Meiko Satomura (c) vs Aja Kong
Sendai Girls World Championship
04/08/2016, aired 04/16/2016
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
(reviewed 01/18/2017) I sat down to rewatch this for the first time in a few months, worried that I’d no longer think that it’s the match of the year. I was worried I was caught up in the moment all those months ago, that a whirlwind of crazy spots swept me up and carried me deep into the realm of hyperbole, far from objective analysis. I’m still not sure that I can be totally objective, especially in regards to matches between these two, but I’m certain of one thing: this was the 2016 MOTY. After nearly twenty years of matches, after each growing to become legends in professional wrestling, these two face off yet again and knock it out of the park. If you’ve ever seen these two go at it, you can imagine how it goes: calculated grappling early on, a burst of action, brawling on the floor, a valiant comeback, a series of bombs. It’s a simple formula, one that can become all too routine in the wrong hands, but sprinkle in a breathtaking highspot or two and a pinch of emotion, and suddenly that which once felt trite and bland becomes fresh and exhilarating.
I won’t lie; I’m a huge fan of these two. Whether facing off against each other or doing battle with a wide cast of other opponents, these women are central figures in my love of pro wrestling. They are women who have known struggle and who have overcome it. They have not banished or destroyed their hardships, their transgressors, their abusers, but they have overcome them, and in doing so have become goddesses, women above all others, the standard by which we measure greatness. Individually, these women are final bosses of two generations of joshi wrestling; all who wish to rise to the top must go through them. When opposed, their powers seem insurmountable. When turned against each other, they are cataclysmic.
From their entrances, it’s plain to see what the dynamic of this, their latest match, will be. Satomura, who would celebrate 21 years in wrestling later in the week, is Sendai Girls champion, on top of the promotion she created, reigning queen and empress of all that is joshi. Kong, ten years her superior, is now an aging legend attempting to cling to her spot in the world, taking one more shot at one of her few remaining rivals. She is not here for a friendly scrap for old time’s sake. She’s here to win. She refuses pre-match photographs with the belt and champion, forgoing pleasantries and formalities in favor of focus. Only when her name is announced does she move, raising her fist defiantly in the air.
The bell rings and for a few moments, nothing happens. Nobody moves. Both women stare each other down from their respective corners, twenty years of unknowable history between them, a sort of understanding that can only be gleaned in those moments shared in the ring. When they finally collide, it is in a series of reversals, each matching the other blow for blow. They know each other well. These are familiar strikes aimed at the head and neck. A poet would call them love taps. Satomura scrambles into a bit of chaining, frantically grasping for a wristlock or headlock, wide-eyed, kicking at her opponent when she tries to free herself. She looks to wear the veteran down, using her size against her, laying in a few more mean strikes in order to facilitate the process.
Kong will not be denied, though. She avoids the cartwheel kneedrop, blasting Satomura with a chest kick as she comes off the ropes. A trio of Saito suplexes bend the younger woman in half, and a chin lock attempt finds her squashed against the mat. When she’s able to knock Kong off the ropes and leap off the top for a splash, Kong lift her boots into the air, thrusting them deep into Satomura’s midsection, flipping the woman inside out before she crashes down to the mat. It is a spectacle of violence and an immediate escalation. The pleasantries of an opening sequence are over; you’re in Aja Kong’s world now.
Kong rules her land with an iron fist, knowing every inch of her domain. She takes to the floor, sending Satomura flying into a few rows of chairs. Satomura, to her credit, holds her own. She avoids a clothesline that sends Kong’s arm crashing into the ring post. She matches her with a series of slaps, reversing an Irish whip into a big spinning heel kick. But again, Kong will not be denied, quickly shutting the younger woman down, hitting a brainbuster onto her signature metal bin. Bleeding to the outside again, she tosses a barricade at her opponent, flooring her with a clothesline up in the stands, topping it off with another brainbuster.
As they make their way back to the ring, a score of young women in the stands chant rhythmically for their heroes, willing them to fight on, hearkening back to the fleets of fans from the glory days of joshi. Satomura, baiting her rival in, catches Kong on the way down from a middle rope elbow drop to apply a cross armbreaker, sending the legend scrambling to the ropes. She follows it up with the cartwheel kneedrop and a pair of Pele kicks, surviving a spinning backfist from a woozy Kong that puts them both down for the count. The two begin lobbing bombs at each other, bombs that have defeated them time and again in the past, a backfist here, a death valley bomb there. They find themselves down for the count after every volley, feeling their age as well as the more immediate punishment. Kong, desperation etched across her face, reaches out for her opponent, clawing to stay on top of the mountain she fought her way up all those years ago. In the end, her efforts are for naught. She sits her opponent up on the top rope, perhaps looking for a final brainbuster. It gives Satomura the leverage she needs to hit an axe kick that sends Kong reeling, and another Scorpio Rising puts her away. Satomura screams and raises her fists as the bell rings and her name is called. She remains queen, on top of the world, her greatest opponent defeated once more.
It’s a simple match and a repetitive one. It’s not as crisp or as brutal as other matches these two have had, or as other matches in my MOTY list. There is no great psychology or clever strategy. There is only a fight between two women who know each other well, who go to war once again in order to prove their dominance. It may not be enough for other people, as I can imagine many people finding this match underwhelming or unimpressive, but it’s more than enough for me, this struggle to remain, this battle against time.