In professional wrestling, rivalries are what make promotions can’t miss, must-see, and the “talk of the town.” We have seen it time and time again. The rivalry between Stone Cold and The Rock is what helped solidify wrestling history. Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega brought eyes to NJPW that was never there before. As we are seeing in Stardom right now, Utami Hayashishita and Syuri are helping put Joshi wrestling back on the map. Their match in July is one of the best all year and it has turned what they have into a massive rivalry. As a result of all this, we remind you that it is rivalries that make promotions move. And the next rivalry for Stardom to build their future around comes in one that has already begun — Saya Kamitani vs. Maika.
Two wrestlers part of the “Golden Generation” alongside World of Stardom Champion Utami Hayashishita and Himeka, these two have created what should be called the “Golden Rivalry” moving forward. Everything Kamitani and Maika do has felt connected. While they didn’t initially start in Stardom as Maika began her career in Just Tap Out, the beginning of their careers is very similar. They began months apart and have had a steady rise to the top of Stardom and it has seen them looking across the ring at each other for many of their big moments.
The first time Kamitani and Maika ever faced off was in a tag team match on February 11, 2020. Maika was with Donna del Mondo, wrestling her fifth Stardom match of her career. Kamitani teamed up with Mayu Iwatani and Arisa Hoshiki. Kamitani was the one to suffer the defeat as Donna del Mondo was only getting started in their dominance. Seeing how green they were at the time, no one could have thought it would become the signature rivalry of the “Golden Generation” but it only continues to seem that way. It was only five days later that Kamitani would join Queen’s Quest, a decision that would get her to the same ground as Maika instantly with a chance to grow around some of the best in Stardom.
Fast forward a little bit to July.
Utami Hayashishita had to relinquish the Future of Stardom Championship and it was left vacant. The match to crown a new champion would feature both Kamitani and Maika as well as Saya Iida. Maika was the one to walk out of that match the winner, getting the first true leg up between these two. Two weeks later, Kamitani would win her first championship alongside Hayashishita, winning the Goddess of Stardom Tag Team Titles. 2020 felt to be Maika’s year but Kamitani’s allegiance to Queen’s Quest changed everything. Maika’s first Future of Stardom Championship defense would be against Kamitani, marking their first singles match ever. Maika managed to defeat Kamitani in the middle of the ring, getting the first leg up. The Future of Stardom has become an instant mark of what the future will hold — little did Stardom fans know that this first match would be a Cinderella Tournament final less than a year later.
Perhaps the beauty of what this rivalry has become is that 2021 has seen both reach the top months apart. Maika had her first major title match at the Stardom 10th Anniversary show when she faced Utami Hayashishita for the World of Stardom Championship. In defeat, Maika elevated herself up to a completely different level with her performance. At All Star Dream Cinderella, a show that many believe to be the biggest in Stardom history in terms of importance, Saya Kamitani competed for the World of Stardom Championship against Hayashishita. She even more than Maika had many wondering if she could handle such a spot. What followed that night was one of the best matches in her young career. Months apart, they were able to follow each other up before all led to the Cinderella Tournament.
These two had to pull off signature wins to even be in the conversation come the finals and that’s what they were able to do. Kamitani’s biggest win came when she hit a hurricarrana on Wonder of Stardom Champion Tam Nakano, dumping her out of the ring and advancing her out of the first round. Maika got herself to the semifinals with a win over stablemate and reigning Cinderella Tournament winner, Giulia. Those wins made it feel as if they were destined to battle and they eventually were. At Tokyo Dream Cinderella, Maika defeated Unagi Sayaka in the semifinals and Kamitani took down Himeka to clinch her spot. Their meeting felt important that night as they would battle to see who could get to the top first. Seeing that the Cinderella Tournament has propelled the names of Arisa Hoshiki, Momo Watanabe, and Mayu Iwatani into a whole other level.
In a battle that went 15 minutes, Kamitani pulled out the best Phoenix Splash of her career to defeat Maika in the final, becoming the Cinderella Tournament winner and earning the wish of her choice. She would lay her sights on the Wonder of Stardom Championship. Though she came up short in the chance, she had the most important win between her and Maika to her resume. That is something worth following as we close out the year and “The Golden Phoenix” gets her second chance to win the belt.
It’s been this magical run to follow for both. At Kawasaki Super Wars, Mina Shirakawa was able to best both of them in a triple threat match as Maika tried to show support for Kamitani following the loss. Then Maika faces Hayashishita for a second time at Tokyo Super Wars with the World of Stardom Championship and fails once more. On the very same night, Kamitani earns her second shot at Tam Nakano and the Wonder of Stardom Championship. It’s as though they try to follow up the other with a bigger win every time, almost detailing a race to that eluded top title in Stardom. This is a “Golden Rivalry” in every form because of what they make pro wrestling mean to each other. It isn’t as if their careers are ones that have gone years at a time to get to the top but they are so intertwined that it is hard to not feel this has been a long road for both.
Maika vs. Saya Kamitani is a main event championship match down the road. It is a rivalry to define an era and one that will indeed do that. As Kamitani prepares for the biggest match of her life at Stardom Dream Queendom inside Ryogoku Sumo Hall, Maika looks on knowing that she was unable to be the first between them to reach the top. “The Golden Phoenix” feels to be in a prime spot to pull off the upset and be standing tall when its all said and done, giving the potential the next matchup between these two stars is for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, adding an entirely new flare to the dramatic and allowing them to bring the “Golden Rivalry” to a golden main event-caliber match. They are destined to fight forever.
Saya Kamitani and Maika are what make up the “Golden Rivalry” and should be a major part of what should be some special years in Stardom.
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