Stardom may have been at Korakuen Hall the day before this show, but there has been a change, and that was no longer the star attraction. They sent the big guns to Sendai, and while my love of Stardom has wavered a bit this year, when they send the big guns, they rarely miss.
Maika defeated Saya Iida to retain the Future of Stardom Title
Fuck me, this match ruled. Iida and Maika might have been opening up the card, but they were out there with the goal of making the night difficult for everyone else.
For this was big, dumb wrestling, similar to the Fujita vs Takase match I reviewed last week. Gori-chan and Maika weren’t doing anything complicated, but everything they did hit hard. As the two of them chopped and forearmed the shit out of each other, it was impossible not to get caught up in the moment. Then there was the headbutt Gori-chan delivered, one which made me flinch back in horror.
It might also go down as the best match of Iida’s career, and I’m someone who has loved a lot of her work. Alongside her recent bulking up, she’s maturing as a wrestler, and she did some fantastic selling. There was a moment where Maika hit a lariat only for Iida to bounce back-up. Except, while her heart might have told her she could keep going, her body wasn’t so sure, and she stumbled drunkenly across the ring into lariat number two.
Afterwards, Iida gave the most intense finger raise you’ll ever see, making it clear that while that’s one, she’ll be back. Judging by this performance, I will watch another fifty of these and still ask for more.
Starlight Kid defeated Riho, Saya Kamitani, Hanan and Hina in a Five-Way Match
Putting together a match involving five people must be hard, especially when you’re second on the card and not exactly blessed with time. You have to find a way to keep everyone involved, and this match did a really good job of doing that. It was fun, silly and wrestled at a pace that would make it nearly impossible to get bored.
On the other hand, it was entirely disposable. There is nothing here that you need to see, as even Riho and Tall Saya’s interactions didn’t hint towards Kamitani’s dislike of Utami’s love of Riho. The only moment of genuine note was that the finish came via a Starlight Kid Moonsault, not from the second rope, but from the top, something she’s never done before.
Still, as a match to shove on in the background or enjoy as part of a longer show, there really isn’t much to complain about. It did what it needed to do.
Verdict: Fun, But Inconsequential
Cosmic Angels (Tam Nakano, Mina Shirakawa and Sayaka Unagi) defeated Oedo Tai (Natsuko Tora, Saki Kashima and Rina)
Stardom is going full Bullet Club civil war as STARS have a new sub-faction in Tam’s Cosmic Angels. For some reason, the teasing of friction between Tam and Mayu had everyone getting their knickers in a twist on Twitter, but I think it would be best for everyone involved if this group now split off. Oh, and if Tam cut back on the groping. That would be nice too.
In the ring, they gave Unagi a lot of time, letting her introduce herself to the crowd. She did well with it, showing off that impressive Leg Drop and not looking out of the place. Out of the Cosmic Angels, she’s the weakest in-ring worker, but she’s far from bad especially as someone who has only been doing this a year or so and had a fair chunk of time out injured.
On the other side of the ring, Rina is clearly having a blast going full evil and who can blame her? She’s good at it. Her taking the fall was predictable, as it seems Cosmic Angels will be Oedo Tai’s first challengers for the Artist Titles. I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended that reign before it really got going.
Verdict: Pretty Good
AZM defeated Gokigen Death to retain the High Speed Title
Kaori Yoneyama can dress up as a clown, spend 90% of her time pissing around and still have a better match in three minutes than most will have in their career.
Which isn’t to downplay AZM, Death makes people look good, but AZM doesn’t need it. She is one of the few who can keep up with Yone, matching her in those frantic exchanges. In fact, the story here was that she was often a step ahead. Death’s actions were too big and obvious as her need to announce herself allowed AZM to counter.
And in the end, one of those great roll-up exchanges ended in the AZM Sushi, AZM beating the veteran at her own game. Now, let’s get her back in the ring with Mei Hoshizuki.
Verdict: High Speed!
Momo Watanabe defeated Jumbo
Momo has had a rough year. Since losing the White belt, she’s stumbled and slipped at every opportunity, losing multiple big matches and seeing her tag partner trade her in for a flippier model. Throughout the whole thing, I’ve been certain that she was being set up for a redemption arc. Excitingly, this felt like the first step on that path.
For in Jumbo, Momo had someone you could easily see her losing to. She came in as a hot property, barrelling her way through the 5STAR and only falling short at the final hurdle. Having lost her title shot to Giulia, a big part of me expected this to be her getting a win back.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, as this was built around Momo. She was out there to cut Jumbo down to size, being thrown around and beat-up herself, but always having an answer. It wasn’t an incredible match, but it was a complete performance from Watanabe. She went out there, took what Jumbo was giving out and gave it back harder.
Verdict: The Momo Redemption Arc Starts Here!
Syuri defeated Bea Priestley to win the SWA Title
Of all the people Stardom have signed, Syuri is the one that will hurt the wider joshi scene the most. Yes, them taking a bite out of Tokyo Joshi’s mid-card isn’t ideal, and the Giulia stuff still rankles, but both those companies have arguably already patched the holes. Syuri, meanwhile, leaves a gap in nearly every promotion. This year alone she had worked Ice Ribbon, SEAd, WAVE, Oz Academy, Sendai, DDT and more, doing everything from title matches to opening tags.
And the reason Syuri was a fixture in so many companies is that she is fucking good. She is a brilliant wrestler who can go out there and have legit, hard-hitting matches, but can also be a total goof who will dance around with MAX VOLTAGE and have a laugh. In other words, she’s my favourite kind of wrestler, and the kind that’s it’s hard to replace. I don’t blame her for taking the relative comfort and safety of a Stardom contract, but she will be missed elsewhere.
If you’re wondering why I’m blabbing on about Syuri rather than reviewing this, it’s because I’ve chosen to use Bea Priestley matches to say nice things about the other people in them. Those of you who want a proper review will be able to find it elsewhere.
Verdict: Syuri’s Great
After telling Bea that she sucks, Syuri threw a big old loophole into the SWA rules, pointing out that because she’s half Filipino, she can defend the belt against Japanese nationals. If it was a title that meant something that would feel cheap, but let’s not pretend it is. Hey, who knows, maybe Syuri will be the start of that changing. Stardom definitely need more belts, right?
Giulia defeated Konami to retain the Wonder of Stardom Title
I’m not gonna lie, Konami going all Inoki and lying on her back, inviting Giulia in for a grapple, soured me on this before it had even begun. I’ve said it before, but whether it’s her doing or something they’re pushing her towards backstage, someone needs to realise that this is not Giulia’s strength. How did they get it so right with her debut feud against Hana only to then go on and repeatedly get it so wrong?
Because yes, this was a limb match, with Konami going after Giulia’s arm. It wasn’t bad from a technical standpoint, or even in execution (I believe this is what they wanted to do), but long sections of it were fucking boring. Giulia isn’t intriguing when working this style, as she doesn’t do the little things required to get it over. Konami, meanwhile, for all her talents, is someone I find slips into dull when not presented with the right opponent, and that was certainly the case here.
There were sequences where it clicked into gear and, unsurprisingly, they were the moments where it became a fight. Whether it was Giulia responding to Konami kicking her arm by booting her in the face or the throwing of a few vicious suplexes, that’s the shit she’s good at. Although we also got our second sickening headbutt of the day which might have been a tad too far considering the noise it made gave me a concussion.
The whole thing does Giulia no favours. She’s in dangers of moving into superhuman territory, as she had moments where she was keeping up with Konami on the floor or was throwing perfect strikes with her injured arm. It’s too much. There is nothing wrong with being a brilliant brawler, but Giulia seems intent on doing things differently.
Verdict: Let Giulia Fight!
Utami Hayashishita defeated Mayu Iwatani to win the Stardom World Title
The contrast between this and the last match was obvious. Giulia vs Konami saw one wrestler miscast while Mayu vs Utami had them both in the roles they were born to play. Is there a better underdog than Mayu Iwatani? She may have years of experience on Utami, but the challenger had pure power, and it proved decisive in this match.
And while this was the result that I expected, it wasn’t the structure. Utami dominated a lot of it, grinding Mayu down and looking like an absolute beast. We’ve seen Iwatani work this way before, most recently against Iroha, but this might have been even more one-sided. She was clinging onto moments, pulling out those sparkles of Mayu magic, a Tombstone on the apron here, a Poison Rana there, but she could not stop Utami coming.
Yet, despite that dominance, the match never stopped being thrilling. The selling here from both was brilliant, that feeling of being in a war never forgotten even as they hit the final act. Mayu being as good as she is allowed you to fall into the idea that she could still sneak out with the title, finding that one opening that turned things in her favour.
It wasn’t to be, though. In fact, it was as clean a win as you will see, Utami hitting multiple Torture Rack Powerbombs followed by a Spinning Crucifix Bomb to make sure there was no chance in hell the Icon got up. The Big Rookie has reached the top of the mountain, and she took her throne in style.
Utami declared her first defence would be in Osaka on the 20th December before calling out for a challenger. She got three of them, Giulia, Syuri and Momo. Thankfully, the Momo who challenged was pure ‘fuck you; I’m going to kick your head off’ Momo, which is the best one, so Utami chose her.
Now, I hope you’ll excuse me leaping into speculation here, but if Momo loses that match, she’s got to be done with QQ, doesn’t she? So, she’s winning? Because I can’t see her handing that spot over to Utami yet. It’s been announced Stardom are going to Budokan next year and Momo beating Utami to set-up Mayu getting another shot at the belt is THE story, right?
Anyway, Syuri and Giulia decided if they weren’t going to get to face Utami, they’d have a match against each other, which was quite funny, so fair play to them. Finally, because I’ve rabbited on enough, Utami closed out the show with the rest of QQ.
That was a damn good few hours of wrestling. I said it at the top, but when Stardom decide to go all out, they very rarely fall short. From Iida and Maika beating the crap out of each other to Utami winning the big one, it was an enjoyable watch and a reminder, for those who might need it, that Stardom still has plenty to give.
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