My journey through Stardom’s history has become a bit of a leisurely stroll, but that’s not a problem! Who is in a hurry to get anywhere? We’ve made it to their first anniversary, so that’s not too bad! Let’s see pop in and see how Stardom was getting on.
Io Shirai defeated Natsumi Showzuki
We kick things off with a newbie as Natsumi Showzaki was making her debut. She had a Shorinji Kempo background, a martial art I am not aware of, but she was wearing what I assume was the traditional outfit for it. It’s a modified version of Shaolin Kung Fu, which certainly sounds cool.
I was stupid enough to read and pay attention to a Cagematch review before watching this match, so I came in expecting little to nothing from Showzaki. However, I came away quietly impressed. Yes, she’s still green, her selling looks incredibly artificial, and she’s working off a very limited moveset, but despite that, I thought she did well. She threw some nice strikes, and it never felt like Io had to drag her through this match.
Talking of Io, it was a nice chance to see where she was at this point in her career, and you can tell she’s good. There’s the obvious stuff, the beautiful Standing Moonsault, for example, but more impressive is the aura she has. Perhaps I’m being influenced by what I know is coming, but Shirai already feels like a star. She was also good enough to get a strong debut out of the rookie, which is always a sign of quality.
Verdict: Strong Start
AMA (Arisa Hoshiki & Mayu Iwatani) defeated Saki Kashima & Eri Susa
In this shortened match (Stardom World has about six minutes out of ten), the thing that stood out was how quickly Arisa has pulled away from her peers. That’s not necessarily an insult to Eri, Mayu and Saki, who are all decent wrestlers, capable of having fun, scrappy matches. Saki, in particular, is starting to put together a cool moveset as she leans heavily on the flash pins that will eventually become her forte.
However, much like Io before her, Arisa has the other stuff. From the way she holds herself to her selling, Hoshiki looks like a natural. She feels like someone who has been doing this for years and has complete faith in her body doing exactly what she wants it to do. Of course, it also helps that she’s already perfected kicking a motherfucker’s head off, which will always get you some brownie points.
Verdict: Arisa’s Gonna Murder You
Natsuki Taiyo & Yuu Yamagata defeated Hiroyo Matsumoto & Yuuri Haruka
Having talked about Io and Arisa’s aura in the first two matches, let’s talk about a different kind of star power for match number three. Yuuri Haruka does not hold herself like a badass and isn’t a super rookie, but she has the ability to get you instantly on her side. Why? Because she’s likeable. From her flexing her muscles while posing over Natsuki early on, getting ever so slightly ahead of herself, to her bouncing up to Hiroyo only to be kicked in the stomach and launched over the ropes at their foes, she’s easy to fall for.
She also had the advantage of being in the ring with Natsuki Taiyo, who makes it kind of impossible to tell how good she is. Taiyo is extraordinary, and her interactions with the young rookie were fantastic. Throw in Hiroyo and Yamagata, and even in its cut down form, this was an entertaining wee match.
Verdict: Charisma Gets You Far
Nanae Takahashi & Miho Wakizawa defeated Yuzuki Aikawa & Kairi Hojo
Yuzopon and Nanae do not appear to be friends. Aikawa made the brave and/or stupid decision to slap Nanae rather than shaking her hand, which, well, you can probably guess how that went down. Even she looked unsure as to whether it was a good idea. Her one saving grace was that Waki and Kairi started the match, giving Nanae a little bit of time to cool down… Nanae is the type of person to cool down, right?
Ah, wait, no. The main arc of this match was Nanae trying to make Yuzopon pay and Yuzopon trying to skip out on her bill. That’s not to say that Aikawa was destroyed; when you can kick the way she kicks, you always have a chance, but Nanae would not let that slap go unpunished. She attacked the leg and even got Waki in on the act, pulling on Yuzuki’s hair, nose and everything else she could grab hold of.
If there’s a criticism, it did all leave Kairi feeling a bit like an afterthought. There was a moment where she came to Yuzuki’s aid, attacking Nanae from behind only for it to be no-sold and Takahashi to turn round and see her off with a headbutt. I can’t imagine it was intended to sum up Hojo’s afternoon, but it did. Where Nanae and Miho felt like a team, Hojo and Yuzopon felt like two people taking turns, never quite managing to sync up successfully.
Still, that didn’t stop it from being enjoyable. It continually amazes me how good Yuzuki is a year into her career while Nanae and Miho played the veterans bullies well. I would have liked to see a bit more of Kairi, but she’s still green, and what we did get was solid, so it’s a minor quibble. Ultimately, this was about showing Yuzopon is still a step or two behind Nanae, and in that sense, it worked.
Verdict: Don’t Slap Nanae
Yoshiko defeated Yoko Bito
A day removed from their year anniversary, Stardom decided to repeat the trick, once again giving us Yoshiko vs Yoko Bito in the main event.
Perhaps because of that milestone, there was a real sense of two people testing each other in this match. The opening exchanges all felt like a competition. Whether it was Yoshiko proving more powerful in the initial lock-up or the vicious strike exchanges, it seemed like they wanted to go head-to-head. It wasn’t enough to beat their opponent. They wanted to show they were the better person.
The one flaw in that was that Bito’s selling wasn’t great here. There was a moment where Yoshiko hit a flurry of Sentons, all of which looked painful as hell. However, when she was done, Bito recovered remarkably quickly, showing little to no long term effects. As a general rule, I’m not too bothered about someone not spending entire matches holding an arm or limping, but I like to feel that they’ve been beaten down, and Bito didn’t give me that.
By the end, though, she had no choice but to sell the pain, Yoshiko headbutting her off the turnbuckle and hitting a Senton from the second rope that did the job. A year on from losing Stardom’s first main event, she had her revenge and judging by the crowd’s reaction (they were hooked by the end), it was the right call.
Stardom came a long way in their first year as a company. Not only did that incredible crop of rookies improve, but they’d expanded the roster, bringing in the likes of Shirai and Waki. At this point, they already were a decent wrestling company, and this show showed that off nicely.
Watch Stardom: http://www.stardom-world.com/