Stardom Year End Climax 2016
December 22nd, 2016
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Your favorite Joshi reviewer has returned! I didn’t really go anywhere of course, I have just been slaving away trying to make a pretty Joshi website and hadn’t gotten around to doing a review for Voices of Wrestling in awhile. I will try to be more present in 2017, as there is a lot of great stuff going on in the world of Joshi. Tonight I will be reviewing the last big event of the year from Stardom, titled Year End Climax 2016. I am even using Star Ratings for the special occasion, but don’t get used to it. I use ** as average, I feel I should point that out since everyone has different meanings for their snowflakes it seems.

A lot has changed in the last few months for Stardom. As many of you probably heard, there was a hot rumor a month ago that Io Shirai and possibly Kairi Hojo were signing soon with WWE. Not long after that rumor broke, Io Shirai turned heel on her long time partner and teammate, Mayu Iwatani. Io started a new stable, called Queen’s Quest, which includes two young wrestlers: Momo Watanabe and HZK. HZK formally wrestled in Stardom as Reo Hazuki, so this is her grand return. Everything else is pretty much the same, as Oedo Tai still controls the mid-cards and Stardom has the Joshi Babies (aka children) manning the start of the shows. Let’s hop to it!

Arisu Nanase def. Azumi and Ruaka (Triple Threat)

For many many years, Joshi promotions got a reputation for having children wrestlers, but these days it is mostly only Stardom that still has a small army of wrestlers under the age of 18. This match is an example of that, as Arisu is the oldest at 15 years old. That doesn’t mean they wrestle any different, you still have strikes and suplexes like any other match, but it is a bit more basic. Only five minutes of this was shown, which is more than enough to get a feel of things. Arisu just debuted in the summer but already shows more wrestling ability than the 14 year old Azumi, who has been around a whole lot longer, and if she sticks around she likely will be the best of the bunch. An inoffensive opener that theoretically shows the distant future of Stardom, even if statistically most of their wrestlers that debut before they turn 18 don’t stick around long term. *1/2

Konami def. Hiromi Mimura

This is the part of the review that I try not to write a monologue abut Konami. Konami is the young protege of Kana, currently Asuka in WWE, and debuted in early 2015. She is only 20 but she learned quickly, as she already has the “Kana Attitude” down pat. She is no nonsense, lots of strikes and submissions, and no silly flips. Hiromi is the lowest ranking non-rookie in Stardom, so she gets to be Konami’s punching bag. Right off the bat you know that Konami means business, as within 20 seconds of the match she has Hiromi writhing in pain from a kneelock. The match doesn’t get any easier for Hiromi, as each time she starts to get the upper hand she eats a kick to the head. Even though Konami trained under Kana she didn’t steal her move set, no hip attacks or cross armbreakers, as generally she prefers to go for the leg. And that is how she won this match, wrapping up Hiromi like a pretzel and getting the tap out victory. For an undercard match this was just about perfect, as it gave Konami a solid debut in front of a new crowd (she very rarely has wrestled at Korakuen and this is her first Stardom match) and hopefully set up something for her in Stardom down the road. This was worth watching just to see Konami, if you haven’t seen her before then give it a watch, Hiromi wasn’t much competition but she still was able to show off to her new audience.  ***

Kris Wolf and Hana Kimura def. Jungle Kyona and Natsuko Tora & Kaori Yoneyama and Saori Anou (Triple Threat)

A match like this is quite frankly the perfect midcard match. Structuring a card is an art that I don’t think all fans really appreciate – its important to have different styles of matches spread out, and a midcard much isn’t supposed to be the best match on the card. It can do different things – debut a wrestler, have a ‘storyline’ driven match, be a comedy match, etc., it just shouldn’t steal the show and shouldn’t be the main thing the crowd remembers as they file out of the building later. Just looking at the participants, its clear this match is meant to be more fun than serious – Anou and Hana like dancing, Kris Wolf likes to bite people, and Natsuko is a rookie so she doesn’t do much of anything. The most memorable part of this match was the dance off, performed by Hana, Kyona, and Anou. Hana has started doing a somewhat sultry dance, then challenges her opponent to do one, which generally leads to her jumping her opponent. She did the same here, but when it was poor Kyona’s turn the crowd actually booed her, which was surprising and actually somewhat sad. Once that was out of the way it was a fast paced match, since three wrestlers were legal at a time there was a lot going on. This one was 99% style and 1% substance, but it was reasonably short, to the point, and entertaining. Far from a must-see match but fun nonetheless. **3/4

NWA Western States Tag Team Championship
(c) Thunder Rosa and Holidead def. HZK and Momo Watanabe

As I mentioned above, the formally cute HZK and Momo Watanabe are now evil, and this is their first challenge of any tag team gold. The NWA Western States Tag Team Championship is a title from Vendetta Pro Wrestling in the United States, Rosa and Holidead won it back in September and decided to defend the titles in Stardom. I liked this match but I didn’t love it, partly due to the ending result. They backed themselves into a corner a bit, as ideally a new heel faction shouldn’t be chalking up so many loses in their first month (HZK lost a singles title challenge earlier in the month so this is her second failed defense). They are young (19 and 16 respectively) so its not doing any long term damage of course, but short term it hurts their credibility as wrestlers to be feared. The action itself was solid, Rosa and Holidead work together really well and this is probably the best match I have seen of them in Stardom. Momo is only 16 but has been wrestling for two years so she knows what she is doing, no miscommunication whatsoever in what they showed on Samurai TV, however the match was clipped. I don’t think it was really necessary to have this be a title match as it didn’t add anything to it content or meaning-wise within Stardom, but not a bad match overall.  **1/2

Goddesses of Stardom Championship
Kairi Hojo and Yoko Bito def. (c) Kyoko Kimura and Kagetsu

Business is picking up now, as the new best tag team in Stardom (according to Stardom) tries to take the belts from Oedo Tai. One factor going into the match – Kyoko Kimura is retiring at the end of January, so Stardom probably wanted to get their belts back so they wouldn’t have to be vacated. While the outcome was predictable, this was still a great match. Kagetsu was the star, she is way underappreciated by just about everyone as she is a fantastic wrestler. Kagetsu tied the match together by running everywhere and bumping around the ring, while Kyoko mostly assisted with power moves and big boots. I am not sold on Yoko Bito and probably never will be, she wasn’t a high end wrestler in 2012 and she isn’t now, but she is perfectly serviceable even if she is a bit stiff and clunky. Bito won the “Fighting Spirit Award” in Stardom which I assume was a rib to her tag partner Kairi Hojo, since Kairi shows about 109430% more Fighting Spirit than Bito does. But Kagetsu and Kairi were more than enough to carry this match to borderline excellence, with the ending coming when Oedo Tai introduced a weapon into the match and it quickly backfired. A fast paced match with a hot ending and a happy crowd, what more could you ask for.  ***3/4

World of Stardom Championship
Io Shirai def. Mayu Iwatani

Time for Big Match Io, as we affectionately call her. Io and Mayu have had many matches against each other over the years, but they have also been a tag team dating all the way back to the Goddess of Stardom Tag Tournament in 2012. This time it is different though than matches they had in the past, as this singles match isn’t a friendly rivalry but a blood feud after Io turned on Mayu in the middle of the Finals in the Goddesses of Stardom League in November. Not only did she turn on her, she trashed her on the microphone after the match and flaunted her new friends. Mayu was understandably hurt, but she turned that hurt into rage and tried her damnedest to make Io regret that decision during this match.

Right off the bat, Mayu slapped Io in the face when offered a handshake, so you knew this wasn’t your normal happy Mayu Iwatani. What followed was a lesson in brutality – dragon suplex on the apron, dragon suplex on the floor, regular dragon suplex, flying headscissors which dumped Io on her head, reverse hurricanrana, a diving plancha, and various other strikes and suplexes. Mayu had tunnel vision on how to beat Io – knock her out – which may have been her downfall as Io always has multiple ways to win. She started on Mayu’s leg, but that plan fell apart since Mayu kept on dropping her on her head. Then she tried suplex holds, but Mayu kept kicking out. Then she tried the moonsault, but Mayu kicked out at just one and superkicked Io in the face. But when Mayu went for the tombstone out of desperation, not a normal spot for her, Io reversed it and quickly hit two moonsault in succession to keep Mayu down for the three count.

If you are new to Stardom it is important to note that Io Shirai is notoriously difficult to pin, you have to kill her to get her to stay down. Some would even say she goes “full Cena” as she took all of Mayu’s big moves and was running around seconds later, but… that’s just Io. She is the undisputed Ace of Stardom, and if you are going to pin her, you damn sure are going to earn it.  The early limb work by Io didn’t go anywhere but I thought Mayu sold it the right amount, she limped for a bit but shook it off when Io wasn’t really able to capitalize on it due to being tossed around the ring like a rag doll. Perhaps most importantly, the match felt epic and important, which to me is a requirement for a quality championship match. Non-stop offensive and the definition of an Io Main Event Match, and perhaps one of the best Stardom matches of the year just based off emotion and how far both were willing to go to pick up the win against their former best friend.  ****3/4

Final Thoughts:

Top to bottom, this was a really solid card. Nothing on the show was bad, not every match was meaningful but all the matches except the opener did contribute to the card in a positive way. Konami had a fun Stardom debut match with Hiromi, and even though the Twisted Sisterz match was clipped it was still solid. The final two matches are both worth watching, with the tag title match being entertaining and the main event being one of the top Stardom matches of the year. You really can’t go too wrong with this show, its worth tracking down. Stardom ended 2016 on the upswing, hopefully they can continue that momentum into 2017.

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