DECEMBER 29, 2022

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Alex Richards and Scott Edwards have joined up to give a review of STARDOM Dream Queendom, another signature show done by STARDOM to close out 2022.

High-Speed Championship
AZM (c) def. Hikari Shimizu

Alex: THRILLING, Edge of the seat stuff to get us started. I didn’t expect Hikari Shimizu to wrestle AZM’s type of match but she met the challenge head-on and looked right at home against STARDOM’s resident High-Speed ace. AZM has all but perfected this style of match and it’s a delight to see every time, there are few better at showcasing the uniqueness of High-Speed wrestling than her. ****¼

Scott: HIGH-SPEED!!! The reign of AZM has been nothing short of spectacular with her title matches challenging her to wrestle with the best of the best and raise up other wrestlers who have never participated in a high-speed match before. This was one of those cases where she somehow competed against situations as Hikari Shimizu is one of the very best in the Joshi indies scene but has never really entered the world of high-speed wrestling. Well, let’s just say Shimizu not only thrived but lived up to the spot on STARDOM Dream Queendom. She utilized her kicks to keep AZM off guard and the closing minute or two resulted in some beautiful near falls. High-Speed Championship matches should kick us off every single show as far as I’m concerned if this is the type of match they’re going for. ****

Mayu Iwatani, Hanan & Momo Kohgo def. Hazuki, Koguma & Saya Iida

Alex: Solid tag match that teased what we’ll get from the upcoming Triangle Derby. They played into the brewing story of Mayu thinking Momo Kohgo is a loser that isn’t good enough, but her team won regardless. Possibly a missed opportunity to have Kohgo lose and further frustrate Mayu going into the tournament. ***

Scott: STARS going head-to-head is always a treat. It’s even more of a treat when Hazuki chooses violence against Momo Kohgo. I will say my main problem with this match is that at least three of these competitors should have been higher on the card doing more but getting to see all six have a good time to preview Triangle Derby won’t leave me complaining. A solid match. ***¼

Mina Shirakawa & Unagi Sayaka def. Thekla & Mai Sakurai

Alex: I never thought I would say this but Pink Kabuki has been missed. Their return match was a good return to form that firmly pushed Mina into a more prominent spot in the team. The finishing stretch between Thekla and Mina was reminiscent of their feud earlier in 2022 which was very fun, although it also showcased how much Mina has improved since then.

It was nice to see Unagi back in a STARDOM ring although her Gyan period outside STARDOM had been so fun.

Based on the post-match promo, Pink Kabuki is done as Mina moves on to leading her new mini-unit while Unagi likely stays acting as a part-timer in STARDOM. ***¼

Scott: The return of Mina Shirakawa and in the same way Pink Kabuki should have been met with more excitement by me but I was rather left… empty. Not that the match was bad but the reveal of Shirakawa and her new faction, Club Venus, never really allowed me to get fully into the match. Shirakawa has been handpicked by fans to be the next Wonder of STARDOM Champion and while that very well may happen, I’m hesitant to crown her there until we see if she can regain the momentum that she had following the injury.

That said, her turning her back on Unagi Sayaka made it worse. Sad. Match overall was fine and the weakest on the main card for me. **¾

Goddess of STARDOM No. 1 Contendership
MaiHime (Maika & Himeka) def. The New Eras (MIRAI & Ami Sourei) and BMI2000 (Natsuko Tora & Ruaka)

Alex: Great energy to pick things up after the Mina turn. All three teams fit so well together thanks to their power base. MaiHime winning is a surprising move as I expected them to wait until the big April show to run meltear vs MaiHime. I’m very interested to see how things go in the tag division as MaiHime are one of the best teams around but they haven’t had the titles in a while.***½

Scott: Big. Hoss. Fight. I’m not sure I have much else to say other than this match brought me back into the show. Everyone shined and everyone got their spots in. We have reached a point where MIRAI and Maika are so far and above the rest of the field her that if they wrestled one another the whole time, the match would have been even better. MIRAI couldn’t be more ready for the spot she was in earlier this year. MaiHime getting the win to set up a title match against the new champions was one of the most pleasant matches to come out of this show. ***¾

KAIRI vs. Utami Hayashishita ended in a 15-minute draw

Alex: A 15-minute teaser of what a bigger match between them could be. After the 2021 she had, it’s almost insane to say Utami has improved, but she’s spent all of 2022 experimenting with her style and adding to her arsenal. This was a great showcase of just how far Utami’s overall game had progressed since losing the red belt.

With the stipulation involved, I thought there would be a loser but a draw is the fairest result since this is a huge match that should be done for the IWGP title down the line. ****

Scott: The scariest part of STARDOM Dream Queendom is how much better Utami Hayashishita is as a wrestler now as opposed to a year ago when she lost the World of STARDOM Championship. She’s a complete wrestler and went in there with KAIRI to give us a HINT of what these two are capable of. KAIRI has been nothing but untouchable since returning to STARDOM with her match against Mayu Iwatani being the pinnacle of what she has done thus far but this match right here… if it went longer than 15 minutes then it could have been another match of the year contender on this show. This was the tease to an eventual rematch between these two and whenever that happens, we’re in for a treat.

For 15 minutes, however, they killed it. The third-best match on the show but yet another feather in the cap of KAIRI in her first year back. ****¼

Artist of Stardom Championship
Prominence (Suzu Suzuki, Risa Sera & Kurumi Hiiragi) def. Oedo Tai (Momo Watanabe, Starlight Kid & Saki Kashima) (c) in a Hardcore Match

Alex: An enjoyable hardcore match that never leaned too heavily on the plunder. I like Prominence in STARDOM because they largely mix good wrestling with their signature hardcore style and Oedo Tai was happy to meet them halfway this time. While I would have preferred this as a normal trios match I think this was the best way to make the match stand out on such a loaded card. Prominence ending OT’s reign is a nice way to keep them in the loop in STARDOM now that Suzu and Sera have lost big matches. ***¾

Scott: Suzu Suzuki is a champion in STARDOM. What else do you need to know if this was the right decision? After a terrific run by the Oedo Tai trio of Momo Watanabe, Starlight Kid, and Saki Kashima, Prominence couldn’t be more perfect to take over as the Artist of STARDOM Champions. The Hardcore Match factor ended up being a great addition as this felt more like a trios match that had hardcore elements rather than them forcing the hardcore moments.

Suzuki’s work with Starlight Kid in the middle of the match was some of the best wrestling of the night before the young deathmatch queen came out to play. The Fire Thunder Driver to Kashima from the top rope through the table was the moment where this match changed in Prominence’s favor and ultimately led to their win. With Triangle Derby on the way and Prominence on top, the Artist of STARDOM Championship picture is all the more exciting. ****

Goddess of STARDOM Championship
7Upp (Nanae Takahashi & Yuu) def. meltear (Tam Nakano & Natsupoi) (c)

Alex: Tag team excellence. 7Upp have been a fantastic addition to the tag team scene in STARDOM and it’s really elevated Yuu in the process. When this match wasn’t going all out on the tag team action it broke down into very enjoyable exchanges, first between Nanae and Tam, then between Natsupoi and Yuu who had a blistering finishing stretch.

STARDOM’s best tags deliver on all fronts and this absolutely stands up as one of the best tag title matches in recent STARDOM vintage ****½

Scott: Passion. Emotion. And much like Alex said, excellence. What meltear was able to become in a very short time was one of the best tag teams in the world. And Natsupoi more than anyone has shown that she is one of the very best in the world. 7Upp, the Goddess of Stardom Tag League winners, brought the fight to meltear like we’ve never seen in their short run together. It was brutal, it was physical, but it was to the levels of greatness you hope for in tag team wrestling.

The final minutes between Natsupoi and Yuu were near perfection. Every single time Yuu had leveled Natsupoi, you were left hoping she’d survive and somehow get back in the fight. When Yuu ultimately planted “The Cosmic Angel,” the realization that meltear was done once and for all filled my heart with pain. That’s when you know the match delivered to the highest level. 7Upp have been nothing but tremendous and their title reign should be much of the same. The second-best match of the night. ****½

Wonder of STARDOM Championship
Saya Kamitani (c) def. Haruka Umesaki

Alex: It took some time for them to gel but once they did this was another strong defense from Kamitani that showed every bit of Umesaki’s potential. Umesaki was a pretty cold challenger with no real chance to win which hurt the match to some degree, especially given this had to follow up a really exciting tag match.

I question a flash pin finish when Kamitani has been presented as the much better performer of the two throughout the build but it is what it is. ****

Scott: The fears heading into this match shined their head watching this one, especially in the early going. Haruka Umesaki being thrown into this spot was forever going to be bold. There was a level of uncertainty on her end in the early going that made some of the exchanges between Umesaki and Saya Kamitani seem off — which popped up a few more times throughout the match. For what was far and away the biggest match of Umesaki’s career, she looked good enough out there and is a clear prospect moving forward.

But when it comes to the reign of Kamitani, this is near the bottom for me in terms of her defenses. ***½

World of STARDOM Championship
Giulia def. Syuri (c)

Alex: An exhilarating main event to cap off the three-year wait to see Giulia win the World of STARDOM Championship. Ever since her arrival in STARDOM, it has been a case of when, not if, Giulia would hold the top title in the company. We saw that chase come to a fitting conclusion against a woman that she initially recruited to join DDM and Stardom.

Giulia likely never expected one of her underlings in DDM to surpass her but that is exactly what Syuri did, not only winning the 5STAR Grand Prix first but also winning the red belt before her former stablemate. Unbeknownst to herself, Giulia unleashed a monster upon STARDOM when she got Syuri to join DDM, one that has proven to be nigh on unbeatable, even for Giulia herself.

The very first match between these two women was a grueling 30-minute draw where they left it all on the line. Then, they met earlier this year at STARDOM World Climax in another war. This time around, Syuri came out on top and left Donna Del Mondo to create her own faction.

Coming into this match, Giulia was not only aiming to win the world title, but she also needed to beat a woman she’s never bested, she needed to beat a monster that SHE HERSELF brought into the company, a monster that already achieved everything Giulia set out to do.

In typical Giulia fashion, she met this monster head-on. Let’s not forget Giulia was forged in the fire that was Hana Kimura upon her arrival in STARDOM. From the moment she walked into this company she was fighting tooth and nail to carve out a place for herself at the top of the company. This latest Giulia vs Syuri match was just as violent as their previous encounters, except this time Giulia could feel victory in her grasp. No matter what Syuri did, Giulia got back up. But the same could be said of Syuri, this “monster” took everything Giulia had in her arsenal and never let up.

As the two got wearier, their moves became more desperate, the kickouts more labored. I’ve never seen two wrestlers radiate such visible emotional and physical fatigue. To cap it all off, the ring announcer kept reminding us that time was running down. His calls grew increasingly more desperate as the seconds ticked away, adding to the drama of the overall match.

Giulia eventually won by using new Glorious Northern Lights Bomb variant with just seconds remaining on the clock. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I was enthralled from the opening bell until the match finished.

I have to give STARDOM a lot of credit. Giulia’s world title win always felt inevitable. Still, they teased it out for three years, bringing it to a masterful conclusion by having her confront and defeat her past rivals (Suzu Suzuki & Tam Nakano) to win the GP, before taking down her former ally Syuri at Sumo Hall. Giulia went from an outsider that many felt was over-pushed to a core part of STARDOM’s identity, one that people couldn’t wait to see as the red belt champion. That deserves a lot of praise, both towards Rossy and Giulia herself who has played her part to perfection over the past 12 months or so.

I tend not to get too hyperbolic when reviewing STARDOM, I find that doesn’t really benefit anyone. Despite that, I can say with certainty that this Giulia reign could be the best in STARDOM’s history. There are few wrestlers like Giulia right now, she thrives in the spotlight, she craves the attention of being the main character, she is willing to kill or be killed in the ring to deliver the best match possible, and that, to me, is the perfect recipe for an excellent world champion.

I fully admit that watching this match spoiled or without any investment in the winner might take some of the shine off. It’s not perfect by any means. But for me, and anyone else who has watched Giulia blossom over the past three years, it doesn’t get much better than this. *****

Scott: Special can be a word that is overused by many. A word that should only explain the very best of things and nothing less. Special is what the STARDOM Dream Queendom main event was.

You pay attention when an entire year is dedicated to a championship reign. When a story has a year to be told, you pay attention. But when a journey is stretched over three years and has reached near perfection, you can’t help but give every last bit of your focus to it. Giulia’s journey to becoming the World of STARDOM Champion has been a journey like few others in pro wrestling. Many times the chase in pro wrestling is stretched over six months to a year, maybe two. Nowadays, having a long-term story be told over a course of weeks, months, and years can be unheard of. Attention spans have lessened and everyone lives for the moment — wanting it as soon as humanly possible. Thankfully STARDOM waited, and we were treated to one of their greatest stories and matches as a result.

I’ve never experienced a match where I knew it was my match of the year before it was over. That’s how special this match was. The relationship between Syuri and Giulia that started back in 2020 with them side by side and brought us to them looking face to face here at the end of 2022 is one that will go down as one of the most important in STARDOM’s history. Giulia came into STARDOM underappreciated and left this match as a world champion that everyone welcomed with open arms and celebrated. That, again, is how I knew this story and match did everything it was meant to do.

What I love so much about how they crafted this match is that it was a struggle. A struggle to be champion. Syuri has openly admitted few things matter to her more than being the World of STARDOM Champion. It was a title reign that happened because she made a promise to her late mother that she’d reach the top of STARDOM. Not only did the God’s Eye leader do that but she stood at the front of STARDOM as they went from up-and-coming women’s promotion to the surging number two company in Japan. She’s accomplished everything she set out to do but winning this match and keeping that title — that’s all she wanted.

Giulia has been through it all. I’ve documented that before and the 5STAR Grand Prix Finals was the perfect way to feel it all. This match. This night. It was all about destiny for Giulia and her finally reaching the World of STARDOM Champion she had been destined for since joining the promotion in 2019.

Looking at the match itself, there were enough moments from start to finish that would classify this as a great match without all the backstory and emotions that came with it. A crazy Suplex off the ramp into a sea of chairs in the crowd by Giulia to Syuri. A terrifying Piledriver through a table on the outside by Syuri to Giulia. Those moments along with the violence were enough to help make this great. But it’s what they were able to play to that made it one of STARDOM’s all-timers.

There were moments halfway through this match it felt as though it was over. Giulia hitting the Glorious Driver followed by the Northern Lights Bomb, a move that got her here after falling to rock bottom, was perfection as Syuri kicked out with ease. Some may have scoffed but the kick outs told Giulia’s story as much as it did Syuri’s. Giulia needed this title. This was her last shot. Syuri never wanted to lose this title. It was everything to her. Final blows, finishers, anything was on the table. You needed a complete knockout blow to win this and that was added importance.

I noted how I have never watched a match where I knew it was my match of the year before it ended but the moment I knew was when Giulia did what she often does in her biggest moments — pay tribute to the late Hana Kimura. She knows what Hana did for her by accepting her three years ago and having the match at Year-End Climax 2019. That made Giulia in STARDOM and I stand by it. The signature Dropkick from the top rope followed by the Tiger Lily… tears enter my eyes as I sit here writing about it. Perfection, it was.

But Syuri survived again. And again. And again. Giulia went to her Donna del Mondo stablemates next by hitting Maika’s Enka Otoshi and Himeka’s Running Powerbomb. Yet again, Syuri managed to survive. The final blow of Giulia’s new Glorious Northern Lights Bomb was the exclamation point of all exclamation points as Syuri had no more to keep the title around her waist. Giulia earned the three count and was, finally, at the top of STARDOM. Fulfilling her destiny.

There’s no match this year that mirrored this emotion, this story, and this feeling. As a fan, I was on my feet, crumbling at the Tiger Lily, and falling to my knees when Giulia was finally the World of STARDOM Champion. The magic that is pro wrestling.

If you’ve invested in these two, you walked away feeling much of the same as Alex and I did. If you didn’t have that investment going in, here’s to hoping you will moving forward.

This was one of the greatest matches in STARDOM history and, for me, the definitive match of the year. *****

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