Kanyon, destroyed the Great Muta but lost to Lance Storm in the finals of that Tournament. Storm renamed the title the Canadian Heavyweight Title and that on top of the loss didn’t set well with Awesome. He would challenge Storm at the New Blood Rising 2000 show. Jacques Rougeau was the special referee and in what was possibly one of the most contrived set of rules ever, Awesome won the match with a three count and then a dragon sleeper but was told he needed a 5-count and that submissions weren’t allowed. In the end he lost the match, and his career in WCW seemed to go down the drain.

It was at this time that Awesome started a new persona, to the 70’s Guy/Fat Chick Thriller and he even got an interview segment called “The Lava Lamp Lounge.” He would feud with Jarrett, Bam Bam Bigelow, Vampiro and ICP. But this was a disastrous time for him, and finally in November of 2000 he was able to drop the gimmick as he and Bam Bam Bigelow began to feud again. He and Bigelow had an ambulance match at Starrcade 2000, which Awesome won, and he seemed to be back on track.

But it was time to change up Awesome yet again, and he would join former nemesis Lance storm’s Team Canada, even though he wasn’t Canadian and feuded with Storm just months earlier, welcome to the dying days of WCW. And Team Canada would feud with the Filthy Animals, and after losing a hair match Awesome would lose the long time mullet that was a trademark of his. Awesome would basically end up being muscle for Storm and do nothing of note until the two tagged, going for the tag team titles. Awesome and Storm would tag together on the final Monday Nitro, challenging for the tag titles, which they failed to win.

With WCW sold to WWF, Mike Awesome accepted his contract buy out and became part of the WWF. He would be involved in a big way early on in the Invasion Angle, even sneaking into the building and “stealing” a win for the WWF Hardcore Title. He would team with Lance Storm (who fired the first shot in the Invasion), reforming their WCW tag team and were a part of the Alliance as ECW joined the ballet against WWF. The injury bug would hit Awesome and he would be off of TV for a while. He came back through the developmental system, ready to go and even had a warm up match on Velocity with Farooq, earning the victory. One month after that match, creative had “nothing for him” and he was released.

Some wonder why he never got over or got a real chance in WWF. Some say it was the influence of Paul Heyman on the writing team, others think he was doomed because he wasn’t as big as he was perceived in ECW and WCW. Another theory is that the Undertaker put the bad mouth on him, due to Awesome not going by proper “Locker Room Etiquette.” With his brief WWF career over, Awesome returned to Japan, a place where he found his early success. He formed a short-term partnership with Bryan Clarke, but it never really went anywhere. In 2003 Awesome found work in the fledgling TNA and MLW promotions. He also made appearances for Jersey All Pro and Hustle in Japan, keeping his name out there, but he wasn’t the performer he once was and many people wrote him off as being done.

Awesome’s last big national exposure was during the first ECW One Night Stand PPV. He was brought into face long time nemesis Masato Tanaka. This match is remembered for these men having the best match on the PPV, silencing his critics in a true throwback to their battles through FMW and the original ECW. Also it is remembered for the scathing commentary by Joey Styles, literally burying the man for the way he left the promotion. The commentary was so negative that color man Mick Foley tried to derail it many times to no avail.

Early in 2006 Mike Awesome announced his retirement from wrestling. The years in the ring combined with the style he worked as a larger man took its toll on his knees, and it was finally enough. He took a regular job and just lived life away from the business. On February 17th, Mike Awesome was found dead in his home, having apparently hung himself. He was 42.

My Take On Mike Awesome Alfonso
While never making it big in WCW or WWE, Mike Awesome had a very eventful and successful career. Awesome was always being credited for being able to work like a high flyer or a heavyweight, which allowed him to have good matches with anyone from Tanaka to Hayabusa. I won’t lie to you and proclaim him to be an all time favorite of mine, but I will say that I was a big fan of the Tanaka vs. Awesome feud, as they created some great matches together, whether is singles or tag team wars.

While Awesome never got the shot in WCW or WWE, due to back gimmicks or “politics” he made a mark on the business, especially to fans of the FMW promotion. The circumstances of his death are unfortunate. No one knows as of now why he decided to take his life, and I will not be one to preach on the morality of the situation. In the end it is a sad situation in that, for whatever reason, another wrestler has died way too young. I truly hate writing these things.


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Rest in Peace
Mike “Awesome” Alfonso
1965-2007

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Larry Csonka
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