Gosh, this came around quickly, didn’t it? It’s time for Kagetsu’s final Stardom match. While she’s doing a wee retirement tour around various joshi companies before facing off with her trainer Meiko Satomura one more time, it already feels like things are coming to an end. She certainly couldn’t have picked a better trio of wrestlers to say goodbye with, that’s for sure, as she and Mayu go up against Jungle and Momo in one hell of a main event. I could try and tease the idea of whether it delivered or not, but I suspect you know the answer.
AZM defeated Leo Onozaki and Itsuki Hoshino
Hoshino has what I’m going to describe as major Willow-energy. If you watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it quickly becomes clear that the writers realised no-one wants anything bad to happen to Willow, so they used that to fuck with the audience. Itsuki has a similar vibe, as she is a rookie who still holds herself like a rookie (although she’s performing well in the ring) and draws the sympathy of the fans. So, when AZM tricks her into an alliance only to Dropkick her in the face, I want AZM to burn.
Okay, that might be a bit extreme, but there is truth in it, and it’s something that Hoshino can use. It certainly added something to match that was, on the whole, dominated by our grizzled young vet, AZM. It wasn’t only Hoshino that she double-crossed, as she leapt at the opportunity to do the same with her Queen’s Quest partner Leo, showing that she’d do anything to win. And, win she did, hitting a Diving Double Stomp to put an end to an entertaining opener.
Verdict: Three Stars
Death Yama-san (1-1) defeated Starlight Kid (0-2) in a High Speed Grand Prix match
Having lost her first match, Kid seemed determined not to go to 0-2. She came out swinging, sending Death to the outside and Dropkicking her as she re-entered the ring. There was a moment when she couldn’t get Death over for the Cross-Legged Fisherman Suplex, but she just kept wearing her down, and on the second attempt proved successful.
However, Death has made it this far for a reason, and it took one mistake for the tide to turn. Starlight Kid went up for that Twisting Frog Splash and came down onto nothing, opening Yama-san up for her first offensive move of the match, a thunderous Running Knee. From there, the action twisted to play into the veteran’s hands, as they traded roll-ups and pinning combinations. It’s a style that she’s perfected, and it was no surprise when it ended with an O’Connor Roll and the three.
As you’d expect, this was short, not even making the four-minute mark, but Death Yama-san is a master at these matches, and my appreciation grows every time I watch her do one. If you want to see how to structure a High Speed match, watch her do her thing because there are few better.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Oedo Tai (Bea Priestley and Zoey Skye) defeated STARS (Tam Nakano and Saya Kamitani)
Tam and Saya were ecstatic to be teaming together and had prepared a dance for their entrance. Enthusiastic Tam is impossible to dislike, so I find it very hard to say anything negative about things she is involved in. She’s just so infectious!
Unfortunately, this went from being a fine match to a bit of a shambles at the end. Kamitani’s first attempt at the Running Shooting Star saw her nearly land on her head, while the second attempt (which I think Bea was supposed to reverse) was a total mess. The kid is great, but there are moments where I worry that she’s pushing herself to do a bit too much too soon.
Outside of that, it was decent. Tam and Bea had some good interactions while Kamitani took her beating well. Although, Priestley is now using the Kamigoye as a finish. I know I’ve said this before and I generally have no issues with people using whatever moves they want, but bloody hell she takes it to extremes. Does she do anything original?
Anyway, I tend to subscribe to the theory that botches don’t ruin matches, but when you have two so close together on the same move, it’s not great. Still, this provided enough entertainment before that to not be totally dismissed.
Verdict: Two and Three Quarter Stars
Donna del Mondo (Giulia and Maika) defeated STARS (Arisa Hoshiki and Saya Iida)
Pre-match, Saya asked Arisa to hit her to fire her up, which lead to an adorable pat on the head combined with an ‘I don’t like you’. Kobashi, it was not. On the other hand, it’s further proof that Wee Saya is universally loved by Stardom wrestlers, and I take that as evidence that they are roster with good taste.
In the ring, Iida is blossoming as she seems to be settling into the kind of wrestler she wants to be. Brilliantly, she’s chosen the role of fucking badass, chopping the shit out of Maika and Giulia before letting out a roar of joy. It’s a role that despite her diminutive size, she plays perfectly and I’m 100% up for that being who she is going forward.
Outside of the rookie, this match seemed to be teasing Arisa vs Giulia. They had some stiff strike exchanges before getting in each other’s faces after the bell. If that’s a hint that Arisa is going to retain against Priestley to make Giulia her next challenger I am 100% okay with that. Judging by the snippets we get here, it could be a brilliant match.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Oedo Tai (Natsu Sumire, Saki Kashima and Natsuko Tora) defeated Tokyo Cyber Squad (Hana Kimura, Konami and Leyla Hirsch)
Hana and Natsu managed to start an impromptu dance-off pre-match because, well, they’re Hana and Natsu. That’s the kind of thing they do.
Dancing fun aside, this was a relatively standard mid-card Stardom tag. I continue to be impressed by Hirsch who despite her inability to remember to ‘yes, sir’, appears to be a great wrestler. Outside of that, you have a group of reliable faces who you know can go out and put on a fun match every night of the week. Whether it’s Konami kicking people or Natsu thrusting her groin in their face, there is enjoyment to be had.
The finish saw Leyla transition nicely into an Armbar on Tora only for Saki to sneak in and bop her with the sign. That left Natsu to hit her Package DDT and drop her in place for the Natsuko Leg Drop for the three. A solid match, but nothing you need to see.
Verdict: Three Stars
Jamie Hayter defeated Utami Hayashishita to win the SWA Title
Who else had forgotten the SWA Title existed? Utami last defended it roughly five months ago against Zoe Lucas, and I don’t think I’ve thought about it since. It also reminded me that Jamie Hayter is still technically the EVE International champion, a belt that she hasn’t defended since she beat Utami (in a Three-Way with Nina Samuels) to win it. That makes her claim that she’ll be a fighting champion seem a bit silly.
Away from belt chat, this match was a continuation of Queen’s Quest’s rough week. Hayter bullied Utami, attacking her already strapped up knee and dominating her with her superior power. It was only towards the end that Utami showed life, a German into the corner bringing her a bit of respite before an Air Raid Crash followed by a Sleeper seemed to put her in control. Unfortunately, while she got Hayter up for a Torture Rack, she couldn’t keep her up, and Hayter came thundering back. A brace of Lariats set her up for the Falcon Arrow Backbreaker, and that was that.
It all added up to a very good match, but perhaps not a great one. Jamie had so much of the action that her victory never felt in doubt. Now, that did work for the current story, as she placed a boot on Utami while celebrating lording yet another defeat over her, so I’m not complaining, but it left me feeling like they had more to give. Fingers crossed we get to see that in the future.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
JKGReeeeN (Jungle Kyona and Momo Watanabe) defeated Kagetsu and Mayu Iwatani in Kagetsu’s Final Stardom Match
Coming into this match, you got the impression Mayu and Kagetsu were in the mood to have some fun. They had matching gear which played tribute to their dogs (Pochi and Penta) and came to the ring with an (awful) mash-up of their themes. Unfortunately for them, Jungle and Momo had other ideas.
For while we got a bit of that a party vibe, Mayu got a chance to play with the giant elastic band, it was cut short by the fact that the team formerly known as JKGReeeeN were on a mission to kill. They came out fast and stiff, barrelling in with strikes and looking like they’d never stopped working together. At one point, they hit an awesome combination Wheelbarrow Facebuster/Somato on Mayu, and it was clear that they were in no mood to give Kagetsu an easy final night. If anything, they wanted to make her suffer.
And if you need proof that Kagetsu is the best, you only need to see how she went out, making Jungle Kyona look like a fucking badass. Part of the reason this woman is retiring is because of a busted neck, but fuck me you wouldn’t know it. She took a Ganso Bomb, and as if that wasn’t enough, Jungle then pulled her up to put her down with a Sit-Out Powerbomb seconds later. Momo and Mayu slipped into the background as those two went to war, bouncing up from each other’s moves and laying into their strikes one final time.
In the end, Kagetsu took one more bump on that neck, a sickening Jungle Buster giving Jungle the win as The Prime Minister went out making everyone around her a little bit better. This match fucking ruled as they went far and away above what anyone would need to do on their retirement match in a promotion. It makes you sad that we’ll never see it again, but fucking delighted that we at least got to see it once.
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
I’m not going to recount the whole retirement ceremony as you can watch it for yourself, but I did want to make a point. There was a lot written and said about Kagetsu, mainly around that Meltzer report, but watching this it’s hard to believe a word of it. Tam gave her P-sama for Christ’s sake! While STARS and Queen’s Quest handed over masks and Oedo Tai their trusty board. Those weren’t the actions of people who had been living under the thumb of some super strict regime. To me, it looked like a group who love and respect their trainer and their friend. I obviously don’t know what goes on behind the scenes at Stardom, but in the ring, I saw only love and the perfect send-off for a brilliant wrestler.
I basically already did this, but the end of that show was perfect, and it was backed up by a strong undercard. Kagetsu will be missed, but she seems to be going out the way she wants to, and you can’t argue with that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have another wee cry.
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Watching this match and the post match stuff, then reading her blog post that followed it(someone on the Stardom reddit was nice enough to translate it), I think it’s more than clear that Meltzer report has no basis in reality. She put over both the talent and the company HARD, and the obvious emotion the roster showed over her departure(and Iida, one of the rookies who came up being trained under Kagetsu and her supposedly harsh methods agrees to work her retirement show?) are just straight up not the actions of someone being “forced out” because of her being “too strict and harsh and not liked by the roster” or whatever.
Agreed. The whole retirement has felt like an outpouring of love and it’s been clear for a while that she’s close to people like Iida. You can never know for certain, but everyone who has worked closely with Kagetsu seems to adore her.
While Meltzer has valid contacts within certain companies, he’s never shown the slightest interest in Stardom, so the sudden insider report on stuff happening there was always suspicious. It feels like he’s been fed bullshit or someone in the company panicked after Hazuki and Kagetsu retired close together and came up with something that turned them into the bad guys.
Yeah Meltzer doesn’t care about joshi in general, and doesn’t really have any contacts over there. Closest he has is Fumi Saito(who’s friends with Ogawa) and HE said the report was basically bullshit when it came out and that he thinks someone fed it to him
The reports on Kagetsu (and Hazuki) sounded almost hilariously overblown. She used to “fine” people for being late to practice? That’s it, that’s all they’ve got?! Oh man, better call Tom Cruise because it sounds like someone ordered the Code Red…