Kia Stevens is a name you may not recognize but wrestling fans will know her as, Awesome Kong, Amazing Kong and Kharma.
She is one of the best female wrestlers to step foot inside the squared circle and causes destruction wherever she goes. Kia began her wrestling career in Japan and wrestled female wrestling legend Aja Kong on numerous occasions.
The 35-year-old grappler from Carson, California then came back to America and joined TNA where she had a memorable feud with Gail Kim and was a two-time Knockout champion and also held the Knockouts tag team titles.
Kia then made her debut in WWE after a massive build-up but her stint in WWE was short-lived, however, she did return during the 2012 Royal Rumble match.
We caught up with Kia to talk about her time in Japan, beating up the Japanese Justin Bieber, wrestling in TNA, working with Triple H and if we will ever see her in WWE again plus much more.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
It started off as a joke that went too far, WWE at the time was doing Tough Enough and my brother in law wanted to participate and he had me download the application form and I decided I would turn one in as well.
I then got invited out to Las Vegas, but I didn’t make it through and that is where the infamous interaction between Jim Ross and myself took place [Jim Ross told Kia she was too fat to be a diva] which sparked a fire in me to become a wrestler by any means.
Were you always a fan of wrestling whilst growing up?
Growing up it was actually my younger brother that was the wrestling fan in the household and he would actually torture me! Not that many people would believe it now but I was a shy child and my brother used to put me in the Boston Crab or the Camel Clutch.
I then got the idea to start watching wrestling myself up in my room on a Saturday morning and I got to learn some of the moves, then the next time he came at me I was able to counter his moves and from then on we had a mutual respect and enjoyed watching wrestling together.
Who were some of your favourite wrestlers when growing up?
I liked watching guys like, Junkyard Dog, Nikolai Volkoff, the original Sheik of course, ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude, Ricky Steamboat, Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant for sure, all those wrestlers back in the eighties we enjoyed immensely.
You first started wrestling over in Japan, how aware were you of Japanese wrestling and what made you decide to go over to Japan?
I didn’t realise that there was a women’s wrestling scene in Japan and I didn’t know anything about professional wrestling scene over there except that sumo wrestling came from Japan.
My decision to head over to Japan was just blind faith and I gave myself five years to make it in this business and I was going to give it my all. If that meant uprooting myself and moving to Japan that is what I was going to do and that’s what I did as it was an opportunity that I could not turn down.
You were given the name Amazing Kong in Japan, seeing how big a star Aja Kong was in Japan, what did it mean to be given the Kong name?
There is a funny story, there was a big show in Okazaki and it was supposed to be Yumiko Hotta versus Aja Kong. Well on the card they had Yumiko Hotta versus A. Kong, there was a contractual dispute with Aja so they scouted America and found me, they got the bright idea to bring me in as Amazing Kong and that way they were still fulfilling the fact that A. Kong was going to be on the card.
That was my first match in a main event in Japan; I had only had two matches EVER before that, so I was on an extreme fast track to learn the craft. It was a learn as you go kind of deal, I was thrown out there, kind of like when you throw a kid in the swimming pool when teaching them how to swim, that’s what happened with me in wrestling.
Everything that people experienced when I got to TNA, the look etc. was evolved in Japan, that whole character I had down to a tee by the time I arrived back in America.
You and Aja formed a tag team in the Hustle promotion where we got to see a different side of you as Margaret, what was that like?
We wore these tutus, I had a yellow tutu and Aja had a pink tutu with yellow polka dots, I would come out to the ring with flowers and pass them out to people and smile and giggle. With Margaret, I kind of modelled her on Lenny from Of Mice and Men, sweet simple girl but didn’t know her own strength.
I also understand during your time in Japan there was an incident when you were on a Japanese game show, what happened there?
Thank you for reminding me of that, as hard as I try to forget that it always pops up! Talk about lost in translation, the producers of this show told me to beat up whoever came into this room I was in, apart from if it was a pregnant lady, and I asked them a number of times if they were sure that’s what they wanted me to do and they said yeah.
I guess they underestimated my skill for fighting because I went for it and the poor thing, when he came in I ended up leaving him with a cut on his face and it wasn’t good. This guy was the Japanese equivalent of Justin Timberlake or Justin Bieber, he was in a very popular boy band and had been in movies, so beating him up and leaving him with a bloody face was a big no-no and I was not so kindly asked to leave.
You then came back over to America and spent three years with TNA and won both the Knockout Championship and Knockout Tag Team titles, what was your time in TNA like?
It was fun, I had a good time and it was a new experience wrestling on television in America where my family got to see me wrestle every week, it was exciting. The US was a bigger market, so it enabled me to gain more momentum in my career as far as followers and fans; it was a very exciting and promising time for me.
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What were some of your highlights from your time in TNA?
I think just the overall excitement of the fans and how involved they were in the feud and matches between Gail Kim and I. At the time I felt I had better matches in Japan and that was probably true but the American fans on a broader spectrum weren’t familiar with my work in Japan, just the die-hard wrestling fans were.
So to bring that kind of style and to have someone with as much heart and professionalism as Gail as well as myself, we went out there and left it all on the line and the fans got so excited about it. That was exciting to me, to have fans drooling over what was going to happen next and that doesn’t happen often – to be associated with a great feud is a great thing in someone’s career.
What was the story with your departure from TNA and Bubba the Love Sponge?
That situation all ties into kind of why I ended up with the name Kharma in WWE. I’ve always been the kind of person that dislikes bullies, so for me to stand up even if I was standing up alone to wrong. If something’s wrong no matter if I’m going to lose on it or not, I’ve lost a lot in my lifetime for standing up for what is right and I’m okay with that.
Without going into too much detail I stood up for what I felt was right, it may not have been the appropriate action, but that’s what I felt needed to happen at that time.
Your next destination was WWE and you were given a big build-up with the vignettes, how much input did you have with all of that?
They let me know the idea that they were going with so I went in and we shot it, we had a great time and they used some of my ideas and they actually used the first idea, which was in the first vignette where I flicked the doll so that was awesome. I was actually included a lot in the creative process leading up to my debut which I didn’t expect to be so that was a big surprise and very exciting.
You attacked Michelle McCool on your debut and a few other Divas on Raw and SmackDown, but was there anyone you were looking forward to working with and having a match with in WWE?
After seeing how excited people were over the feud between Gail and I, my next goal was to build up to a great feud with Beth Phoenix. Fans were already excited for that match and it hadn’t even happened yet; it hadn’t even been alluded to.
I always say and I still say, as long as Beth and I are still breathing it still may happen, so fans don’t lose hope.
There were also lots of people that wanted to see me get my revenge on the Bella Twins but they have ended up leaving as well.
You made a surprise return at the 2012 Royal Rumble, what was that experience like?
It was extremely surreal to be only the third woman ever to participate in the actual Royal Rumble match after Chyna and Beth Phoenix so that is a historical thing. And with me being a woman of colour I could always say I was the first black woman to be in the Royal Rumble match (laughs).
What was it like working with Triple H, who was looking after the Divas division when you came into WWE?
He was fully involved and had all the greatest ideas for how I should debut and he really took charge of that and took a great interest and managed that whole thing.
What do you make of the Divas division at the moment in WWE?
Even with the men’s roster, there are periods in wrestling in general that we have fluctuation of talent and I’m not saying anything bad about the roster right now but yes they did lose a big person that the fans were invested in which was Beth Phoenix, but also the likes of Kelly Kelly, Michelle McCool and Eve Torres.
They do have girls that have come back from an injury like Layla and Tamina, and AJ Lee exploded on the scene so that’s a great thing, there are still exciting people there to do stuff. One monkey doesn’t stop a show, with me leaving it was exciting for me to be there, but because I left it doesn’t mean I won’t come back, you never know what is going to happen in wrestling.
So the door is open for you to return to WWE?
People leave and people come back, I left you never know I may be back.
Look at Ryback he was in WWE once before and now he’s back and wants people to feed him more, it’s exciting! My goddaughter goes crazy when he comes on the television, it’s insane so I have to mimic him sometimes.
I watched an Ultimate Warrior DVD the other day and he came back about five or six times, so you never know in this business.
Receiving a Women’s Wrestling Award from the Cauliflower Alley Club
You have wrestled for all-female promotions Shimmer and Shine, what are those experiences like and are there any women wrestlers we should be looking out for?
There are so many up and coming female wrestlers that I have just met at Shine. Seriously there must have been ten new girls that I’ve not met before and I watched their matches especially Nikki Roxx and I think the next generation is on the rise and we should look out for all of them.
As a female wrestler, we can’t afford not to give it one hundred and ten percent, every time a female wrestler has a match especially if there is just one female match on an entire show we have to go out there and really take it to the max for the crowd and audience to really get into it and respect it.
Not to knock the male gender but some male fans can get chauvinistic so you really have to show them that we can tell a story and we can wrestle too.
You recently won the Resistance Pro Wrestling Women’s Championship, what was that like and what it is it like working with Billy Corgan?
It is a very fun and exciting company, and they are very ambitious and have a lot of things planned. There are a lot of professionals out there who want to knock Billy saying he doesn’t know what he is doing, X, Y and Z but I have to disagree. He is a person of interest that has decided to invest in our business and we need more of that, we need someone like him to bring attention to our business, which is why I chose to work with him. They have some very big plans in store, they may be on the rise to be the third or even the second biggest promotion out there soon.
For more information on Kharma, you can follow her on Twitter @Kharma and she is also available for bookings email email@example.com