Manami Toyota and Aja Kong. There’s a case to be made that these two are the two greatest women’s wrestlers to ever live. One is perhaps the most agile, creative, innovative, influential and unpredictable women’s wrestler of all time. The other is seen as the most badass woman ever. She wasn’t just big and scary, but she could throw down when needed and was deceptively agile when she needed to be. In fact, the saying about her has been this: ‘God made the Devil just for fun. But when he wanted the real thing, God created AJA KONG.’
Today we revisit a match that brought that statement to life. It was one of many high-profile matches between these two legendary women’s wrestlers, and was one of the prime examples of why 1990s AJW was the pinnacle of women’s professional wrestling.
Let’s look back at the epic singles match between Manami Toyota and Aja Kong from June 27th, 1995.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
There is no story here, just a champion (Toyota) and a challenger (Kong).
This is for the WWWA World Single Championship. Toyota offers a handshake but Kong does the throat slash gesture instead. Apparently that pisses Toyota off because she charges at Kong as Kong walks away and immediately lands a Bridging German suplex for a one-count as the bell rings. Toyota goes for a missile dropkick, Kong fights with her in the corner, Toyota wins and flies through the air but Kong dodges. Missile dropkick by Kong. Toyota kicks out. Kong whips Toyota into a corner and lands a running corner clothesline, then Toyota reverses a second whip but runs into a boot from Kong. Toyota ducks a clothesline and runs to the ropes. Picture-perfect Manami Roll/Yoshi Tonic. Kong kicks out at two.
Toyota lands a DDT and follows up with a single leg crab. Kong crawls to the ropes quickly so Toyota pulls her back and applies a Boston crab and Kong literally kicks out. Toyota kicks at Kong’s legs and an angered Kong fires back with leg kicks of her own, dropping Toyota. Kong works Toyota’s back with a falcon arrow and a Boston crab. Actually, Boston crab isn’t the proper word for this; more like a torture crab because Toyota’s body is completely vertical as Kong stretches the hell out of her. Toyota gets to her feet but Kong drills her with brutal strikes. A scoop slam/elbow drop combo gets Kong a two-count and she applies a type of sleeper hold. Toyota kicks her way out but Kong shuts her down with brutal head-butts. Massive piledriver by Kong. Toyota kicks out somehow.
Kong applies a chinlock and Toyota almost reaches the ropes but Kong uses her power advantage to drag Toyota to the middle of the ring. Toyota starts looking like she’s fading. Then she gets a sudden second wind. She escapes the pressure on her neck but remains locked in a bodyscissor that puts pressure on her torso. Suddenly, Toyota turns around and slaps the shit out of Kong’s face to escape. Toyota whips Kong but Kong answers with a bitchslap. A stiff palm to the jaw gets Kong another two-count.
Kong slingshots Toyota into the ropes and the momentum pushes Toyota back-first into Kong’s knees. She follows with a back-arching camel clutch, again destroying Toyota’s back and Toyota almost reaches the ropes until Kong rolls over and traps Toyota’s arms. Great ring awareness by Kong. Toyota escapes somehow, so Kong suplexes her and puts on another camel clutch as the ten-minute mark passes.
Toyota makes it to the ropes to Kong kicks her hard in the back and lands a running splash to the back for two. Somehow. Toyota bridges out, showing incredible heart and determination. Toyota rolls out of the ring and Kong decides it’s time for the bedlam to begin. She whips Toyota back-first into the steel barricade and then starts dragging her around the arena. Kong smashes a chair over Toyota’s head and a moment later grabs a piece of metal guardrail and smashes Toyota with that. Damn, Aja Kong just does not give a f**k.
Kong returns to the ring as some of the AJW trainees guide Toyota back to the ring. The two combatants trade death glares at each other as Toyota gets back into the ring. Kong whips Toyota but Toyota counters into a no-hands-springboard crossbody. Time for Toyota’s comeback. Four consecutive missile dropkicks from four different corners. Kong kicks out at two. German suplex, no, Kong resists and then reaches the ropes. Toyota slaps Kong once, and Kong answers with like twenty slaps in two seconds. Vicious powerbomb by Kong. Toyota kicks out. Scoop slam/diving splash combo. Toyota bridges out. Superplex. Toyota bridges out again. Kong whips Toyota, Toyota goes for the Manami Roll again but Kong counters her with an absolutely brutal one-shoulder powerbomb for two. How the hell did Toyota kick out of that?
Kong lands a high-angle backdrop for two and Toyota kicks out yet again. Kong goes for another superplex but Toyota counters into a diving sunset flip powerbomb for two. Toyota goes for a snap moonsault. Kong rolls to safety. Kong goes for another backdrop. Toyota counters into a midair pin for two. Kong cuts Toyota off in the corner. Super back suplex. Toyota kicks out yet again. Kong goes for another superplex. Toyota escapes and tries for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (straightjacket electric chair suplex). Kong resists, so Toyota kicks her off the top rope. Kong falls to the floor. Toyota dives off the top rope. Kong kicks her in midair and tosses her into the ring. Avalanche back body suplex. Toyota kicks out with a bridge. Kong goes for the Uraken (spinning backfist), but Toyota blocks it. Japanese Ocean suplex (double hammerlock German suplex). Kong kicks out. A dazed Kong gets up first and slams Toyota for another diving move. But Toyota cuts her off in the corner. Diving sunset flip Powerbomb. Kong gets her foot on the rope and rolls to safety. Toyota charges. No-hands running springboard senton to the floor. This woman is nuts!
Toyota tosses Kong back into the ring and tries the JOCS, Kong reverses and goes for a backdrop. Toyota lands on her feet…and eats a massive Uraken. Holy Shit, you can HEAR the sounds of Kong’s fist smashing into Toyota’s face. The referee counts one, two, thr—NO, Toyota miraculously kicks out. Kong’s not done. Modified Orange Crush Bomb. Toyota kicks out once again. Kong signals the end as the crowed chants loudly for Toyota. A second Uraken hits Toyota right in the mouth. One, two, three! That’s it. Kong wins.
Winner and NEW WWWA World Single Champion after 22:45: Aja Kong
HELL YEAH! What a tremendous wrestling match! That was another perfect example of 1990s joshi wrestling greatness. Toyota and Kong put on an absolute barn-burner of a match here. It was wild. It was brutal. It was unpredictable. It was intense. It was just fantastic and it showed exactly why the 1990s Joshis were so much better than pretty much any women’s wrestling of any era.
Even before the bell rang, you could tell these two had an ax to grind. They went nose-to-nose, staring daggers at each other. And when Kong answered a handshake with a throat slash, Toyota showed she meant business by suplexing her literally as the bell rang. You just don’t see that sort of primal intensity in today’s matches, and you definitely don’t see the degree of athleticism these women showed, either.
Toyota and Kong worked amazingly together to create a David vs. Goliath story. Toyota used her legendary speed and persistence to try and out-pace the much larger and stronger Kong. But instead of being a typical sluggish giant, Aja Kong showed why she was so different as a ‘larger’ women’s wrestler. Even though she couldn’t match Toyota’s speed or agility, she was just as explosive. When Toyota landed a dropkick it barely registered on Kong; when Kong landed a dropkick it sent Toyota careening across the ring. And while Toyota was her usual amazing self and pulled off some dazzling wrestling with incredible technique and grace, Kong was just as crisp and precise, and everything she did looked brutal and painful. So as their match unfolded, their contrasting wrestling styles created an impressive duality. Toyota was like Rey Mysterio, moving around hitting crazy aerial moves and dives out of nowhere and landing lightning quick pining positions. Meanwhile, Kong was the brute that seemed to get sick pleasure out of torturing her opponent and stretching her in unnatural ways.
The only real glaring issue some people might have with this is the clear no-selling, especially from Toyota. And while that’d be a cardinal sin almost anywhere else, I’ve come to expect it from AJW matches because it’s a defining feature of that promotion and era. 1990s joshi matches were feats of blistering athleticism that went far into the realm of surrealism, and this was no exception. And it was so surreal because it made sense. Kong was a badass beast that Toyota couldn’t possible hope to out-power or out-brawl. If Toyota wanted to win, she had to land a lightning quick counter or pin, or simply try to outrun Kong with her incredible stamina. Sure this match lacked the intense realism of peak Ric Flair matches or 1990s All Japan. But what it lacked in that department is more than made up with raw excitement and amazing feats of agility and athleticism without ever venturing into overkill territory as modern ‘spotfest’ matches tend to do.
Final Rating: *****
Yeah, this was just as good as their legendary 1994 encounter, which is saying a lot considering that’s widely considered quite possibly the best women’s match of all time. Toyota had this spitfire personality about her in this match, constantly attacking Kong from any and all angles. But Kong responded to Toyota’s persistence with sheer brutality. They had just tremendous chemistry together and seemed like natural opponents. This kind of wrestling was special back in the 1990s, and it still looks tremendous today.
This is a must-watch for anyone that wants to see pro-wrestling pushed to its limits in terms of what two people can do in the ring. Kong pushed the boundaries of what it means to be brutal towards her opponent and Toyota went to beyond incredible lengths to try and find a quick way to win while avoiding Kong’s merciless onslaught. With that dynamic, these two wrestlers created a women’s version of David vs. Goliath that has yet to be topped.
Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.