Stardom Throwback: Grow Up Stars (26/6/11) Review

Credit: Stardom

My Stardom Throwback project took a bit of a backseat recently (the ROH one is clinging to the outside of the car screaming for its life), but that doesn’t mean it’s over! As I’ve been saying for a while, we’re reaching exciting times in the early history of Stardom and today sees our first new rookie since show numero uno. Step forward, Saki Kashima.

Eri Susa defeated Mayu Iwatani

If you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that neither Eri Susa nor Mayu Iwatani has picked up a win yet in our run through Stardom’s past. Well, it was time for that to change.

And, looking at this in 2020, the result is kind of shocking. We know who Mayu will become, so her being unable to get past Eri (who has been slotted firmly into the opening match slot) feels weird. However, I think that hindsight also allows me to appreciate this decision more. Mayu is going to be fine, but Susa was someone who could use the win. While she came in as the weakest rookie, her trajectory has been pointed firmly towards the ceiling, which makes this feel like a fitting reward for her hard work.

The match is nothing remarkable. Mayu and Eri had got to the stage where they could rise to the level of an experienced opponent, but aren’t quite ready to push each other up. It’s also got a weird structure, opening with them teeing off on each other before almost rewinding into a chain wrestling sequence. I’m not quite sure what they were going for, but it doesn’t flow.

What they do have, though, is plenty of scrappy energy, which makes it hard to dislike. Part of it is probably that I am a fan of these two, but I’m willing to forgive the mistakes because the fire of the match keeps me engaged. Sometimes, effort and commitment are more important that perfect wrestling, and that’s what they gave me.

Verdict: Susa Hits The Big Time!

Frustrated from losing, Mayu attacked Eri after the bell with Nanae entering the ring to pull her off.

Haruka and Arisa Hoshiki fought to a time-limit draw

They built a lot of spots in this match around Haruka being so small that it was easy for her to avoid Arisa’s attacks and that will never fail to delight me.

Another key component was Arisa trying to boot Haruka’s head into the back row, responding to the youngster’s kicks with some of her own. Most of the strikes she connected with were a tad softer than her usual blows, but there was one planted in Haruka’s chest which looked particularly painful.

If you’ve been following along with this series, you know the deal by now. I think Haruka’s awesome. She’s having the time of her life and it fills me with joy. I love the fact that she clearly has total trust in someone like Arisa and that they’re good enough at this stuff to structure a competitive match that makes sense. People can spout their bullshit about killing the business all they want, but that takes more skill than 99% of the wrestling you’ll see on your TV.

Verdict: All The Smiles

Nanae Takahashi defeated Saki Kashima

Hey, I recognise her! Young Saki had technically made her debut on the previous show, wrestling a three-minute draw with Taiyo. For reasons unknown, that wasn’t on the version on Stardom World, so for us, this is her first-ever appearance.

Unsurprisingly, Kashima looked nervous before the match, and she is still green. You can almost see the cogs whirring away in her mind, moving from spot to spot as she tries to remember what to do next. It’s no great crime, it’s her first full match, but it does leave this feeling a bit clunky.

She does have one advantage, though, and that’s being in there with Nanae. Takahashi is fucking awesome, pulling this match in the right direction and making Kashima look like a star. She’s more than happy to give the rookie some shine, letting her slip into flash pins and come incredibly close to getting the win (a nice foreshadowing of what would become her greatest strength). In the end, though, Nanae slapped the taste out of her mouth and got the three.

This isn’t the best debut you’ll ever see, but it’s also not the worse. Saki looked like a young prospect, someone who still had a bit to go, but with plenty of upsides.

Verdict: Strong Start

Yoko Bito and Yuzuki Aikawa defeated Natsuki Taiyo and Yoshiko

Yoshiko crouched in the corner with Taiyo draped over the ropes above her was a badass image. It must have been an intimidating sight for Yuzuki and Bito who, having picked up a big win over Nanae and Mayu, were up against the most established tag-team in Stardom at this point.

For large portions of this match, it looked like that experience was going to be the killer difference between these teams. Natsuki and Yoshiko are already a fantastic pairing, perfectly melding that blend of speed and brutality. They bounce off each other wonderfully, always seeming to be in the exact spot their pal needs them in. On top of that, Bito and Aikawa’s inexperience occasionally lets them down. There is a moment where Bito crouches, her back intended as a springboard for Yuzuki. However, she takes too long to get into position and by the time Aikawa takes off at a run Taiyo has claimed that platform as her own, meeting Yuzuki mid-stride.

However, the rookies may be young in their career, but they’re no mugs. Those lethal kicks are already an effective weapon, with them both doing a great job of building their matches around them. Then, in the final minutes, as I and everyone else assumed Taiyo was setting up for the win, Bito struck, catching her mid-Code Red and dropping her with, I believe, the first B-Driver of her career. The three is counted, and no-one looked more shocked than Bito.

I thought beating a team with Nanae on it was a big upset, so for them to one-up that and pin Taiyo was quite something. They were being set-up for big things with the scenes of them celebrating drawing a smile, even if it did have Yoshiko beating on the ref in the background.

Verdict: Big Upset!

Overall Show

Wow, looking at the card I wasn’t expecting much new from that Stardom show, but they’ve suddenly pulled the trigger on a couple of big moments. We’ve got Eri Susa picking up her first win and a rookie pinning a veteran in the main event! Things are getting spicy in 2011, but try not to get too excited, we’ve got a long way to go yet.

Watch Stardom:

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