Acrylic and paint marker on 24″ x 24″ wood
Over his career spanning three decades, Mike Awesome developed a reputation with fans for physically intense matches. Born in 1965 in Tampa, FL, Michael Alfonso moved to Japan in 1990 to join Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling under the name of The Gladiator. Through the 90’s he would split his time between Japan and in America with Extreme Championship Wrestling. In ECW he worked under the name he would become known for in America as Mike Awesome. In Japan he began his career-defining feud with Masato Tanaka, which carried over to ECW. The brutal and bloody matches they had created many of the moments shown in ECW highlight reels to this day, most notably a spot where Awesome delivered an ‘Awesome Bomb’ to Tanaka over the top rope and through a table set up outside the ring. In 1999 he won his first ECW World Heavyweight Championship after defeating Taz and Tanaka. He briefly lost the title to Tanaka before regaining it a week later.
Awesome then shocked the wrestling world when he left ECW for World Championship Wrestling while still holding the ECW World Title. Through legal arrangements, ECW, WCW and WWE were able to broker a deal where Awesome, a WCW employee, would drop the title to Taz, then a WWE employee, at an ECW event! Taz would then lose the title in short order to ECW’s Tommy Dreamer. In WCW, Awesome feuded with Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page, and Kanyon, while also teaming with his long-time friend Lance Storm. When WCW was purchased by WWE in 2001, Awesome was a part of the Invasion angle, where the storyline was that WCW and ECW were ‘invading’ WWE. Awesome became WWE’s Hardcore Champion, making him the first ‘invader’ to win WWE gold. Otherwise his time with WWE was largely unremarkable and he left the company in 2002.
After this, he took bookings on the Independent Circuit and in Japan, as well as a handful of appearances with Total Nonstop Action. In 2005 he returned to WWE for their ‘One Night Stand’ ECW reunion show, where he ended his globe- and promotion-spanning feud with Masato Tanaka, first recreating their remarkable ECW moment of Awesome Bombing Tanaka from the ring and through a table outside the ring, and followed by a slingshot splash. For me personally, this was the highlight match of the night. At the time, I was only familiar with his time in WWE and completely unfamiliar with Tanaka, so I was blown utterly away by the brutality of the match coupled with in-ring genuine storytelling. In 2007, Mike ended his life.
Pardon me while I get personal for a second: Two of my brothers and a cousin took their own lives, so I have very strong emotions about this act. I find it to be a cowardly thing to do for two reasons, the first being that someone has to find you and they will carry that for the rest of their lives. The second being that your family will always be left wondering what they could have done to stop you. I wish I had my brothers with me today, so that they could see everything I’m doing and share in it with me. I’m sure Mike’s family wishes the same. If you find yourself contemplating taking your own life, please call someone. Family, a friend, a crisis center, a hospital, anyone. Let them talk to you and make you see that while things may be tough now, eventually they won’t be. It might sound trite, but seriously, it gets better.
About the piece: I laid down the cool colors in the background with a palette knife, then when that dried went over it with acrylic paint markers with the curved lines. I then brought in the figure. I kept wanting to make this more complicated and I’m glad that I stopped myself each time. The background was visually interesting enough contrasted against the relative simplicity of the figure, and adding anything else would have made the composition too busy.