“Believe now, and shine tomorrow! We are….Stardom!”
No matter the outcome of the main event, unless it’s Oedo Tai that won in the main event, this slogan is chanted by most of the Stardom roster, and many of the gaijins–Japanese for foreigners–on tour with the promotion, right at the end of each and every show. Today, So Cal is not just a hotbed for indie women’s wrestling, it has become the “North American Beachhead” for one of Japan’s hottest all women’s promotion, World Wonder Ring Stardom. Over the course of the last few weeks, Lucha Underground fans got a chance to see some of the promotion’s top talents throw it down in “The Temple”, even watching Kotohiri fly off the top of Dario Cueto’s office, and right onto Pentagon Dark. However, there is more to the trio that made up LU’s “Black Lotus Triad“, than just what they presented on El Rey Network. The incredible talents that Io Shirai (Kotohiri), Mayu Iwatani (Yurei), and Kairi Hojo (Doku) present, can be seen each and every time they step into the ring. Together with Yoko Bito, and the top members of Oedo Tai–currently led by Kagetsu, Kyoko Kimura, & Kris Wolf, they are the major draws to every show they hold in Japan, and beyond.
For many of us So Cal wrestling fans, we were introduced to Stardom in one of three ways: by having followed Hudson Envy’s tours with the promotion, got their first glimpse of these incredible Japanese talents at last year’s Stardom USA event, or saw Hojo & Bito in action at last October’s Sabotage event. Although other American talents, including Mercedes Martinez & Christina Von Eerie, were among the first to do tours with the promotion that turns 6 next month, it wasn’t until Hudson Envy & Thunder Rosa went there, that So Cal became a gateway for Io, Mayu, Kairi, & Yoko to set foot in America. Cheerleader Melissa helped make it happen for one weekend in October of 2015, and So Cal got a real taste of why Stardom is one of the top Japanese indie promotions today. Since then, we’ve seen some of them make brief U.S. returns, most evident with Io, Mayu, and Kairi being on LU. Spending time in “The Temple” didn’t just appear to help keep the women’s talents sharp before they went to Las Vegas for last year’s Cauliflower Alley Club Convention and NWA Vendetta Pro’s “Casino Royale” event, it also allowed Io to personally meet one of her favorite wrestlers in Rey Mysterio, Jr. (see Episode 2 of “Pajama Party” Season 1 on Stardom-World.com). We also saw Thunder Rosa & her husband step forward, and get interested parties together to form Sabotage, when Stardom pulled back on plans for a 2nd U.S. tour, bringing in the duo that make up “B.Y.Ho” (Hojo & Bito), as well as bring a few of the North American members of Oedo Tai (Thunder Rosa, Holidead, Diosa Atenea, & Kaitlin Diemond) together.
Spending time with Stardom has also helped many of the gaijins improve their in-ring abilities. It has helped Thunder Rosa & Holidead become formidable wrestlers, as The Twisted Sisterz. After all, it was Holidead that carried Act Yasukawa on her shoulders after Act’s retirement ceremony at last year’s “Stardom Year End Climax” event. It has really allowed Kaitlin Diemond to step up her own game, making her a tough wrestler to beat in Canada. It also allowed many European talents to really step it up, particularly Toni Storm, who recently put the Stardom World Alliance Undisputed title on the line in Britain. Current WoW Superheroes Champion Santana Garrett did 4 tours with Stardom, even doing a “Stardom World” segment series called “Tea Time”. With that being noted, it will be interesting to see how much Christi Jaynes can improve, when she embarks on her own Stardom tour next month, and it won’t be easy with tough European talents like Viper & Kay Lee Ray apparently scheduled for another tour with the promotion over the Winter months. Only time will tell.
Will other top indie wrestling talents do tours with Stardom? Will we see another Stardom USA event in 2017, or at least see some of the top Japanese talents do a match or two for Sabotage? Only time will tell. In my books, as long as Rossy Ogawa & Madusa can consistently provide an appealing product for wrestling fans around the world to enjoy, it will make wrestling fans long to see the promotion’s top talents do tours of Europe and North America, if not So Cal. Perhaps one day, a promotion like Sabotage can join the Stardom World Alliance, maybe even be a centerpiece for a “California Wing” of the SWA, with AWS, EWF, Vendetta Pro, Gold Rush Pro, and APW, among others. Until then, we So Cal wrestling fans will have to keep an eye on Social Media for news coming out of Stardom Japan, and make the approx. $7-$8 monthly investment in Stardom-World.com. There’s been some amazing Stardom matches in 2016, complete with English subtitles, and the occasional peek into daily life in Japan. Who knows, maybe one day, we’ll see someone like Io make the jump from Tokyo, to Orlando, following a path that Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Hideo Itami have paved.
PERSONAL PREVIEW OF STARDOM’S “YEAR END CLIMAX” EVENT ON 12/22 AT KORAKUEN HALL IN TOKYO, JAPAN
(Wednesday Night or early Thursday Morning here in So Cal)
Last month, Stardom witnessed a shift in the roster, when Io Shirai turned her back on Mayu Iwatani, bringing HZK (Reo Hazuki) into the mix. Io broke up “Thunder Rock” and “Threedom”, eventually forming her new faction, “Queen’s Quest“, with HZK and Momo Watanabe. YEC will essentially mark a full calendar year for Io’s 2nd run with the World of Stardom title, which she won by pinning Meiko Satomura in one of the best Stardom matches of 2015. YEC will also mark the final Stardom match for The Twisted Sisterz for their 2nd tour, hoping to fend off HZK & Momo, then turn their attention to The Ballard Bros. at Vendetta Pro “Reflexion 2017” on 1/6.
World of Stardom Championship: Io Shirai (c) v. Mayu Iwatani
Personally, I expect nothing less than the fireworks that these two brought Last May. I still feel that Mayu should’ve dropped the High Speed title to Thunder Rosa last month, so that she could really bid for the big title. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, so I don’t really know if she’ll be allowed to hold 2 singles titles at the same time. Also, March 2017 will mark Io’s 10th Anniversary of Wrestling, and she’ll be holding her own show that month. Don’t get me wrong on this. I think this match will go at least 30 mins., with talents that will back Mayu, trying to cancel out Queen’s Quest.
Prediction: Io wins by pinfall, with a Moonsault.
Goddesses of Stardom Championship: Oedo Tai’s Kagetsu & Kyoko Kimura (c) v. B.Y.Ho (Kairi Hojo & Yoko Bito)
Whether of not she leaves Osaka with the Wonder of Stardom title, this will be an opportunity that Hojo can’t squander. Hojo has had an up-and-down year, winning the white belt from Santana Garrett Last May, then having to miss the 2nd half of the 5-Star Grand Prix due to concussion-like symptoms that she likely suffered at the hands of Io. Yoko Bito has made a strong comeback after a 4-year, injury-related hiatus, winning this year’s 5-Star GP, and coming so close to winning the big title Last October. Kagetsu & Kyoko will not be pushovers, and they will have all of Oedo Tai at ringside. The winners of the 2016 Goddess of Stardom Tag Team League will need to keep an eye on all of Oedo Tai, if they are to win the black titles.
Prediction: B.Y.Ho take the titles, with Hojo hitting the Diving Elbow Drop on Kagetsu for the pin.
NWA Western States Tag Team Championship: The Twisted Sisterz (c – Thunder Rosa & Holidead) v. Queen’s Quest (HZK & Momo Watanabe)
The Ballard Bros. will want to study this match hard, as they will be challenging whoever leaves this match the champions at NWA Vendetta Pro’s “Reflextion 2017” on 1/6. This will be huge opportunities for the veteran HZK, & the young Momo, but they will have to keep an eye out for the rest of Oedo Tai, when they take on two of So Cal’s hottest women wrestlers. Tactically, I think TR should do her best to wear down Momo, while Holidead can do the same with HZK. If they do that, then the sisterz should be able to return to the U.S., with the titles still in their hands.
Prediction: Twisted Sisterz retain, with Thunder Rosa pinning Momo with the stomp from the top rope.
(The views expressed here are based on personal reactions on Stardom’s social media feeds, and matches viewed on Stardom-World.com. You can watch videos of the full card from all of Stardom’s 2016 shows, including “Year End Climax”, plus select matches from Sabotage & Stardom USA 2015, with a subscription to Stardom-World.com, for the USD equivalent of 750 Japanese Yen at the time of purchase, which is about $7.50/month.)