Stardom’s second Korakuen of the year was supposed to be headlined by the dream match of Mayu Iwatani vs Sareee. Unfortunately, Sareee got ill, which led to her having to pull out at the last minute. Now we can only cross our fingers and hope they find a way to reschedule before Sareee ruins her career by moving to Tampa. Still, Stardom did a great job of leaping into action and finding a suitable replacement in the form of Takumi Iroha of Marvelous. Could it live up to the expectations placed on that original match? Time to find out.
Itsuki Hoshino defeated Leo Onozaki
I am stuck in two minds about this match. On the one hand, I’m delighted that Hoshino got a win as I think she’s delightful and must be protected. However, I can’t help but feel bad for Leo. She’s now at the stage where she’s losing dark matches to rookies with a lot less experience than her. I wasn’t expecting a main-event push, but this suggests that any elevation is unlikely.
The match itself was alright, only just creeping over the three-minute mark before Hoshino wrapped Leo up in La Magistral. They worked hard in that time, Itsuki bouncing around for Leo’s forearms and being the bundle of energy that most Stardom rookies are. It was enjoyable, but I couldn’t feel help feeling a little bit sad as Leo embraced Hoshino post-match, presumably well aware that this was another person overtaking her in the pecking order.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Tokyo Cyber Squad (Death Yama-san and Leyla Hirsch) defeated Oedo Tai (Jamie Hayter and Zoey Skye), 3838 Tag (Saya Iida and Saya Kamitani), STARS (Tam Nakano and Starlight Kid) and Hina and Rina in a Tag Team Gauntlet
Poor Tam and Kid were not getting a lot of love from the rookies. First, Hina and Rina used their attempted handshake as an excuse to judo throw them then the two Sayas charged the ring and Dropkicked them. We also go to see why Tam previously referred to herself as slow speed Tam when her attempt at a 619 went, well, let’s stick with wrong. Don’t want to be too cruel.
Outside of that, this was a fun gauntlet with a few notable moments. Kamitani got another fall, pinning Kid (who had already faced Hina and Rina) while Tag 3838 were probably the MVPs, having strong showings against both STARS and Oedo Tai. It was also interesting to see Leyla Hirsch get the final pin over Zoey Skye, as Stardom seem keen on keeping her strong.
Verdict: Three Stars
Oedo Tai (Natsuko Tora, Saki Kashima and Natsu Sumire) defeated Tokyo Cyber Squad (Hana Kimura, Jungle Kyona and Konami) to become the number one contenders for the Artist Titles
Oedo Tai had a new industrial theme and were rocking military-inspired looks. Tora, in particular, looked fucking badass with newly blonde hair and seemed to be positioned as the leader, which would be an excellent choice. Either way, it felt like the rebirth of Oedo Tai in a Kagetsu-less era.
Not that Hana was at all intimidated by the new look, as she’s been laughing at Saki and couldn’t contain herself early on, giggling even as they locked up. That led to an opening period where TCS controlled the action, looking like the more seamless team as their offence flowed and Kimura’s harsh laughs seemed to be backed up by facts.
However, you should always be careful about mocking another wrestler, especially one with a mastery of flash pins. Towards the end, Saki looked done for, Konami booting her in the head after a TCS flurry. As we’ve learnt, though, it just takes one Revival for everything to change and when she bundled Konami up, it was her turn to start laughing.
Interestingly, despite winning the match, this felt like Oedo Tai finding their feet. They looked good, and I like that trio, but you didn’t get the feeling they were dominant. Still, I’m intrigued to see what happens with them going forward, and their first stop will be with the winners of the next match.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Donna del Mondo (Giulia, Syuri Kondo and Maika) defeated Queen’s Quest (Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita and AZM) to win the Artist Titles
My biggest takeaway from this match is the sooner we get Momo and Syuri in a ring one on one, the better. They teased us, exchanging kicks and giving me just enough to know that I definitely want to see them beat the shit out of each other.
And even this early in their Stardom career, I am already fully behind Donna del Mondo. I’m not sure they’ve clicked out of the ring, as their promos aren’t flowing yet, but the in-ring work has been fantastic with their MMA-inspired offence bringing something different to proceedings. Artist title matches are usually wild affairs, but they slowed this down working holds and strikes, which, in turn, brought the best out of Utami and Momo.
In the end, AZM would be left alone with the three of them which set her up to be dropped on the head with that wicked Piledriver Giulia is using. Donna del Mondo have announced themselves to the Stardom world, and so far I like what we’ve seen.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Arisa Hoshiki defeated Bea Priestley to retain the Wonder of Stardom Title
Thank fuck for that.
Jokes aside, this match was the perfect example of why I don’t think Bea Priestley is a very good wrestler. There is no flow to what she does, and that was perfectly summed up in the opening minutes. One second Bea appeared to be attempting to blitz Arisa, charging across the ring at the bell to take control. The next, she was slowing everything right down to try to walk on the top rope. Where was the link between those things? I want to believe a wrestler has a plan, and I never see that with Bea. She presents a collection of ‘cool’ ideas, not a narrative.
In direct contrast, I always know what Arisa wants to do. She will dissect you with those kicks, flying in from all angles to boot you in the face. Whenever she went on the offensive, the action picked up with her and, in turn, allowed Priestley to show what I assume other people see in her, as she’s much better as a reactive wrestler than a controlling one. The German reversal to the Oscutter (a move she is presumably familiar with) was impressive. While I loved Hoshiki attempting to beat her with the Kamigoye, that arrogance she has shining through as she decided to use Priestley’s (Kota’s) move against her.
Sadly, despite Arisa’s good work, there was always something to take me back out of the action. Moments like Priestley suddenly deciding to use a submission, only to not return to it later or the occasional spot where she just stopped selling, not even showing tiredness despite having been viciously kicked repeatedly. Am I being harsh on her? Probably, but she’s wrestling one of my favourites, and it just wasn’t clicking.
At least the finish was cool, Hoshiki hitting that Oscutter before dragging Bea up for a Brazilian Kick and a Running Knee, putting an authoritative stamp on her victory. That’s defence number ten and she’s not slowing down yet.
Verdict: Three Stars
Takumi Iroha defeated Mayu Iwatani
If you didn’t understand what I meant about a wrestler having a plan, then I implore you to watch Iroha’s fantastic performance in this one. She knew she was playing away from home as the partisan crowd were on Iwatani’s side from the bell. In response, she decided she was going to dissect their champion in front of them. After the initial chain wrestling saw the two evenly matched, she struck, driving her boot into Mayu’s mid-section and taking control. From there, she was incredible, overpowering Iwatani and tossing her around the ring while firing away with a series of brutal kicks. She wasn’t there to make friends. She was there to make an example of Stardom’s best and Iwatani bumped around for her in the way that only Mayu can.
And with the power advantage in Iroha’s corner, it was up to Mayu to find that spark of match-changing genius, the same thing that led her to victory against Momo. The second she got one opportunity, she looked to make ten, leaping off the top with a Double Stomp and trying follow up for a second. However, while Iroha’s moves murdered Mayu, dropping her on her head or sending her sprawling to the ground, Mayu’s didn’t have the same impact. Even when she was able to hit the Moonsault, a move that has won her so many matches, Iroha kicked out, and for a second you saw the shock on Iwatani’s face.
And it was some well-placed shock. You don’t beat Mayu Iwatani easily. The lass is all heart and little common sense (a statement I say with nothing but love), so if you have to put her down, you’ve got to damn well murder her. Sadly for Stardom, that was a challenge Iroha was more than up to. The Running Three that finished this match was incredible, folding Mayu up like a slinky and leaving her broken on the ground. Takumi Iroha had walked into Stardom and put down their best in an incredible match. Fuck, to think I was worried that the lack of Sareee would ruin this show.
Verdict: Four and Three Quarter Stars
Afterwards, there was a moment of respect between the two wrestlers, thanking each other for the match. However, Mayu made it clear that she wasn’t satisfied with that and asked Iroha to come back and fight for the Red Belt. It was a request that she was only too happy to accept and I am fucking delighted about that.
Unfortunately, we weren’t going to end on that happy note as Oedo Tai hit the ring, attacking Mayu before Saki grabbed the mic and demanded a match with her. They were looking to make a statement, but Iwatani was having none of that, telling Kashima she wasn’t interested in her which caused things to break into a brawl again only for Iroha to come to Mayu’s aid with back-up from Kid and Tam. It was a moment that led to Mayu pointing out (very rightly) that she’s ‘so damn cool’ before they closed out the show together. Maybe I need to start watching Marvelous.
That was setting up to be one of Stardom’s weaker Korkauen before Mayu and Takumi turned up and blew me away. That wasn’t just a great match, it was a match of the year contender, and if you are going to watch anything from this show, there is no question about where to start.
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