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Posted in: Column of the Month
LOP Columns Forum Spotlight: 13 Decrees' Black History Spotlight: The World Wasn't Ready
By JSR-13
Mar 31, 2017 - 3:19:17 PM

Each month in the Columns section of LOP Forums, we hold a competition to determine who was the best of the previous month. Just a few days ago you saw a piece from the Columnist of the Month for February, a writer by the name of JSR-13. In addition to picking the overall Columnist of the Month, we also choose the best single piece from a given month, the specific Column of the Month. Whomever wins that has the option of having their winning piece posted on the Lords of Pain main page as a Columns Forum Spotlight, to not only show off what sort of talent and quality we’re kicking out in the CF but also as a reward for beating out literally dozens of other columns to be named the best.

February was an interesting month, as one writer pretty much dominated the field. JSR not only won Columnist of the Month honors but also nailed down the single Column of the Month award, as well. That’s a rarity, to say the least. This piece, part of JSR’s February series celebrating Black History Month in the United States, is the column that was chosen the best of the month. I am proud to present it to you here as our Columns Forum Spotlight piece.

If you would like to read the other columns in JSR’s Black History Spotlight Series, of if you would like to join in the fun and perhaps find yourself writing alongside guys like Tito and The Doc, just click the link below. Sign up, take your shot, have some fun.

Thank you. And now, I hand things off to JSR.

-Steven Bell

13 Decrees: Black History Spotlight: The World Wasn't Ready

What's good, LOP? This is JSR here once again with another Black History showcase. One thing that I love most about this series is the fact that once enough information is unearthed, the pieces practically write themselves. I don't need to oversell the worth or contributions of our subjects to the public. If you perceive any enthrallment while viewing, it is not a performance for the cameras. It is 100% authentic, as this ride has been just as educational and entertaining for your truly as it has been for you dear viewers.

Spoiler alert: our pick-of-the-day will not see any decline in said fascination.

As has been the pattern for this series, my interest in these people ranged from dormant to nonexistent until actually having to do some research on them. I had heard of Aja Kong before, but was not familiar with her history, her career, or her vast list of accomplishments. Having taken the time to look her up, not only did I find out that she lived up to the hype, but rather, the hype didn't live up to her.

Unlike most of the figures we've discussed, there is plenty of biographical information on Aja readily available. Videos of her decades-spanning career are a mere click away, and be prepared to "scroll down" if you are seeking out highlights and her extensive title history. It was not my intention to simply copy and paste, and give you a run down of what you can easily find elsewhere. In fact, what we will discuss today will probably not even be 'news', but something I would like to expound upon. Aja Kong was a [I]monster[/I]. Aja Kong was a [I]beast[/I]. Wait a minute... what am I saying? Scratch the 'was'. At 46 years young, Kong is [I]still [/I]a monster. She is a bar-raiser and a standard-bearer. If old rumors have a hint of truth to them, than Aja wasn't just good- she was perhaps a little [I]too [/I]good.

During the early nineties, WWF women's champion Alundra Blayze was the centerpiece of the newly revived women's division. Blayze, who was a well-traveled performer, requested some better competition- specifically from Japan- from which she had done her best work. The company obliged, and brought in the likes of Kong and Bull Nakano. We know about the classic rivalry between Bull and Alundra, but unfortunately, we can only imagine the one between Alundra and Aja. Despite a mean streak and an initial monster push, plans were scrapped, women were fired, and the women's title literally went into the trash. There was a rumor circulating back then that the women (especially the stiff-working Japanese women) were the subject of complaints of their male counterparts, because they were too tough an act to follow. Vince allegedly had to tell the women to dial it back, but if you watch any of Kong's performances in the WWF- then you'd see that either she didn't listen, or she simply didn't know how to wrestle any other way.

The point here is not simply to decry the fact that WWF blew it with what could have been a huge money-maker in the women's division, though that in and of itself was pretty sad. Particularly, this Kong lady was, to borrow from Transformers, more than meets the eye.

On September 25, 1970, Erika Shishido (or Shushido) touched down on the earth via a Japanese mother, and an African American father who was in the military and stationed in Japan. Like a rollin' stone, Erika's father left the family when she was only five years old. During this time in Japan (years after the Jim Crow era in the US), being both a "half-breed" and a product of divorce was a no-no, and Erika had to endure a lonely childhood filled with bullying and ridicule. Her half and half blood made her an outcast, and the woman who would one day darken the aisle ways of arenas and carry one of the most imposing presences in the history of the sport struggled with her own identity. Before she would muster up the courage to perform corner splashes, sentons and brainbusters, she had a daily routine of going to school in the morning wit her head hung down in shame, and leaving school in the afternoon in tears. Not having a father to pick up his princess and tell her she's perfect the way she was, Erika began to resent her bi-racial background.

As much as her mom tried, she could not instill self-esteem and self-assurance in her daughter. One day, during a heated discussion, Erika, after trying her mom's advice to ignore the bullying, asked, "why did you even have me?" In a shocking moment, Erika's mom grabbed a kitchen knife and held it to Erika's throat. "Since I was the one who had you," her mom said while crying, "it is up to me to decide to kill you." Erika, equally jolted by both her mom's actions and her mom's tears, decided to change her way of thinking from then on. Being kind to the bullies proved impossible, but becoming accepting of the very thing that they used to shame her became very necessary. Of course, it was also easier said then done, as she still had to deal with all of the anger that was pent up in her.

Erika's mom told her she needed to find an outlet for all of her rage. Two guesses where she'd find that outlet. Hint: it wasn't cheerleading. No; instead, she found herself captivated by the Crush Girls, a female tandem whose popularity in Japan during the '80's rivaled that of Hulk Hogan's in the States. Erika took a leap of faith and joined the All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling (AJW) dojo at age 15. As you might expect from someone who has spent their entire life being tormented for being born a certain way, Erika dreamed of being a conquering hero, someone who would be celebrated and applauded. This was not to be, however, as AJW told her that her race automatically made her a heel. Not her demeanor, not how she carried herself- absolutely nothing to do with her personality or what vibe she gives off to others. Her [I]blood [/I]makes her a bad guy. Can you imagine being told something like that, especially after everything she has been through thus far?

I can just envision Erika recalling that instance when her mom put the knife to her throat. She has never specified if whether or not she really thought her mom would kill her, but the image alone was enough to help her realize something. Her love for her mother, her only friend in the world, caused a cerebral shift that would not allow this current Erika to run away crying like the younger Erika did. She knew at that point that if nothing else, she needed to make proud the one person who had been in her corner and had been telling her the very opposite of what everyone else was telling her. Erika desired to make her mom happy, and as far as she could tell, the best way to do so was to become a famous wrestler on TV.

So what's a girl to do? Stick to her guns about wanting to be a good guy, and possibly forfeit her chance at the big time; or cave in and continue to let people continue to define her based on her race? She'd go somewhat with the latter... but I don't think you can look at it as 'caving'. Erika just decided that if I'm going to be a bad guy, I'll be the [I]biggest bad guy there ever was[/I].

As you can see, I spent a good bit of time going into Kong's background, and not a lot of delving into to her amazing career. I've yet to tell you how this 227 pounder possessed the brute strength of a superheavyweight, but moved with the speed and agility of a cruiserweight. I have not listed her extensive title history, which includes, but is not limited to, her WWWA World title (AJW's top title) win at age 22; her 4 reigns as WWWA tag team champion; her reign as HUSTLE tag champions with "Margaret" (that is, Kia "Awesome/Amazing Kong" Stevens when the two were doing a "girly-girl" gimmick- another column for another time) and various other titles in puroresu women-only feds. Neither have I mentioned that she has been part of 5 star matches THREE times, or that during her brief WWE tenure, she was the sole survivor at Survivor Series (she eliminated ALL four of the other opponents). I believe I also failed to mention that this woman tried her hand in entrepreneurship, and founded her own wrestling promotion called ARSION. Had I not been so neglectful, I would have told you that in ARSION, while she used herself as the draw, she mainly built around her trainees and up-and-comers (I would say that Jeff Jarrett could have taken a few pointers from her during the early days of TNA- but was he ever a draw?).

I DID tell you that she once broke her opponent's nose during a match on Raw after a spinning backfist, which led to her firing, right?

No? Oh... I thought I said it earlier...

Anyway... Writing about the career of Aja Kong (which still continues to this day, and according to her words, will go on until she breathes her last) could possibly fill an entire public library, but I wanted to leave you with something a little different. Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation knew too little about her to understand her value. She was a superb in-ring talent, athletically gifted, and able to play the role of antagonist very well; and she had a very deep backstory. She was the product of a broken home and of racism, yet she learned how to turn what she was initially shunned for into her power. Japanese society during her upbringing wasn't quite ready to deal with someone like her, so they went to their comfort zone and kept her on the outside- though she wouldn't remain there forever. Her first wrestling employers told her she'd have to play a certain role, because they weren't ready to push a half-breed hero. But as Aja's talent began to shine, wrestling crowds- who will cheer for workrate over characters (especially in Japan)- embraced her, and she ended up becoming the hero she always wanted to be.

Aja Kong is a living legend who has inspired generations of women, and is one of the most accomplished and decorated females in the business. While that is to be celebrated, that is not even the greatest thing about her. We never learn if whether or not she was able to reconcile with her absentee dad; but without his help, she has managed to finally feel comfortable in her own skin. Once a little girl who had to sit alone in the school cafeteria; she is now cheered in whatever arena she appears in. She is no longer afraid to face the day, to make eye contact, or to be herself. And she does what she does because she wants other little kids who have been through similar situations to be the same.

The world wasn't quite ready for an Aja Kong. But that's just too bad- because here she is.

For rising above discrimination and self-hatred to become one of the most respected performers in the world; for not allowing others to define who she was, is, or will be, and forcing the world to embrace her because of her talents and not because of her skin- we salute the great Aja Kong.

Not-So-Trivial Trivia:

If you decide to view WWE's slideshow of black women wrestlers past and present, you won't see Kong's picture- probably because they didn't know she was half-black. Here are a few other stars who you may or may not have known are of black or African descent (and no, I'm not putting the Rock or Sasha Banks. You all should know that by now):

Jade: Known as Mia Yim on the indy scene, the TNA Knockout is African American on her father's side.

Layla El: The last ever women's champion (the original one before it was replaced by the divas' title), the London born former diva is of Moroccan descent.

Prince Puma/Ricochet: The inaugural Lucha Underground champion from Kentuck-er- "Boyle Heights" is also of African American descent, though this is not mentioned in LU story lines.

That does it for today's Black History Spotlight. I'm JSR, and I hope you had a good time. Thanks as always for watching.