Stardom’s show from the 30th of April 2011 was the start of their second season, a quirk they ran with for a while. What did that mean? Well, as far as I can tell, nothing, but perhaps someone can fill me in?
Ryo Mizunami defeated Eri Susa
Eri Susa’s continues to wage war against outside talent, with Ryo Mizunami stepping forward to be her latest opponent. Of course, it’s a war that’s not going to plan, as she keeps losing.
At this stage how good Susa’s matches are is down to the person across from her. She is a scrappy wee underdog, who shows good fire and who I’ve developing an attachment to, but she is not about to do anything incredible. Put her in there with someone boring, and the match will be boring, put her in there with someone good, and the match will be good. Thankfully, Ryo Mizunami, is rather good.
None of which is to suggest this was a masterpiece. It was a solid little opener where Ryo put Eri through her paces, gave her some nice hope spots and then put her away for good. I won’t remember it in a month, but while it was on, I had a perfectly nice time.
Haruka and Masked Hiroyon fought to a time limit draw
It took me a second to figure out that Masked Hiroyon was Hiroyo Matsumoto because I wasn’t expecting her to pop-up and wrestle Haruka under a mask. She’ll be no stranger to Stardom over the years, but I quite like the idea that this was her first appearance.
Hiroyon proved to be a cruel opponent for Haruka, using the handshake to squeeze on the young lass’s hand, sending her to her knees. It set-up an encounter that continued the theme from the last Haruka match, as we’re seeing her take a lot more moves and even come close to her first defeat, Hiroyon twisting her up like a pretzel as the time ran out.
It was also the first time we’ve seen Haruka not look entirely comfortable. The opening minute or so of this match was a bit awkward, as they struggled to get on the same page. Eventually, though, they clicked, Hiroyon spinning Haruka around her body as everything fell into place and this became a lot of fun.
Nanae Takahashi defeated Mayu Iwatani and Eri Susa and fought to a draw with Yoko Bito, Haruka, Yuzuki Aikawa and Arisa Hoshiki in a Gauntlet Match
None of the rookies could beat Nanae solo, so they lined up to give it a go. Unlike most gauntlet matches, everyone (apart from Haruka and Eri Susa who inserted themselves into the action) was introduced at the start, giving them time to strategise in the corner.
There is no point trying to capture all of a gauntlet, but I can tell you that this was a whirlwind of action. The rookies’ plan seemed to be to blitz their mentor, hitting her fast and hard, which certainly made for a thrilling watch. Poor Nanae was left working what was basically a series of sprints, and I’m amazed that she didn’t keel over from exhaustion.
Of course, I’m sure she was feeling it by the end, but it didn’t stop Takahashi being fantastic. Whether she was in there with Susa or Yuzuki, she didn’t miss a step. She even managed to bring tension to her battle with Haruka, retreating to the outside while the youngster demanded her friends throw the veteran back in.
It was an impressive performance from most of the rookies too. Eri aside, they were all given the time to shine, and the number of stiff kicks was quite something. There was the occasional awkward moment, Yoko at one point got a bit too cocky on the top rope and ended up wavering. More worrying was Arisa catching Nanae with a wayward fist which had her roll to the outside. It wasn’t so much a concern for what it had done to Nanae, but for poor Arisa who had to stand in the ring while her sensei found her bearings, knowing revenge might be on its way.
All things said it’s just a damn fine match. If you showed it to someone with no prior knowledge of those involved, they would never believe that most of these wrestlers had only been doing this for a few months (apart from maybe Haruka, she didn’t have many months in which to have been doing it). They were all far better than they should have been, and with an exceptional light to guide them, they couldn’t fail.
Natsuki Taiyo defeated Yoshiko
If it wasn’t already clear that Yoshiko has been pushed to a level above her peers, this should be the definitive proof. While everyone else tried to take out Nanae, she had wild brawl of a main-event with Taiyo, one she didn’t win, but where she pushed the veteran to her limit.
Both women come out of this one looking great. They fought all over Shinkiba, Taiyo even leaping off the stage to stomp Yoshiko. It was fast-paced and packed with action, hiding Yoshiko’s limitations through a whirlwind effect, as you’re never really thinking about what she’s not doing because there is so much else happening.
Towards the end, Yoshiko slammed Taiyo from the second rope before following her down with a Senton, a moment where her victory seemed assured. It was a perfect example of what a great job she and the veterans have done in getting her over. Realistically, there was no chance she was winning this match, but for a second, you believed.
It would be remiss to finish up without once again singing Natsuki’s praises. She is incredible, flying around the ring and looking like a fucking star. This felt like a proper, big main event and while Yoshiko was impressive, Taiyo was the guiding hand that danced her through the fight.
Verdict: Big Time Main Event
That show was a breath of fresh air in this Stardom run through. They were falling into a rut with the layout of their cards, but the gauntlet match broke that up and gave us something a bit different. It helps, of course, that it led to two great matches on top, as in the ring, Stardom continues to deliver with every outing.
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