This review was commissioned by Dan Vacura over on my Ko-fi account.

In less than ten minutes, Aja Kong presents a compelling case for being one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. Obviously, the real weight behind that kind of claim comes from her decades of strong work, the astonishing peaks she’s achieved in that time, and for those interested in that kind of historical context, the sheer impressive magnitude of what she achieved in spite of many cultural and societal roadblocks in her path. But if one had no time to spare, and needed just the briefest little primer on Aja’s capabilities that make here one of the best ever, this might just be the match to look at.

While most of Aja’s most famous performances and matches see her cast in the bully role, this match puts her in the position to fight from underneath. It’d be a stretch to call her an underdog in this match, even when these two wrestled together as Jungle Jack, Aja was always clearly the star. Here too, we have Bison Kimura in the midst of a comeback after an initial retirement in the early 90s whereas Aja has been performing at the peak of her powers all through the decade. It’s that disparity that forces Bison’s hand and draws her into ambushing Aja before the bell. It’s an effective initial blitz: knocking Aja off her game, taking the fight to the outside, and busting Aja open with the help of Aja’s own tin box, the ringpost, and even a ringside table.

Aja’s selling performance in this first half is so great. It’s expressive and animated, stumbling on her feet, dropping like a fell tree when Bison comes at her with the signature overhand chops. She gets a good bladejob going too, right at the hairline so we see multiple streams of blood coming down over her facepaint.

But god, more so than the selling, the comeback.

Gritting her teeth through the pain, that guttural cry of determination as she pushes up too her feet and knocks heads with Bison. Jesus Christ. It’s special stuff, exactly the kind of pure raw pro wrestling drama that gets you beating your chest and pumping your fists. Line up the walls and I’d run through them for Aja fucking Kong.

It’s not just the raw guts on display of Aja overcoming either, it’s also the ferocity with which she returns the beating. Here we see the talents that have made her so well known as a bully. Her offense is just remarkable. Those clubbing punches to the grounded Bison, the short headbutts that cut open Bison, even the bone-crunching suplexes Aja throws. Here, she nails it with such righteous fury that it feels so good and right.

I’ll spare a moment to point out that Bison’s good in this match too. She’s never been my favorite of the AJW stars of the time, but this is a real strong performance from her too, delivering in all the ways asked of her. Those overhand chops she loves are crispy, she cuts deep for the bladejob on Aja’s headbutts, and she too gets to display her fighting spirit when the blood’s running down and it’s gut check time for both women.

Bison also delivers a clever final act twist too. Aja’s dominant arm is bandaged up, so when she misses with the Uraken in an attempt to put Bison down, Bison goes after the arm to take away the Uraken entirely. It’s effective enough that when Aja does finally nail that backfist, she goes down with Bison, holding her arm in pain. It’s such a wonderful sell, one she’ll repeat later on in her career in that famous match against KAORU in GAEA. Here they play it simple and abridged, but certainly not lacking in substance. Just as both women recover to their feet, Bison makes one final mistake: she plays for spite instead of victory. She goes for a Uraken of her own but Aja ducks and nails the true killing blow to get the win.

This is a shockingly underdiscussed match in Aja’s career (at least in all the standard nerdy places I bothered to check), but I find it to be one of her most impressive. It’s a concise, punchy bloodbath that outshines the other more famous offerings on this card.

Rating: ****1/4

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