Wrestling & MMA

Interview with Kia Stevens, who is wrestling’s Awesome Kong and GLOW’s Tamme Dawson

Geena Davis encourages others to push for gender equality in Hollywood

Academy Award-winning actor talked about gender in movies and TV backstage before a Monday lecture at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida.
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Academy Award-winning actor talked about gender in movies and TV backstage before a Monday lecture at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota, Florida.

Do you believe in Santa?

Kia Stevens does.

When Stevens was young, she once asked Santa to make her a GLOW girl.

It might have taken Jolly Old Saint Nick a while, but he delivered.

Stevens, who is Awesome Kong in professional wrestling circles, portrays Tamme “The Welfare Queen” Dawson on “GLOW” on Netflix.

With each season of the popular Netflix series, the popularity and visibility of Stevens continues to grow.

After building quite the reputation, a good one, with pro wrestling fans around the world, that fan base expanded through her role on GLOW.

Premiering Aug. 9, Season 3 of GLOW on Netflix features 10 30-minute episodes. And how about this. Academy Award and Golden Globe-winner Geena Davis will co-star in five of the 10 episodes.

Joining Davis is the cast from seasons 1 and 2, including Stevens.

Interview with Kia Stevens, aka Awesome Kong, aka Tamme “The Welfare Queen” Dawson.

What makes “GLOW” so entertaining and so popular?

“There’s something in it for everyone,” Stevens said, “and it makes people appreciate wrestling, even those who never really enjoyed wrestling before.”

She added: “I think people could identify with issues that we present in the show [too], and when you can identify with things, you can appreciate it.”

Do more people know you because of “GLOW?”

“When I leave my house, more people recognize me,” she chuckled. “Not so much when I have my wrestling braids in, no, but when my hair is regular, they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, you’re on “GLOW.” ’ This one girl recognized me. All her friends talked to me, but she was too afraid. I thought that was the sweetest thing.”

What did you think of the original “GLOW?”

“I loved the original “GLOW.” I actually asked Santa Claus to make me a GLOW girl, when I was little,” Stevens said. “I watched it every Saturday with my little brother, and we would root for Hollywood & Vine to lose. We thought they were the most evil tag team on earth, and we would love to hate them. We hated them so much.”

What did “GLOW” do for women’s wrestling?

“I think it brought more eyeballs to the game,” Stevens said. “I’m so glad for that for my sisters in the wrestling game.”

How different is your “GLOW” from that “GLOW?”

“The show is generally based on the idea of GLOW back in the day, but we never took anyone’s part to emulate,” Stevens said. “This is a whole different concept than the [original] GLOW, but we’re making sure everybody stays true to most of the things people experienced back in the day -- be it women, be it wrestlers, be it anyone in any job anywhere. It’s basically about women working back then and having to struggle and come against obstacles they had to overcome.”

Did you work with or help Chavo Guerrero Jr. in training the wrestlers on “GLOW” or with the wrestling scenes?

“I did, which was a big pleasure,” Stevens said. “They gave me carte blanche on the big wrestling scene with Liberty Belle [ Betty Gilpin], which was awesome. Her finishing move came in a dream... I was happy with it.”

She continued: “From the beginning the girls knew — from Season 1, Day 1—- that I was the wrestler... I would do a snapmare and move fast and then be like, ‘Oh now you do it.’ They’d be like, their mouths just dropped, fell [chuckle]. That was fun.”


Who of the talent in “GLOW” could you see becoming a professional wrestler and why?

“Actually, all of them,” Stevens said. “If all of them ever wanted to wrestle, they could totally pull it off. Sydelle Noel [as Cherry “Junkchain”/”Black Magic” Bang] with her athleticism and timing could totally go out there and wrestle, and Britney Young [as Carmen “Machu Picchu” Wade] with all her strength, and she used to be a cheerleader. So she knows choreography.... Allie [as Ruth “Zoya the Destroya” Wilder] with her facial expressions. I could go on and on. Betty [as Debbie “Liberty Belle” Eagan] with her skills. Every one of them could go out there and wrestle. Yea, all of them.”

Chavo and Alberto Del Rio have started their own wrestling promotion Nacion Lucha Libre. Would you be interested in doing something with them?

“By giving back to the wrestling community by being a coach, agent, producer, backstage to being in the next generation of female wrestlers. I totally would.”

Photo Courtesy AEW

What is your role with AEW?

“I can’t really say anything now,” she said. “However AEW has been kind enough to sit down with me, and we’re discussing how I can fit in the company and maybe wear different hats in the company and maybe coaching will be one of them.”

Photo Courtesy AEW

AEW Fight for the Fallen in July at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville, Awesome Kong squaring off in a surprise with Aja Kong?

“That was awesome, especially the feedback, how excited people were about it,” Stevens said. “I mean she is the original Kong. It would be an honor to face off with her in the ring and get down.”

Was wrestling in Japan the best thing to happen to you in professional wrestling?

“Oh it definitely was. I hadn’t even been wrestling two months, before going to Japan,” she said, “and it was the biggest break I had, but to do it I had to sacrifice. I had to leave my job and sell my business [vending machines]. It was the biggest gamble ever for me. All the odds were against me. My family thought I was absolutely insane, but I took it to invest in myself because I believed in myself

How important were your matches with Gail Kim in Impact Wrestling in elevating the status of women’s wrestling?

“The numbers don’t lie,” Stevens said. “Her and I were putting up the biggest numbers as far as TNA viewership, and so it brought up this revolution as they say.

“They’re like there’s money in this story line. So guess what? Women’s wrestling is not some boring game. It really turned the heads for the insiders in the business, and I’m so glad I could contribute to that to pave the way for women.”

Five episodes of Season 3 will include Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winning actress Geena Davis?

You were a social worker before pro wrestling. Did that help you in being Tamme “The Welfare Queen” Dawson?

“Well, for the most part, I learned from my mother the character,” Stevens said. “She was an actress. She had dreams that she put on hold because she put motherhood first. So I kind of saw Tamme through her.”

Stevens grew up in Carson, California, Her mother, Phyllis Durant, was an actress as well as a contestant coordinator for the popular TV game show “Family Feud.”

Away from the ring, Stevens appeared in Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” music video as one of the basketball team dancers?

At about 3:08, you can see Kia in the video.

What a production, Bill Walton, Nikki Minaj, Molly Shannon, Terry Crews, Rich Eisen, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rob Gronkowski, strongman Hafthor and Stevens.

About GLOW on Netflix

Inspired by the short-lived but beloved show from the 80s, “GLOW” tells the fictional story of Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), an out-of-work, struggling actress in 1980s Los Angeles who finds one last chance for stardom when she’s thrust into the glitter and spandex world of women’s wrestling.

In addition to working with 12 Hollywood misfits, Ruth also has to compete with Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), a former soap actress who left the business to have a baby, only to be sucked back into work when her picture perfect life is not what it seems. And at the wheel is Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), a washed-up, B-movie director who now must lead this group of women on the journey to wrestling stardom.

About Season 3 of GLOW on Netflix

Season 3 follows the ladies of “GLOW” as they take the Vegas strip by storm. Now headliners at the Fan-Tan Hotel and Casino, the women quickly realize Sin City is much more grind than glitter.

GLOW_301_Unit_00310R (1).jpg
GLOW Ali Goldstein/Netflix Ali Goldstein/Netflix

Ever the team cheerleader, Ruth’s passion for the show begins to take a backseat to her growingly complicated personal life. Debbie is making headway as a producer, but continues to be consumed with guilt over the distance between her and her son. As their residency wears on, the lines blur between performance and reality, and the cast find themselves struggling with their own identities in and out of the ring.

Premiering Aug. 9, Season 3 of GLOW on Netflix features 10 30-minute episodes.

Academy Award- and Golden Globe-winner Geena Davis will play “Sandy Devereaux St. Clair,” the former showgirl turned entertainment director of the Fan-Tan Hotel and Casino. She will appear in five of the 10 episodes.

Twitter: @GlowNetflix

Instagram: @glownetflix

Facebook: /GlowNetflix

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Jim Varsallone covers pro wrestling, something he’s done since his college days in the late 1980s. Spanning four decades, he currently covers WWE (Raw, SmackDown and NXT), Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground, MLW, WOW, FSCW, AEW and the South Florida indies. He also writes MMA -- mostly profile stories and video interviews with American Top Team talent in South Florida. As for pro wrestling, he writes feature stories and profile pieces, updates upcoming show schedules in South Florida, photographs the action and interviews talent (audio and video) -- sharing the content here and via social media on his Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channel: jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel).
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