Often, it is stated that the benchmark for all women wrestlers to follow is joshi wrestling. And even that must draw from the legendary 90’s promotion known as All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW for short). More hardcore puro fans would be happy to tell you as much, sometimes to the point of scaring you off.
But that’s not what Noob Japan is about. This is about how fun this side of wrestling is. How gritty and tough and painful it is. I want everyone who is as new as me, just now wading into the waters of Japanese wrestling, to take a look without the feeling of intimidation, and for those who are well-versed to see someone else with the same giddiness they once felt when they explored these oceanic depths being shown to us.
Here we are, looking at two of many that were AJW’s best, looking at the November 20th, 1994 match at the V*Top Five Star Tournament at the Big Egg Wrestling Universe event at the Tokyo Dome. Manami Toyota vs Aja Kong.
What I Know
Well, I don’t know what the V*Top Five Star Tournament was all about, because the Internet hates me. But, I will press on.
What I do know is that this was a big night in women’s wrestling, involving promotions across Japan, even MMA and other shoot fighting sports. Perhaps more interestingly, there was the title defense of the WWF Women’s Championship as the title holder Alundra Blayze stood against AJW’s Bull Nakano in an absolute classic…that we are not going to talk about today. Sorry!
My introduction to Aja Kong was on her occasional appearances on WWF as well as AEW in 2019 and in 2021 (during the AEW Women’s World Championship tournament). She was a scary woman, even with her colorful face paint. Unfairly though, she was subject to remaining a heel for being a biracial woman. Part Japanese and part African-American, she excelled at domination within the squared circle and heel or not, Kong would become a star forever etched into the night sky in the wrestling industry.
I didn’t know Manami Toyota as well going into this match. When doing research for my article, At Time’s End, I had watched her time-limit draw against Kyoko Inoue. I’ve also seen her team up with Mariko Yoshida against Akira Hokuto and Bull Nakano during the infamous Collision in Korea event held in Pyongyang’s MayDay Stadium in 1995. Beautiful, yet deadly, I wondered how she would fare in this match in the tournament.
Manami Toyota enters the Tokyo Dome on this November evening, her entrance theme sounds like it was ripped out of a title screen for a late 90s or early 2000s video game. I feel like I’m about to play a Sega Dreamcast game just listening to it. Still, her regal robe accentuates her power and radiance as she flows down the ramp and into the ring.
Aja Kong’s next, and her theme is surprisingly in English. It sounds like the theme song for a 90s Saturday morning cartoon, with those goofy, silly little raps because that was the hip thing to do. In an alternate universe, it probably was, yet it carried this theme. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers song from hell serenades her into the ring, I notice that her walking feels strangely off. I can tell she’s moving forward, but in some uncanny, bizarre way, she looks like she’s walking in place. Maybe I’m just high (I’m not.).
In the midst of the goofy yet admittedly awesome song, here’s a lyric that aptly describes the force that is Aja Kong:
“God made the Devil just for fun, but when He wanted the real thing He made Aja Kong”
Toyota shoots off like a bullet, getting a lot of the offense in the beginning, yet eventually the brick wall that is Aja Kong overpowers her. Toyota still fights with every fiber of her being, just enough to wear down her fearsome opponent. Screaming with unyielding resolve, she was not going to go quietly to the behemoth.
Every stiff shot and kick of Kong proves brutal and fatal. Toyota’s style shows it would be too much for a normal opponent, but it only staggers the beast, topples if she’s lucky. So much has happened in the beginning of this match, and this is important to say, because you will forget about time itself watching this match, for so many things happen. Non-stop action from bell-to-bell.
Each bridging out pin escape by Toyota shows fighting spirit. Kong’s vicious Boston Crabs look crushing and painful, yet Toyota never gives in to the soul-crushing force. Aja Kong is a total back-breaker in this hold. So agonizing is it, that it feels holy in the ways that you shouldn’t see, lest you be driven to madness.
Good lord, Toyota screams throughout the entirety of this match are haunting. This isn’t like your average scream queen. This is the scream much like a wounded animal that refuses to die easily to the hungry predator. This is the scream of someone who has so much to live for and will fight for it. And in this different type of scream, my blood is curdled and my body is chilled to the bone. Not since Twin Peak’s Laura Palmer, had I felt a terror so great with a wail. Toyota wants to live.
I don’t speak Japanese but I’m sure these ladies are talking some mad shit on each other, yelling at each other while furiously chipping at one another. Just when you think Toyota is but a walking corpse that squeals, dead but oblivious to it, she pulls out a trick – Kong whips Toyota to the ropes, only for her slender figure to bounce off of them and ricochet back upon the very gun that fired it.
This deters Kong not, for her might is greater than Toyota’s will, as the machine of a woman is but staggered, not stopped entirely. The light’s not red, it’s yellow, and about to go green. Kong turns the tide with a devastating ripple, slamming Toyota on the mat and ties her to the turnbuckle before the incoming car wreck with Kong shrieking “TOYOTAAAA!”. And she isn’t done yet.
The match is taken to the ramp, where Kong again ties Toyota, this time to the ropes and tackles her into the ring, followed up by two pummeling piledrivers. At this point, she’s playing with Toyota as though she were some toy. Both instances lead to a near fall so close you could taste it upon your tongue, and that near-release tastes so bittersweet.
Toyota climbs and climbs the mountain that is Aja Kong, only to be sent down, using her own weight. Toyota rises from the dead, however, and kicks that mountain off of her horizon and to the abyss below. Toyota’s the weapon now, firing herself off of the top turnbuckle repeatedly, a missile borne of vengeance and rage.
Manami Toyota now has the upper hand, and uses her time to remove the skirt off of a naughty little announcer table before rolling Kong onto the table and slapping her repeatedly.
With determination now, Toyota once again jumps from the top rope to send Kong straight to Hell, but the table barely breaks. Japanese tables do not play around. They’re stronger than the modern person’s love life, that’s for sure.
Renewed with vigor and fueled with adrenaline, Toyota rejoices with the crowd that showers her with cheers before she rolls Kong into the ring and slams her before soaring on top of her for a near fall pin. This kickout was as heartbreaking as the next few.
Kong returns to her feet to thrash Toyota, but she counters Kong’s strikes and locks her into a gnarly suplex somehow. Near fall reprisal, and Toyota grows increasingly infuriated. This is where things can go wrong for everyone. When your mind races, desperation is the siren that wails into your ear until it bleeds, rupturing your eardrum and the ring drives you to mindless action. Kong is advantageous of this, with her moves of doom, but it’s for naught but a two-count.
At this point, this match gives me vibes of Jeff Hardy and The Undertaker’s 2002 Monday Night Raw Ladder Match. “Go on Toyota, make yourself famous!”
Speaking of Jeff Hardy, Toyota uses a hurricanrana to fell the giant, and returns to the same fire and fury from earlier in the match, sparing no quarter. And boy, does she get so close. Jubilation evades Toyota, for she was literally inches away from victory – denied by the stronger of the two. The mere hype of this brought me to my feet, but the decrescendo deflates me back to the seat from which I came from.
Then comes the inevitable.
A jackhammer by Aja Kong paralyzes Toyota enough for the three-count. All of that from Toyota just to break one sweat from the unstoppable force. Normally, Toyota is death, but here, she was powerless prey.
Toyota was lucky to escape with her life, for the shadow of Kong was all-imposing. Still, the beacons of hope were present. Oh man, were they present.
In the end though, it’s like Aja Kong’s music says: “God made the Devil just for fun, but when He wanted the real thing, He made Aja Kong!”
This was an intense match during the Big Egg Wrestling Universe event, worthy of the grandeur of the Tokyo Dome. Toyota’s screams really sold her ferocity and terror in fighting Aja Kong. Akin to a horror movie, you just hope with all your heart that Toyota would emerge victorious, that she would defy the odds and last throughout the tournament. This match moved so fast, almost dizzyingly so. Despite all of the events that happened in less than twenty minutes, the entirety felt like a mere two minutes as the action-packed fight raged on. Toyota fought with full desperation, passion, and heart. There was no way she would be taken down easily by anyone, even the towering presence of her opponent. Aja Kong doesn’t need anything, she wants. And she wanted to crush everyone on her way this night. As this was early in the tournament, I’d say she did just that. But for almost half an hour, she was pushed to the limit.
Albeit not a game changer, this was an evident showing of the prowess possessed by women. Women who live for this art. It’s not always pretty, but it is never supposed to be. It’s getting from bell-to-bell and claiming what’s yours.
The sheer psychology and fighting spirit within this match should be studied, not just by women wrestlers, but any wrestler, regardless of what their gender is on the spectrum. Almost every match in AJW needs to be studied.
This is the match you show someone to show the visual representation of fighting to prove something. For the characters, they were fighting through the tournament for a grand prize and to prove they were the best of the card that night. Proving one’s self is not something to take lightly. When you want something, you claw, climb, punch, scream, and keep going until you get it.
There is nothing more dangerous than someone with something to prove.