Triangle Derby I ~Championship Battle~
March 4, 2023
Yoyogi National Gymnasium #2
After two long months, the Triangle Derby concludes a show loaded with big matches. Given we’re only a month out from STARDOM’s Yokohama Arena show, they could be forgiven for phoning it in, but instead, this show will have Himeka vs. Chihiro Hashimoto, AZM vs. Starlight Kid, Hazuki vs. Saya Kamitani, and Giulia vs. Maya Yukihi, any of those four could steal the show with ease.
DONNA DEL MONDO (MAI SAKURAI, MAIKA & THEKLA) DEF. COSMIC ANGELS/CLUB VENUS (MARIAH MAY, MINA SHIRAKAWA, WAKA TSUKIYAMA)
I really enjoyed this as the opener, it brought the kind of energy I’m hoping to see from the rest of the show. Mariah May and Thekla squared off early to continue their blossoming grudge, Mina went toe-to-toe with Maika as she continues to prove herself as a top dog, and we closed out with another hot Waka closing stretch with the crowd still super into her quest to earn her first win. ***
OEDO TAI (NATSUKO TORA, FUKIGEN DEATH, SAKI KASHIMA, RUAKA & MOMO WATANABE) DEF. STARS (MOMO KOHGO, MAYU IWATANI, HANAN, SAYA IIDA & KOGUMA)
This was pulled right out of the house show loop, STARS and Oedo Tai have wrestled each other so much during my time as a fan that it’s hard to get super into anything they do. They didn’t really advance any storylines or pushes with this either, so it was forgettable. **1/2
TRIANGLE DERBY SEMI-FINAL
GOD’S EYE (SYURI, MIRAI & AMI SOREI) DEF. COSMIC ANGELS (NATSUPOI, TAM NAKANO & SAKI)
This was a neat reminder that Syuri is a wrestler operating at the highest level. This match was pretty good for the most part, then Syuri got in and went to work with Nakano and Natsupoi, that’s when the match really kicked into top gear and we got a nice reminder that yes, Syuri is indeed one of the best around. ***1/2
TRIANGLE DERBY SEMI-FINAL
PROMINENCE (SUZU SUZUKI, RISA SERA & KURUMI HIIRAGI) DEF. 7UPPP (NANAE TAKAHASHI, YUU & YUNA MIZUMORI)
For my money, these two teams carried this tournament on their backs. As you would expect they delivered again in the semi-finals. This was a great match that never really gave much away, the headline stars barely interacted but the “weak links” of Yunamon and Kurumi were able to do enough heavy lifting for their teams that the match rocked either way. Get these teams in the ring as much as possible and let them rock. ***3/4
CHIHIRO HASHIMOTO DEF. HIMEKA
I love what STARDOM has done with Chihiro Hashimoto in the lead-up to Yokohama Arena. Much like they did with Maya Yukihi, they haven’t been content to just let her get by on name value alone, instead, they have let her prove her worth in the ring. First, she manhandled MIRAI, and now she picked apart Himeka in a short, but really great match. Both matches put over the fact that Hashimoto is a hoss who can trade power moves with the best of them, the big difference is that Hahsimoto, unlike most hosses, is a champion amateur wrestler who can pick you apart on the ground when she feels like it. It was that technical wrestling advantage that gave her the win here as she wore down Himeka physically with power moves and wore down her leg with ankle locks until Himeka tapped out.
Syuri has been built up as the most unstoppable wrestler STARDOM has seen since Io Shirai, but she will have her hands full with Chihiro Hashimoto when the two collide at Yokohama. ****
WONDER OF STARDOM CHAMPIONSHIP
SAYA KAMITANI (C) DEF. HAZUKI
A great match and a real return to form for Saya Kamitani after an iffy few months. These two had one of my favourite matches of 2022 in the 5STAR Grand Prix and this match had a lot of that same energy to it. Hazuki was a woman on a mission and really brought the best out of Kamitani. They did a great job of making this feel like Hazuki’s match to win by having her beat Saya in the lead-up to the match and having her enter the ring with a new costume and theme song, it was this effort that made some of the nearfalls incredibly gripping.
I’m still not sure what the story is with the Phoenix Splash, Kamitani hasn’t used it since messing it up against Shirakawa but I have to imagine she’ll use it again since the Firebird Splash wasn’t enough to get her the win here (and you know Shirakawa brought it up in her promo after the match). ****1/2
Speaking of Mina, Kamitani challenged her for Yokohama Arena after the match so that’s my Cinderella Tournament prediction out the window, this feels like Mina’s match to win.
HIGH SPEED CHAMPIONSHIP
AZM (C) DEF. STARLIGHT KID
High speed matches featuring these two have definitely reached the your mileage may vary stage. At this point, we’ve seen them do pretty much everything that can be done but it’s still enjoyable. I did enjoy them working in the additional elements of trying to build up to their submission finishes, Kid attacking the knee and AZM targeting the arm definitely added something to the exchanges and made it seem a lot more tactical than just the two doing fast-paced exchanges. This was likely Kid’s last-ever match in this division and will probably be one of AZM’s last, as a send-off to this era of their careers this was a great addition to their rivalry. ****1/4
WORLD OF STARDOM
GIULIA (C) VS MAYA YUKIHI – DRAW
Man, what a FIGHT. I can’t remember the last time I saw a match quite like this, winning was completely secondary to both women, their sole aim was to fight and hurt the other in the most creative ways possible. The stiff strikes in the ring were met with ridiculous bumps on the outside that continued to escalate until the match ended with a Nothern Lights Bomb ON THE FLOOR.
The best thing about the match is how it fit the storyline with Giulia and Yukihi. Yukihi wasn’t, and still isn’t, very interested in the world title. But, her hatred for Giulia and STARDOM (for poaching Giulia) was enough got her to accept Giulia’s challenge. The match perfectly followed on from the pre-match press conference that featured both women spitting vitriol at one another.
I’m not too sure if they will get to wrestle again, and if not then STARDOM is leaving a lot on the table honestly, but what we got here was more than enough to soothe my desire for violence. ****1/2
TRIANGLE DERBY FINAL/ARTIST OF STARDOM CHAMPIONSHIP
PROMINENCE (C) DEF. GOD’S EYE
Following Prominence’s win earlier in the show, they opted to make the tournament final a title match so this one was for all the marbles. I enjoyed this match a lot but it had a lot to live up to following the war between Giulia and Yukihi. The last 7 or 8 minutes of this was essentially a Suzu Suzuki vs MIRAI singles match and anyone who has watched them wrestle knows that is a good thing. Credit goes to Ami and Kurumi for some really fun interactions in the middle of the match but Suzu and MIRAI stole the show as always. Prominence winning is kind of a surprise since they’re the trios champions and aren’t locked down to STARDOM deals but they deserved the win, they (and 7Uppp) have carried this tournament on their backs. I’m not too sure what happens with the Artist belts next as I assumed the derby winners would square off with Prominence at the Yokohama Arena show but now we’ve got QQ angling for a match (presumably at the Cinderella Finals). Either way, this was a great match that gave Suzu Suzuki a chance to end a major PPV standing tall with a championship and trophy in hand. ****
What a show. The last five matches on this show were all great in their own ways, no matter what you like there is something for you to enjoy on this card. The Derby semi-finals may end up being overlooked due to the quality of the matches that followed but they were also fun matches that helped cap off the first-ever Derby with three epic encounters between four of STARDOM’s best trios.
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