(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Aja Kong vs. KAORU – GAEA Big Destruction

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What’s rarer than an excellent hardcore deathmatch? An excellent hardcore deathmatch with women in it.

Hardcore matches are very hit or miss. More often than not, they turn into ultraviolent displays of savagery that focus on shock and sadism over story and athleticism. There’s a reason some fans and wrestling personalities refer to hardcore wrestling as ‘garbage wrestling’: the style is extremely dangerous and in many ways and puts too much emphasis on inflicting excessive damage for relatively little payoff.

One would be hard-pressed to call hardcore wrestling “art”. That is, unless you have genuinely talented wrestlers involved.

Sure enough, that’s what happened here. This match saw two women – one of whom was and is a certified legend and game-changer – put on an excellent wrestling match that happened to have plenty of hardcore elements to it. It was so great that some fans even called it one of the best women’s matches of all time.

But was it really that good? And does it hold up well after more than twenty years? Read on to find out.

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.

The story

GAEA Japan was formed in 1995 by Chigusa Nagayo, one half of the famous Crush Gals women’s tag team. Wanting to widen the field of competitors in the joshi wrestling market, she created a new promotion that gave more women more chances at steady work.

But by 2000, interest in joshi had waned. Even the biggest companies like AJW and JWP weren’t drawing that much. But GAEA persevered, especially thanks to their champion at the time, Aja Kong.

For anyone that doesn’t know her, Aja Kong is one of the best women’s wrestlers in modern times. She was someone that actually lived up to the stereotype of a “women’s wrestler” as this intimidating force you didn’t want to mess with. Kong was stiff, brutal, and merciless. She hit incredibly hard and took punishment in equal measure. She made a name for herself throughout the 1990s as a genuine monster and took on a bevy of top women’s grapplers from across the planet. It wasn’t a stretch to say that she was akin to a female version of Big Van Vader.

But standing across from her was KAORU, a woman whose nickname was “the Original Hardcore Queen.” KAORU was from the same women’s wrestling training class as Megumi Kudo, who was also known for being brave enough to wrestle in hardcore matches. KAORU was much smaller than Kong (though to be fair, almost all women were smaller than Kong) but she compensated for her small stature by being dangerous with weapons. But would that weapons specialty be enough to put Kong down?

The match

This match originally took place on February 13, 2000. It was never given a “formal” rating by Dave Meltzer, but many fans have called it a fantastic wrestling match. Let’s see if that’s true.

This is for Kong’s All Asia Athlete Women’s (AAAW) Single Championship. KAORU offers a handshake, but the moment Kong reluctantly accepts, KAORU hits her with a German suplex. The bell rings and KAORU follows with a dropkick to Kong’s face. As Kong rolls to the floor, KAORU follows with a suicide dive and two top-rope quebradas. KAORU sets up a table, places Kong onto it, and goes to the top rope. She dives with a top-rope senton…and misses Kong. Kong shows no mercy as she whacks KAORU in the head with a piece of the broken table…three times and with full power. Kong follows by throwing KAORU into the steel barricade and then smashes her in the back with a steel chair. Aja Kong should’ve had a honey badger on her tights because she just doesn’t give a F**K.

Several fans clear the way as Kong throws KAORU around like a ragdoll through the stands. Then Kong pulls off a heavy piece of metal barrier, throws it at KAORU, and then piledrives KAORU onto it. KAORU gets up bleeding and I’m pretty sure that was hardway because Kong it hitting her without mercy. Still unsatisfied, Kong grabs KAORU by the head, pulls her to her feet, gets a big running start, runs across the venue, and smashes KAORU’s head into a wall. She drags KAORU back into the ring and cracks her in the head with what looks like a metal box. Then Kong signals the end and hits a Brainbuster. One, two, KAORU kicks out.

Kong goes for her Uraken (spinning backfist) finisher but KAORU ducks it three times in a row. Kong overpowers her and teases a superplex but KAORU escapes and hits Kong’s head with the same metal box. KAORU goes for a diving weapon shot but Kong blocks with one hand. KAORU responds by going for a hurricanrana but Kong spikes her with a powerbomb for a two-count. Kong goes for a second-rope splash. KAORU throws her off with an overhead suplex and goes for a moonsault but Kong gets her knees up. KAORU escapes a back suplex and slaps Kong hard. She charges back but Kong ducks and throws her overhead and to the floor. Then Kong decides to attempt a suicide dive. But KAORU hits first by throwing the table in at Kong’s head.

KAORU gets some revenge by hitting Kong’s head with the broken piece of table. After that, KAORU grabs the same heavy piece of metal barricade and throws it at Kong, hitting Kong in the side of the head. This is f**king brutal. KAORU cracks Kong in the head with a chair and sets up another table as Kong gets up moments later. She hits Kong with the table piece some more until Kong doesn’t have enough fight in her to move off the new table setup ringside. KAORU dives off the top rope…and lands a senton onto Kong through the table.

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In the ring, KAORU throws the broken table piece at Kong and dropkicks it as Kong catches it. She goes for a moonsault while holding the table piece, but Kong moves so she lands on her feet. Kong goes for an Uraken. KAORU hits her with the jagged side of the table piece. Good God, that’s nasty. Kong yells out in pain as a gash appears on her forearm. She’s no longer the monster; she’s screaming because she’s in real, excruciating pain. Sensing an opening, KAORU smashes the table piece on that arm some more and grinds it against Kong’s open wound until blood starts flowing. KAORU locks in a Fujiwara armbar on that bad arm. Again Kong screams in a way that makes this look very realistic and not scripted or like a performance at all. Kong gets a ropebreak so KAORU smashes the arm with the jagged table piece more and more. Then KAORU lands a moonsault press with the table piece onto Kong’s destroyed right arm and then locks in a cross armbreaker! Kong struggles and writhes about, desperate to escape, until she gets another ropebreak. I didn’t think it was possible, but KAORU is making me feel sympathy for Aja Kong, of all people.

KAORU goes for a Northern Lights bomb but Kong’s too heavy for her. She goes for a chop to the bad arm but Kong pulls away and hits an Uraken. Kong hits hard enough for the sound of the impact to be caught over the commentary and the crowd, but she hurts herself in the process. After some critical seconds of recovery, Kong goes for another Uraken. But KAORU ducks it and locks in a flying cross armbreaker. Kong tries clasping her hands together but KAORU stops her and locks in the hold fully. KAORU pulls back to keep Kong from the ropes but Kong still manages enough strength to get another ropebreak.

KAORU goes for another Northern Lights Bomb but Kong blocks it and counters into a high-angle back suplex. Kong goes for a second-rope dive but KAORU cuts her off with back chops and hits a Northern Lights Bomb from the turnbuckles, spiking Kong on her head. One, two, Kong kicks out! KAORU tries lifting Kong again. Kong stops her and slaps the taste out of her mouth. KAORU manages a hurricanrana but only gets a one-count. She charges again…and runs into another Uraken. One, two, KAORU kicks out. second-rope overhead suplex by Kong. KAORU kicks out again. Kong slams KAORU and puts the table piece on her chest. She goes for a dive but KAORU avoids it. KAORU dodges another attack and whacks Kong’s arm with the table piece again and then hits a huge punch to the mouth. One, two, Kong survives. KAORU goes to smash the jagged edge into Kong’s midsection but Kong dodges and lands both a kick and another Uraken. One, two, and – KAORU kicks out once more. And despite the damage and pain, Kong pulls off her glove and wipes the blood from her wound on her face. This powers Kong up enough to hand a full power, exposed hand Uraken right to the side of KAORU’s head. One, two, and three! There’s the match! Kong retains!

Winner and STILL AAAW Single Champion after 16:34: Aja Kong


That was one of the most brutal and violent matches I have ever seen. I generally avoid hardcore style deathmatches but this one was an exception. It wasn’t a weapons-centric brawl with some wrestling mixed in here and there; it was a wrestling match that just so happened to have liberal weapons use. And that fit the match perfectly. All those weapons were the equalizers that tiny KAORU needed to bring herself to Kong’s level. The match really emphasized the brutal nature of pro-wrestling. Watching this contest made it abundantly clear that this is NOT something that anyone could do. The match was filled with high risks, painful and violent weapons shots, and a sense of danger. It put the professional in professional wrestling. Even if some of the head-shots were excessive and a bit sickening, the way these two women competed made this look legitimate. These two women earned respect by pushing themselves and each other for their craft.

KAORU tried getting the advantage early by surprising Kong with her speed and dives. But once Kong avoided a big splash through a table, she did what she does best: mangle her opponents without mercy. Kong came across as a true monster; she hit KAORU like she was putting all her power into each weapons strike. She threw KAORU around with almost as if she was really trying to hurt her. But was she really, or was that just great selling? There was no way of knowing.

Speaking of great selling, Kong showed her own selling skill once KAORU went after her arm. Kong screamed realistically; not like a phony or performative scream, but like someone who was in true pain and was truly afraid for their health and safety. Though, considering how violently KAORU hit Kong and considering she was tearing Kong’s skin open with a jagged piece of wood, Kong’s screaming was probably real because the pain was real. But instead of minimizing that violence, both of them only went further from there. Both women wanted to win so badly that they were both willing to put themselves through incredible physical pain.

But the level of violence and both women’s incredible durability weren’t the only great things in this match. Another great element was the logic-driven story surrounding Kong’s arm. Not only was the story with that arm brutal, but there was psychology behind it and you don’t usually see psychology or common sense in a hardcore bloodbath. Since KAORU was so much smaller, she needed weapons to give herself a fighting chance. And while Kong was much stronger and could easily overpower KAORU, Kong’s biggest weapon was her terrifying Uraken finisher. Knowing Kong would go for that move, KAORU had a genius strategy: use all the weapons around her to stop Kong from using that move. It worked wonders: KAORU hurt Kong badly and almost made her submit with some armbar variations. She made Kong look vulnerable; it was as if Kong was the supernatural Undertaker and KAORU was like Kurt Angle locking in a submission hold to make the supernatural and larger-than-life monster scream like an ordinary human. But that approach didn’t bring Kong down; it brought KAORU up. It made her into a real threat. No longer was she just some trigger-happy weapons fanatic salivating over getting to use her toys on her opponent; she became a believable threat to Kong.

But it wasn’t enough. No matter how many weapons shots KAORU hit, no matter how many dives she landed, no matter how many crazy throws and logic-defying maneuvers she executed, Kong was just too tough for her. But Kong didn’t have an easy time, either. She had to hit multiple Urakens, suplexes, and stiff shots of her own to keep KAORU down. In the end, she had to stack several backfists – including one fully-exposed one – to finally beat KAORU.

In the end, both women took ungodly beatings and left the match looking like they were superhuman. There are two ways to make a wrestler look larger-than-life: either by giving them larger-than-life personalities or by having them endure superhuman beatings. Kong and KAORU did the latter and left this match looking like some of the toughest competitors around.

Final Rating: ****3/4

It’s incredibly hard for a “garbage deathmatch” to be really good. More often than not, these end up being excessively violent bloodbaths that focus more on the shock factor than telling a story. This match wasn’t like that. There was some shocking violence, sure, but it wasn’t the centerpiece of the match. The central element of this match was the David vs. Goliath story between champion Kong and challenger KAORU. Kong was in a league of her own and had a well-earned reputation for toughness. So naturally KAORU had to find an equalizer to make people believe she could win, which she did by thrashing Kong with weapons and nearly tearing her arm in two.

This isn’t just one of the best hardcore matches; it’s also one of the best women’s wrestling matches, period. These two women wrestled well, made themselves and each other look superhuman, and pushed the boundarties of what two people could survive.

If there was ever a match that sold that pro wrestlers are both tough and skilled and shouldn’t be copied unless one has years of training and innate toughness, it’s this one. This is a must-watch and a forgotten gem that’s really worth the watch.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.