June 17, 2018

Watch: Stardom World / For more Joshi reviews and updated roster pages, visit!

I’m not sure if this counts as insider information, but the main perk of being a writer for Voices of Wrestling (aside from the paycheck) is we get access to the always fun Slack for the website. Well, if I don’t write a review at least every six months, they will take away my Slack privileges. Which would make me sad. So here I am, reviewing the latest Stardom event! But what an important show it is. As everyone probably has heard by now, the legendary Io Shirai has officially signed with WWE, leaving Stardom after being a wrestler there for the last 6+ years. Some fans are happy, some are sad, others are being dramatic, but this is where we are. It’s important to note I am watching/reviewing the Samurai TV airing of the show so some matches were clipped, but the full event unclipped is available on Stardom World.

Kaori Yoneyama and Ruaka def. Leo Onozaki and Natsuko Tora

One thing I have to give Stardom credit for is they are constantly debuting young wrestlers to see who has what it takes to make it in the crazy world of wrestling. Kaori Yoneyama is the veteran of the group, getting the fun task of keeping all the less experienced wrestlers in check. Which is a blessing, when she is not in these matches they can be a bit rough around the edges. We only saw a few minutes of this match (it was only a five minute match to begin with) but Leo and Ruaka both looked solid and show early promise. Kaori is the real hero of course in keeping them in line but Stardom trains their wrestlers well, it’s pretty easy to tell early on which wrestlers have “it” and which ones don’t (we will get more into that in a bit). **

Natsu Sumire def. Hanan

Whomever booked this match clearly hates children. Which is a stance I can support but even I wouldn’t have done this. Hanan is a 13 year old wrestler in her second year of wrestling, she has a judo background and when she stays in her comfort zone, she’s pretty good. Natsu Sumire on the other hand is probably the craziest member of Oedo Tai and has a wide range of talents including spitting water at wrestlers and whipping them. So this will be a good test for Hanan to see if she wants to continue having a pro wrestling career.

I can’t lie though, I enjoyed this more than I should have. Natsu is an average wrestler in regards to in-ring skills but her character is admittedly fun to watch, she is completely over the top but she does it in an authentic way so it doesn’t feel like excess. But poor Hanan. She got a few hope spots but really this was all about Natsu. Natsu wasn’t holding back on the middle schooler as she gave her everything she had, getting the easy win in the process. I guess in a way this is part of the journey in becoming a wrestler, you have to go outside of your comfort zone sometimes and this is very different from what they normally ask of Hanan. **1/2

AZM and Konami def. Shiki Shibusawa and Starlight Kid

I mentioned above that not all wrestlers have “it” and I am pretty confident that Shiki Shibusawa doesn’t. Its not a lack of effort, she just isn’t very athletic and doesn’t have any of the intangibles either. Luckily she didn’t do much in this match and let everyone else shine, which I appreciate as the other three are all quality. AZM and Starlight Kid are both under 18 (Starlight Kid’s exact age isn’t known), but they have wrestled so many times against each other they have fantastic chemistry. Konami is the only wrestler ever trained by Kana (currently Asuka in WWE) and they share a lot of the same moveset, she recently signed to Stardom full time which should help her progress up the card since Stardom prefers not to push native outsiders.

I’ve said this about other wrestlers in the past, but if Starlight Kid sticks to wrestling she could be legit down the road as she has a natural smoothness to her that can’t be taught. As is the theme so far, this was a short match that was slightly clipped further, but I enjoyed what was presented. These sub-seven minutes matches don’t get enough time to really tell a story beyond fast paced high impact offense, but luckily that is a story that they know how to tell well. Worth watching to see the progression of AZM and Starlight Kid, they’ve grown a lot in the last year and hopefully they will continue to do so. ***

Saki Kashima and Tam Nakano def. Deonna Purrazzo and Zoe Lucas

I feel like a broken record but Stardom events tend to follow this pattern – the undercard matches simply don’t get a lot as time as this is our fourth consecutive match that clocked in under ten minutes. Not that matches under ten minutes can’t be entertaining, they can, but in this case it is more an example of Stardom running through the matches to get to the big ones. The results of none of the matches up to this point really have mattered, its just filler. Moderately entertaining filler, but filler nonetheless. Stardom has the wrestlers to have more meaningful matches up and down the card, but it just isn’t always their focus as it wasn’t on this show.

Anyway, this was fine. The most noticeable thing to me here was that Zoe seems to have improved from the last time I saw her, her offense looked pretty crisp and she didn’t look out of place with the other wrestlers. They worked well together, although they could have clipped out any awkward moments, and for a five minute airing they did as good a job as one could hope for. Since Tam is one of their more popular acts they could have given her a bigger match on this show, not just part of the random gaijin tag, so that was a bit disappointing. I can’t really recommend hunting down matches of this length/presentation but ok for a casual view. **1/2

Io Shirai and Mayu Iwatani def. Hazuki and Kagetsu

Samurai TV got through the first four matches in about 30 minutes, so you knew they were leaving plenty of time for Io Shirai. For her final match in Stardom, they did their best to make it a meaningful one. I won’t go too in-depth on the history or I might lose some people, but Io and Mayu teamed for a number of years in Stardom as Thunder Rock until they went their separate ways in 2016. So for her farewell, Io is teaming with her old bestie one last time.  On the other side are members of Oedo Tai; Hazuki used to train under Io when they were in Queen’s Quest together so there is some additional history there, while Mayu and Kagetsu have been feuding since 2016.

Anytime Io is in a big match she is going to Io, and Io she certainly did. But this match wasn’t just about her as Stardom has to worry about the future as well, so Hazuki got in a fair amount of the offense here and Mayu was the one that picked up the pinfall over her rival Kagetsu. The only real down spot in the match for me was the crowd brawling, not because I mind it but it just stretched the match out (even if it was necessary to get Io on top of the balcony). But its hard to ignore all the emotion involved in a match like this, Io has been such an important part of Stardom and it really is the end of an era. The end stretch started hot but did level out in the last 30 seconds or so as Io and Mayu ran through their finishers together one last time without any real hope spots for the doomed Oedo Tai team.

Matches like these are hard to “rate” as there are so many different elements to them. Aside from one Mayu slip-up, the match was very smooth and well executed, as all four wrestlers have great chemistry and have wrestled each other many times. Io had the usual farewell spot in the middle where everyone in the roster took a turn attacking, hugging, or taking a selfie with her which is always fun to see. It may have gone a touch longer than necessary but that was bound to happen with the crowd sections, and in a way I didn’t mind just knowing it would be the last time Io will be in Stardom (at least for the foreseeable future). An enjoyable experience for sure, a bit predictable but still a must watch for any fans of Stardom, Io Shirai, or Thunder Rock. ****1/4

Wonder of Stardom Championship – Momo Watanabe (c) def. Jungle Kyona

Even though Stardom has seven (!!!) titles, only one was defended on this event, as Momo accepts Kyona’s challenge for the Wonder of Stardom Championship. This is Stardom’s #2 title, as Kagetsu holds the World of Stardom Championship. Momo just won the championship on May 23rd against Io Shirai, and this is her first defense. Kyona is the leader of J.A.N. and has been wrestling for about 2.5 years, so she seems poised to finally stake her claim in Stardom.

These two had a hard act to follow, and I think they mostly delivered. I think it is understated in wrestling how much it helps to have a veteran to keep a match on track and focused. Momo’s matches with Io were great, and Kyona has also had great matches, but this match started a bit all over the place. Kyona goes for Momo’s leg, a sound enough strategy, but she doesn’t really have any finishers that target the leg so it quickly got forgotten. Luckily once they gave up on that the match picked up, as Kyona went to what she does best (lariats, powerslams, and powerbombs) while Momo concentrated on strikes and getting an opportunity to deliver the Somato.

While the offense was a bit inconsistent at times, they kept the pace up so the match stayed interesting from bell to bell. My main qualm is with the ending, we’ve been conditioned in Stardom to seeing epic hot end stretches but this match certainly didn’t have that, with Momo going straight from submission hold to finishing move with no real ‘comeback’ attempt by Kyona. Which isn’t necessarily a bad ending but was unexpected and it seemed to catch the crowd by surprise as well. Even though Momo won (understandably so) I think that Kyona is the more polished wrestler right now so it will be fun to see where they go from here. Even though it didn’t feel like the true main event, still a solid effort by both and an entertaining match. ***1/2

Final Thoughts:

It is hard not to give a recommendation to an event with as much importance to Stardom as this one. In many ways the future looks bright for Stardom, as they build up Momo Watanabe and Jungle Kyona to go with established stars Kagetsu and Mayu Iwatani, but losing an Ace is always hard for any promotion. I think this show had a good balance of presenting the future stars while still celebrating Io Shirai, but I do wish with six other titles in the promotion that they had really showcased more wrestlers instead of just having short meaningless undercard matches. Io’s farewell match was predictable but still very enjoyable, and nothing on the show was bad. Worth tracking down, no MOTYCs here but still a fun event from top to bottom.