Stardom’s annual Cinderella Tournament took place earlier this morning and while results of the tournament are already public, this piece will act as a preview for those who prefer to stay unspoiled (myself included) until the highly-anticipated matches drop.
The Stardom’s Cinderella Tournament format is a sixteen person, single elimination bracket where competitors can not only win by pinfall or submission, but also by throwing their opponent over the top rope. Matches go by a ten minute time limit (final is thirty); if a draw occurs, both competitors are disqualified and their opponent in the next round will get a bye. Best of all, whoever wins will get their wish granted, and gets to rock a lovely dress!
The roster is stacked this year, with returning gajin adding some fresh match-ups (although I am missing the likes of Evie and KLR).
(bracket courtesy of @we_are_stardom)
The current world champion is certainly an odds on favourite. Io has not only beaten almost everyone in the whole tournament (the only exceptions being brand new opponents), but she’s also done everything she can do in the promotion. So, what would her wish be? She holds three of the five belts already, she’s achieved the goals that have motivated her, so I don’t see her winning this year because there isn’t an obvious story to continue. Obviously, she could just wish for like a three month supply of chocolate but that’d be kind of anticlimactic.
My personal pick. Hojo has had a rough time ever since losing the world championship to Meiko Satomura. Sure, she’s one third of the Artists of Stardom, but her wins haven’t felt the same for a long time. What’s especially nagging at her is not being able to beat Meiko. The two had an amazing feud last year, including a five star match (in my opinion). In that match, Hojo just barely survived until the time limit. It’s the definitive Kairi Hojo match because it so perfectly illustrates her heart. Her burning passion is felt throughout the promotion, so when Satomura challenged Kairi, Io and Mayu, the look on her face was agonising. She so badly wanted to be the one to win: it was HER rival after all. But she knew she couldn’t say anything, not after she’d already lost three times in a row. She then watched at ringside as her friend Io not only beat Meiko, but banished her from the company, meaning that Hojo wouldn’t get another chance.
Why is this important? Well if Hojo wins, she can bring Satomura back for another match. She can finally reverse her losing streak by winning the match that means the most to her and proving to everyone, especially Io, that she isn’t a weak link.
The third and final ace is last year’s winner. In some people’s eyes, that would absolutely nullify her chances of winning, but hear me out. Mayu hasn’t been considered in the world title or even the midcard ‘Wonder of Stardom Championship’, picture in some time. She beat Io in the finals last year and wrestled to a draw with her more recently in the Five Star Grand Prix. Mayu can beat Io– she’s one of the few that can do it consistently– so what if she wins the tournament and wishes for a title shot? We may very well have a new champion on our hands. Mayu is often overlooked in the top trio, and I think that’s by design. She’s not often in big matches but when she is, she wins. This means that she retains her underdog aura but her victories don’t come out of nowhere and her skill is established. She could very well win two years back to back.
Having recently returned to the company, Kagetsu has made a big splash. Going in, she has two big rivals to watch out for. In the first round, she’s got Hiroyo Matsumoto, the partner she left just two weeks ago. She’s since joined the villainous Oedo Tai stable. A permanent, higher ranking member of Oedo Tai means trouble for the rest of the roster, and the resurgence is without a doubt going to be led by Kagetsu. Another match to look out for is versus Mayu. Those two can’t stop kicking each other and I’m sure it’s going to come to one of the most brutal encounters of the tournament. Kagetsu could absolutely beat Mayu too, getting even more heat and momentum for her new faction.
I’d love to see Matsumoto win this year. She’s awesome, just a great worker, but that’s not enough in Stardom. The format right now is having the top three stay at the top and gajin come in and lose and then leave. As one of the few long lasting local heels, Hiroyo hasn’t had much of a chance to shine. Recently though, it seems they’ve been throwing her a bone, and she’s coming in strong. I don’t know if she’ll beat Kagetsu in the first round, and her not being signed by Stardom may factor into her chances. But she’s been involved with the top three for a while now, without having one on one matches, this could be her tournament.
The first of the returning gajin. Late last year, she did the unthinkable and defeated Io clean. She’s still the Wonder of Stardom champion and has been touring it around America for some time. It’s quite routine for Io to beat the major gajin invaders and send them on their way, so her losing was a major shock. She has Alex Lee in the first round, which will be a doozy. Where she goes from there is uncertain: she could play the spoiler to a number of contenders. She’s got all the motivation to, as she’s beaten Io before and could wish for another title match, this time for the world title.
A well established gajin from Germany. She’s a former world champion and recently returned to conquer Viper and reassert herself as the top monster heel. She’s clashing with the equally Amazonian Queen Maya in the first round. I think the experience is on Alpha’s side, and she could make a run unless she runs into Io early on. She’s also probably looking for a title match out of this, although she’s tried recently and came up short.
Oedo Tai’s Kimura seems like an unlikely candidate, but since she’s retiring later this year. The veteran of thirteen years might get a nice send off in the form of a tournament run here. Oedo Tai is being represented by three different wrestlers and I think Kagetsu has a better chance.
Hailing from Italy, Maya stands at 6’1″ and towers over everyone in the company. It’s her first time back in the company since last September, and she’s running straight into Alpha Female in the first round. This match could go either way but I’m going with Alpha because she’s got the most experience in Stardom, and her presence in the tournament creates more interesting matches. Expect the Queen to stick around for a while though.
Of all the rookies involved, Kyouna has the best chance at pulling off an upset victory. 2015’s rookie of the year has improved immensely since her debut and shows so much potential at such an early stage of her career. She should be getting a pass onto the second round and kept strong throughout. I’m excited to see where the Jungle Princess goes, even if she doesn’t win.
With only a handful of matches under her belt (one of which being a High Speed title match against Mayu Iwatani), masked Diosa hasn’t truly showcased all she can do to the Stardom audience yet. She’s clearly talented, holding the Women Wrestling Stars Championship– a title formerly held by Starfire– and siding with Oedo Tai from the get go. Her first match is against Io Shirai. So while she won’t be making it very far, I expect a great first round match.
There seems to have been a bit more of a focus put on Mimura recently. She’s been getting involved with wrestlers above her place on the card and the spotlight has been on her the whole time. She’s been tagging with Kairi Hojo and was a major player in the recent Threedom vs Rookies match. If it wasn’t for her first round opponent being Mayu, I’d be more optimistic. But hey, if they really want to pull the trigger on her, an early upset would be the way to do it.
Another amazingly talented rookie up against a tough opponent in the first round. Momo is only sixteen and is more than capable of pulling out a surprise run. She’s been in competitive matches with the likes of Hojo and Io before, and in a match where being knocked out of the ring loses you the match, Momo won’t need to pin anyone they want to keep strong.
Anou is another outsider that bounces around rookie tag matches. She appears to just be an easy win for Kyouna in the first round. Anou is talented, but is probably right at the bottom of the pecking order even amongst the rookies.
Doesn’t stand a chance. Being a gaijin in the rookie division means Lee enjoys a height and strength advantage over most of her usual opponents. In this environment however, she’s out of her league, especially up against Santana Garrett.
Due to personal reasons, Lizzy Styles had to pull out from the tournament. Instead, the winner of a tag match in the opening match will tag her place against Kyoko Kimura in the first round. The match is Starlight Kid and Eimi Nishina vs Azumi and Kaori Yoneyama. There’s a bit of heat between Azumi and Yoneyama, as they argue who should lead ‘Azumi’s Army’. I think Yoneyama is most likely to win, although she won’t make it far in the tournament, unfortunately.
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