I wrote about Stardom back in 2021 (here, if you’re so inclined) and I wanted to again.
And I wanted to say a few things about the company because I like them and I think that you should like them as well. And from the Doomie nominations, it’s clear to me that more than a few of you are already watching; for those that aren’t or are just wondering about it, Part 1 of this is for you and is, I hope, well worth checking out.
So with that in mind, let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
PART 1: SO, STARDOM – WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
I sometimes think that there’s a bit of snobbery that goes on when it comes to Japanese wrestling, so let’s step back on that a bit. I’m hoping that a few of you clicked the link because you’re curious about Stardom and I want to welcome you properly. And you’re in decent enough company because while I first wrote a review about Stardom back in 2021, I really became a fan of them this past year and as such, I’m still making my way through the dark a bit as well, so we can go together on this. With that in mind, let’s start with some basics; we’re just people talking about wrestling here.
So, Stardom. Stardom is a women’s wrestling company based in Japan; as such, you’ll frequently hear it referred to as joshi, which is the term for women’s wrestling in Japan. There are several other joshi companies in the country, but Stardom is the largest. They frequently outdraw every other company in Japan outside of New Japan Pro Wrestling, and sometimes have been known to outdraw even NJPW. Bushiroad, the company that owns NJPW also owns Stardom, having purchased the company in 2019. They run events all year and have their own streaming service, Stardom-World, which is even cheaper than New Japan World at 920 yen per month, less than ten bucks American.
PPVs don’t air on Stardom-World simultaneously, but are uploaded very quickly, most within a week or so after the event itself. Other uploads include house shows, etc – there’s a lot of content that gets uploaded weekly to the point where there’s never a lack of wrestling on the site to watch. To get a taste of some of Stardom’s content, their Youtube channel is filled with all sorts of cool stuff, including video packages, full matches, pressers, etc. You’ll need to translate it, but Google is right there for you!
Okay, but…..why watch Stardom?
Because it’s AWESOME.
Alright, moving on…..
Eh, let’s take a bit more time on this one, actually. First off, a LOT of your favorite women wrestlers spent time in Stardom.
Jamie Hayter, Shayna Baszler, Hikaru Shida, Riho, Ruby Soho, Dakota Kai, Iyo Sky, Nikki Cross, Chelsea Green, Mia Yim, Deonna Purrazzo, Thunder Rosa, Kay Lee Ray, Toni Storm…..the list goes on. One of the very cool things about subscribing to the Stardom streaming service gives you the chance to see some of their early work touring Japan before they became what you know them as today. And you’re going to see some women who, down the road, may end up the stars of tomorrow.
But is this just another workrate company? Let’s put some cards on the table here; it’s pretty easy to find really great matches in a vacuum these days, and while I’m sure that’s of pretty great importance here at the BoD, it’s likely you want a bit more from the wrestling you watch. So let me dispel that notion – Stardom is really a well-booked company with factions, stories, and all the things you enjoy about pro wrestling, I promise.
I want to dive in a bit deeper and here, I’m indebted to the Stardom reddit forum, where there are some tremendous resources about wrestlers, factions, etc. I’ll give the cliff notes but I would encourage everyone to check out the links provided for more detailed info.
Stardom wrestlers are mostly, if not all, separated by factions, both heel, babyface, and tweener. Let’s take a look at them; I’m going to throw a bunch of names at you here, don’t sweat it that much. We’re just going to keep the info for future reference as we go on:
Donna Del Mondo – The coolest faction in Stardom, at least in this writer’s humble opinion. Not exactly lily-white babyfaces but not heels either, they exude the strongest vibe of being superstars and remind me a lot of Los Ingobernables de Japon in NJPW. The faction is led by Giulia, and consists of Maika, Himeka, Thekla (who is really awesome, BTW), and Mai Sakurai.
God’s Eye – A splinter group of Donna Del Mondo, God’s Eye came about when Syuri left DDM to head up her own faction. The faction is led by Syuri and consists of Mirai, Ami Sourei, Konami, Tomoka Inaba and Nanami.
STARS – The ultimate babyfaces. These are certainly the ‘good guys’ and tend to mix it up with Oedo Tai quite a bit; we’ll get to the Tai ladies next. If you’re part of STARS, you’re on the right side of the rules. The faction is led by Mayu Iwatani, and consists of Saya Iida, Hanan, Koguma, Hazuki and Momo Kohgo.
Oedo Tai – The ultimate heels. If you see the purple and black of Oedo Tai, these are the villains who will break any rule to win matches. The faction is led by Natsuko Tora, and consists of Saki Kashima, Ruaka, Rina, Fukigen Death, Starlight Kid, Karma and Momo Watanabe.
Queen’s Quest – My faves. This is the ‘top wrestlers’ style group, kind of where you would see something like CHAOS from New Japan. Maaaybe slightly analagous to the Bloodline in WWE, although not nearly that dominant. The faction is led by Utami Hayashishita, and consists of AZM, Saya Kamitani, Lady C, Hina and Miyu Amasaki.
Cosmic Angels – best way I can think to go on description here is ‘the princess faction’. I’m sure someone down in the comments can give a better breakdown than that, but if you were to say, picture Taylor Swift in a pro wrestling ring, this would likely be her stable. Anyway, this faction is led by Tam Nakano, and consists of Unagi Sayaka, Mina Shirakawa, Waka Tsukiyama, Saki, Hikari Shimizu, Yuko Sakurai, Rina Amikura and Natsupoi.
Club Venus – a sub faction of Cosmic Angels, this is Mina Shirakawa’s trio. Formed a month or so ago at Queendom, the show I’ll be reviewing below, it has yet to totally define itself. The faction is led by Mina Shirakawa, and consists of Xia Brookside and Mariah May.
Prominence – not strictly a Stardom faction here, Prominence is an interesting case. A group of 5 wrestlers who left the Ice Ribbon promotion, they remain together and work with several promotions including promoting their own shows, with an emphasis on hardcore and deathmatch wrestling as heels. And despite this not really being the type of wrestling I like, one of the faction members, Suzu Suzuki, remains one of the most impressive young wrestlers in the world in my eyes. The faction is led by Risa Sera and consists of Suzu Suzuki, Akane Fujita, Mochi Natsumi and Hiragi Kurumi.
Neo Stardom Army – an invading force led by Alpha Female, who may be more familiar to most of us as Jazzy Gabert from the Mae Young Classic, this group vowed to destroy Stardom when formed in September of last year. The faction is led by Alpha Female and consists of Nanae Takahashi, Yuu and Yuna Manase.
Alright, that’s a lot and right now, it’s just a bunch of names. But don’t worry, again, it’s just for some reference as we go forward.
Now, a lot of the above was stolen from a slightly out of date Reddit post on the Stardom forum – regardless, it is well worth a read to get much more information, even if some of it isn’t completely current. So if you’re into it, check it out here: https://www.reddit.com/r/stardomjoshi/comments/s1m4yt/a_beginners_guide_to_stardom_in_2022/
Do they have a Wrestlemania-type event in Stardom?
Well, kind of. First off, Stardom has a few annual tournaments each year and they tend to feed into the bigger shows to a certain extent.
So what are those tournaments?
The Cinderella Tournament: takes place sometime in late March/early April. Winner of the tournament gets a ‘wish’ fulfilled, normally in the form of a title shot that can be used towards any title in the company.
The 5Star Grand Prix: This is the Stardom version of the G-1 Climax. Wrestlers are divided into multiple Blocks and face each other round robin matches, with the Block winners wrestling each other in the Final; the winner normally ends up challenging for the title of their choice.
The Goddesses of Stardom Tag League: Picture the 5Star, but with tag teams, as we split into Blocks and then have the Block winners face off against each other after round robin matches. The winners normally challenge for the tag team titles.
For the last two years, the final event of the year has been named Stardom Dream Queendom, and has acted as a payoff for the previous year of storylines. So if you needed to call something their ‘Wrestlemania’, I suppose it would be that.
Titles, then? How many are we talking about here?
I would say that it’s about a 0.7 Tony Khan when it comes to the number of titles. There are 7 active straps in the company, so let’s take a moment to look at them:
The World of Stardom title (AKA The Red Belt) – likely slightly above the Wonder of Stardom title currently, making it the most desirable title in the company. While the red and white belts can sometimes shift in importance, for now, the red belt is the top strap.
The Wonder of Stardom title (AKA The White Belt) – as stated above, this is the secondary title in the company at this time. The IC title to the World one.
The Goddesses of Stardom titles – these are the tag team belts. Factions tend to shift members in and out of teams to challenge for these belts, as there aren’t a ton of dedicated Stardom tag teams. Instead, you’ll frequently see teams put together to challenge for the belts inside each faction.
The High-Speed title – the title kind of makes this one self-explanatory, I think. Frequently defended in fast matches, this would likely be their cruiserweight title, even though there isn’t a weight limit for it, just that the matches are normally extremely quick-moving.
The SWA title – an interesting belt that is mean to be defended on the international stage, as the rules state that to wrestle for the SWA title, one must be a different nationality than the current champion.
The Artists of Stardom titles – the trios titles. As factions play such an important part in the company, they are actually quite coveted in Stardom.
The Future of Stardom title – the belt for the less-experienced women on the roster; to be the champ or wrestle for the belt, you need to be under the age of 20 or have less than 3 years of experience as a wrestler.
Alright, so if you were to sum up Stardom after all this, what would you say?
It’s just pro wrestling. As in, there’s a lot to get excited about here! Even though it can be a bit intimidating to parse things in another language (at least, it was for me and I’m fine admitting it), the rewards are that you get to watch some really great wrestlers ply their trade. No more than that, because that’s all it should be – really good professional wrestling. And if you watch it, I can all but guarantee that you’ll find something worth taking a further look at.
Now then, I’m going to review Queendom from this year – again, I’ll give a bit of intro on the matches here and there, with this being slightly more in-depth stuff. Let’s get to the part where we watch some wrestling.
PART 2: Stardom Dream Queendom, December 29th, 2022.
This is the last show of the calendar year, so there are blowoffs and stories concluding; but it’s a really good show and worth the time to watch. And it sets the foundation for everything to begin afterwards, so in that respect, it’s a good way to really start off.
I’m going to skip the Rumble, as there’s not a lot of value in reviewing those.
We are live from the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo, Japan! No English commentary on this one, but we can muddle through.
AZM (C) (Queen’s Quest) vs Hikari Shimizu (Cosmic Angels) – High-Speed Title match
We kick things off with the High-Speed title, and this one has a bit of a backstory as AZM attempts to defend her title for the 9th time, which would tie her with all-time record holder for defenses in a row, Mayu Iwatani. And any time you can put your name next to Iwatani in the record books in Stardom, it’s a big deal to say the least. AZM initially won the strap on this run from Starlight Kid back in February of ’22, in a match I put at #10 on my Top 10 Matches of 2022.
Hikari tries SUBTERFUGE, offering the handshake and then trying to sweep the leg! Even Cobra Kai students don’t sink that low. For shame. We do our initial back and forth trading moves as these matches have a tendency to do, as the action is too fast to call before AZM takes her down into a Rings of Saturn. Hikari makes the ropes and we get more insanely fast action before AZM gets sent to the floor and Hikari dives off the top onto her.
Back in and a Shining Wizard from Hikari gets two. Shimizu goes up, but AZM armdrags her off the top rope. AZM off the top for two. Crazy toss from Hikari puts both of them down. AZM with a German suplex and they trade rollups with Hikari getting a REALLY close nearfall twice. Hikari with an enzuigiri and she goes up, double foot stomp! 1, 2, no! Sleeper on the mat as AZM is in trouble. Kick to the head from Hikari gets two.
Second one is avoided and Hikari rolls her up for two, then they do ANOTHER pinfall reversal sequence that ends with Shimizu getting another close two count. Back to the mat again and that proves to be the challenger’s undoing, as AZM gets on top and locks on an armbar to get the submission, barely surviving the challenger’s onslaught at the end to tie the record. (AZM over Hikari Shimizu, submission, 9:40)
THOUGHTS: ***3/4. I love these matches, they’re always a treat. Add to that the fact that AZM is an absolutely terrific talent and should be primed for bigger and better things when she’s done with this title, and it’s just a fun sprint out there. Shimizu was up to the task and sold it like she could pull off the big upset in a few spots. Really well done match.
Hazuki, Koguma, and Saya Iida (Stars) vs Hanan, Mayu Iwatani, & Momo Kohgo (Stars)
Factionmates collide! Mayu is, of course, just the greatest babyface, throwing a ball into the crowd as usual before the match begins. Has Iwatani EVER been a heel? I’m honestly curious and I’m sure those that know more than me can answer that in the comments.
Handshakes all around to start, as expected from the babyface faction. That leads to a cheerleading routine led by Koguma, and the entire opposing team takes a turn with her! Everyone’s having a good time!
Then Koguma tags Hazuki in and she slaps Momo in the face.
The vibe changes ever so slightly with that.
Kohgo takes a beating, including Hazuki trying to kick her face through the back of the skull on a running boot. Triple team ensues and Hazuki hits a senton for two. Momo has the temerity to fight up, so Hazuki slugs her back down. Tremendous. Momo with a dropkick, but her team has been taken off the apron so the beatings continue.
Hazuki drops Kohgo with a few elbows, but Momo hits a dropkick after a headscissors and finally, it’s hot tag to Hanan. She runs wild for a bit and tries an armbar on Hazuki, who makes the ropes. Northern Lights suplex gets two on Hazuki, and now it’s a tag to Mayu.
Iwatani is great at selling and promptly gets right to work on that, as Hazuki immediately catches her with a Codebreaker and Koguma comes in. DDT from her, tag to Saya. She flies into the ring with a shoulderblock off the top for two, then a Northern Lights with a bridge to force a save. Saya goes up and looks for a reverse DDT out of the corner on Mayu, but Kohgo puts a stop to that with a Tiger Feint Kick that sweeps Saya off the turnbuckles and sends her crashing to the mat. That was really fucking cool.
Mayu goes up and hits a double foot stomp for two, then she and Saya trade shots before Mayu gets a Crucifix Bomb for two. After the ring gets cleared, Saya gets a rollup for two. Triple team dropkick/flapjack combo puts Saya down, and a frog splash by Mayu gets…..two! They got me there. No worries, as Iwatani follows up with a bridging Dragon Suplex for the pin. (Iwatani, Kohgo, & Hanan over Hazuki, Koguma, Iida, pinfall, 12:04)
THOUGHTS: ***. The usual fun 6-woman tag here, with the added bit of business having one side go completely heel on their stablemates. Made for a very fun little story in there, and I continue to enjoy it when Hazuki goes complete bitch on people. And Mayu is almost always terrific.
Post-match, everyone makes up like good babyfaces.
Mai Sakurai & Thekla (Donna Del Mondo) vs Unagi Sayaka & Mina Shirakawa (Cosmic Angels)
I am an unabashed fan of Thekla. I think she’s so fucking great with a unique look and charisma to her. Sayaka out first for Cosmic Angels, and then we get Mina Shirakawa…..in a mask and accompanied by Xia Brookside and Mariah May? Okay, bit of backstory for those uninitiated. Mina had taken on Saya Kamitani and Saya hit a Phoenix Splash during the match, and by ‘hit’ I mean that she ‘hit’ Mina squarely in the face and broke her jaw, putting Mina out of action until this match. I have no idea what Xia and Mariah are doing with her, except that maybe Xia was bored since NXT UK called it quits.
Anyway, she takes off the mask to reveal a perfect jaw, then makes her way to the ring. Mai and Mina start us off here, and Mina takes the early offense. A charge to the corner ends up with Mai stepping aside and Mina running into the turnbuckle, and she promptly sells the jaw like she’s been shot. So Thekla gets the tag and just goes to work. Smashing Mina into the buckle, dragging the jaw across the top rope, Indian Deathlock with the Muta bridge to pull back on the jaw…..my heart is all a-flutter watching this glorious violence.
Mai in now and she just starts kicking Mina in the face. Shirakawa puts a top to that with a spinning backfist, tag to Sayaka. DDM tries a double team, but Unagi puts a stop to that with a double Codebreaker, then a double legdrop for two. Mai comes back with a bulldog and they trade shots in the center of the ring, and that ends up with both of them tagging out.
Thekla with a hammerlock DDT on Mina for two, and now a crossface, again cranking on the injured jaw. This woman is a sadist in the best possible way. Mai in with a stunner on Mina as Thekla goes up, then comes off the top with a crossbody for two. Thekla off the ropes, but Unagi saves it with a flapjack on Thekla, then a Gory Bomb/Facejam double-team from the Angels gets two. It’s breaking loose in Tokyo with all 4 wrestlers in the ring now.
Unagi and Mai end up on the floor and Thekla gets a spear, but Mina no-sells and fires off a series of strikes for two. Enzuigiri drops Thekla, setting up the Glamorous Driver MINA for the pin. (Mina Shirakawa & Unagi Sayaka over Thekla & Mai Sakurai, pinfall, 10:12)
THOUGHTS: **3/4. This one didn’t grab me that hard. The entire goal of the match was to put Mina over as hard as possible, and the match was centered almost entirely around that; but outside of some of the stuff with Thekla, I didn’t connect much to what else was going on in the match. It was a perfectly serviceable tag with a very specific idea behind it, which it executed relatively well.
Post-match, Mina gets the STICK~! She talks about being excited to be back, but then shifts to chastising Unagi for not being there when she needed her. Unagi reaches for her hand….and Mina wails on her! Tells her that their team is finished! She welcomes Xia and Mariah into the ring now as Unagi leaves, introducing them as ‘Angel of the Ring, Xia Brookside’ and the ‘Fighting Princess, Mariah May’! And she’s the Venus, Mina Shirakawa, and they’re now known as Club Venus! They pose as Unagi is in tears at the top of the ramp.
Ami Sohrei & Mirai (God’s Eye) vs Natsuko Tora & Ruaka (Oedo Tai) vs Himeka & Maika (Donna Del Mondo) – Triple Threat match to determine the #1 Contenders to the Goddesses of Stardom Tag Team titles
DDM all the way here on my end. I don’t even want to try to keep track of everything here as there are three women legal in the ring at all times. Oedo Tai goes for the first pin after a double team, then a proper tag to Tora results in a series of splashes in the corner by the heels before Tora tries for a double pin on Maika and Mirai.
The babyfaces escape into their respective corners for tags, and now we’ve got Ami and Himeka in with a double suplex on Tora. Ami gets a Torture Rack after some back and forth with Himeka, but Tora breaks that up, then hits a double spear. Hot tag to Maika, who does a bit with Mirai before Ami comes in and now it’s a God’s Eye doubleteam.
Missile dropkick by Mirai after that gets two before Tora takes the ref and Ruaka comes in with the Oedo Tai briefcase, whacking Maika before hitting a delayed Fisherman’s Buster for two. Pier six brawl ensues and Tora hits Maika with the stick before a short swanton and a splash from Ruaka. Himeka makes the save there and sets up DDM for an assisted superplex and a Maika lariat for two.
Tornado lariat by Maika gets two on Ruaka. Michinoku Driver finishes in a relatively anticlimactic ending. (Himeka & Maika over Ami Sohrei & Mirai and Natsuko Tora & Ruaka)
THOUGHTS: **1/2. Fast action but nothing really underneath it, I thought this was the weakest match on the show. And while I don’t really mind Oedo Tai’s cheating, I wish they would be less lazy about it, frankly – this was House of Torture level stuff, and not in a good way. Which is weird, because I normally have a super soft spot for Natsuko Tora, but I wasn’t there today for whatever reason.
Kairi (No affiliation in Stardom) vs Utami Hayashishita (Queen’s Quest) – loser goes back to their roots match.
YES! YES! Okay, so here’s what you need to know besides the fact that everyone involved in this match is FUCKING AWESOME. Kairi is the current IWGP Women’s champion, having beaten Mayu Iwatani in a tournament final. The IWGP title is a New Japan title, not a Stardom one, but Stardom had heavy involvement in the tournament. The belt itself is not on the line here; rather, whoever loses the match has to go back to their rookie outfits and entrances, losing all of their accoutrements. If Kairi looks familiar to you and you’re not a regular Stardom fan, she was the first ever Mae Young Classic winner, a former NXT Women’s champ, and a former WWE Women’s Tag champ with Asuka.
Utami? Utami is one of the best wrestlers in the world.
They trade off on the mat and Utami works a headlock something fierce. They trade sleepers and Utami drops a charging Kairi with a shoulder and a slam, using her height and weight advantage. Blind charge from Utami misses and Kairi dropkicks her in the corner. Another dropkick sends Utami to the floor, and Kairi comes off the apron with a forearm to drop her there. She works Utami over a bit on the floor from there, just straight up punching her in the stomach against the ringpost.
Back in and Kairi goes up, then a flying forearm puts Utami down. More kicks from Kairi follow, and that finally makes Utami mad. She drops Kairi with a lariat and then hits two more before an Air Raid Crash gets two for Utami. Utami spins Kairi in a circle with a chinlock now, Kairi makes the ropes. Spear by Kairi and both women are down.
Back up now and Kairi gets a spinning backfist and a DDT. She wants to finish and goes up, but Utami cuts her off, Super Air Raid Crash off the top! 1, 2, NO! Utami with a fallaway Torture Rack slam for two. Utami with the hammerlock, DDT into the double wristlock/choke combo! That’s so cool. Kairi makes the ropes after a struggle, so Utami drops her with a spinning Razor’s Edge as time is running out. Kairi rolls to the apron and snaps the neck of Utami on the top rope. Kairi goes up, Insane Elbow hits! And the bell rings right as she makes the cover, with the time expiring. (Draw, 15:00)
THOUGHTS: ****. This was great but not perfect. The draw itself made sense, because they didn’t want either wrestler to lose. But the issue I had with the match, and the reason I didn’t go higher than 4, was that it felt very compressed to me to fit into the time limit. I wanted a bit more build between the moves and holds, something that I know both women are VERY good at, but they wanted to try to get a lot in there even though they were surely holding some things back. I think that this thing should have gone 25-30 minutes and been a MOTY contender, but I accept that wasn’t the point of this match; the point was to whet the appetite for the two of them to have a classic further down the road for that strap. As such, this was kind of a warm-up for that and for what it was, it was excellent; but when it was over, I wasn’t content with the story I had been given. We’ll have to see where they end up with it.
Hiragi Kurumi, Risa Sera and Suzu Suzuki (Prominence) vs Momo Watanabe, Saki Kashima and Starlight Kid (C) (Oedo Tai) – Artists of Stardom Title match – Hardcore rules
The bloodsoaked flag of Prominence on the Tron alone tells you what to expect here. These are some MEAN women, and I mean that in the best way – and no one is going to follow any of the rules anyway, so why not make it a hardcore match? On the Prominence side, the one to watch is Suzu Suzuki, who is putting together a meteoric career right before our eyes. All of the Oedo Tai women are great, although my soft spot is for Starlight Kid, who wanted to break out of Mayu’s shadow so badly that when she was forced to turn heel, she found out that she LIKED breaking the rules and wanted to continue doing it.
Make no mistake, this will be brutal.
Everyone brings weapons, from bats to kendo sticks to chairs to Starlight Kid riding a fucking bicycle! That adds at least one extra star off the jump to this. Saki’s simple black trenchcoat makes her looks extra badass, by the way.
Oedo Tai attacks en masse during the intros. Things go completely batshit off the jump as all the women bail from the ring to the floor and Starlight Kid IMMEDIATELY goes for the bike and takes it to the top of the ramp. I told you she rules. The rest of Oedo on the floor helps Momo and Saki beat down the Prominence women and hold them in place at the bottom of the ramp, and then Kid RUNS THEM OVER WITH THE BICYCLE. Tre……wait for it…..mendous.
Back in the ring and Oedo takes turns dropkicking the bike into Sera in the corner and Momo gets her bat. Risa gets her hands on a kendo stick and hits the bat out of Momo’s hands, so Starlight Kid hands Momo another bat, except this one is wrapped in barbed wire. Well, of course. The ref keeps taking the weapons and putting them out of the ring after they get used, which….c’mon, dude. Don’t harsh the vibe.
Momo stacks up some chairs, but gets slammed on them by Risa and Kid is forced to make a save. Hiragi in now and she beats on Momo for a bit, but Kid hits her from behind and Momo uses a trash can and a bat to make Hiragi feel things. Painful, painful things. Kid gets in and hits a standing moonsault for two. Hiragi with a Black Hole Slam for two to turn the tide a bit, tag to Suzu.
Suzuki comes in by tossing Kid a chair, then hitting a missile dropkick Van Daminator off the top rope. The smile on her face as she causes pain is one of her many fine attributes, and it’s a mile wide as she wails away on Starlight. Sera comes in for an double team slam, but Saki breaks up the pin. The Oedo Tai members on the floor yank out Sera and Hiragi, so Oedo triple teams Suzu and Starlight comes off the top with a moonsault for two.
Momo puts Suzu on the top and Kid goes up, looking for a Spanish Fly off the top onto some chairs, but Risa stops that and slams Kid onto them instead. Meanwhile on the outside, Risa starts constructing a tower of chairs which I’m sure is no big thing. Kid tags out to Saki, who wails away on Suzuki with a chair. One of the things I’m enjoying about the match is that they’re using the stip well, as everyone is only using the tags to see who is legal for pins; everything else is just them wailing on each other with plunder, double-teaming each other, etc.
Oedo Tai puts Suzu on a table now and Saki goes up, but Hiraki cuts her off and Suzu sets up, sitout driver through the table off the top rope! Good LORD. Momo saves a pin by whacking everyone with a trashcan lid and gets the can out, front and center. Uranage onto the can (sort of) by Momo gets two for Saki. Hiraki back in now as Sera is back at building her tower of chairs on the floor, and she hits a double clothesline to allow Suzu to hit the Tequila Shot onto Saki for two.
Suzu fires kicks at Saki, who is dead weight in there, but Saki grabs a quick cradle to get two out of nowhere! Action continues and we hear a noise in the background as the camera has MISSED the tower of chairs going down! Series of cradles end with Saki on top, but Sera breaks up the pin with a kendo stick shot. Suzu is DONE with this shit, and hits a German suplex on Saki, then rolls through the bridge and hits another one for the pin and the titles. (Suzu Suzuki, Risa Sera, and Hiragi Kurumi over Saki Kashima, Starlight Kid, and Momo Watanabe, pinfall, 15:54)
THOUGHTS: ***1/2. I never know what to do with these matches, in that they’re not normally a style I enjoy and are frequently clusterfucks, but this is one of the better ones in recent memory. And partially that’s because it featured a lot of wrestlers that I genuinely like, but also there weren’t a ton of miracle kickouts (when someone took a big move and looked dead, it took a team member to save) and everyone acted in context to the structure of a no-rules match. Overall, I really enjoyed this more than I likely would have with different wrestlers in the ring, but it was never boring nor overstayed it’s welcome.
Also, Suzu Suzuki rules.
Nanae Takahashi and Yuu (Neo Stardom Army) vs Tam Nakano and Natsupoi (C) (Cosmic Angels) – Goddesses of Stardom Title match
Alright, so – Yuu might be familiar if you remember any of my Pro Wrestling EVE rants, where she worked several shows and where she is currently the EVE International Champion. I haven’t seen as much of Nanae since I didn’t see that much Tag League on the Stardom side this year, but she and Yuu won the tournament and therefore had the right to challenge for these titles. Tam and Natsupoi are the champs. If you want a really fun little bit, go watch the NJPW/Stardom XOver and watch the Tam/Natsupoi/Taichi/Kanemaru entrance, where Kanemaru just disgustedly walks to the ring while Taichi watches the entire elaborate entrance performance of Tam and Natsupoi with barely concealed delight.
By the way, Tam is Lawrence Talbot’s favorite wrestler.
Yuu and Natsupoi start. We establish that Yuu is the bigger talent as she bounces off Yuu on a crossbody and gets squashed with a senton. The Angels are going to be fighting up in this match for sure. Natsupoi gets tangled in the ropes and chopped to death for a bit, and Nanae controls in the ring after. Natsupoi takes a beating for awhile, but gets a neckbreaker and tags in Tam.
Tam fires away on Nanae, then hits double dropkick to both Takahashi and Yuu, then a running knee against the ropes on Nanae. Nakano goes up, but Nanae catches her and superplexes her for two. They have a slapfight that ends up with Tam hitting a roundhouse kick but running right into a lariat. Nanae dumps her into a powerbomb for two after that.
Yuu in now with a shotgun dropkick, but misses a cannonball in the corner as the Angels continue to try to stick and move against the bigger NSA. Natsupoi back in and she fires off dropkicks. Yuu ends up on the floor and Natuspoi dives onto her, Yuu catches her so Tam comes off the top to finish the job. Back in and Natsupoi tries to slug it out with Yuu, which….just a bad plan. Very bad plan. She gives it a try, but comes off the ropes and Yuu clobbers her down.
Kicks by Natsupoi work better, and she combines with Tam for a superkick/German combo and the Angels go up. They both come off the top and Natsupoi gets a twisting splash for two, Nanae saves. The Army sets up the Angels in the corner and Yuu hits both of them with a cannonball, then Yuu goes up to the top and comes off with a splash for two on Natsupoi, Tam making the save.
Yuu hits Natsupoi with a senton and it all breaks down again, with Nanae taking Tam out on a discus lariat and a double team crucifix slam on Natsupoi. 1, 2, foot on the ropes! This proves to be a pyrrhic victory, as Yuu picks her up and hits a Last Ride for the pin and the straps right after. (Nanae Takahashi and Yuu over Tam Nakano and Natsupoi, pinfall, 15:57)
THOUGHTS: ***. Tam Nakano is someone who engenders strong feelings both here and elsewhere, both good and bad; but I just don’t see it. She’s okay, not great, not terrible…..just okay. She can sell decently, her offense looks pretty weak, she’s just kind of there to me as a worker. I don’t hate or love her like some do, although part of me wonders if that’s because I really haven’t seen a ton of her at the top of the card like others have. Regardless, this was a fine tag match with a decent story running through it, with the bigger bullies beating up the smaller women who had to try to figure out a way to win the match and not being able to. Yuu, though – she used to be this judo expert who threw women all around in EVE, and now she doesn’t do much of that at all. It’s all power moves now, which was a very weird thing for me to see. Natsupoi is really good, though. I do like to watch her quite a bit.
Post-match, Yuu cuts a promo as the Angels weep on the mat having lost their titles. Nanae chimes in as well, saying that the Angels have guts, that they’re not just shiny and sparkly, they’re pro wrestlers! Nakano tries to get in Nanae’s face, but stumbles and Takahashi shoves her down. The opposite of trying isn’t failure, it’s doing nothing, Nanae says, so they’ll accept anyone’s challenge so long as they have passion and power…..and that brings out Himeka and Maika, winners of the earlier triple threat, who challenge them for the belts on February 4th in Osaka, because they’ve already beaten them there. Nanae calls her a little bastard, but accepts the match. We almost get a pull-apart, but cooler heads prevail.
Haruka Umesaki AKA Karma (Oedo Tai) vs Saya Kamitani (C) (Queen’s Quest) – Wonder of Stardom Title match
White belt time! Saya is the next big thing, if not already the big thing, in Stardom. Her current reign with this title, her first one, has gone a full year. Umesaki slaps away the offered handshake, and away we go.
Test of strength to start, Saya controls. They do some back and forth and Saya ends up on the floor, Umesaki goes up, but Saya meets her on the apron and slams her off the top to the floor, with Umesaki hitting her back on the edge of the ring on the way down. That looked TERRIFYING, frankly.
Back in the ring and Saya slows it down a bit, taking it to the mat with a headscissors. Back up and Kamitani taunts her a bit, so Umesaki fires forearms. ‘Rana out of the corner for Umesaki and she dumps Saya to the floor, then goes up to the top and hits a crossbody onto Saya. I guess she’s fine.
Back in for a figure-four from Umesaki, reversed by Saya and they end up in the ropes. Back up and they slug it out and the psychology here is all over the place. Umesaki finally puts her down with several shots and then a German suplex. Umesaki goes up, missile dropkick gets two. Kamitani comes back with rolling Fisherman suplexes for two. Mr. Perfect would be appalled that someone kicked out of that.
Saya goes up to finish things, but Umesaki isn’t dead yet and meets her at the top, then takes her off with an arms-crossed superplex for two, then a splash for two. Northern Lights for two. Bridging German for two. She’s throwing everything at Kamitani, I gotta give her that. Saya slips behind Umesaki and hits a reverse ‘rana to put both wrestlers down.
Umesaki gets a crazy bridging suplex for two, but comes off the ropes and Saya wipes her out with a spinkick, then a big boot. Fisherman’s Driver from Kamitani gets two and Saya goes up. 450, Umesaki moves! She tries La Majistral, they roll around the ring and Umesaki ends up on top, 1, 2, NO! Umesaki comes off the ropes right into a ‘rana from Saya, who grabs the legs and holds her down to end it! (Saya Kamitani over Haruka Umesaki, pinfall, 16:33)
THOUGHTS: ***1/4. This one took a bit to get going and I still can’t totally figure out what the story was here – was that bump off the top supposed to lead to Umesaki selling the back more than she ended up doing, or was she supposed be slammed ON the apron instead? Why was there just a random figure-four? I had more than a few questions on this one, although I did like the end as Saya looked to be panicking a bit and decided she need to end the match as quick as she could. Overall, this was fine, albeit a bit of a lesser defense for Kamitani in my eyes.
Post-match, Kamitani called Umesaki ‘a stubborn woman for such a cute face’ and offers a rematch in the future, and they shake on it. She points out that she’s now defended her title for the 12th time and held it for a full year, and tells the audience to keep their eyes on her. She then calls out Mina Shirakawa, and challenges her to a rematch. You know, since last time they fought, she did kind of break Mina’s face. But she wants to wait until Mina is at 100%, then they’ll do the match, and she’ll keep her promise on that. So she wants to continue her reign and nominates her next challenger as Ami Sohrei, who is the current Future of Stardom champion.
Ami comes out and says that after winning the Future title, she still wanted other belts as well; so first off, thanks for the chance at the title. But, Ami says, isn’t everyone getting tired of seeing Saya as the champion? As Future champ AND White Belt champ, Ami will build the next generation of Stardom. She’ll break off those huge wings of Saya!
Ami leaves, Saya poses, and the camera catches Mina watching from the back of the arena. Interesting…..
Giulia (Donna Del Mondo) vs Syuri (C) (God’s Eye) – World of Stardom Title match
And so we come to this. Okay, so Giulia and Syuri used to be aligned in Donna Del Mondo, specifically tagging together within the faction. Syuri had a series of critically acclaimed matches with Utami, multiple times hitting ****+ and hitting ***** in one of the best women’s matches in years. She finally conquered Utami one year prior to this to win the World title. After making her 2nd defense of that belt against faction mate Giulia, Syuri announced she was leaving Donna Del Mondo and creating her own faction, God’s Eye. She continued to defend the belt all year, while Giulia was the winner of the 5Star Grand Prix, giving her a shot at Syuri again. Once stablemates, now enemies. Oldest story in the book.
Syuri has a legit claim to be the best wrestler in the world, while Giulia is a star of the highest magnitude, exuding charisma and being quite a fair wrestler herself. This should be great.
A bunch of fast back and forth leads to a stalemate, so we reset to have a go again. Really nice chain wrestling leads to Syuri hitting a flapjack. Double Underhook suplex gets two and Syuri goes for an armbar, but Giulia knows that she can’t get caught with that and quickly makes the ropes when her arm goes straight. Syuri takes her down again after a slugfest and grabs an anklelock, Giulia again to the ropes, where the two slap each other while Syuri is hung upside-down, which is quite the visual.
They head to the apron, and Giulia hits a hammerlock suplex onto the hardest part of the ring. And that isn’t going to be the most impressive thing we see in the next two minutes as they head up the ramp from there. Syuri with a dropkick on the ramp and she tells the crowd to move and what is she doing and oh my God she missed a punch and Giulia hits a Northern Lights suplex OFF THE RAMP ONTO THE SEATS and what the sweet merciful FUCK?
And somehow they can still walk back to ringside, where Giulia preps a table. She gets smacked by Syuri, who decides to provide a rebuttal to the suplex off the ramp by piledriving Giulia through the table! Back in and Syuri goes for an armbar, but Giulia maneuvers to the ropes with her foot to escape. They trade German suplexes as this thing is already completely nuts with both of them collapsing to the mat.
Giulia tries a kneebar, so Syuri grabs the leg to counter with one of her own. Giulia fights that off, so Syuri goes to the ropes. screaming in pain the entire time. She’s SO good, it’s insane. Giulia just mercilessly kicks and stomps on her from there, then goes up. But Syuri has enough to meet her there and gets a double-wristlock on the top rope, then throws her back over off the top to the mat. Syuri with the kicks now, and Giulia sells it like she’s being shot.
Huge Roundhouse kick puts Giulia down, and she barely makes it to her feet at 9, and a double gutbuster gets two for Syuri. Giulia avoids a blind charge and counters a Death Valley Driver into a DDT. Falcon Arrow by Giulia, then they trade rollups. High-angle German from Syuri gets two. Giulia comes back with a sitout driver for two.
Syuri creates some space and goes up, but Giulia dropkicks her to the apron. Syuri goes up again, Giulia meets her at the top and headbutts her, SUPER DOUBLE UNDERHOOK SUPLEX by Giulia!! Syuri comes back with a sitout Tombstone! Giulia kicks out at 1! Jumping knee from Syuri and a huge roundhouse kick to the head of Giulia! 1, 2, NO!
Syuri has HAD IT and it’s time. She gets Giulia up on her shoulders, Syu-Sekai hits! It’s a combination One-Winged Angel/Emerald Flowsion and it won her the title from Utami, 1, 2, NOOOOO!!!!!!! Syuri decides that she’ll need a super version and ascends the ropes with Giulia up on her shoulders, but Giulia escapes and powerbombs her off the top! Running slam by Giulia, high kick! Running powerbomb by Giulia! 1, 2, NO! V-Trigger and Giulia goes up, missile dropkick! Double underhook piledriver! 1, 2, NO!!!
Syuri tries to come back and gets a straightjacket German for two! Another try at the Sekai, Giulia counters it with a pumphandle suplex! They throw huge bombs at each other and finally, finally, finally, Giulia gets the last laugh, catching Syuri and hitting a pumphandle Northern Lights Bomb to put Syuri’s shoulders on the mat for 3 fateful seconds. (Giulia over Syuri, pinfall, 29:51)
THOUGHTS: ****3/4. This one almost made my Top 10 last year but I kept it off because I was worried I had too much recency bias; having seen it again, I think I was wrong. It belonged there. This was a crazy main event with big moves, emotional resonance, and phenomenal performances from both women. Almost twice as long as any other match on the card, they used the time extremely well. There were no boring parts to this one as big moves were built upon other big moves, all the way to the point where the kickouts were leading the narrative of the match to think that only a super finisher was going to get it done, hence Syuri’s fateful attempt to climb to the top. Both women deserve all the credit that can be given, this was simply phenomenal professional wrestling on all levels.
Syuri and Giulia reach for each other on the mat, both in tears. Giulia stumbles to her feet and accepts her belt, keeping her eyes on the former champion, her friend. Her partner in this classic. And Syuri manages to get to her feet, takes the belt, and straps it around Giulia’s waist, then raises the hand of the woman who vanquished her. Both of them in tears, they embace.
Giulia gets the mic. She points out that they met 3 years ago. She thanks Syuri for teaching her what a true companion was, for watching out for her; and for being such a huge, huge wall to climb over. She bows to Syuri, who bows back on the mat. Giulia says that Syuri is a strong, kind monster, and will always be an important person to her. Syuri made Giulia stronger and stronger! Giulia will take this belt that she won to the greatest heights, and they will do this again, she promises!
She thanks her mother for raising a troublesome daughter by herself, and she’s sorry she ignored her texts. She promises to do her best to be a good daughter, so come see her again. By beating Stardom’s strongest, Syuri, that makes Giulia the strongest in Stardom, right? So be prepared, in Stardom or elsewhere! She says that the year is almost over, and she hopes the fans had fun watching Stardom – Giulia is back! She’s going to shake things up! Bigger venues! She’s going to fill the place to the brim, and you fans will come with her! So thank you, fans, for 2022, and she looks forward to seeing you next year! Arrivederci!
And the final image of Stardom’s final show in 2022 is Donna Del Mondo on the ramp, bowing to the crowd and waving goodbye as Giulia stumbles away, still spent by one of the best matches of her career.
FINAL THOUGHTS: One of the reasons I picked this to review as opposed to a newer show is that it still has a ton of relevance as a show, but also because it’s a really GREAT fucking show, with a lot of really good matches and two legit 4* or higher ones, with nothing bad on the show either. If you want to get a good intro to Stardom it’s a good show to start with, in that those good matches really show off the top women in the promotion and what they can do. It’s a good way to get hooked.
Alright, I think that’s more than enough here. If you want to know what I got wrong, which I’m SURE is a lot, we’ve got some really knowledgable Stardom fans here on the blog – Phrederic, maskedcabana, Death Rollins. If they want, they can pick up where I leave off and I am absolutely fine with them correcting me here. I’m still relatively new to the whole thing myself, so if those guys want to sound off in the comment section, it would be appreciated.
Do people want more Stardom? I watch the shows and certainly don’t mind doing some reviews here and there if people do want it, so all you have to do is let me know in the comments.
In the meantime – Giulia.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter
Perfect record in the Doomies I’ve been nominated for – I’ve lost ’em all!