January 17th, 2016
Every January, Stardom has a big event to celebrate their anniversary, and this January continued that tradition with a big card at Korakuen Hall. The invading Gaijins are in full force here as they are involved in three of the matches, and in the main event it is Kairi Hojo trying to win back the Wonder of Stardom Championship against Stardom Ace Io Shirai. This will be clipped in parts, at least early on, I’ll make a note if the match was not shown in full.
Azumi vs. Starlight Kid
A very typical Stardom opener, these two actually have a mini-feud going on as Azumi is more experienced , albeit younger, than Starlight Kid. I am not sure when either of these two will break away from being in these types of matches, but it is rare to see a Stardom event not start with a quick match between younger
They get right to it with waistlocks and headlocks, but neither gets an advantage. Azumi dropkicks Starlight Kid but Starlight Kid returns the favor. Dropkick by Azumi and she suplexes Starlight Kid, Azumi gets on the second turnbuckle but Starlight Kid throws her off. Starlight Kid hits a body press off the second turnbuckle, standing moonsault by Starlight Kid and she gets the three count! Starlight Kid wins the match.
This was clipped in half, but we did see the continued potential of Starlight Kid. Due to her size she won’t ever be main-event level but she already has shown a lot of promise for a wrestler so early in her career. Not the worst way to spend two minutes but not enough meat to get excited about.
Jungle Kyouna and Momo Watanabe vs. Hiromi Mimura and Saori Anou
This is similar to the last match but slightly more serious. Kyouna and Watanabe have been getting a bit of a push for younger wrestlers, as Kyouna has already moved up to the top of her rookie class and Watanabe technically isn’t a rookie at this point even though she is still very young. Mimura just recently debuted as well, and Anou is a young wrestler from Actress girl’Z.
Watanabe and Anou begin the match with elbows, crab hold by Watanabe but Mimura runs in and breaks it up (although not overly successfully). Kyouna is tagged in and Anou is double teamed in the corner, scoop slam by Kyouna and she puts Anou in a crab hold. Mimura runs in and lariats Kyouna, Anou hits a rolling Fisherman suplex hold on Watanabe which gets a two count. Anou tags Mimura, crossbody by Mimura to Watanabe but Watanabe drills Mimura into the mat with a reverse STO. Lariats by Kyouna on Mimura and Watanabe delivers the Somato, but Mimura barely kicks out. Anou runs in and suplexes Watanabe off the second turnbuckle, but Kyouna powerslams Anou. Mimura rolls up Watanabe with no success, slap by Watanabe and she dropkicks Mimura in the face. Missile dropkick by Watanabe and she delivers the F-Crush for the three count! Kyouna and Watanabe are your winners.
A really solid undercard tag match. It was clipped a bit but everything that we saw was really good. Watanabe is still a kid but has really grown in the ring over the last year, and the crowd is already taking to Kyouna. Stardom has a good batch of rookies, hopefully they will continue to develop.
Chelsea Green vs. Haruka Kato
My first look at Chelsea Green. For some reason, Kato is a common opponent for new wrestlers to the promotion. Some may remember her from Tough Enough, she was trained by Lance Storm and does have several years of wrestling experience even though this is her first trip to Japan. Green is “replacing” the old Chelsea, which is a bit strange but maylead to a storyline of sorts down the road since the old Chelsea is still listed on Stardom’s roster page. Kato is a solid hand and frequently lives in the Stardom mid-card, this will be a good test for Green to see if she can get something special out of Kato or if it will just be a typical (but still solid) Kato match.
Green gets the first move of the match with a low dropkick but Kato dropkicks her back and starts to work on Green’s arm. Green gets out of it and stomps Kato before hitting a flipping neckbreaker for two. Camel Clutch by Green but Kato inches to the ropes to get the break. Green goes up top and hits a missile dropkick, covering Kato for a two count. Kato jumps on Green’s back and applies a sleeper, she transitions it into a cross armbreaker but Green gets out of it. Satellite into a schoolboy by Kato and she gets the armbreaker back on, Green gets to the ropes and drops Kato with a DDT. Unprettier by Green, and she gets the three count! Green picks up the win.
The issue here is that there was really no effort to do anything special, which I guess isn’t completely their fault since they only got a little over six minutes. Kato did her usual arm work, and she did it well, but it didn’t mean anything as Green was never bothered by her arm so the offense wasn’t very effective. Green is a bit lanky and wasn’t smooth in everything she did, although its still too early to figure out what her ceiling is in Stardom. Not awful, just too short and clunky.
Evie and Kellie Skater vs. Kaitlin Diamond and Viper
This match is for the #1 Contendership for the Goddesses of Stardom Championship. Gaijin Attack! Rare to see an all-invader match in Stardom, as all but Skater just recently debuted in the promotion. The winner of this match gets a shot at the tag team championship, held at the time by Io Shirai and Mayu Iwatani.
Evie and Diamond kick things off, they lock knuckles and trade armdrags but neither gets an advantage. Viper and Skater tag in and Viper knocks Skater to the mat several times before Skater takes over and hits a rope walk armdrag. Evie runs in to help clear the ring, they go up to different turnbuckles and dive out of the ring onto their opponents. Evie returns to the ring with Diamond and delivers a kick combination, but Diamond catches her with an Uranage for a two count cover. Viper comes in and helps Diamond hit a double chokeslam, but Skater breaks up the pin. Crossbody by Viper but Evie boots her in the face and tags in Skater. Skater elbows Viper but Viper hits a lariat. Ankle hold by Skater but Viper blocks the suplex and hits one of her own. Skater avoids Viper’s senton and hits a high kick, Evie takes care of Diamond but Yasukawa gets on the apron and spits Sake at both Skater and Evie. Electric Chair Drop by Viper to Skater and she covers her for two. Superkick by Skater to Viper but Viper hits a Michinoku Driver. Reverse Splash by Viper to Skater and she picks up the three count! Diamond and Viper are the new #1 Contenders to the Goddesses of Stardom Championship.
This was by far the best thing on this card so far, which admittedly isn’t saying much. It was also slightly clipped, which means the event is 4 for 4 on not showing matches in full, that is what happens when you have a 30 minute main event. All four looked good here, admittedly I love about everything that Skater does but everyone played their part well and no one looked out of place. A well paced match with good teamwork from both sides, an easy match to watch. Mildly Recommended
High Speed Championship
(c) Mayu Iwatani vs. Kay Lee Ray
Iwatani needs no introduction, she is a dual champion in Stardom and one of the top rising stars on the Joshi scene. Kay Lee Ray is a wrestler I’ve heard a lot of good things about, but I have seen very little of her since she wrestles primarily in Europe. This is her first title shot in Stardom and is looking to impress, the High Speed Title does change hands more than most titles in Stardom so anything can happen.
They start fast but neither can connect with anything of significance, Ray gets Iwatani on the mat but Iwatani quickly reverses it to her own advantage. Ray snaps off a pair of Northern Lights Suplexes and applies a bodyscissors, but Iwatani gets out of it and hits a springboard armdrag. Iwatani goes for her dropkick while Ray is against the ropes but Ray moves out of the ring, sending Iwatani crashing out of it. Ray hits a trio of tope suicidas, Ray dropkicks Iwatani as they return to the ring and covers her for two. Ray applies a guillotine but Iwatani gets into the ropes for the break, Ray gets Iwatani on her back and rams her into the turnbuckles. Ray grabs Iwatani and chops her in the corner, running elbow by Ray and she nails a springboard heel kick for another two count. Iwatani returns the favor with a springboard crossbody, Iwatani dropkicks Ray against the ropes and drills her hard with another one.
Iwatani gets on the second turnbuckle and hits a diving footstomp, she sets up Ray in the corner and chops her in the chest. Dropkick by Iwatani in the corner and she applies a stretch hold, Ray gets out of it and she drops Iwatani with a superkick. Ray gets on the second turnbuckle but Iwatani moves when she jumps off and they trade pin attempts. Ray slams Iwatani to the mat, she goes to the top turnbuckle and nails a diving senton. Iwatani gets back up and hits a release Dragon suplex, and both wrestlers are down on the mat. They slowly get up and trade elbows, hurricanrana by Iwatani but Ray kicks out at two. Ray kicks Iwatani back and goes up top, but Iwatani joins her and suplexes her down to the mat. Kicks to the head by Iwatani, she goes up top and delivers a diving footstomp. Waistlock by Iwatani, Ray gets out of it but Iwatani gets her up and nails the Dragon Suplex Hold for the three count! Iwatani retains her championship.
I no longer need other people to tell me Kay Lee Ray is awesome, I can confirm it myself. I really hope she sticks around in Stardom long term, she fit in very naturally with Iwatani and everything clicked. My only quibble is the random no-sell spot, I don’t mind Fighting Spirit sequences but this wasn’t that, it was just Iwatani no-selling a move with Ray never getting the chance to return the favor. Besides that, the match was structured really well, both wrestlers got a chance to shine and the transitions were smooth. A quality match, I wish it had lasted another 15 minutes, I could watch these two go at it all day. Recommended
World of Stardom Championship
(c) Io Shirai vs. Kairi Hojo
2015 was all about Hojo’s journey in Stardom and how it ended with disappointment. She upset Io Shirai for the World of Stardom Championship on March 29th, however after a hard fought battle she lost it to Meiko Satomura in July. While Hojo intended to win the title back from Satomura and avenge her defeat, Shirai defeated Satomura first, robbing her of that opportunity. Hojo still was the #1 Contender however and immediately set up a challenge against the new championship to finally reclaim her title.
They waste no time as they start trading ‘bows and slaps, Irish whip by Shirai but Hojo hits a big spear. The Sliding D misses however and they trade strikes again, with both women ending up on the mat holding their faces. They go to the mat and jockey for position but nothing comes of it, they trade quick pins and Hojo footstomps Shirai in the stomach. Cartwheel by Shirai and she dropkicks Hojo out of the ring, Shirai goes to the apron and she hits an Asai Moonsault down to the floor. They battle around the ring, Hojo goes for a spear while Shirai is against the post but Shirai moves, sending Hojo shoulder-first into the steel. Back up the apron, Shirai picks up Hojo and slams her onto it as she continues to focus on Hojo’s back. Shirai slides Hojo into the ring and pounds on Hojo’s back, but Hojo avoids the missile dropkick. Hojo goes for a crab hold but super flexible Shirai gets out of it and stomps on Hojo. Shirai charges Hojo but she falls out to the
apron, she goes for a springboard move but Hojo slaps her and hits a footstomp while Shirai is hanging on the top rope. Hojo goes up top but Shirai kicks her right in the nose and hits a springboard dropkick, sending Hojo crashing to the floor.
Shirai goes up top and sails out of the ring with a crossbody, she then brings Hojo up into the stands, she gets up on the ledge but Hojo joins her and throws Shirai down the stairs. Hojo gets on the ledge and dives off with a diving forearm smash, she gets a running start and levels Shirai with a spear. Back in the ring, chops by Hojo and she hits a jumping neckbreaker for two. Hojo drops knees on Shirai’s back and chops her in the back, she goes up top but can’t pull the trigger on the moonsault, giving Shirai time to join her and hit a Frankensteiner. Dropkick to the head by Shirai and she applies a cross facelock, Tiger Feint Kick by Shirai and she hits a swandive dropkick for a two count cover. Hojo blocks the facebuster and hits a Sliding D, and both wrestlers are down. Shirai and Hojo trade elbows as they get back up, Hojo gets the better of the exchange and spears Shirai into the corner, but Shirai kicks her in the face. Another kick by Shirai and she hits four rolling Germans for a two count cover. Shirai goes up top and delivers a diving elbow drop, but Hojo barely kicks out. Double underhook facebuster by Shirai but Hojo grabs her before she can climb up top. Hojo powerbombs Shirai and hits some backfists, Sliding D by Hojo but Shirai gets a shoulder up on the cover. Hojo goes up top but Shirai rolls to the ropes before she can jump off, Shirai joins her but Hojo knocks her back to the mat and nails the Diving Elbow Drop. Cover, but Shirai kicks out. She goes for another one but Shirai gets her feet up, tombstone piledriver by Shirai and she nails a package German for two. Tiger suplex by Shirai, she goes up top and she nails the moonsault for the three count! Io Shirai is still the World of Stardom Champion.
In the past when these two battled, it generally felt like something was off. Here though I thought that they synced up really well, it was a perfectly paced and well executed match which is not easy when going almost 30 minutes. Some of the moves were just brutal (in a good way) as they were really laying it into each other, I have no idea how they manage to go this hard as often as they do without literally breaking. Hojo going for the moonsault was a callback to Shirai starting to use the Elbow Drop, which temporarily was her undoing and allowed Shirai to get back in control. Everything was on point, it is only the first month but this is the best Joshi match of the year so far and will likely stay in the Top 5 for the year. A must see match. Highly Recommended
Final Thoughts: I say this all the time with Stardom but it bears repeating – the issue with trying to squeeze the event onto a two hour show is that matches get clipped to the point they are completely forgettable. That makes Stardom not a ‘complete event’ promotion much of the time which is how I prefer my wrestling viewing (at least when it comes to how their shows are presented) but one that is reliant on their big stars to deliver in the main event as most of the matches don’t get the time to leave an impression. Luckily, here the top two matches were both really great, with Shirai/Hojo being a definite Joshi MOTYC. Go out of your way to see the last two matches, but nothing else is worth seeking out even though the Gaijin tag was solid as well and its fun to watch the rookies as they develop.