GODDESS OF STARDOM TAG LEAGUE OPENER
OCTOBER 23, 2022
TACHIKAWA STAGE GARDEN
Despite the show’s name, the Goddess of STARDOM tag league is the least of my worries today. STARDOM heads to Tachikawa Stage Garden to hold the two semi-final matches in the IWGP Women’s Championship tournament as the Neo STARDOM Army’s Alpha Female takes on KAIRI, while the Japanese bracket concludes with a huge clash between Mayu Iwatani and Utami Hayashishita. This show also featured the debut of famous YouTuber/entertainer Fuwa-Chan but it’s unsure as of now whether STARDOM will be allowed to air her match.
WE LOVE TOKYO SPORT (FUKIGEN DEATH & SAKI KASHIMA) (2) DEF. MAI FAIR LADY (MAI SAKURAI & LADY C) (0)
Sakurai and Lady C are doing the odd-couple pairing schtick in this year’s tournament which might be better than if they were attempting to actually wrestle, I say this as a staunch Lady C defender. We Love ToSpo did their standard heel work before some miscommunication cost Mai Fair Lady the match. Nothing too out of the ordinary from these four but far from exciting. **1/2
KAWILD VENUS (MINA SHIRAKAWA & SAKI) (2) DEF. BMI2000 (NATSUKO TORA & RUAKA) (0)
My expectations for anything involving Natsuko Tora are going to be very low for the foreseeable future. An injury like the one she suffered will limit her in-ring for some time, as evidenced by Takumi Iroha’s work since suffering a similar injury to her knee. Given those low expectations, I didn’t think this was too bad until the completely yawn-inducing DQ finish.
Mina Shirakawa was the notable MVP of the match as she continues to be one of STARDOM’s best. Solid match, terrible finish. **1/2
02LINE (AZM & MIYU AMASAKI) (2) DEF. WINGGORI (SAYA IIDA & HANAN) (0)
A nice, tidy tag to pick things up. There were some very good exchanges between all four with Amasaki surprising me with her performance. After the opening two matches fell short of the mark the four STARDOM homegrown took matters into their own hands to light the fuse. ***
KARATE BRAVE (SYURI & TOMOKA INABA) (1) VS BLACK DESIRE (STARLIGHT KID & MOMO WATANABE) (1) – DRAW
Our tournament’s first draw provided a lovely teaser of what these two teams can deliver. This almost felt like alternating singles matches rather than a true team vs. team affair, largely due to Inaba and Syuri being such a new team. Tomoka Inaba and Starlight Kid once again showcased the impressive chemistry that we saw on New Blood 5 while Syuri and Momo Watanabe got the chance to go at it once again.
While Karate Brave haven’t teamed together before they gelled quite well and even had one of the best team-based attacks of the match when Syuri dropped Kid into a sickening knee from Inaba. Black Desire’s Goddess run was sadly cut short earlier this year but they’re looking to make up for it by absolutely killing it in this year’s tag league. ****
MAIHIME (MAIKA & HIMEKA) (2) DEF. THE NEW ERAS (MIRAI & AMI SOREI) (0)
Holy heck! It’s so rare that we get these powerhouse vs. powerhouse matches in Joshi but when we do, they always deliver. Both teams went through a lot of punishment but they left a lot on the table, specifically with MIRAI, who is the star of the show. It’s also important to note that Maika got a win over a God’s Eye member ahead of her title match with Syuri. ***3/4
MAFIA BELLA (GIULIA & THEKLA) (2) DEF. MELTEAR (TAM NAKANO & NATSUPOI) (0)
Another fantastic entry to Tam and Giulia’s already stellar rivalry, this time with some added payback as Thekla got her hands on Natsupoi for the first time since Poi left DDM for the Cosmic Angels. The four women in the match played into the emotion and backstory of the match quite well, ramping up the intensity almost from the word go and one-upping each other until the finish. The best thing about this match is it never indulged too hard in some of Tam’s worse tendencies, instead focusing on doling out punishment to your biggest rival.
I had predicted Giulia and Thekla winning as Nakano previously spoke about wanting to defend her tag title against Giulia and well…Mafia Bella isn’t winning the tag league so there’s only one other way to get a title match. ****1/4
7UPP (YUU & NANAE TAKAHASHI) DEF. FWC (KOGUMA & HAZUKI)
Yuu and Nanae Takahashi of the recently-formed NEO STARDOM Army get a big win over former two-time champions FWC. The NEO STARDOM Army are sure to be one of the major stories of this tag league, especially with Jazzy’s involvement in the IWGP women’s title picture. Out of everyone, Yuu is benefitting the most from this angle, she’s been doing great work in promotions like Sendai Girls, PURE-J, and SEAdLINNNG for most of the year and now she’s getting a big spotlight in STARDOM.
This great tag match showcased why FWC have been so pivotal to the tag division this year. They work well with just about anyone, and Yuu and Takahashi were motivated to put their best foot forward. ****
IWGP WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT – INTERNATIONAL BRACKET FINAL
KAIRI DEF. ALPHA FEMALE
I’m still a bit peeved that we’re using a rare KAIRI match on Alpha Female but I’m just happy Rossy hasn’t completely lost it and had the NSA go to the final of the IWGP title tournament. The match itself was fine, they played into AF’s strengths by letting her dominate and hit power moves until KAIRI came back into it. I don’t want to be too harsh on Alpha Female because ultimately, she’s 40 years old and hasn’t wrestled much since leaving WWE. She played the role she was tasked with fairly well all things considered. I question why we asked her to fill that role instead of using the wealth of women’s talent on the market right now.
I guess the best takeaway to have is matches like this used to main event STARDOM shows for the world title but now it feels completely out of place. It’s a real sign of how STARDOM has grown since the era of the Threedom being relied on so heavily. ***
IWGP WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT – JAPANESE BRACKET FINAL
MAYU IWATANI DEF. UTAMI HAYASHISHITA
It’s been two years since Mayu and Utami last squared off. That match saw Hayashishita dethrone Iwatani and become world champion, staking her claim as not just the future but the present of STARDOM. While they’re not exactly direct rivals the feud between Mayu and Utami is one of the most fascinating in STARDOM. Mayu, the icon, the one who stayed, she IS STARDOM. Utami, a prodigy, a megastar, the leader of the new wave, she WILL BE the centerpiece of STARDOM for as long as she wants.
There is perhaps no better way to establish the IWGP Women’s Championship than having these two square off in the final of the Japanese bracket, knowing that a date with KAIRI awaited. The match that followed greatly showcased how much Utami has grown in two years. Hayashishita was so much more comfortable with her power game this time around which provided a perfect base for Iwtaani to work off. Despite the onslaught from Utami, it was the Icon of STARDOM who gut through to claim the win and remind everyone that she is still a top contender around these parts.
With that, we have the most obvious final to crown the inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion. Mayu Iwatani vs KAIRI, one more time. To me, there was no better choice for a final. The show at the Ariake Arena will likely be the biggest exposure STARDOM has received to date, putting their best foot forward with globally recognized talents like Mayu and KAIRI was always the way to go in my mind. ****1/2
I did not expect this show to blow me away as it did. At least four of the tag league matches were very good-great and Mayu/Utami delivered in the main event big time. Honestly, even if the show hadn’t delivered I’d have come away buzzing after seeing Mayu and KAIRI stare one another down to close the show. November 20th can’t come soon enough.