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    AEW/Japanese Wrestling: Who is Aja Kong?

    *Until more recently, best known in North American circles for her brief appearances in the WWE in 1995 (which totalled three matches of around twenty minutes combined), Aja Kong is a decorated Japanese female wrestler with numerous title victories in both singles and tag team competition, primarily in All Japan Women but across a number of different promotions as well. 

    The upturn in interest in Women’s Wrestling in general over the past few years has brought her name to more widespread attention outside of Japan, with appearances in Shimmer, Pro Wrestling Eve and now AEW bringing her to a wider audience of pro wrestling fans. 

    Raised by her Japanese single mother who had been ostracised by her family for her mixed-race relationship (Aja’s father was an African-American solider) it seems almost implausible that the bullied and largely ignored Kong would come to be renowned as of the THE stars of Joshi wrestling, revered by fans across the globe.  Her mixed-race identity would prove to shape her early years in AJW, with her desire to wrestle as “the hero” knocked back by management who wanted her to be a heel full of hatred for the Japanese people, for reasons which don’t require much imagination.  With nowhere else to really go if her dream of making a living as a pro-wrestler was to succeed, Kong had no choice but to knuckle down, shaping a career that would see her remembered as one of the most fearsome Joshi wrestlers of all time.  And, of course, would see her in time be accepted as the hero she always wished to be.

    Aja Kong
    16-year-old Aja Kong in her debut match for AJW (1986)

    She graduated from her AJW training in 1986 and at first wrestled under her real name Erika Shishido to team with the fearsome Dump Matsumoto and her fellow trainee Nobuko Kimura.  When Matsumoto retired in 1988 (back then, AJW had a mandatory retirement age) Shishida and Kimura went their separate ways before reforming as the Jungle Jack team in 1990, under new names Aja Kong & Bison Kimura.

    Their main rivals were the Gokumon-To faction, led by Bull Nakano and the squads battled many times, including a famous Hair Vs Hair match which Kong & Kimura lost.

    Kong had singles matches for the WWWA World Title against Nakano around this time and finally defeated Nakano in November 1992 to lift the belt for the first time and end Nakano’s three year reign.

    One of her most intense rivalries was with the excellent Manami Toyota (who, if you’re having a conversation about the “greatest of all time” simply has to mentioned); the two were firm friends outside the ring, having debuted at similar times, but inside the ring they were always full-on and delivered a number of exciting matches.  Indeed, it would seem improbable that they could have not delivered in the ring opposite each other every time they clashed.  If you’re looking for something from North America at the time to compare it to, perhaps the closest would be the Sting/Vader series in WCW…but with the brutality turned WAY up.

    Her 1995 appearances for the WWF were limited to a handful of matches but she certainly made an impression.  She pinned all four opponents in her Survivor Series match and broke her opponents nose in a RAW showcase.  It was intended she would challenge then Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze in 1996, but Blayze was fired before that could happen.  Some say it was a cost-cutting measure from the WWF; others have suggested that Blayze was not exactly overly pleased with having to work opposite the stiff Kong after having been away from the Japanese scene for so long.  The two had previously met in a brutal shootboxing match which may or may not have been a work, but was certainly full on in its brutality.

    Back in Japan, Kong left AJW to start her own promotion, known as Arsion.  For four years she led the organisation until dramatically walking out of a televised tag match and announcing that she was leaving the company.  Perhaps it’s interesting to note that she only held the Queen of Arsion championship and the Twin Star of Arsion championship (with Mariko Yoshida) one time apiece. 

    From there she worked freelance for many different Japanese companies; she wrestled Amazing Kong (aka Kharma in a brief WWE stint) in her Japanese debut for the Gaea promotion before forming a tag team with her known as W Kong.  The duo would go on to hold the AAAW tag team titles in Gaea (Aja also held that belt with Mayumi Ozaki and Devil Madami as well as being a three time singles champion in the promotion), as well as championships in AJW and LLPW.  One memorable championship reign saw them in the wacky HUSTLE promotion, where they defeated Wataru Sakata and Ryoji Sai for Hustle’s Super Tag Team Championships before dropping them in a three way match that included the teams of Bubba Ray & D-Von and Sodom & Gomora.  If you’ve never seen a Hustle show, it’s very difficult to describe just how off the wall the entire promotion was. 

    Fewer ties in Japan also meant that Kong was able to make more freelance appearances in the United States.  In 2011 she appeared for Chikara during their JoshiMania weekend, making three appearances.  A loss to (current NXT trainer) Sara Del ray on the opening night was followed by a victory over Ayako Hamada on night two and then teaming with Mio Shirai and Tsubasa Kuragaki to defeat Hanako Nakamori, Manami Toyota and Sawako Shimono on the final night of the tour. 

    Kong has also made a few appearances for Shimmer Wrestling (and their sister promotion Rise) over the years.  In 2015 she appeared as part of the retirement celebrations for Tomoka Nakagawa and teamed with Dynamite Kansai, Kyoko Kimura & Mayumi Ozaki to defeat The Global Green Gangsters (Kellie Skater & Tomoka Nakagawa), Hiroyo Matsumoto & Misaki Ohata. In 2017 following an appearance for Rise in a six woman match, she defeated Mia Yim (Shimmer Volume 97) and then teamed with Mercedes Martinez to defeat Hiraku Shida and Nicole Savoy.

    She also famously appeared in London at Pro Wrestling Eve’s Wrestle Queendom show in May 2018, defeating Viper (currently known as Piper Niven in NXT UK)

    The highest profile American date came at AEW’s Double Or Nothing PPV in May 2019, where Kong teamed with Emi Sakura & Yuka Sakazaki in a losing effort against Rhio, Hikaru Shida and Ryo Mizunami.

    Kong has remained busy in Japan for the last few years as well, working a number of dates for the likes of OZ Academy (where she is a three time Openweight Champion), SEAdLINNNG, Sendai Girls (one time World Champion) and Zero 1 amongst others.  Despite being placed in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame as far back as 2006, she is still going strong today. 

    Whilst arguably never being THE star behind which the promotional might of a company was pushed, even when holding versions of the world title, the fact that Kong was able to excel in the middle of a boom period for women’s wrestling in Japan and more than hold her own against those considered some of the all-time great wrestlers of any sex shows that she was a very formidable character.  As well as being a powerful brawler she was able to work a technical style too.  Adaptable, versatile and personable. Kong was one of a kind. Truth be told, she still is. 

    MAJOR TITLES WON: AJW Championship (1 time), AJW Tag Team Championship (1 time), All Pacific Championship (1 time), WWWA World Heavyweight Championship (x 2), WWWA World Tag Team Championship (x4)

    RECOMMENDED MATCHES: vs. Bull Nakano (November 15th, 1992), & Bull Nakano vs. Akira Hokuto & Shinobu Kandori ( March 27th 1994)Vs Manami Toyota (June 27th, 1995), vs. Meiko Satomura (3rd April, 2005)

    *Original article posted on 14th November 2013, updated February 2021.

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