Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
My options with Kayfabe Commentaries for a review piece were very interesting: go with a woman I have a lot of respect for, who has an Old School mentality, and who has talent galore; or go with a man who’s disdain for the professional wrestling industry is well documented.
Despite the suggestion from Sean Oliver that the Vince Russo DVD is more animated than any other he’s done, and likely the last, I opted to hold off on watching that one.
Because in the end, I’m far more of an Amazing Kong fan, and her controversies are a bit more interesting to me and for this week, I was far more interested in hearing her story instead of getting riled up about a lot of things.
Ironically, a walk down the recent history of Amazing Kong is a walk down a lot of frustrating history, and even more ironically, the paths of Kong and Russo do intersect, and they furthermore intersect in that dreaded three letters of doom often referred to as “that national alternative”.
Even though, ironically, there is no alternative in that product.
Kia Stevens, of course, is probably best known as Kharma in her brief but tumultuous stint with the WWE, and also ran wild as Awesome Kong. She was trained in Japan, held numerous Women’s World Championships, a few Tag Team Championships, and is only one of a few women to participate in the WWE’s Royal Rumble.
My recollections of Kong in the ring, is one of a powerful, talented, imposing figure.
In typical Old School fashion, she has an aversion to talking, and the one thing that strikes me from watching the DVD is that, as a powerful, talented, imposing figure, her pleasant voice and pleasnant demeanor absolutely precludes her from a speaking role.
No offense to her (and I’m hoping none taken!)
What did fascinate me was that Kia Stephens said that she never figured out the voice of Amazing Kong. A lot of that was because she was trained in Japan, didn’t know the language well (but apparently learned it well over time) and was never comfortable with a speaking role.
When she was established, in the States, it comes as no surprise that when pushed to speak, she was told that her voice should be “deeper”…. well, yeah.
The mystique of having a large, talented, African-American woman in a non-speaking role, especially when her facial expressions are so … well … awesome, it seems foolish that anyone would want her talking. Then again, we’re dealing with a modern version of professional wrestling, which is many ages removed from Old School, which really means it comes as no surprise that the first thing “Creative” would want is to move away from that mystique and level out the exceptional positives of the character.
Weirdly enough, she touts the Iron Sheik as an early favorite, which plays into the perceptions raised by a few notable controversies over the past few years. In the early portion of the DVD (well, I did watch Online) it started making me wonder if she was working or emulating, that favorite, instead of JYD.
Perceptions are always clouded by the negative. Over the past few years, it would be hard not to think of Kong as an angry, controversial figure, likely one that could be set off like a time bomb. Her situation with TNA, culminating with whatever happened (well, it is explained here) with Bubba the Love Sponge and her release from that company suggested a lot of potential problems.
Her stint with the WWE, and surrounding stories about her personal life, only added fuel to such speculation.
But here, Kia Stephen’s pleasant voice and demeanor was an exceptional surprise, and as the interview (and series of blue screen skits played out) she maintained a demeanor, level of integrity and really and truly a conversation with both Sean Oliver and the viewing audience like few other YouShoot participants.
She even lets loose a “valley girl” riff that, in retrospect, seems like either showing a very vulnerable side, or one more layer to her fascinating personality.
In Kayfabe Commentary staples (“Ho Bag” for one), Stevens doesn’t just show a reluctance to name names and call out people she disliked (apparently she likes a lot of coworkers), but what was amazing was her facial expressions and very informative pauses about one name in particular. And her friendly jesting at a few names she does name.
OK, well, let’s just name Dixie Carter as the person she obviously had the biggest reaction towards.
But considering her departure from TNA, is that hard to comprehend?
Kong goes into great detail with the whole Bubba the Love Sponge situation, after the Hurricane/Haiti comments by the “Friend of Hogan” who happened to find himself involved with TNA backstage stuff around that time. It was definitely interesting to hear that Stevens was introduced to Bubba (that one, not the other one) by Hogan, and she blames herself for not immediately expressing herself, blames Hogan for not particularly explaining things (which suggests a little more to the story) and then blames the Love Sponge for going into a “fetal position” instead of hitting back.
Well, that was a comment that suggested a lot more to talk about.
The big question for Kia Stevens is one that is best viewed and best handled by someone who does want to get into her own personal lives, and as a reviewer I’m not exactly comfortable commenting on what was going on during that WWE stint.
It’s definitely something that speaks to her to even put herself in a position to be talking about it.
Amazing, Awesome Kong is a wrestler decidedly of the Old School mentality, and like most wrestlers of that mentality, there’s a definite line that won’t get crossed. Kia Stevens goes out of her way to defend the industry and the obviously brutal training and expectations of the All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling promotion she started with.
Her comments about that era, her utmost respect for Ayako Hamada and others, and how that training impacted her over the years all goes back to Old School, Old School and more Old School.
Kia Stevens makes ever word interesting, ever story fascinating and her personality and professionalism is all the more understandable, even when working and that pleasant demeanor can conflict.
But again, the vibe is there about her integrity, and the stories about the WWE, TNA and the indies are the stuff for any student of the industry, and especially anyone who’s followed the women’s scene for the past decade plus.