With the dawn of a New Year, I have decided to start watching Stardom. Joshi is a bit of an unknown to me, and this seems as good a place to start as any. I do now need to point out that I am going into these shows with little to no background knowledge, so be nice. My understanding of characters and feuds will grow as we go along, so until then, we can all have some fun with it, can’t we? However, if you are looking for in-depth reviews leave it a couple of months. At the moment, I’m just going to be getting to grips with things.
Natsuko Tora defeated Kaori Yoneyama and Alex Gracia
Kaori Yoneyama was the star of this one as she heeled it up by betraying everyone in the ring. First up was her JAN stablemate, Natsuko Toru, who she rolled-up just seconds after they’d struck a pose. Alex Gracia then made the mistake of assuming this meant the two of them were aligned and ate a dropkick for her presumption.
This was the rare three-way that felt like a three-way throughout. It was worked at a quick pace, and no-one vanished as they incorporated multiple three-person spots. Alex Gracia did look a bit green, but considering she doesn’t have a Cagematch profile and there’s a video of her debut on YouTube that’s dated to last year, I imagine that’s because she is.
In the end, Toru got the win over Gracia with a Frog Splash to end a short, but enjoyable opener. Before she could make her way to the back, though, Saya Iida entered the ring to challenge her to a match at Korakuen. Iida is a Stardom trainee, and that will be her debut.
Verdict: Two And Half Stars
Viper defeated Hanan, Rina and Hina in a handicap match
Here’s someone I know! Being Scottish, I don’t think there are many wrestlers I have seen in the flesh more often than Viper. Plus, she’s brilliant, so it’s always cracking to see her.
While this might have been a handicap match, Hanan, Hina and Rina have a combined age of 38 with the oldest being 14 which is, quite frankly, ridiculous. I know they start them young in Japan, but bloody hell.
Taking that into account, and how can you not, this was fantastic. The three youngsters did a great job of charging around the ring, looking to overwhelm Viper with their numbers before flopping around whenever she got a hold of them. I particularly enjoyed their playground tactics of crouching down behind her and shoving to get her off her feet.
In the end, Viper was, of course, far too much for them as she had enough with their antics and threw them around in revenge. Before we got there, this was a lovely enhancement match for her and an impressive showing from the rookies.
Verdict: Three Stars
Mary Apache and Sadie Gibbs defeated JAN (Jungle Kyona and Ruaka)
Ruaka is another fourteen-year-old. I’m sure Stardom fans are used to this, but it’s going to take a while before I stop being amazed. Sadie Gibbs, meanwhile, is lacking a Cagematch profile. She has an English accent, so I’ll take the safe bet that she’s from this side of the world.
Ruaka and Gibbs kicked things off, and you could tell that they are early in their careers. There were a few moments of miscommunication where they both seemed to be waiting for the other to do something. It was nothing major, but you can tell that they are both thinking through their matches rather than letting them flow.
When Kyona and Apache were in the ring, things improved drastically. Even with one of the less experienced wrestlers in there with them, you could tell they were leading their opponents through the action, helping to keep things moving. It allowed Gibbs to show off some impressive athleticism as she started hand springing all over the place before putting Ruaka away for the win.
That left us with a slightly disjointed showing. One that shined at times, but was let down at others. It was never atrocious, but there is a lot to work on.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Oedo Tai (Hazuki, Kagetsu and Natsu Sumire) defeated Hana Kimura, Bobbi Tyler and Jamie Hayter
This one started with a giggle as Sumire lead the crowd in a sing-along. Sadly, the fun and games weren’t to last as the action broke down, and when we came out the other end, Oedo Tai had taken control.
Oedo Tai is one of the few acts that I have some prior knowledge of, and you can see why they’ve broken out. They’ve got their gimmick nailed down, and it’s hard to watch them and come to any other conclusion except them being cool as hell.
Things really picked up when Hana Kimura entered the ring. As a former member of Oedo Tai, there is a bit of history there, and the messing around was over. Hazuki and Kimura were throwing forearms like there was no tomorrow and this was the first time I bought into the tension between the wrestlers.
The finish was a bit abrupt as Hayter turned on her teammates, taking Tyler out and leaving her open to a 450 Splash from Kagetsu. After the bell, she made her pitch to join Oedo Tai and was welcomed with open arms.
This was a hell of a match. The action was fast, and as much as I picked out Kimura as the MVP, no-one came out of it looking anything below good. The screwy finish took away from it a little but was an interesting set-up for the future, so it’s forgivable. Good work all around.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Queen’s Quest (AZM, Bea Priestley, Konami, Momo Watanabe and Utami Hayashishita) defeated STARS (Tam Nakano, Starlight Kid, Saki Kashima, Natsumi and Arisa Hoshiki) in an Elimination Match
When you’re struggling to remember half the wrestlers in the ring’s names, ten women matches are the last thing you want. So, please excuse me if I get anyone muddled up. It’s hard to keep track.
Far too much went on here to cover it blow by blow, but it was a lot of fun. Early on we got a ten women suplex spot, which became a ten women and a man suplex spot when Nakano enlisted the ref’s help. You won’t see a more blatant example of corrupt officiating than that. Queen’s Quest would get their revenge, as they took an early lead when the entire team dropkicked Natsumi and AZM followed up with a Top Rope Double Stomp.
That lead was doubled as I discovered this was fought under the same rules as NJPW Elimination matches when Kashima was dumped over the top rope and out of the picture. Although an assist has to go to her teammates as they struck the fatal blow after a moment of miscommunication. After that, things got a bit wild as people were being eliminated all over the place. In among all that was a fantastic hard hitting interaction between Watanabe and Nakano who ended up mutually seeing each other off.
The same thing happened with Starlight Kid and Utami ahead of their title showdown the next night leaving Bea and Hoshiki to fight it out. This was another fun sequence as they worked stiff, using the over the top element to set-up some tremendous false finishes before a Bea knee driven into Hoshiki’s chin gave Queen’s Quest the win.
You’d struggle not to enjoy that one. It was a whirlwind of action, and while I’m sure I missed out on some storytelling beats, I still had a great time. It was another match that everyone came out of looking great and a cracking main event for my first Stardom review.
Verdict: Four Stars
Firstly, can I say how easy Stardom make watching as a newcomer? All the Japanese is subtitled while before the match each wrestler has an individual introduction where they walk to the centre of the ring and get a nameplate. It’s a simple thing, but it makes all the difference when you’re trying to figure out who everyone is.
Right, onto the show itself. I had a lovely time. Stardom is very different from most of the wrestling I watch. It’s bright and colourful, with the emphasis being on characters as well as action. There weren’t any matches that blew my mind on this particular show, but even those that weren’t incredible spectacles were always fun. If you’re looking for something different to try in 2018, why not join me on this particular ride?
Watch New Year Stars: http://www.stardom-world.com/