Stardom 7th Anniversary
January 21 2018
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall for Stardom’s 7th Anniversary Show. Video Control quickly gives us some clips from the end of year awards where Io Shirai won. They have a weird faction battle on this show where someone is getting booted out of either Queen’s Quest or Oedo Tai. It’s also Mayu Iwatani’s return after a horrible arm injury against Toni Storm last year. She did briefly get in the ring with Yoko Bito during her retirement celebrations but this is her first actual match since September 24.
There’s an all-singing, all-dancing start to the show as everyone has a crack at being a pop idol. I’m not sure I fully understand this aspect of Japanese women’s wrestling. It’s very weird. As a Japanese wrestler you also have to be a dancer, singer, fashion model and all-round performer. Team Jungle are unbearably cute.
Starlight Kid, Shiki Shibusawa & Hanan vs. Hiromi Mimura, Konami & Ruaka
Hanan and Ruaka are actually children. The rest are not particularly advanced. I feel downright mean rating the opening matches in Stardom because they’re never good but everyone works hard. It’s just the inexperience that hurts them. This is pretty bad but at least it’s short. There’s something very wholesome about Mimura’s whole dropkick routine. I feel happy for her when she actually hits it. There are quite a lot of spots where the recipient of a move is standing there waiting to be hit by it, which is unfortunate. Ruaka gets beaten up, a lot, and is pinned by Starlight Kid.
Big fan of Starlight Kid’s sassy post match pose.
Final Rating: **
Team Jungle (Jungle Kyona, Kaori Yoneyama & Natsuko Tora) vs. Miranda, Nicole Savoy & Xia Brookside
Xia is sporting the IPW:UK Women’s Championship on the match graphic. I would hate to get handed a title with the expectation that I’d have to cart it around the world. Not that Xia is ‘championship ready’ just yet. Savoy is the one who holds it together for her team. She has the experience and the persona. Miranda is on her first tour. She hit it big by getting a spot in the Mae Young Classic. She went out in the first round to Rhia Ripley, the leggy Australian. I had completely forgotten that Savoy was also in that tournament and actually got past round one, bested by Candice LaRae in round two. Team Jungle are a better regimented group but Savoy does trouble them quite frequently. Xia is one to keep an eye on. She debuted very young, probably too young, but has been making big strides. It must surely help that her dad is WWE employee, and wrestling star, Robbie Brookside. Comparing her work now to how she was a year ago suggests she’s on a nice upward trajectory. Miranda struggles a little and eats the fall, suggesting Stardom believe Xia to be up the pecking order a little. Decent little match.
Final Rating: **3/4
High Speed Championship
Mary Apache (c) vs. Kay Lee Ray
It’s weird hearing the Filthy Generation’s music playing in Korakuen Hall. The grappling is tidy here, there’s thankfully no styles clash (a clash of styles, rather than AJ’s finisher). They alternate between technical mat stuff and hefty strikes. Apache is great at landing heavy looking offence by throwing herself into moves. She is not a small lady. KLR gives as good as she gets in the stand up. Apache does one weird thing; a surfboard on the apron. As if that makes it worse somehow. KLR ignores this nonsense and hits a bunch of dives. Mary retorts with power and pins KLR with the Michinoku Driver in 12.49, although some of it was clipped. Good match though. Mary’s power and lucha moves vs. KLR’s spirit and flying.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Mayu Iwatani vs. Rachel Ellering
Mayu gets the million streamer treatment that you know and love.
Lads in the Electric Ballroom; your streamer game is not this strong. pic.twitter.com/cMW13cRATa
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) February 2, 2018
It’s pretty evident the crowd are ecstatic to have Mayu back. Ellering isn’t an ideal opponent. She’s not as mobile or graceful and her approach to the match is pure heeling it up and attacking Mayu’s injured arm. Mayu has not been slowed down by the injury and brings her A game. She looks overjoyed to be back in the ring. To think she nearly retired last year. It’s unthinkable now. She’s pretty much the rock the company are building on. Especially with Kairi gone and Io in suspect health. If rumours are to be believed Io would be in NXT right now if she could pass a medical. Mayu isn’t to be outdone and takes a couple of hideous looking bumps on her neck to sell Ellering’s power. Ellering has issues. I’m not keen on her selling. She puts her arm out and looks up and then collapses. Mayu beats her clean with the dragon suplex and can barely hold a bridge. Little bit of rust but generally a good performance from a returning Iwatani. She’s still the star of Stardom and is now on her way back to the top of their cards.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Oedo Tai (Kagetsu, Hana Kimura, Kris Wolf, Natsu Sumire & Tam Nakano) vs. Queens Quest (Io Shirai, HZK, Viper, AZM & Momo Watanabe)
If Oedo Tai lose Tam Nakano has to leave. If Queen’s Quest lose Momo Watanabe has to leave.
As demonstrated here where they drew numbers. Whoever got #5 had their spot on the line. Tam Nakano was really upset at drawing #5 and cut an emotional promo about it.
Tam Nakano is looking very determined! pic.twitter.com/julqsEthmO
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) February 2, 2018
This is a very strange match as it consists of a lot of little matches with ten minute time limits rather than a full-on five on five elimination match. The draw order was reflected in the graphic we saw at the top. So keep that graphic in mind.
We start with AZM vs. Kris Wolf and Azumi gets a roll up in 8 seconds to stun Korakuen Hall. Wolf is gone! Natsu Sumire jumps right in there and blindsides AZM.
Keep in mind AZM is the youngest member or Queen’s Quest. This is a big upset. You can also be eliminated by being thrown out over the top, like in the Royal Rumble. Sumire, who is arguably Oedo Tai’s weakest link, almost falls afoul of a shock too. AZM pinning Wolf was totally unexpected and changes the whole dynamic of the match. Queen’s Quest are definitely stronger and if AZM, their weakest member, goes on a tear it’s big trouble. Sumire eventually puts her away, after five minutes.
This brings in Io. She is not impressed with Sumire. Not many people are (kayfabe wise). Sumire’s tactic, seeing three other members on the floor for Oedo Tai, is to get herself pinned and lose. It’s a ruse! She rolls up Io up but obviously doesn’t get the fall. AZM beating Wolf is one thing, Sumire beating Io is unthinkable. She does almost tip her out of the ring when Io foolishly goes for a moonsault. Sumire’s sneakiness versus Io’s outright skill is a surprisingly good contest. The Texas Cloverleaf gets rid of Sumire and I’m almost sad to see her go.
Kagetsu vs. Io is the two strongest wrestlers from each side going head to head. If Oedo Tai have someone capable of beating Io it’s Kagetsu. This is demonstrated with them going 50-50 on the mat. It attracts a lot of interest from the floor.
Oedo Yai are considerably better at cheerleading. This is demonstrated by Tam flat-out nailing Io in the head while she’s up top. Tam Nakano loves being in Oedo Tai and Io Shirai is not going to take that away from her! Kagetsu sprays Io with blue mist and chokeslams her off the apron for the win. Io is eliminated!
Viper vs. Kagetsu. The latter has just had a hard-fought battle with Io Shirai so naturally she’s not at her best and Viper is huge. Kagetsu almost gets dumped out but Oedo Tai push her back in and then attempt to drag Viper out.
The New Day are alight at battle royal teamwork but they're no Oedo Tai pic.twitter.com/FlVNssAAqZ
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) February 2, 2018
Is it sportsmanship? No. Is it teamwork and loving your pals? Yes it is. They don’t want to lose Tam. Viper is in the way of that. Kagetsu takes a beating but refuses to give in. If Oedo Tai lose it won’t be because of her. The ten minute time limit expires and both Viper and Kagetsu are out. This is a bigger loss for Queen’s Quest but both teams are now down to their last two.
Hana Kimura vs. HZK. These two come out here throwing fucking lumber! The 20 year old HZK has certainly moved up the rankings but Hana still thinks she can kick her ass. The result is a full-on war. I always forget how good HZK is, because she’s 20, but it doesn’t take long for me to remember. There’s a lot riding on this. IF one of these can get a win they leave the last member of the opposing team with two matches to their teams one. HZK decides to call it a draw and murders Hana with a sunset bomb off the apron. Both of them are out. HZK banking on Watanabe being able to beat Tam.
The story now is all about Tam Nakano. Her emotional promo tells us how much this means to her. Watanabe is the bigger and tougher wrestler. Now Tam has to beat her to keep her spot in Oedo Tai. Momo is only young but she’s a double tough bitch and she kicks the hell out of Tam. I love that when she goes for a cover Tam won’t even give her a one count. The work isn’t the cleanest here but the urgency and the emotional connection is great. Nakano struggles out of everything that could beat her and dishes out as good as she gets. Her spirit and desire to remain in Oedo Tai are real. Momo is another wrestler with a bad selling habit. The slowly fading back bump is grating. Every time Tam gets kicked back to the mat it’s heart-breaking. She pretty much ignores Momo’s finisher, such is her fire to succeed. Momo hits it off the top and that’s it for Tam. She’s out of Oedo Tai.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Post Match: It gets really emotional as Tam comes to terms with what has just happened and either she’s one of the world’s greatest actresses or she is actually crushed at having to leave Oedo Tai. Stardom, what have you done?
Oedo Tai leave, looking miserable, and the victorious Io Shirai offers Tam a spot in Queen’s Quest. But before she can answer Momo Watanabe snatches the microphone and challenges Io to a title match! Io accepts but Mayu Iwatani interrupts this time.
Mayu has an idea; a new Stardom Army and she wants Tam as her first member. Everyone wants Tam Nakano! This is so beautiful. Io and Mayu both holds their hands out and Mayu makes the decision for her, dragging out of the ring. It all went a bit wrong for Io there during her moment of victory. One of her team challenged her and she got upstaged by Mayu.
This was a consistently good show but the main event storyline is one of the best of the year so far. I love how determined Oedo Tai were not to lose, right from the moment Tam drew #5 to her completely no selling Momo Watanabe’s finisher through to her emotional collapse and departure from Oedo Tai. I loved how the other factions fought over her, having seen how much fire and commitment she brings to the ring. What’s really key for Stardom here is they finished a show with Momo Watanabe vs. Tam Nakano. Not Io. Not Toni. Not Mayu. It was Momo vs. Tam that headlined this show. That’s a big step into the unknown and both women through themselves into that first step. It’s clear that both of them have a big future in Stardom but to see it spelled out like this gives me huge hope for the future of the company. There was a time when Stardom looked as if it would implode with Kairi leaving, Io rumoured to be leaving (and constantly hurt) and Mayu considering retirement. Well, they’ve kept two out of three and the undercard on this show is as good as I can remember it being in a long time. No blowaway match here but great storytelling. I’ll remember a teary eyed Tam for some time.