On their 9th birthday Stardom did something they’d never done before and packed Korkauen Hall right up to the balcony. That famous old venue was bursting at the seams, and it was a beautiful sight. Yes, you can point to the advertising power of Bushiroad, but a card headlined by Mayu vs Momo is one of the biggest Stardom can deliver, and it had the crowd it deserved. Now, it was down to the wrestlers to impress.
Tokyo Cyber Squad (Rina and Ruaka) defeated Queen’s Quest (Leo Onozaki and Hina)
There wasn’t much to this as they went under four minutes and produced a fairly standard opener. I always enjoy Rina and Hina’s interactions, as that sisterly bond brings a bite with it, but they weren’t given enough time to get going, and there were a couple of moments where everyone seemed to lose each other. The final sequence was nice as the twins exchanged flash pins before Hina got a bridge on a backslide for the three. For what it was, this was decent, but nothing you need to see.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
AZM defeated Starlight Kid and Zoey Skye in a Three Way Battle
I have gone repeatedly on record to express my displeasure at three-way matches, so it will be no surprise to hear I wasn’t thrilled about this one. When combined with the High Speed style, they can often feel very choreographed as the opening seconds proved. It’s hard enough to get into that flow with two people, never mind when you introduce a third.
One thing this did have going for it, however, is that Starlight Kid and AZM are damn good. They have effortless chemistry together, and never seem to forget that they are career rivals. There was a moment here where it looked like they were going to hit a Double Dropkick, only for AZM to check her run and place herself in position to boot Kid in the chest. It was a deception that put her in control for the home stretch, setting up her victory with a betrayal of her old foe.
As for Skye, this was easily her best performance so far. A strong showing where she never looked out of place in the ring with AZM and Kid and finally got to assert herself on a match. I’m looking forward to seeing her in some singles because I suspect she could prove to be rather good.
Verdict: Three Stars
Oedo Tai (Natsu Sumire, Saki Kashima and Natsuko Tora) defeated STARS (Saya Iida, Saya Kamitani and Itsuki Hoshino)
It is Saya Iida’s first anniversary, and I’m pretty sure I’ve watched every single match that has made it to tape. The appearance of Kamitani might have overshadowed her rookie year, but she’s been fantastic, and is a favourite of mine.
Now, let’s talk about Evil Saki. Kashima has taken to Oedo Tai like she was born to it and everything from the look to the new attitude is perfect. There was a moment in this match where Iida tagged in, charging across the ring to take on her former stable-mate and Saki simply stepped to the side, avoiding the Dropkick before contemptuously kicking her in the head. It told you everything you needed to know and also gave Iida an excuse to fire-up and chop the shit out of her, providing us with two brilliant moments at once.
And it played into what was an enjoyable match between the rookies and our new look Oedo Tai. Stardom has a formula, and they followed it, but they’re letting the two Sayas play within those boundaries. It was telling that after they got the hot tag from Hoshino, it didn’t feel like rookie tagging out to rookie, but like the two veterans were there to turn the tide. They have an in-ring confidence that far outstrips their experience level, and it’s a well-earned one at that.
In the end, Saki got the win, as turning to the dark side continues to do her well. Of course, it was far from the end for Oedo Tai on this night, and we’ll be talking about them again before this is said and done.
Verdict: Three Stars
Tam Nakano defeated Kagetsu
It gives me more pleasure than I ever thought was possible to report that Tam has a halberd. Why? Don’t have a clue, but I think we can all agree that it is a good thing. In fact, I say we increase the weaponry. She’s had a halberd and a sword, so why not give her a mace? Or perhaps a flail? Look, I just think it’s essential that we arm Tam. If anyone is going to sort this shit show out, it’s probably her and P-sama.
In the ring (yea, there was some non-weapon based action), Kagetsu went all out to make her final Korakuen match a shitload of fun. It was an all-action sprint that made up for its lack of subtlety by being smushed full of cool moments. At one point, Tam bridged up out of the way of an Oedo Coaster, nipped up to the top for a Superplex which Kagetsu no-sold to hit a Running Knee only for Nakano to no-sell that and respond with one of her own. Sure, it was ridiculously over the top, but it was also awesome.
In the end, Tam put her old friend away by hitting three more Running Knees before connecting with a beautifully violent Bridging Suplex that she’s calling Twilight Dream. It was as definitive a victory as you’ll see as Kagetsu went out staring at the stars.
Verdict: Four Stars
Post-match, Tam got incredibly emotional, thanking Kagetsu for letting her choose her path as she (rather unsuccessfully) fought back the tears. In return, Kagetsu told her off for beating her before telling her the way she chose wasn’t wrong, and she should go get that white belt. They hugged, and Stardom really needs to stop making me cry.
Jamie Hayter and Bea Priestley defeated Tokyo Cyber Squad (Jungle Kyona and Konami) to win the Goddesses of Stardom Titles
Ugh, I knew this was coming, and I’m still disappointed.
The frustration was only added to by how brilliant Jungle and Konami were. Kyona spent the opening selling for their opponents and was fantastic in the role. She was working in a style that reminded me of Ishii as her own badassery only made Hayter look all the tougher. Jungle would throw a barrage of awesome looking strikes only to be sent reeling from one of Jamie’s. By looking like the toughest fucker in the world herself, Hayter becomes all the better for being the one who hurts her.
That all built to a Konami hot tag which was all the right levels of spicy. A flurry of kicks, suplexes and submissions as you’re reminded just how exciting she is to watch. In theory, the two of them losing the belts would be the perfect time to elevate them as singles wrestlers, but, well, we all know that ain’t happening.
I don’t want to dismiss Hayter and Bea completely. Jamie was great, hitting an impressive dive to the outside and carrying herself like she’s hard as nails. Priestley, unsurprisingly, did less for me and has added an Old School-style rope walk to her repertoire which is perhaps my least favourite move in wrestling, but what am I going to do? I think, at this point, we just have to accept she’s not for me, and move on. My opinion is clearly not held by those in power at Stardom as she was the one to pick up the win, pinning Konami with a Queen’s Landing. It all added up to a decent match, but damn, that result hurts. Fingers crossed this isn’t the last we see of Konami and Kyona as a team because they’re too good to waste.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Donna Del Mondo (Giulia, Syuri Kondo and Maika) defeated Tokyo Cyber Squad (Hana Kimura, Death Yama-san and Leyla Hirsch)
The birth of Donna Del Mondo meant this result was never in doubt, but Giulia has hired herself a couple of outsiders and that’s interesting. Honestly, I’m not au fait with either Maika or Syuri Kondo, but if this is a sign that Stardom is going to be more open about bringing in outside talent without signing them to contracts, I’m down for it.
In the ring, this was a solid debut for the group. The biggest stand out was that they all looked like badasses, holding themselves in a way that instantly made me like them. On top of that, we saw some nice judo based offence from Maika as she attacked Death’s arm while Syuri has an MMA background which she put to good use. They brought an air of legitimacy with them, which in turn brought a touch of comedy when they were placed opposite Death Yama-san.
Outside of that, Hana and Giulia continued to have nothing but disdain for each other and were given time to show it. Hirsch also continues to impress me, connecting with that beautiful Moonsault and generally looking good (even if she still has no idea what to do in the pre-match promos). In a match designed to put Donna Del Mondo over, TCS managed not to be blown away, which is the perfect way to do it.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Afterwards, Giulia promised to keep doing things that Hana will dislike. Kimura responded by saying that just because she beat her bodyguard (apparently that’s Hirsch’s job description) doesn’t mean she’s on a roll. She then suggested she’d found her new friends on the side of the road before making her way to the back as Giulia vowed Hana would be fighting her for the rest of her life. She then closed up by officially introducing us to Della Del Mondo before challenging for the Artist Belts, which seems like a good place to start.
Arisa Hoshiki defeated Utami Hayashishita to retain the Wonder of Stardom Title
For someone who comes across joyful and friendly, Arisa makes enemies easily as she and Utami have stoked a simmering tension coming into this match. When The Big Rookie dismissively kicked away Hoshiki’s attempt to lock up, Arisa responded in the only way possible, grabbing her hair and headbutting her. Perfectly natural.
That was the first dice roll in a contest that had a real edge, an edge that would see Utami busted open when Hoshiki drove her head into the apron. As the blood criss-crossed her face, Arisa was undeterred, adding to her pain with a perfectly placed boot. It was the turning point in the match, as we saw the champ go out to dissect Utami, taking her apart with kicks and knees as she undermined her strength with a barrage of strikes.
However, this wasn’t a match that went all Hoshiki’s way. Brute force can always turn the tide (not quite true) and Utami has that in abundance. In the closing stretch, Arisa became obsessed with hitting her version of the Springboard Cutter, but time after time Utami was there to cut her off, catching her on the ropes or sending her flying with a German. She even managed to get her up for the Torture Rack, dropping it into a Bridging German, but Arisa has shown a stubbornness throughout her title reign that serves her well. She was able to kick out, and the fight continued.
And, in the end, it was a smidge of inexperience that let Utami down. She set Arisa up on the ropes to make the next German that little bit more vicious only to be kicked away, leaving the champ exactly where she wanted to be. The Cutter that followed wasn’t perfect, the lack of spring seemed to be the issue, but it did the job, leaving Utami open to one of those vicious Bicycle Knees. We then got another look at the cruel side of Arisa Hoshiki as she refused to let that be the end, pulling Utami up before putting her back down with a Brazilian Kick.
I was all prepared to say goodbye to Hoshiki’s time with the Wonder of Stardom title, so this result caught me off-guard. However, they seem to be holding off on handing Utami a big one, telling the story of her being 99% ready, but just having that 1% which holds her back. From an in-ring perspective, she could hold that title tomorrow, but Stardom seems to have a plan. Until that plans come to fruition, this was another fantastic performance as she and Arisa laid into each other and put on a hell of a match.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Mayu Iwatani defeated Momo Watanabe to retain the World Of Stardom Title
Momo Watanabe and Mayu Iwatani are two very different wrestlers. In Momo, you have someone who at the age of nineteen appears flawless (and has for a while). From those lethal kicks to the flurry of Somatos, every move is perfect, and it’s easy to forget how young she is. On the other hand, Iwatani is a chaotic genius. Not everything will work, but damn she is going to give it a go and see what happens.
That contrast stood at the centre of this match, and for a long time, it looked like Momo’s discipline was going to take the day. She came out strong, attacking Mayu’s arm and batting off Iwatani’s attempts to get a foot in the action. In theory, Watanabe is the young challenger coming up against the veteran champion, but their last two bouts ended in a Momo victory, so it never felt like that. As she flew from the top rope to the floor, crashing into Mayu with something halfway between a Somato and a Thez Press, you could almost see the belt around her waist already.
However, as I mentioned, Mayu is a genius, and Momo still has that touch of immaturity. That spot probably could have got her the win, the count was racking up, but she wasn’t happy to do it that way. Watanabe did the right thing and brought Iwatani back into the ring, continuing the match. Then, when she tried to pull Mayu off the top rope into a Peach Sunrise, Stardom’s Icon unleashed some of that chaos which has served her so well, kicking the challenger away before leaping back into a Poision Rana. For the first time, this was Iwatani’s match, and she rode that momentum to victory.
Which, on the surface, made it a decisive victory. Mayu ended up putting away the young Ace to be definitively, a Tombstone followed by the Dragon Suplex proving more than enough. However, it never felt like a dismissal of Watanabe. Instead, it felt like Momo made one or two mistakes at the key moments, and was punished. It felt like a defeat, that will one-day set-up a victory. There has been a lot of stuff said about Momo being sidelined by Bushiroad, but that wasn’t a match designed to sideline someone rather one designed to build their frustration. I’d bet a lot of money that Watanabe’s day will come.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
A lot happened in the post-match, but I’ll try to get to the important stuff. First, Mayu put over her opponent, thanked everyone for coming and then invited Momo to speak. Watanabe returned the compliment while battling tears of frustration and promising never to stop coming after Mayu.
Unfortunately, she’ll have a wee detour before than as Bea entered the ring and rather cruelly kneed her in the head before declaring she is ‘no fucking queen’. That was all to set-up Priestley joining Oedo Tai which, christ, if she’s replacing Kagetsu is a hell of a downgrade. Once she’d been welcomed into the gang, she challenged Arisa who was happy to accept. If Bea beats takes that belt, I am going to have a massive sulk, so consider yourself warned.
Mayu got back on the mic and seemed to be preparing to close out the show only for motherfucking Sareee to appear on the video screen, laying out a challenge for the next Korakuen. That is going to be all kinds of awesome, although I sympathise with Mayu collapsing with exhaustion when she saw it. I imagine it will also hurt, a lot. Despite that, she accepted and fuck, can I have it now?
Stardom had a packed Korakuen Hall to impress, and I can’t imagine anyone left the building thinking that they didn’t succeed. Two brilliant main events backed-up by a strong undercard had them putting their best foot forward and fingers crossed this is a sign for what is to come in 2020.
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