Where To Start With: Aja Kong
I have been squealing for days. Aja Kong will finally stand in a British ring at Pro: Wrestling EVE’s Wrestle Queendom next year, squaring up to the Vixen of Violence herself, Viper. Not that I’m boasting, but I will be on the front row and I’ll probably be the one who starts the “Big lass wrestling (clap clap clapclapclap)” chant.
If you’re relatively new to Japanese women’s wrestling, or joshi, the chances are you may have seen her as the scary-looking woman in the facepaint at the odd DDT, Hustle or Sendai Girls show where she gets to hit people with bins. Those are fun, but watching them in isolation couldn’t fully demonstrate why Kong is one of the most influential professional wrestlers in history.
Beginning her career aged 16 in 1986, she trained at a time when her home promotion, All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling (AJW), had a level of mainstream popularity in Japan that has arguably never been surpassed anywhere in the world. She would have been training by 1985, when AJW’s famous Budokan Hall show featured two of the best matches of the 1980s. The Puro Pourri podcast covered that show, if you want an idea of where the company was at the time (disclosure: I was a guest on these episodes).
Kong developed and thrived into the 1990s, when the product was a safe bet as the best wrestling promotion in the world (and of all time). When AJW’s mandatory retirement age of 26 came around, her response was the same as former top talents like Chigusa Nagayo: refuse to retire and go off to start your own promotion. By founding ARSION, Kong also contributed to the rich, fascinating and often bizarre world of Japanese indie wrestling, and continued to have great matches drawing crowds to joshi promotions like GAEA, DIANA, and Sendai Girls. Oh, and she once appeared in a WWF Survivor Series match where she pinned all four women on the other team. She would have had a title match against Alundra Blayze if Blayze and WWF hadn’t parted ways first.
Aja Kong is wrestling history. Over more than 30 years, her accomplishments have grown alongside her influence on younger performers – and it’s safe to say she’s still got it. Even more impressive is the fact that she did all of this as a black woman in Japan.
All of this explains why Aja is so beloved and respected. But equally, she’s a badass. Here are a few of her matches to get you started.
Aja Kong vs Manami Toyota (V*TOP Five-Star Tournament first round match, AJW Super Doumu Super Woman Great War, 20/11/1994)
Women’s wrestling was at its peak in 1994. And when I say ‘peak’, I mean, ’10 hour-long multi-promotional wrestling show which drew 32,000 to the Tokyo Dome’ type of peak. The last half of the show was mostly an 8-woman AJW tournament, and it’s just showing off.
Kong wrestled two more matches that night. Try the other two, against Dynamite Kansai and Akira Hokuto.
Kong had multiple five-star matches with Manami Toyota over a period of years. Check out the one they had on 26th March 1995 as a sequel.
Bull Nakano (c) vs Aja Kong (Steel Cage Match, WWWA Championship, AJW Wrestlemarinepiad, 20/4/1990)
Putting Kong and Nakano together was always fantastic. Not only did each seem like a viable physical threat to the other – and threats to women their size were often hard to come by in AJW – but each was capable of spectacular brutality. In the finest tradition of steel cage matches that utterly fail to prevent interference, here’s one of their best bouts with lots and lots of shenanigans.
Next time you have a spare hour, watch these two team up to take on the equally lunatic duo of Akira Hokuto and Shinobu Kandori.
Meiko Satomura (c) vs Aja Kong (AAAW Championship, GAEA Girls Yokohama Final Impact, 03/04/2005)
Life after AJW suited Kong. Japan’s indies have given her more opportunities to work a wider variety of matches against women and men. GAEA was one of the more traditional companies: founded by Chigusa Nagayo after she was retired out of AJW, once that company had folded GAEA was among those carrying the torch of top-quality women’s wrestling. Nearly ten years after her time at AJW came to an end, Aja hadn’t lost a step.
Acquaint yourself with the Real Hero Archive – easily the most valuable resource available for lovers of Japanese wrestling. Look for the ‘Sendai Girls’ folder, where you’ll find that Aja and Meiko last faced each other in November 2016. Surprise, surprise, that was awesome too.
When you’re done with Aja vs Meiko, look to the two Sendai Girls championship matches Aja had against Chihiro Hashimoto in 2017.
A near-complete list of Aja Kong matches is on her Cagematch.net profile. Pick a few at random and see where it takes you.