Retro Review: Manami Toyota vs. Aja Kong
I've wanted to do a women's match in this series for a while now. Women's wrestling history goes back just as far as the men's yet it is often overlooked by fans (myself included). While the women's wrestling scene in the United States in the mid nineties was virtually dormant (despite strong work by Medusa), the scene was very different in Japan.
Manami Toyota is the champion, holding the WWWA World Single Championship. Technically the belt's history goes back to 1937 when Mildred Burke created a vanity title for herself (the next champion wasn't until 1970). Toyota is in her first reign, having previously beaten Kong who was the previous champion.
As the competitors make their way to the ring they are both escorted by teams of water boys and towel girls. While the Young Bucks may have a solo stooge in Brandon Cutler, these two workers have entire teams of Brandon Cutlers. Once in the ring Aja Kong is offered flowers which Kong has no interest in. Her eyes are locked on Toyota and that championship. Kong exudes menace, what with her physical size and her war paint. Toyota responds in kind, returning with her own intense glare. Before the bell has even rung I'm invested in the match-up between these two.
Kong makes an early mistake as she turns her back to Toyota and walks away. Toyota jumps on the opportunity and opens with a big German Suplex as the opening bell sounds. The first three minutes is fairly equal as both workers land offense. This quickly changes as Kong lands a great looking piledriver and transitions into a series of submission moves. Lots of time is spent as Toyota struggles in a headlock only to escape into a leg lock. Kong is really working over Toyota's back and Toyota is selling the pain.
The action spills into the crowd and Kong gets a pair of chair shots in. It's so weird to me that the ref will force a rope break, but he's totally fine with chair shots. It's outside the ring so it doesn't count? A neat touch during the outside action is hearing announcements over the public address system. I don't speak Japanese so I like to imagine that the announcer is warning spectators to stay away from the action. Modern leagues should do this. Have Justin Roberts in AEW warning people to stand back, it'd would add a level of reality to the fight.
After Toyota gets whipped into a steal barricade, one of her team mates brings her water and towels her off. Again, it adds realism and blurs the line between pro-wrestling and a legitimate pugilistic contest. Toyota then mounts her comeback and it's an incredible babyface reaction. While still selling her back, Toyota goes up to the corners and hits repeated dives. The crowd is chanting her name and getting fired up. Toyota is able to hook both of Kong's arms and hits a massive Tiger Suplex (a.k.a. Japanese Ocean Suplex). Kong goes to the outside and get attended to by her corner person. Toyota capitalizes with a diving attack which takes down both Kong and the water boy. Toyota has a number of great finishing moves (she invented the Victory Star Drop, a top rope body scissors back flip into a back-to-back kneeling piledriver) but she is unable to land any on Kong. In the closing minutes Kong hits a pair of spinning back fists and is able to pin Toyota to win the championship. Toyota's team of attendants carry her away from the ring. Kong gets emotional as the belt is put on her waist and she is handed a massive trophy.
This is peak pro-wrestling story telling. No dialogue or hype packages are needed to understand what is going on. These two workers in 1995 were the best of the best at all elements of putting a match together. I wanted to broaden my horizons by seeking out a talent I wasn't familiar with (Toyota) and I ended up watching a classic match. Just fantastic.
Strikes=1 point, Weapon Attacks = 2 points, Strikedowns=3pts, Grapples=4pts, Submissions=1pt/5sec, Dives = 5 points, Finishers=10pts