Last December, at the RISE event in South Gate, it was announced that six wrestlers from RISE would be competing in the Japanese promotion Stardom this summer. I had been planning to go back to Japan for a while, and when I realized my trip would lineup with a few of the RISE wrestler dates in Stardom, I figured that would be the perfect chance to check out my first live Stardom show, especially with Shotzi Blackheart, Delilah Doom, and Kikyo Nakamura on the tour; three wrestlers I’ve had a chance to see wrestle often in Southern California.
As fate would have it, Shotzi and Delilah would get injured before the tour, and Kikyo would get injured in practice after arriving in Japan. Still, I’ve had a chance to see Dust, Kylie Rae, and Britt Baker in RISE, Bar Wrestling, and Maverick Pro in Southern California over the last few months, so getting to see their debuts at Korakuen Hall is pretty cool.
I arrived in Japan last Friday, and my plan was to go to night one of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 on Saturday and the All Japan Pro Wrestling show on Sunday then Stardom on Monday. Stardom by far was the easiest to get tickets for while I was still in the United States. I just e-mailed them and they put them aside and the tickets were waiting for me when I arrived at Korakuen on the day of the show. New Japan Pro Wrestling, which is trying to make in-roads into the United States market really needs to improve on making it so people outside of Japan can buy advance tickets. Knowing the G1 would sell out, I had to use a ticket broker for their tickets (buysumotickets.com). The broker was fast and the service was great. As for All Japan, I planned on buying those tickets from a machine at a convenience store, but didn’t get to one my first day so I bought the tickets at Korakuen with no issues before the show. I can speak some Japanese but I don’t think there would have been any issues with zero Japanese ability.
Both the New Japan and All Japan shows were a lot of fun. I actually enjoyed the All Japan show more. Seeing Tajiri beat Jun Akiyama for the GAORA TV title was one of those “2018 wrestling is crazy things” and the main event of the show with Zeus, Joe Doering, and Kai defeating Kento Miyahara, Yoshitatsu, and Naoya Nomura was my favorite match I’ve seen in Japan so far. Joe Doering is huge and I hope he gets brought into SoCal at some point. Matches between him and Walter, Brody King, Jeff Cobb, etc. could be really fun.
I’m not up to date to with what has been going on in Stardom currently. I had the Stardom World streaming service for a time when Twisted Sisterz were in the tag league, but never had time to watch as much as I should. With Io Shirai, Yoko Bito, and Kairi Hojo gone I am not all that familiar with the current crop. Gregg Sugimura, our resident Stardom expert gave me the run down on who to look out for though.
The Stardom show was taking place on Marine Day, a national holiday in Japan, and the Tokyo Dome, which is next to Korakuen Hall is hosting the industrial league baseball tournament, so the trains and area was packed with people. It is also hot, with temperatures in the mid-90s with high humidity. Korakuen Hall is nice and air conditioned though, and the Stardom event was not nearly as packed as the All Japan event the day before.
Before the show started Tam Nakano did a dance number and Atsushi Onita was brought to the ring as he is doing a project with Stardom called Stardom Idols. One of the great things about wrestling is you constantly see things you’ve never seen before no matter how much or how long you watch.
Ruaka and Leo Onazaki started off the show. Both are fairly new and they had a short and fairly basic match. Ruaka won with a fisherman’s suplex.
Next we had a three-way tag match with Starlight Kid and Shiki Shibusawa defeating AZM and Konami and the team of Hanan and Stephanie Vaquer. Shibusawa was really delivering some stiff kicks in this. AZM and Konami looked great too. This was a lot of fun. Hanan took the pin after getting hit with a missile dropkick from Shibusawa.
The RISE wrestlers were up next. Britt Baker, Dust, and Kylie Rae all came out the Kylie Rae’s Pokemon theme entrance. They were challenging JAN for the Artists of Stardom trios titles. JAN consists of Jungle Kyona, Kaori Yoneyama, and Natsuko Tora. The wrestlers from RISE all looked solid, and I thought Dust really stood out, but the match was pretty one sided and it never felt like they had a shot. Dust got hit with an F Crash from Tora and took the pin.
Viper defeated Tam Nakano to retain the SWA title next. Maybe Nakano was tired from the dancing earlier. This was really good. I’m not sure why WWE didn’t sign Viper after the Mae Young classic but they made a mistake. She has really good presence and looked crisp in everything she did. They did the speed versus power match. Nakano kept trying to take out Viper’s legs. There was one point where Nakano had an armbar on Viper and Viper just powered out of it into a slam in the corner. Viper eventually won with a Michinoku Driver.
In the match that I least expected to see in Japan, Rey Wagner, Mayu Iwatani and Saki Kashima defeated Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr., Kagetsu, and Natsu Sumire. The match started with a test of strength between Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr. and Mayu Iwatani, and since Iwatani couldn’t reach Wagner’s hands she had to climb the ropes to compete. This match had everything. There was crowd brawling, high flying, double topes. This was a blast. Iwatani hit Sumire with a Dragon Suplex for the pin.
They announced the participants in the Stardom 5 Star Grand Prix, which is its version of New Japan’s G1. Former AWS champion and Tamriel resident Nicole Savoy will be a part of this year’s tournament.
The main event saw Hazuki challenge Momo Watanabe for the Wonder of Stardom title. This was fantastic. They had an extremely hard hitting match with a ton of believable near falls late. I don’t know if I’d ever seen either wrestler before, but this match made me a fan of both. This was easily the match of the night. Watanabe retained with a Tequila Sunrise.
All three wrestling events I’ve seen so far in Japan have been good, but the Stardom show may have been the most entertaining show from top to bottom. The last three matches are worth checking out if you have Stardom World, especially the main event.