In the spring of 2000, the reigning ECW Champion made a surprise debut in WCW on the April 10 edition of Monday Nitro. He was a big man, standing 6’6″ and tipping the scales at nearly 300 lbs, but he was as quick and as agile as a cat. He was buzzy, debuting for a rival promotion while still carrying Extreme Championship Wrestling’s top prize. Perhaps most importantly, he was mean, having left a path of destruction in his wake at every stop he made during his career. His name was Mike Awesome, and he was a can’t miss superstar who missed and missed hard.
Things started all right for Awesome in WCW as the big man took on a “career killer” gimmick shortly after his debut, the result of throwing Kanyon off the top of a cage and putting him out of action for a while. It didn’t take long, however, for things to take a turn for the worse. A couple of months into his tenure with the Georgia-based promotion, Awesome watched as things went to hell at Bash at the Beach 2000. In an infamous kayfabe-shattering moment, Jeff Jarrett laid down in the middle of the ring and allowed Hulk Hogan to pin him. The circumstances surrounding the incident are still disputed today, but that’s a story for another time. The reason it bears mentioning now is that Mike Awesome was a relative of Hulk Hogan’s through marriage, and after Hogan left the company on such bad terms, it’s widely believed that Vince Russo took his aggressions out on Awesome, saddling him with gimmicks that were failures by design.
Before you knew it, Mike Awesome’s gimmick of “career killer” was replaced by that of “fat chick thriller.” Often accompanied to the ring by Rhonda Sing, who was now known as Nitro Girl Beef (can’t make this up, folks), Awesome’s entire gimmick was as shallow as it sounds – he liked big women. When the fat chick thriller failed to get over the way the career killer had started to, Russo and the powers that be in WCW made another change to Mike Awesome’s character. Somehow, almost unbelievably, it wasn’t much of an improvement. That 70’s Guy was born.
Driving to the ring in a bus akin to that of the Partidge Family’s – appropriately referred to as “That 70’s Bus” – Mike Awesome feathered his trademark mullet and donned pastel colored bellbottoms as part of his character’s repackaging. As mentioned earlier, part of what had made Awesome so successful to this point was his mean streak. Audiences had watched this man decimate Masato Tanaka with steel chairs in ECW, and fans of the hardcore variety were familiar with the trademark nastiness he displayed in Japan years prior. That was all gone now, and to Mike Awesome, everything was “groovy.” As That 70’s Guy, Awesome’s most memorable feud came against the Insane Clown Posse, which alone speaks volumes to his position in the company. Somehow, after a small coup that landed WCW the ECW Champion, an international star with proven drawing power, the ball was dropped. Awesome’s character was neutered with the advent of his “vintage” persona, and despite rechristening him as a career killer later in his WCW tenure, the damage had been done. Mike Awesome was a fat chick thrilling 70’s guy, and nothing could undo that.
Unfortunately, Awesome is no longer with us, as he passed away in 2007. We once ran a retrospective on his career as part of our bygone Dead Wrestler Wednesday feature, which you can check out here for more information on the big guy.