Bison Kimura: The world’s most photogenic kaiju!
JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- BISON KIMURA:
Real Name: Nobuko Kimura
Billed Height & Weight: 5’6″ 165 lbs.
Career Length: 1986-1992, 1994-1998
Trainer: Jaguar Yokota/AJW Dojo
-If you’re like me and got into joshi around 2000, and mostly kinda focused on the Interpromotional Era with all the major companies sending their stars against each other, it’s easy to miss Bison Kimura, as her career took place mostly AROUND that major part of joshi history. She was mostly known as “Aja’s #2” back in the day, having started in the same Rookie Class as her (along with Megumi Kudo & others), then missed 1993-94 due to either injury or being forced out by AJW bookers (I’ve heard both), and so if all you got were the Dream Slams or the big AJW/JWP/LLPW/FMW cards of that era, you’d have missed her completely, and when she finally DID come back, she was relegated to “midcarder”, often being flattened by mid-tier acts in AJW. And then she switched off to Jaguar Yokota’s JD’ promotion, which was one of the least studied joshi promotions of the time, and peaked early and disappeared from the mainstream.
To be honest, I’m a bit iffy on Bison. In tag bouts, she’s perfectly fine, but often the least-interesting person in a multi-person match- there’s an Aja/Kudo vs. Combat/Bison match that features her as easily the worst of the four. She seems like a great heavy, though, and has a FANTASTIC physical presence lacked by many of her contemporaries, not being that huge but carrying herself as if she was friggin’ Kane, just demolishing people left and right. That can create some good character bits, especially as Bison wasn’t your typical “Monster Heel”- despite being treated as big and strong (and hitting people with a tonfa rod), she was also wearing makeup and outfits with bare legs- like “Yeah, I’m a giant monster heel but I’m still fine”. And her storytelling abilities as a dominant wrestler are definitely up there.
But she has that style of “Only does one move over and over again”, with her one-handed overhand “Bison Chop” being spammed out relentlessly. And I see her act like a great character, and she sets up comebacks with the skill of a veteran, so I KNOW she’s a capable wrestler… but then you watch matches and it’s just “Bison Chop! Bison Chop! Bison Chop! Bison Chop!” and you kinda want to see something MORE. A good, deep moveset is important to a wrestler, I think, so someone doing the same move all the time just gives “Scott Steiner vs. HHH” vibes, even if you know that person is better. And I dunno, but Bison seems to noticeably improve her movelist a lot when she returns from retirement, suddenly boosting it with powerbombs and even a moonsault as we hit the “MOVEZ!” era.
But yeah, I don’t wanna be totally negative- she’s not a **** machine like many of her contemporaries, but she coasts to easy *** matches a lot of the time. Her character and the story-arc with her & partner Aja Kong is often EPIC- 1991 features a famous Hair vs. Hair Match with Jungle Jack (Aja/Bison) going up against Bull Nakano & Kyoko Inoue, and when her team loses, Bison starts BAWLING over the loss of her hair. Like sobbing and wailing as three feet of hair are about to be lost. Then Aja shouts out “STOP CRYING!” and Bison basically does on the spot, merely looking miserable. It’s a great bit from both (though mostly Aja, who looks like she’s about to kill someone, seething with rage). The lead-up to Aja winning the Red Belt from Bull Nakano actually had Aja demolishing Bison, her best friend, in a BRUTAL match that involved crushing her arm and leaving her wailing. Then Aja demanded the fans salute her fallen friend.
There’s also a super-fun brawl from late ’94 when a dethroned ex-champion Aja and Bison just tear into each other in a bloodbath that’s less than 10 minutes long, and just comes off as incredible because they fly straight into each other and don’t stop until one is dead. That’s the perfect length for a brawl, haha. So all in all, Bison has a lot of “pretty good” matches and a lot of really good tag team matches. But she’s still only the fifth best worker in a class of six people. Buuuuuuuuuut that class is pretty kick-ass, with only Miori Kamiya being mediocre. And Bison was a pretty great character. But overall it’s not hard to see why she was typically used as “The one who jobs to the star we REALLY wanna push” for nearly her entire career.
Hilariously young Erika & Nobuko.
-Nobuko Kimura debuted for AJW in 1986, as part of a staggeringly-good rookie class that gave us Aja Kong, Megumi Kudo, Combat Toyoda, Bison Kimura, KAORU & Miori Kamiya. She did the “rookie” thing for a couple years, ending up in the late Atrocious Alliance/Gokumon-To heel thing alongside Erika Shishido (the future Aja Kong), who would be linked to her for the next five years! Most of the stable picked up signature weapons- Bull’s famous nunchucks being most notable, but Bison started wielding tonfa rods. Her fairly decent height and strong frame made her a fairly respectable powerhouse in a company that had more fragile-looking women in it (I mean, comparatively). In their early forms, Erika & Nobuko teamed up to win the rookie Japanese Tag Team Titles after they’d been vacated by stablemates Drill Nakamae & Grizzly Iwamoto- they held them for 191 days before losing to Kaoru Maeda & Mika Takahashi.
Early Jungle Jack.
It would be 1990 that would see her rise to the top of AJW- with the Crush Gals having retired the year before, AJW was in some doldrums, but was rising in importance thanks to Bull Nakano- Erika & Nobuko became Aja & Bison, respectively, and split off from their senpai to form their own squad- “Jungle Jack”. Bison, with heavy makeup and lines drawn from her eyes down the sides of her nose, was subordinate to Aja, whose brutal, bloody feud with Bull would reach epic proportions. In 1990, Jungle Jack defeated the beloved Marine Wolves (Akira Hokuto & Suzuka Minami) for their first WWWA Tag Team Titles. They’d hold them only a month before vacating them after losing an amazing Hair vs. Hair Match against Bull & Kyoko. This is the bout with the famous “STOP CRYING!” order from Aja, as Bison wails as 3 years’ worth of hair growth are basically scissored off.
Jungle Jack won the WWWA Tag Titles back in April ’91, winning the vacant belts in a match against Akira Hokuto & Yumiko Hotta- this run would be 247 days long, but they’d have to vacate them again (though this may just be a CageMatch snafu). In the meantime, Bison hit the peak of her credibility as a wrestler, winning the All Pacific Title from Suzuka Minami (who had a short 22-day reign). Jungle Jack won the WWWA Tag Team Titles a third and final time in early 1992, leading to a 75-day reign- this one would end by the newly-risen team of Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada- this team would lead AJW into the Interpromotional Era, culminating with some amazing matches against JWP’s chosen squad in some legendary bouts (all three typically rated *****).
Bison’s run with the White Belt would end a few months later, with Kyoko Inoue (who had recently lost the IWA Title to Manami) defeating her in a come-from-behind victory, cementing her as a star to watch in the future. Bison herself would retire in August 1992, owing to either injuries or being forced out by AJW management (there appears to be some kind of story there). Interestingly enough, Etsuko Mita would suddenly copy Bison’s makeup style, as well as her “Chop”, modifying it into a two-hand overhead chest slap called the “Blazing Chop”. Like Mita saw a gap in the “Lanky Monster Heel” position and decided to fill it immediately. In the meantime, AJW hit a major resurgence thanks to JWP, LLPW & FMW wrestlers showing up on AJW cards, and vice-versa- Bison missed out on most of the good stuff, like the legendary Dream Slam cards, Dream Rush and St. Battle Final. As well as Aja becoming the Ace of the promotion.
Bison would finally return to the ring in late 1994, joining Jaguar Yokota & Lioness Asuka in a mini-stable of formerly-retired stars called “Raijin Army” (typically Anglicized as “RIDEEN Array”, Because Japan). Here, Asuka & Jaguar would form a mid-tier tag team, and Bison would be in an uncomfortable role as “Gatekeeper”- for example, she’s one of the veterans who puts over Sakie Hasegawa in a pretty good Veteran vs. Rookie match at Wrestling Queendom. She’s in the Japan Grand Prix ’95 and actually does pretty well, going to a draw with Mima Shimoda but beating everyone in her block save Manami Toyota, and loses the 3rd Place spot to Takako Inoue. A curious thing I notice is that nearly every Bison singles match from 1995 is around ten minutes long- that’s about 2/3 the length of anyone else’s singles matches at this point, so it stands out as odd- like they didn’t want her going long or something. Late ’95 also sees her fight Aja Kong in the aforementioned short bloodbath- a recurring trend in matches from this time is Bison DEMANDING respect from her former friend, and Aja refusing to give it. There’s even a “Class of ’86 Tag Match” in late ’95 that sees Aja again diss Bison in a bout with Kudo on Aja’s team and Combat on Bison’s.
Bison takes on the next step in her career in 1995 as well, leaving AJW with the rest of Raijin Army to form the new promotion JD’– a minor company with a solid TV spot. They were the only real stars in it, however. In early ’96 she actually gets a bit of a push, beating the soon-to-be-retiring Sakie & Combat- She also had a 60:00 draw with Lioness in mid-96, and put some work into trying to make Chikako Shiratori look good. Unfortunately, in July 1997, Bison broke her arm during a tag match (Bison/Chikako/Yuki Lee vs. Lioness/Ryuna/The Bloody), leaving them trying to improvise a finish with 5 minutes to go, and this was severe enough (or late enough in her run) that she retired and never wrestled again. I’ve heard it said that this was the death-knell for JD’, as it left Jaguar & Lioness to shoulder the burden of a company with a lot of “not quite ready yet” rookies. Jaguar would leave not long after, leaving the company to be filled with “Athtresses” (ie. idols with no real training) and become an industry joke.
Hairtoss (spinning opponent 360 on the landing), Smash with Tonfa Rod, Piledriver, Biting, Side Suplex, Backdrop Suplex, STF (stepover toehold facelock), Flying Headbutt, Moonsault (upgrade over Headbutt), Powerbomb (used repeatedly), Bison Chop (overhead one-handed chop to the chest- typically spammed. A LOT. A “Finisher” version is usually done by whipping the opponent off the ropes and waiting for her)
JWP OPENWEIGHT TITLE:
DYNAMITE KANSAI vs. BISON KIMURA:
(JWP, March 3rd 1996)
* Hey, we’re actually at this point in my timeline, anyway! So the deal here is JD’ star Bison has called out Kansai for a new “Dream Match”, as Bison missed most of the Interpromotional Era and thus a lot of matches are actually still fresh, even though her push has stalled. This one starts with a LONG pre-match bit featuring interviews with Bison (with none of her stage make-up), a bit of a look at her history as a wrestler but mostly recent stuff in JD’ (which looks like it was filmed in the proverbial smoky bingo halls). Bison’s in bright orange, while Kansai’s in lime green & white, looking a fair bit more “puffy” than in bouts from last year.
Bison runs up and swats Kansai with a chop to the back before the bell and we’re off- Bison throws a bunch more, but Kansai scores a f*ck of a lariat. Bison ducks another and catches a kick, swatting her and scooping her into a powerslam pretty slickly. A weird cross-armed choke hauls Kansai down, but she swiftly boots Bison RIGHT in the f*cking face and starts wiping the floor with her, but only half-heartedly beats her up outside the ring, then hits a test of strength, chinlock & camel clutch inside it. The “tied in the ropes” chest-kicks follow, and Bison tries to roar herself alive in between kicks, but Kansai just blasts her again, then a piledriver & sharpshooter wear her down. A corner lariat hits, but a second misses and Bison traps Kansai’s leg on the top rope and fires off rapid-fire Chops to the knee!
Kansai bails and Bison follows with the tonfa rod, just annihilating her back as we finally pick up the pace. Kansai gets whipped into the railing, misses a lariat, and eats another Chop- Flying Headbutt in the ring gets an anemic near-fall, so Bison uncorks the Moonsault, nearly missing (Kansai saves it by leaning to the side for the “catch”)- same result. Bison roars like a crazy person to wake up the fans a bit, but when she whips Kansai off the ropes for a severe Bison Chop, Kansai KICKS her hand! Like a pro, Kansai then grabs the hand to haul her in for a Backdrop Driver for two, then signals Splash Mountain (sit-out Razor’s Edge)! Bison of course slides out and just PASTES Kansai with a series of vicious chops and slaps, just whiplashing like crazy, but when she tries another “whip off the ropes” Chop, Kansai instead catches the hand, slaps Bison to stun her, wipes her out with a kick and pulls her down for the Fujiwara Armbar— for the WIN (11:23)! Okay, was not expecting that one. Shocker early win for Kansai, kind of putting over an unexpected finish with an unusual move instead of the usual “finisher surge”.
Very, very slow match for the first 3/4, as Kansai spends most of it doing the “methodical monster beatdown” despite the match length not being very high. The fans responded by basically sitting on their hands, even through what was clearly supposed to be Bison’s “teasing near-falls” bit of offense, so it fell to Kansai to finally elevate the severity of stuff and get the fans back into it. But once the pace picked up we were done in barely a minute, as Kansai targets the hand a few times and lands a submission for the rare give-up win in a JWP match.
Rating: **1/2 (pretty okay, but ended just as it seemed like it was going to get good- very slow & anemic before that)
MEGUMI KUDO (FMW) vs. BISON KIMURA (JD’):
(JD’, Jan. 16th 1997)
* Another interpromotional bout, this time with FMW superstar Megumi Kudo coming in for a Dream Match in JD’ territory! By which I mean some depressingly-tiny gym with sparse seating. Bison’s in neon yellow & black, Kudo’s in pink & black.
Bison betrays Kudo during the opening handshake, but Kudo blocks the Bison Chop with a great struggle before using the JB Angels armdrag to knock Bison to the apron, then an butt attack to knock her OFF it- she then does the mandatory “whip her through the crowd”, tosses her onto some chairs, then “shoves” a big plastic one into her face. Bison goes into the post then gets thrown around AGAIN, going into the gym’s wall and getting beaten up in the ring with restholds and another butt attack. Another attack misses, but she immediately pounces with a choke and bulldog for two. Bison roars herself alive for a comeback, and traps Kudo with a pair of Rock Bottoms before dumping her and paying back the outside stuff by whipping her into chairs herself! And oh my god- she actually takes out a fan with one, haha! I’ve never seen that before! The girl was too slow to get out of the way and Kudo clipped her back leg and she stumbled! And then, in defiance of this total “house show match” format, Bison PILEDRIVES HER on a table! Which only bends like a couple inches! There’s a hilarious bit as Bison prepares to whip Kudo into a table up against the ringpost, but both trip over the table lying on its side and have to both get up before completing the move.
Piledriver Spam in the ring gets two, and a turning splash off the top gets the same. Kudo backdrops out of another piledriver, so Bison switches to a tombstone, but Kudo knocks her off the top for her Tornado DDT… but Bison slams her down and tries for a pin- two! Kudo lands on her feet from a powerbomb, but gets Bison Chopped down before reversing one to a German for two. Northern Lights & Fisherman’s suplexes get two-counts as Kudo keeps reversing strikes, then Bison finally reverses a Thesz press with a falling powerbomb for two. Then hits THREE MORE powerbombs before laying out a chair and powerbombing Kudo on THAT. Man, they’re pretty slow and “baby”-style powerbombs but they’re still big flat-back bumps the crowd isn’t reacting AT ALL until the kickout on that last one. Bison tries her Moonsault but splatters on the same chair when Kudo moves (haha, she earned THAT one), and Kudo now acts like she’s 100% fine, hitting a DDT and then a DDT on a chair- Bison “F*ck YOU!” bridges out for another bit of applause. Tiger Driver is countered to a Bison Chop for a CLOSE near-fall, popping the crowd probably because of Kudo’s desperately flailing legs. Bison whips her to the ropes, but Kudo strikes her- Kudo Driver (vertebreaker) is reversed, but she comes off the other side and jumps on Bison’s back, stunning her enough- Kudo Driver finishes for real at (13:15).
Very “House Show”-y match for the most part, as even after these monster bumps and pinballing off of stuff, Kudo just has this “Meh, this isn’t great” look on her face and is pulling at her gear or brushing her hair out of the way, and they’re both kinda going through the motions. There’s just a distinctive lack of intensity, stiffness and urgency in a house show bout that’s very noticeable when you go from one the other, you know? And the crowds by this point seem trained not to pop for anything until the “final series” activates, as they don’t care about table piledrivers or powerbomb spam until they start using the chair. Too bad, as I was hoping Bison/Kudo would be Kudo attempting to carry her through a great match or something.
Rating: **3/4 (another disappointment- some solid stuff but a noticeable lack of desperation or stiff offense)