The last time Curt Hawkins won a WWE match was on Nov. 8, 2016 against Apollo Crews. Aside from a Live Event triumph over Crews and a dark match win against Chase Silver (independent wrestler Jarek 1-20) -- both of which came in October 2016 -- Hawkins has not had his arm raised in victory.
That's three wins in (at least) 212 matches and counting since Hawkins started his second run with the WWE, including a streak of 200 straight losses that culminated Monday night on Raw. Sitting at 0-for-199, Hawkins walked into Houston with a promise of free tacos for everyone in attendance at the Toyota Center as long as he defeated an enhancement talent appropriately (or not) called James Harden who bared shockingly little resemblance to the Houston Rockets star.
It all looked to be lined up for the world to see the end of the streak, but as has been the case for the past two years, it all came crashing down. Baron Corbin interrupted the party, attacked Harden and triggered a disqualification. To add insult to the injury of extending Hawkins' losing streak, Corbin covered Hawkins in taco accoutrements and condiments while attacking him on the outside of the ring.
This type of losing streak would've been the undoing of many pro wrestlers. No matter how scripted the world of WWE may be, it seems as though that type of futility would take a psychological toll. Yet Hawkins, who first signed with the WWE when he was 20 years old and now stands as a 33-year-old veteran, has embraced the challenges that come with such a losing streak and enjoyed the raucous reaction the Houston crowd had in the lead-up to his match.
"It was a very cool moment," Hawkins said, during a recent interview with ESPN. "Throughout my career, any time I've been a part of a big reaction like that, when you watch it back it's crazy. It almost doesn't even do it justice. When you're there live, it's way different than when you watch it on television. To me, it was even more deafening. It's pretty cool, unexpected. I knew it would be an interesting segment for everyone to be a part of, but I think it exceeded expectations."
Even though this was the loudest reaction for Hawkins during his second run as a WWE superstar, he's no stranger to the spotlight in WWE. He and Zack Ryder played key parts during several of Edge's biggest moments as world champion, including WrestleMania 24 and other big pay-per-view moments, and Hawkins and Ryder became the youngest tag team champions in WWE history.
But that was a decade ago. Now Hawkins embraces what he has in the longest losing streak in WWE history. Whether it's singles action, tag teaming or battle royals; SmackDown, Raw, Main Event or Live Events; anywhere he has a chance to perform and get a reaction from WWE fans, Hawkins throws his all into the effort.
"I really have embraced it. I think that's what's made it work the way it has," Hawkins said. "[At] Live Events, we have a little more creative freedom and I do some more fun things. I've done a lot of fun things, just laying down on my back to sucker guys in for things, and moments like that that I feel like the crowd can get into and I get into and it winds up being a lot of fun.
"The bottom line is that the streak lets fans care about me winning or losing, whereas before when I was just Curt Hawkins and there was no streak, they didn't care as much," Hawkins continued. "Now I feel like when I'm out there people genuinely care if I win or lose or not, you know?"
So what keeps Hawkins pushing forward in spite of his endless losing streak? A lot of it can be traced back to being a superfan all the way back to childhood, and getting a second chance to perform as a WWE superstar.
"Absolutely everything," Hawkins said of what he appreciates most about his opportunity. "I mean, I've been obsessed with WWE since I was 5 years old. I'm truly living out a childhood dream each and every day. And you respect it even more when it all goes away, and now that I've got it back, obviously I want to be a part of the WWE family forever. Some people can look at this thing and say, 'Wow, this guy's lost 200 matches in a row. That must really suck,' but nothing about my life sucks right now whatsoever.
"I feel like me having such a good attitude and embracing this whole thing has really just turned it into something really special, and just every day that I get to wrestle is a great day for me."
Most of what he has in life right now can be traced back to pro wrestling -- including the bonds and friendships he's built during his time in the WWE.
"Wrestling is so unique and special and all to itself that there's nothing quite like it on this earth. You do these things that we do, and you travel the country, you develop bonds with people that are pretty special," said Hawkins. "Some of my best friends in the whole world and people that are always going to be my friends I've met through wrestling. People like TJ Wilson and Hornswoggle and Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler -- guys that I really value our friendships and stuff because it's unique. We're going through the same very unique situation, and that's one of the cooler parts of being a pro wrestler."
It's also allowed him to help provide for his family, which now includes a daughter nearing her first birthday. Though the WWE schedule can be grueling at times, Hawkins enjoys as much time as he possibly can with her while he's home.
"Every free second that I have from WWE I spend with my 1-year-old daughter," said Hawkins. "I call it Daddy Daycare. My wife is a full-time working mom and she kicks ass. When she goes to work, I'm up and at 'em with my daughter, taking care of her every day, and I absolutely love it."
There's also an appreciation for what he has that Hawkins didn't fully enjoy during his first stretch with WWE. Four years ago, Hawkins was released from WWE and was forced to make it on his own in the world of wrestling for the first time since 2006. It was a valuable experience for any number of reasons. Hawkins was able to learn what it takes to hustle and get his own bookings and sell merchandise. He was able to sharpen his skills against a new batch of opponents with a wide variety of skillsets. And he gained an appreciation for how much of a challenge making a career out of wrestling outside the WWE can be.
"I think I proved to myself and everyone else that I was able to do this without the WWE -- make a living and travel the world and be successful and stay relevant and things like that," said Hawkins. "Getting fired was, I always tell people, was one of the best things that probably ever happened to me. It was this unbelievable blessing in disguise. It's something I feel had to happen, but I didn't realize at the time that it had to happen."
Just before his release, Hawkins channeled his passion into starting his own wrestling school to give back to the business that helped give him a lot of what he has in his life. He was able to more completely dedicate himself to the Create A Pro Wrestling Academy in Hicksville, New York, allowing him to share the wisdom he picked up after so many years in the WWE system.
Even after re-signing with WWE, Hawkins continued to commit a chunk of his time to teaching the next generation.
"Once a week, I still coach at Create A Pro wrestling, which is a school I co-own and operate with Pat Buck," said Hawkins. "It's been going over four years now. It really has gone [by] in a blink of an eye. We've produced some people that I'm really proud of, and there's a great tight-knit community there.
"If someone doesn't have the right attitude, we don't want to just take their money," Hawkins continued. "We'll tell them, 'Hey, this place isn't for you. Maybe go train elsewhere.' There's people there that work really hard and I appreciate it. It's cool to see someone come in from just a kid who's maybe a fan and doesn't really know much, and turn into a pretty polished pro wrestler."
Independent upstarts like MJF, who's gaining momentum in some of the top independent promotions in the world, represents the best of what Create a Pro has produced thus far..
"I'm just so grateful that we went ahead and started it," Hawkins said. "The benefits aren't necessarily financial, but just kind of feel-good stuff, you know? I'm real proud of it."
Though these other outlets offer Hawkins a lot of joy, when he hops in the car or plane and heads to the next WWE town, Hawkins is still living his dream. Right now, that dream has him pegged as one of the most famous losers in the company's history. Rather than resign himself to losing one-sided matches with no sign of life, ala 80s and 90s performers like Barry Horowitz and Brooklyn Brawler, Hawkins insists he's going out there to get the absolute most out of the experience every time out.
No matter whether he's getting tossed through a wall by Braun Strowman while trying to be his tag team partner, or finding ways to entertain Live Event crowds, Hawkins is fully committed to giving the fans the best he has every time out.
"I really model my style after guys like Chris Candido or Eddie Guerrero -- guys that I watched growing up that I truly believed were going to have a great match with anybody." said Hawkins. "Little, big, small, ground-based, high flying, just adapt to any situation and make it work for the best, and that's what I try for.
"I think that any knowledgeable wrestling fan knows that just because I'm losing matches doesn't mean I'm a bad wrestler." said Hawkins. "I'm still going out there every night trying to steal the show in any way I can, have the best match, the most entertaining match, a match that they're at least going to remember when you leave the building."