Stardom Cinderella Tournament 2016
April 29, 2016
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Stardom’s annual Cinderella Tournament gave us some fresh match ups and a ton of character and story development! If you’re unfamiliar with some of the competitors or Stardom in general, check out my preview.

KAORI YONEYAMA AND AZUMI DEF. STARLIGHT KID AND EIMI NISHINA

The winner of this match gets a chance in the tournament, replacing Lizzy Styles in her match against Kyoko Kimura in the first round. Azumi is THIRTEEN years old and shows so much potential so early in her career. She’s gets a bit of heat with Yoneyama as they argue about who should lead Azumi’s Army. Like most rookie feuds it’s largely just funny bickering, but it creates a bit of conflict over who would get the pin. Yoneyama runs in to scoop slap Nishina onto Starlight Kid and then drags Azumi into their corner to tag herself in and pick up the win. **

FIRST ROUND MATCH
JUNGLE KYONA DEF. SAORI ANOU

Kyona is dressed like an inside out watermelon for the tournament, it’s a good look. She’s got an easy match in the first round, clearly to show that she’s Stardom’s stand out rookie that they want to push first, or at least build up. Anou, on the other hand has had very little success in Stardom and it’s surprising to see her as a tournament entrant at all. Most of this match is spent in a Figure Four, which gives Kyona plenty of time to showcase her great range of selling expressions. After a shockingly strong showing from Anou, Kyona gets the win with a big top rope splash. The leg work in this match is definitely going to affect Kyona down the line. **½

FIRST ROUND MATCH
SANTANA GARRETT DEF. ALEX LEE

The Wonder of Stardom Champion, Santana, returned recently but hasn’t done a whole lot besides defend the title against Hojo. After her victory over Io Shirai way back in November of last year, we’ve been eagerly awaiting to see what she does next in Stardom. Not a lot, it would seem! Io hasn’t gone to get her win back and Santana hasn’t challenged her for the world title. Either way, she’s fun to watch even in these short first round matches. Lee doesn’t put up much of a fight as she doesn’t have the power advantage she normally experiences against the other rookies. Santana wins with the Shining Star Press. 

FIRST ROUND MATCH
KYOKO KIMURA DEF. KAORI YONEYAMA

Kimura says she doesn’t want to wear the dress, but she’s all made up for the occasion so I think she’s lying. Who wouldn’t want to? The rookies are out to support Yoneyama, but Kimura has Oedo Tai in her corner who are far more menacing and do more than squeak supportively from the corner. Kaori is rolling all over the place in this match, escaping moves and generally being a nuisance. Then Kimura boots her in the face. *

FIRST ROUND MATCH
KAIRI HOJO DEF. MOMO WATANABE

This should be an easy first round victory for Hojo, but then again, she’s shown that she can lose anytime, anywhere. Luckily she didn’t play with our heartstrings this time. In my preview I gave my reasoning for Hojo being my favourite to win, and while that may not come true, Hojo’s story continues throughout the tournament. This match is fueled by the recent Threedom vs Rookies match. I feel like Kairi has the most respect for the rookies, and they obviously all respect her, it’s a nice dynamic. Respect aside, Momo kicks the Pirate Princess’s ass, sensing that she has a good opportunity to take a big win and advance forward. The heart and soul of Stardom doesn’t give up though, and struggles back to get the win with the best damn flying elbow drop in professional wrestling. **¾

FIRST ROUND MATCH
MAYU IWATANI DEF. HIROMI MIMURA

All eyes are on last year’s winner. Mayu has come a long way since last year and is looking to win again and get another shot at the world title. Mayu beat Io, the current champ in the finals last year and there isn’t anyone in the company she struggles against. She’s definitely a danger to Io’s title reign. She backs this up by absolutely storming through Mimura and getting the win with a top rope double foot stomp. **

FIRST ROUND MATCH
HIROYO MATSUMOTO DEF. KAGETSU

These two were such a feisty heel team that it was a damn shame when Kagetsu joined up with Oedo Tai. There’s no doubt that Kagetsu will become the driving force for Oedo Tai and they can actually begin to feel like a threat for the first time since Act retired. For too long they’ve relied on gajin coming in to support them but they always end up leaving and jobbing on their way out. As you’d expect from a match between former partners, this match is hot. Despite some Oedo Tai sneaky tricks, Matsumoto powers her way through. She bends Kagetsu’s bat right in half as Act screams like she’s watching Godzilla rip a building apart. Hiroyo hits her signature Backdrop and advances. I didn’t expect this result, but it’s not bad, not bad at all. **¾

FIRST ROUND MATCH
QUEEN MAYA DEF. ALPHA FEMALE

The much anticipated clash of European titans. It’s not the traditional Japanese big person vs big person match though. There’s no ten minute shoulder barge duel for superiority, although there is a bit of conflict over who is strongest. Neither of these two are particularly great, but Alpha looks so amazingly badass that it doesn’t really matter what she does, it’ll always look cool. Maya inadvertently knocks out the ref, who then isn’t there to see her tap to Alpha’s crossface. She goes to shout at the stupid ref but Maya comes from behind and clotheslines her clean over the ropes, eliminating her. Expect a rematch at Gold May. 

FIRST ROUND MATCH
IO SHIRAI DEF. DIOSA ATENEA

As I expected, the styles of Io and Atenea blended wonderfully. Io’s excursions to Mexico were very well received by fans there, and she’s the perfect opponent for Diosa in the first round. I’m still not sure what to make of Atenea, I don’t think she’s quite as good a Starfire, but she has plenty to bring to the table. She was never going to stand a chance against Io though, who dispatches her with a bridging German suplex. **¼

QUARTERFINAL MATCH
HIROYO MATSUMOTO DEF. JUNGLE KYONA

This match pours outside right away and Kyona utilises her history in hammer throwing to send Matsumoto flying. Both Matsumoto and Kyona are portrayed as super strong but they don’t waste any time doing tests of strength, they instead throw each other around with power moves. Although it was a super short match, it was nothing but fire from bell to bell. Hiroyo gets the win with a sliding clothesline but is clearly shook up by the rookie’s valiant effort. ***

QUARTERFINAL MATCH
MAYU IWATANI DEF. QUEEN MAYA

Still aching from her brawl with Alpha Female, Maya is clearly not at full strength. Mayu is a great opponent for Maya, she’s so nimble that she’s able to make Maya look like a huge threat as she spends a lot of the match dodging devastating lariats. She’s not strong enough to Irish whip the Queen, and a lot of her usual offence is countered easily. Mayu finds a way to wear down Maya by hanging on like a koala in a tree, until she’s exhausted enough to get rolled up. **¼

QUARTERFINAL MATCH
SANTANA GARRETT VS KAIRI HOJO ENDS IN TIME LIMIT DRAW

Hojo couldn’t beat Santana before, and now she’s drawn with her. It’s depressing to see Hojo fail over and over again and yet… it feels good? You know she’ll get her day, where she returns to the top and no one will laugh at her whenever she does a promo. She’ll have her time when she doesn’t have to wait humbly in the corner, but shine in the spotlight. She’s scheduled to have a rematch with Santana for the Wonder of Stardom Championship at Gold May, and now that she’s lost to her and drawn with her, let’s hope she’ll be able to win. It shatters all my dreams that I laid out in my preview, but I’m ok with that: it’s not like she’s getting buried, not at all. Having Hojo lose via time limits plays to her character, she’s not especially strong, but her heart is unmatched, she won’t give up but won’t necessarily succeed. This match lives up to its expectations and puts both women over. At one point, both of them are tangled up atop the turnbuckle exchanging elbows and headbutts, screaming at each other to fall. They continue to brawl in on the apron, perilously precarious with everything on the line. The desperation builds and builds until the bell is rung. Hojo’s disappointed face is agonising. Because of the double elimination, Mayu gets a Bye to the final. ***¼

QUARTERFINAL MATCH
IO SHIRAI VS KYOKO KIMURA ENDS IN DOUBLE DQ

All of Oedo Tai is out to support their only member to make it past the first round, and Kimura is going to need all the help she can get against Io Shirai. They construct a table outside the ring and Kimura brings Io out onto it after they’ve all beaten her down. The plan is to powerbomb her through it and eliminate her. I can recognise a few problems with this plan. For one, she steps over the top rope first, and then stands on the table to deliver the powerbomb. Why? Her feet clearly hit the ground first but both are eliminated, meaning that Hiroyo also gets a Bye to the final round. Interesting idea to bring a table out, but not thought through at all. **

Stardom Cinderella Tournament 2016 FINAL
MAYU IWATANI DEF. HIROYO MATSUMOTO

Great final match. Just making it this far elevates Matsumoto and I hope Stardom keeps it up. Her winning would have been a nice fresh match up against Io, but Mayu’s match will be the payoff to the whole ‘number 2’ story arc. It was Hiroyo who pointed out the hidden insecurities within Threedom, and Mayu looks deadly serious as she sets out to prove her wrong. Mayu winning two years in a row doesn’t bother me. It’s set her up as someone who does well in the tournament and that won’t be forgotten. A win over her in the future will mean a lot.

Matsumoto beats the life out of Mayu, kicking her all over Korakuen hall before returning to the ring. She puts the Godzilla mask over Mayu’s head which obviously offers a tactical advantage but it looks so hilarious that I can’t take it seriously. Mayu is able to get to her feet and raise her arms but still chooses to not take the mask off, the ref has to remove it for her. Hiroyo does this thing where she intercepts punches or chops by clubbing them away with her own arm and it looks so painful. Mayu counters by kicking and avoiding Hiroyo’s huge arms. With all the devastating power moves Hiroyo unleashes, it’s a wonder that Mayu can smile and wave while wearing her beautiful dress. I could list every move she takes, but instead I’ll just say that it’s shocking her spine isn’t broken. Even though Mayu is a lovable little underdog, you can’t help but root for Matsumoto, who has no friends screaming for her to hang on as she dangles above the floor, and so much to gain by winning. She gets basement dropkicked out after a tense few minutes on the apron.

The match is really enjoyable and definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. Crowd is hot as always. It isn’t the best Stardom main event, especially compared to the crackers we’ve had recently, but the tournament overall has built towards some exciting things in the future. ***½

Post Match Fallout:

Mayu changes into her Cinderella dress and calls out Io. As expected, she wants the world title “more than anything”. This is a difficult situation for Io. She’s so used to being the ace and having Mayu and Kairi behind her that she has very little to fear. But now that her partner, who can beat her, is stepping out of the role Io wants her in, it’s getting in her head. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a heel turn in this match as Io can play heel better than either of them, and Threedom could do with some shaking up.

Hojo takes the mic and demands Santana comes out to the ring. She throws the bouquet that Mayu gave her as a consolation prize and Santana side steps it, but catches it a second time and accepts Hojo’s challenge for the Wonder of Stardom.

Just before Mayu can close the show, Yoko Bito makes a surprise return! It’s been four years since her injuries caused her to retire, but now it seems she’s back wrestling. It’s exciting to see her back, as she showed a lot of potential back in the early years of Stardom. I can’t get over how great it is that she’s back, and it’ll be very interesting to see how she slots into Stardom now that it’s a very different landscape.

Thanks for reading! To watch Stardom, you can subscribe to Stardom World on YouTube with a monthly recurring payment of $4.99/£3.99. Shows happen on Saturday and each match is uploaded a day at a time, culminating in Main Event Friday. As well as that, there is plenty of original programming and classic matches. Enjoy!