Stardom X Stardom 2017
July 16 2017
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. Hosts are Bull Nakano and Haruo Murata. It’s nice to see Bull is still around wrestling as she must have a tonne of knowledge to impart to the younger generation. Especially as she worked for Titan. Stardom has a very different set-up in Korakuen than most companies. They put the entrance on one entire side, which limits how many fans they can draw. They had 823 at this show. Commentary has a bit of a natter about Kairi Hojo and the Mae Young Classic before we get underway. Io Shirai is also missing from this show, which puts a lot of pressure on champion Mayu Iwatani. She’s defending the title against Yoko Bito tonight. Bito has become the companies number two worker by default. Now she has a chance to prove she deserves the spot. There is already a clear-cut reduction in star power.
AZM vs. Hanan vs. Ruaka
I have capped the match announcement so you can see how goddamn young these kids are. If they were working an intergender four-way the forth guy would be a nonce. AZM shows the most personality of the three, having a defined badass character. While the young girls have some decent ideas the execution is inconsistent. This includes some nifty roll ups and a botched kip up. There are a lot of middling dropkicks. It’s not a good match by any stretch of the imagination and there’s a worrying chasm between what these opening act talents are doing and what the men’s equivalent (NJPW Young Lions, DDT’s DNA crowd) are doing. The match is less than seven minutes but feels painfully long. At least the AZM sequences near the finish are ok. They save what had been a messy contest.
Final Rating: *1/4
Natsuko Tora vs. Shiki Shibusawa
This is Shibusawa’s first match. Her opponent is Tora, an angry little girl with highlights and a genie gimmick. Shibusawa wears all pink and gets a lot of pink streamers. That Stardom crowd knows their streamers. Shibusawa, as you’d expect, looks very basic but she seems less inclined to make mistakes. She tries to do things within herself and her dropkick is better than anything in the first match. However there are also strange flaws. She seems obsessed with moving her hair out of her face, which means she should either get a haircut or get used to it being there. Also her kick-outs are almost non-existent. A slight lifting of one shoulder isn’t dramatic enough. Tora finishes Shiki off with a windup urinage. For a first match this was a decent effort from Shiki and there’s plenty to like. Hopefully Stardom can iron out some of those flaws. The bump she took on the finish looked pretty brutal.
Final Rating: **
Hiromi Mimura, Konami & Starlight Kid vs. Gabby Ortiz, Mary Apache & Xia Brookside
This is the first time I’ve seen Xia, Robbie’s daughter, wrestle in Japan. She’s teaming with another young wrestler in Ortiz plus veteran luchadore Apache. Xia didn’t look too out of place in the UK when I’ve seen her wrestle but she really struggles here. You can see her thinking about basic things like running the ropes and preparing to take an armdrag. Stardom should help her improve. You need only look at Gabby Ortiz who’s already better than she was on the last tour. You’d think Xia, active on the thriving British scene, should show similar improvements.
Apache tags in whenever she’s needed and runs through some tidy Mexican staples. In her late 30s she’s reliable and consistent. Her timing is good. Xia has plenty of time to improve. She’s still under eighteen. Her timing and movement are both jarring at the moment but that’s to be expected. The best wrestler in the match is Konami and her kicks are a major highlight. Her bumps are superior to everyone else’s. She’s one to watch. Apache murdering Mimura is a running theme of the match and the finish is Mary beheading her with a lariat and hitting the Michinoku Driver for the pin.
Xia, with her shock of pink hair, must have learned a few things from the apron. Her one big spot; a Codebreaker on Konami worked out fine and she’ll get better.
Final Rating: **1/4
High Speed Championship
Kris Wolf (c) vs. Shanna
Portugal’s Perfect Athlete is gunning for Wolfie. Kris has held this belt since February, when she displaced champion Mayu Iwatani. Mayu had held the title for 500 days. Shanna, in her mid-30s, is currently enjoying the best spell of her career. She’s been a regular in Japan for over a year and is starting to gain traction around the burgeoning European women’s wrestling scene. It’s all come a little too late for her (at 35 she’s paving the way) but at least she’s got a run out of it. With the shortage of big stars in women’s wrestling there’s always room for someone to step up. There’s a feeling that both women could become main event talents for Stardom, given the opportunity. This match feels like a trial. They make it more epic by fighting all over the building. Shanna taking advantage of the stage’s position to get super aggressive on the dive front. Back in the ring Shanna puts together a series of moves culminating in two Tiger Suplexes for the win. The second one sadly losing the bridge. Shanna becomes the new High Speed champion and is the first ever Portuguese wrestler to win a title in Japan. Not bad!
Final Rating: ***1/2
Goddesses of Stardom Championship
Kagetsu & Hana Kimura (c) vs. Jungle Kyona & HZK
Oedo Tai ended the title run of Kyona & Matsumoto. Now Jungle has a new partner to try and win the belts back. They don’t exactly see eye to eye with HZK being on the evil side.
The champs dance their way to the ring. It’s quite the show. They have a sense of unity that the challengers don’t have. In that they’re both deliciously evil and exist on that same plane of wickedness. Hana Kimura has been a fascinating watch over the past year. She’s gone from being green but bubbling with potential and cuteness to a crafty vixen with vicious kicks to a more rounded up and comer. Everything seems to be clicking for her and although she’s still sitting under Kagetsu’s learning tree her future is bright. With her looks there’s a very strong chance she’ll end up in WWE but it’s going to be one hell of a ride. Kagetsu vs. Kyona is where this match really rocks. Kagetsu has wonderful strikes, she kicks Jungle right in the cheek during an exchange, and Kyona has terrific sympathy. As the storyline progresses, with HZK trying to fire Jungle up by slapping her, and the champions smack the challengers around for fun, the match becomes genuinely good. It’s fast-paced, intense and well executed. For those fearing the strength of Stardom with no Io or Hojo this match is a nice surprise. Kagetsu finishes Jungle with the 450 Splash while Hana is busy hurling HZK at chairs on the floor. Oedo Tai may have lost one title but they’re still tag champs.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Post Match: Oedo Tai try and convince cutesy rookie Tam Nakano to join the group. She is the opposite of sleazy though! This is highlighted by her wearing white and pastel pink while the rest of the group are wearing black and red. It’s hard to tell if this was a serious offer but if Tam comes out in black and red it would be something else.
World of Stardom Championship
Mayu Iwatani (c) vs. Yoko Bito
Bito is the chosen successor to Kairi Hojo. Mayu is six years younger than Bito but has grown up in the ring and has way more experience. Yoko Bito is too relaxed to be a pro wrestler. She never fills me with confidence. Mayu does one of my favourite things in wrestling. When the fans throw streamers in, and they do in massive volumes for her, she spins in a circle and becomes cocooned in them to the point where she needs help getting out and has to hop to the side of the ring. It’s the most adorable thing in wrestling.
Mayu Iwatani has learned that if she hops, she won't trip and fall due to her streamers. Clearly she is now Ace material. pic.twitter.com/b42HqAgHLE
— Joshi City (@JoshiPuro) July 24, 2017
The biggest concerns regarding this match is that it won’t live up to the high standard of Stardom matches under the reign of Io Shirai (and with Kairi Hojo involved). With both big names gone, and the torch passed to Mayu, this is a show that needs a good main event. The pressure is on! Bito underwhelms me. Her facials are erratic and her work is patchy. Luckily Mayu is every bit as good as billed. Her takeover of the top spot in Stardom was inevitable and she dominates the best moments utilising a mixture of strikes and high spots. Bito is along for the ride. It’s fantastic news for Stardom because if Mayu can carry their top end they can cycle challengers at her for a few years until they can build up a replacement. Iwatani takes it with a dragon suplex. I’m oversimplifying matters by saying that Bito was carried as she held up her own end but while sometimes her work is great, sometimes it’s merely ok and Iwatani made this match feel consistently good. Either with her selling or her tactical approach. She is the new Stardom Ace. Good luck to her. This was a solid start.
Final Rating: ***3/4
I was almost dreading this show, aware that a stripped down Stardom, devoid of it’s two top stars, could be a nightmare as they’ve been the focal point for so very long. However I should not have worried. In the absence of Io & Kairi the whole roster stepped their game up and there are three very good matches to end this show. Is it still a concern that Stardom are so short on top-end talent? Yes, but this show did plenty to alleviate my concerns. Mayu Iwatani is great and she has support from the undercard. Stardom remains the foremost women’s wrestling show on the planet.