Megumi Kudo vs Combat Toyoda: Kingdom Come

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Life is a frustrating thing. It’s wildly unfair. It trips you at every moment, and some days you just want to give up. Oh God, do you ever want to give up. 

As much as you want your hard work to be paid off consistently, often that won’t be the case. No matter how much effort you put in, it may never be enough unless you’re lucky. Through this, you have to find your own happiness. And even then, happiness must be fought for.

Such was the case of the story between Megumi Kudo versus Combat Toyoda.

Since today’s story focuses on a match that served as Toyoda’s retirement match, I’ll quickly summarize what brought these women to this point. The payoff to a grand, explosive story. Literally. 

In this, you will find that which revolutionized women’s wrestling, and pro wrestling in general, decades before the world caught up.

It starts relatably enough as most stories do, with opportunity and adventure.

Both women started their careers during the late 1980s in All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling (AJW), learning and fighting among the best of the best. This is the promotion that made women like Bull Nakano, Aja Kong, Akira Hokuto, and Manami Toyota to name a few. To be among these names in retrospect would be huge. Monumental. Incredible. Your name would be entombed within the stone tablets of history.

The meek, yet undeniable underdog in Megumi Kudo. The tank of a woman, Noriyo Toyoda, who had yet to embrace Combat unto her name.

However, for these two, it was not to be. They fell short of the expectations set, while their peers soared in the harsh and demanding environment of AJW. In 1988, Kudo and Toyoda were released before being able to make a splash. While their skill sets were impressive, AJW had decided to pursue other candidates whose backgrounds and experience were more closely aligned with the requirements of the roster.

The dream was finished, so it seemed. Destined to be hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Toyoda went on a hiatus. Kudo became a kindergarten teacher. They had their brush with stardom. It didn’t work out, so it was time to settle for an average life. It was a fair effort, but life has other plans sometimes.

At least, that’s what they thought. See, the thing about life is that sometimes things can turn around in an instant. One moment you’re looking at the haze of an unforgiving world, wondering why you even bothered to wake up, and you blink and you’re in a place you never thought you would be.

In 1990, Atsushi Onita would call upon both of them to join him in a promotion that would change the landscape of Japanese pro wrestling. Hell, it changed wrestling as a whole.

This venture was Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW). This promotion dared to do what few other promotions were too afraid to do: go to the extreme. This was punk rock. This was FMW. 

For those unaware, FMW was where violence reigned dominion before long before ECW opened up its doors in Philadelphia. 

Deathmatch may have preceded FMW, but this is where the scene changed. Through barbed wire and smoky visage, FMW was where talents such as Sabu, Cactus Jack, Jun Kasai, and Hayabusa made their names, while the likes of veterans Terry Funk, Vader, and Yoshiaki Fujiwara would grace FMW’s halls with their huge names.

Honestly, this is where I found some unexpected names featured under the FMW umbrella – Chris Jericho, Rey Misterio, and American Dragon (Bryan Danielson???). I genuinely did not expect that.

But I digress. Let’s journey back to the story. 

In the early 1990s, both women returned to professional wrestling with a new vigor. Any semblance of who they were before was to be rinsed away by the waters of agony. FMW was where barbed wire, explosions, glass, and seemingly immortal tables were commonplace.

Oh, on the surface, it may seem harsher and crueler than AJW. But that’s where the beauty of it all truly existed. For outcasts who claimed barbed wire as their family, this was home. It was life at its finest. Here, you were free, liberated like a songbird soaring through an endless blue fading into violet.

Kudo and Toyoda were partners off and on, with the underdog Kudo often suffering the brunt of betrayals and dominant offense. Toyoda, already a mohawked beast, was the perfect foil for the smaller Kudo. Both women made fans believe in the horrors of FMW’s environment. 

Megumi’s pain became a trial by fire and one that hardened her throughout her story. If you were to watch her journey in FMW, you would find that growth that would starkly contrast to the hopeful woman who stepped into AJW long ago. Toyoda would not react much to an opponent’s offense unless they were tough or resilient enough to break through her armor. Once she was tenderized enough, her vulnerability would echo that of the foe she stood across from. It had to be worked for.

Together, these women were like chocolate and peanut butter. But like a very painful chocolate and peanut butter. I hope that doesn’t exist. I quite like chocolate and peanut butter.

War followed wherever they walked, armageddon on the move. Once these two collided, they would be spectacles for your eyes, even in tag team action with and against each other. If you were to watch their catalog of matches, you’d be subject to this spectacle of the grotesque and heartbreak. Among the many singles, tags, and multi-woman matches, they brought their intense craft; it was not pretty, it was not for the weak of heart. This is art, and it forces you to be uncomfortable. 

And now, we finally enter the story of these women whose souls will forever be laid bare for the twisted tale of finality.

Megumi Kudo enters the arena. Backstage, she mentioned wanting to leave FMW into a new era after facing her opponent, Combat Toyoda. Normally, she’s angry and vindictive, she says as much. Tonight, it’s about leaving something special in the ring like all the nights before. Blood, tears, sweat, smoke, guts, whatever it takes. She just has to seize this moment for all of its glory and majesty.

A beautiful guitar piece plays her to the ring. Like a steady stream in a river and she an object foreign to it, she is carried forth to the dam that is the ring. The ultimate destination.

The woman who would indeed serve as the other side of a grand confluence of said river was ready. Large, intimidating, and holding back all the emotions welling inside like an angry wind. Combat Toyoda strolled to the ring. The fans cheer for her.

It is her last night, she has decided. This is her retirement, her swan song. If she were to go out, she was going out with a bang that would echo beyond the moment of this spectacle.

X’s “Wild Thing” is the soundtrack to this march. It’s not her standard fare; normally this song is reserved for the very man who birthed this promotion: Atsushi Onita. Tonight, this is hers. All hers.

Both of these women embody the spirit of Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling. They are outcasts and outlaws, one and the same. Like punk rockers, they eschew the norm. And this is the night they play their song.

Their stage is a ring. It’s laced with barbed wire and lit only dimly. Just so.

The wrestlers. The crew. The fans. The hairs on their bodies rise and the texture of their skin is sculpted by the sheer chill of this moment.

An echo of the bell rings true throughout the arena. Kudo and Toyoda stare. All of their histories are felt by the world, regardless if they followed the story that led to this moment. The crowd watches with anticipation. They crave the blood, the violence, and the emotions that surround it. Tears swimming across burnt flesh and flowing blood.

Toyoda strikes first. She’s dominant and unforgiving, a blazing wildfire that seeks to doom and crisp all that is in her path. Oh, how the singe of the flesh will sting.

As the fight rages on, danger sits on the precipice. This is a human game, and it is a favorite of the crowd. Listen as they savor it. Live in the cacophony of their adulation and their gasps for the flare of death’s sweet kiss.

Kudo is nearly rushed to the hellish gates of the barbed wire. Survival instincts kick in, she stops immediately. A sigh of relief. Agony is averted.

Her opponent is ready; standing imposing and vicious. Kudo subverts her offense with a drop toehold.

In turn, Kudo and Toyoda are brought to the brink of torturous puncture, both stopping mere inches, eliciting a haunting gasp every time. It grows louder, louder, louder throughout the match. Through this quiet communication from the wrestlers, the peril made tenant at the point of no return is made apparent.

Kudo unleashes an angry flurry of offense upon the formidable Toyoda. Unrelenting, unwavering. Edging to the touch of thorns. How prickly they are, silver and metal and twisted intertwined upon wire.

Toyoda finds the fight within her to quell this, and the sound of her slap upon Kudo’s chest rings unearthly into the night. The meek underdog fights back, only to be met with a series of headbutts. Damn your health and damn your sanity; the prize is afoot, it’s at the crossing of the victory tape.

The women, they test their strength, but the mighty triumph. Toyoda dropkicks Kudo and she falls into the ropes. Lights pop and explosions lick her body as her flesh sinks into the thirsty barbs.

Dazed, she sinks and falls out – the crowd is shocked and elated in the darkness. The visage of her limbs and body trickling with blood and darkened by the frying heat. Once filled with life and spite, now prone and gauntish upon the wretched floor.

Toyoda picks up Kudo and tries pin after pin. She’s a vulture, picking the pins like tempestuous morsels, only to find no scraps.

The ever-defiant Kudo rises, as though the blast reinvigorated her soul, rinsing out the sin of weakness. She fights on, surviving yet another blast. You can’t fall this time, not again. Rise for your essence. Happiness must be fought for.

This rage burns warmer than the blast, and it empowers Kudo to send Toyoda to the same ruin that befell her. She deflects Toyota to the ropes and she slumps over, stunned and weakened. Kudo snares Toyoda into a Guillotine hold to nothing. Another. Nothing.

Through this war, Megumi Kudo stands. See her. Her aura reflects that of a woman who has lived hell many a time and refused to die. The heart is worn in full. She unleashes upon Toyoda.

Soon, Toyoda tires of this attack and fights back. She sends Kudo back into the ropes she first landed on. No explosion, but the grimace is there as she unsticks the wire from her body.

Desperation reigns dominion. They trade pin for pin, wishing to end this torment, but neither will give up. This is the hill to die on. Humanity’s great struggle to survive, displayed in this glory.

Toyoda’s offense increases. She can’t go out this way. This has to be the perfect end. It just has to be. Happiness must be fought for. The woman seeks pin after pin from the lifeless Kudo, but her opponent is too resilient. She has only the strength to resist the final bell.

As Toyoda attempts to slam the carcass to the mat, Kudo transitions the move into a Canadian Destroyer. They dance suplex upon suplex, always teetering to the ropes, but do not. Each time, the crowd rises in fervor and anticipation for a climax that’s sure to come.

A dazed Toyoda lumbers towards one side of the ring, and Kudo seizes this moment. Dashing to the other side, she vaults and throws herself onto Toyoda who, in a blink-and-miss-it instance, delivers them both into the wire’s embrace to another explosion. Toyoda got most of the impact, but the damage is mutual.

Moments pass. Seconds feel like hours. They rise through gritted teeth and eternal damnations in their hearts, and they pull each other to their feet.

Kudo delivers a powerbomb and a piledriver to pinfalls that refuse to exist.

Once more, Kudo tries a powerbomb and lands Toyoda on her head in a gruesome landing.

One. Two. Three.

The carnage is over. The art is finished. The story has ended. Kudo and Toyoda lie in a bittersweet embrace.

Crew tend to the wounds and dismantle the nightmarish makeshift ropes. No more pain tonight.

Megumi Kudo’s body is carried off, her celebration is living.

Toyoda is met by Atsushi Onita. The man responsible for the life-changing FMW. He descends upon her like an angel from up on high, and he carries her off as “Wild Thing” punctuates the night.

Tonight, the crowd is satiated with bloodlust and heartbreak in equal measure. This is the glory of deathmatches. They are told not just in the technical or athletic aspects, but the determination to watch the odds and fight against it.

Happiness has been fought for.

You may not be shocked to find that Toyoda did not in fact retire after this night. She participated in a few more matches. The latest of these performances was in a Battle Royal for Onita Pro, refereed by none other than Megumi Kudo herself, who did stay retired for the most part in 1997.

However, this sits as one of the best matches and is important to this day. Every time you see women fighting for a spot, like Rhea Ripley versus Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 39 or Britt Baker versus Thunder Rosa at AEW Dynamite: St. Patrick’s Day Slam, you see Kudo and Toyoda in it.

Whenever you see wrestlers built a certain way in strength like Samoa Joe or Kevin Owens, you see the passion and heart they have that transcends expectations of ability that they share with Combat Toyoda. Whenever you see wrestlers like Becky Lynch, CM Punk, or Sami Zayn, you see Kudo’s unwavering spirit, in the effort to be great despite lacking the same athleticism, strength, and abilities of their peers, simply willing their matches to be as great.

As I watched, witnessing their staredown in the beginning, I felt their history. I certainly was not there for all of it; there’s more in their catalog I’ve yet to see. But in that moment, I felt as though I walked with them through heartbreak and body-mangling agony. 

That’s something I find is lost on most people. Sometimes you might not need to live through it all, but you need a moment, that moment, to sit there and soak in everything and you’ll have walked with them. Just shut everything off and breathe with them. The history is right in front of you, can’t you see it? Can’t you feel it?

I love it when matches can make me feel this way. I watched this without knowing each woman’s story, yet when I returned a few years after, I loved it all the more. It’s resonant; life tells you that you aren’t good enough so you stand up after it knocks you down and you keep going because you are good enough. Damn good enough. Are you going to let the world crash upon you? There is no excuse. You pick yourself up and by everything that swims within you, you fight.

Because happiness must be fought for.

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