The 5STAR may have ended mere minutes ago, but Stardom is heading straight into Tag League. Perhaps it’s the short break between the two that has convinced them it’s a good idea for teams in the Red block to wrestle the teams in the Blue block. Make sense to you? Nope, me neither. Oh well, it doesn’t make too much difference, I can never be arsed working out the maths anyway.
It may primarily be people walking out to the ring and having a wee stand, but I’m a fan of an opening ceremony. There is always one or two moments to pick up on. Here, we had the artist formerly known as Death Yama-san hiding her new look behind a t-shirt, Hanan not even bothering to turn up to partner Gori-chan (to be fair, she wasn’t on the show) and the displaying of all our new team poses. They’ve gone down the Ice Ribbon route of everyone coming up with a team name, which I am always going to support.
Saki Kashima defeated Mina Shirakawa
The niggling worries I had when Mina signed for Stardom are already all coming to pass. Her and Tam have been teamed up because Tam appears to be interested in her cup size and, well, it’s safe to say that’s going to be the focus going forward. It’s the Stardom way.
What I’m more intrigued to see is how she fits into a Stardom ring. Mina is someone that excels at the little stuff. Her mat work is much better than most will give her credit for and her mind for comedy is sublime. That’s not Stardom, though. Stardom is all about big flashy matches (and fan service), and while I can see bits of that in Mina, it’s not her modus operandi.
All of which perhaps explains her soft entry into the company. This was a decent enough opener, Mina pulling out a cool submission from a Jackknife pin, but Saki is the kind of person you’d expect a newbie to beat. Instead, Stardom appear to be holding back on her, tempering expectations right from the start. Fingers crossed that’s because they see her as a long-term project and not because she’s there purely for them to profit off her looks.
Verdict: Solid Opener
Jumbo defeated Natsuko Tora by Disqualification
Natsuko is one of the first people in Stardom to be able to match up with Jumbo physically. She started by throwing her around the ring via her hair, the kind of bullying treatment that Jumbo isn’t used to getting from a roster she tends to dwarf.
The problem is that while Tora often starts matches that way, she very rarely ends them. I don’t have a massive issue with Natsuko’s constant disqualifications. Her not giving a shit attitude is fun, and the idea of causing pain being more appealing than winning is fine by me. I just wish she could do it while retaining that badass aura.
For what started as Natsuko taking the fight to Jumbo became a 50/50 match with Himeka perhaps even taking the spoils. No other faction leader would be put in that spot, Kagetsu certainly wouldn’t have. Stardom are stuck between two camps with Tora. Sometimes she’s the unstoppable badass that murders all in her path, but the rest of the time she’s the same wrestler she was in JAN with an evil look slapped on top.
Now, you could argue they want to keep Jumbo strong, and I agree with that premise. If that’s the case, though, don’t book the match. Tora coming off the back of disbanding TCS by destroying someone before choking them out with a chain is badass. The even contest doesn’t have quite the same appeal.
Verdict: I Want Badass Natsuko
Donna del Mondo (Syuri and Natsupoi) defeated STARS (Tam Nakano and Saya Iida)
Despite this being the start of Tag League, our first tag was not part of it because, well, who knows. Either way, Poi and Syuri were adorably excited to be teaming together, so I’m willing to let it slide.
Not that they were quite so delightful in the ring. Poi has always had a mean streak, but as a member of DDM, she’s getting to lean into it. There was a real arrogance to her performance here, at one point lifting Iida for a slam and waiting for Tam to return to the apron so she could watch her pal be thrown to the ground. It’s the side of her that makes you realise she might be a perfect fit for that group.
These four proved to have good chemistry too. Tam and Poi got a bit silly with their elaborate dodging of each other’s kicks at the start, but when they got into it, they clicked. Plus, when the kicks did start flying, there was nothing silly about them. Poor Gori-chan would have probably preferred they stuck with the original format.
Sadly for her, this was about giving Syuri a win post-failed title challenge and keeping Poi hot as she misses out on Tag League. In that sense, it did everything it needed to and kept me entertained at the same time. Tam was less impressed, getting into it with both opponents in the aftermath.
Colour Me Pop (Riho and Gokigen Death) (1-0) defeated MK☆Sisters (Mayu Iwatani and Starlight Kid) (0-1)
Death Yama-san is no more and in her place has risen the more suitable for STARS, Gokigen Death. I believe Gokigen translates as pleasant, and Yama-san is now sporting a colourful clown jumpsuit with appropriate make-up. Honestly, it might be scarier than what she was doing before.
Terrifying or not, I’m a fan of Riho and her being a team. With their connection to Emi Sakura, they first wrestled back in 2006 when Riho was nine-years-old, so they know each other well. They were as delightful as you’d expect them to be too. In fact, poor Mayu spent a lot of the match struggling not to corpse, coming down with a case of the Sakaguchis every time she looked at Gokigen. I got the distinct impression everyone was having a jolly time, mucking around and now and then breaking out into some great wrestling.
That also happens to be a style of match that I love. I like watching people have fun, and this lot were clearly doing so. If you’re looking for an ultra-serious, work rate marathon, you might be disappointed, but as a blast of enjoyable wrestling, this delivered, even throwing the upset finish in there for a bit of luck.
Verdict: A Blast
AphroditE (Utami Hayashishita and Saya Kamitani) (0-0-1) and Black Widows (Konami and Bea Priestley) (0-0-1) fought to a time-limit draw
Konami didn’t bother getting new gear and instead nicked something Kagetsu had left lying around. I kid, she looks cool.
Talking of Konami, she was put in a fucking rotter of a situation when she had to be responsible for ending a faction that will forever be linked to Hana. That had to suck, no matter what way you look at it. People’s focus has primarily been on Jungle, and that’s understandable considering the shit she’s had to deal with, but Konami is right there with her, and my heart aches for them both. So, while I might not be a huge fan of who she’s been teamed up with, I hope this turn works out for her. She’s a badass who deserves a role that reflects that status.
By the way, this is how I’ve decided to deal with Priestley matches going forward. I’m going to use them to have a wee ramble about someone involved and maybe throw a bit of positivity out into the world. If you want proper reviews, you can find them elsewhere.
Verdict: Gon Yersel’, Konami
Crazy Bloom (Giulia and Maika) (1-0) defeated MOMOAZ (Momo Watanabe and AZM) (0-1)
God, I wish we’d got a Maika freelance run. The rate she’s improving is remarkable, so imagine if she’d been able to bounce around the various companies? Still, she looked impressive facing off with both Momo and AZM, so we’re getting something.
While this match was enjoyable, it did fall into a problem that I have with a lot of Stardom tags as there is a tendency to work them more like a series of singles matches. Now, that’s always going to be at least partially the case when you’re teaming singles wrestlers up. These pairings are used to doing unit battles, but straight-up tags are a rarer beast. However, it does take something away. My favourite thing about tag-team wrestling is seeing how two people slot together, but this was more like seeing them work standing side by side.
Despite my complaints, there was loads of exciting action in there, with AZM and Maika somewhat stealing the show. I already kind of mentioned it above, but that is a pairing I would love to see again, as I only assume it will get better from here.
Verdict: Good Stuff, But Could Be Better
That was a decent start to Tag League, but hardly a blow away one. My favourite match was Colour Me Pop vs MK Sisters, which was a barrel full of smile. The rest was solid to good and not exactly a bad way to kick things off.
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