STARDOM
MIDSUMMER CHAMPIONS 2023
JULY 2, 2023
YOKOHAMA BUDOKAN
KANAGAWA, YOKOHAMA, JAPAN

Watch: PPV

Suzu Suzuki, Mei Seira & HANAKO def. STARS (Hazuki & Saya Iida) & Aya Sakura

The opening contest on the MidSummer Champions main card was a pacesetter for the rest of the night as any match featuring Hazuki often is. It was the first of a trio of big tag team matches to kick off this card. While it won’t go down as a memorable match by any means, it does register as a big win for rookie HANAKO.

HANAKO used the JP Coaster on Aya Sakura, a move handed down to her by the recently retired Himeka, to earn the victory. It got the job done for an opening tag team match, but there’s not much more to take away from it. Side note: I’m ready for the full-time Suzu Suzuki to kick into full gear story-wise. **½

Queen’s Quest (Utami Hayashishita, Saya Kamitani, AZM & Lady C) def. STARS (Mayu Iwatani, Koguma, Hanan & Momo Kohgo)

Utami Hayashishita and the united Queen’s Quest was a beautiful thing to see at MidSummer Champions 2023… even if she left us all confused after the match.

One week removed from the big win over Oedo Tai inside the Steel Cage to keep the group as one, they had a chance to show how united they truly were with a match against STARS. Much of the action was as expected but Saya Kamitani stood out above the rest. She hit an impressive Spinning Kick at one point that just played to so much of her Wonder of Stardom Championship reign where she just added new moves to her repertoire seemingly every single match she had. She pinned Momo Kohgo with the Star Crusher to get the win but all people will be talking about was the post-match.

Hayashishita grabbed the microphone and told her fellow Queen’s Quest members that despite having led them to a win last week, she needs to take a trip to think about her shortcomings as a leader prior. Understandably, the group was left stunned as Hayashishita dropped the microphone and began to walk to the back. This feels like a story where Hayashishita returns from her “trip” more determined than ever with a 5STAR Grand Prix run to remember. She even added in the post-match remarks backstage that a lot of her questioning has come with her misfortune as a singles competitor over the past year and a half. My 5STAR Grand Prix Guide isn’t out yet but I’m feeling good about my favorite for the tournament right now. **¾

Donna del Mondo (Giulia, Maika, Mai Sakurai & Thekla) def. Oedo Tai (Natsuko Tora, Momo Watanabe, Rina & Ruaka)

Donna del Mondo has been rolling as of late coming into this match and it was more of the same. The main takeaway you’d want from this was how is Oedo Tai working one week after losing the Steel Cage match and Saki Kashima. They worked well but not well enough in the end.

The dominance of Maika has been one of the interesting footnotes of this year in STARDOM as it’s been a subtle story that you’d need to really pay attention to with her having no major singles matches outside of the retirement match of Himeka at All Star Grand Queendom. Add in that the Bari Bari Bombers are riding high after last week’s successful title defense and you have a team that was never losing this one. **½

Nanae Takahashi def. Starlight Kid

The PASSION INJECTION match never fails! Whoever made the decision for Nanae Takahashi to go against the younger roster members in these “prove it” matches knew what they were talking about as they’ve only brought the best out of the opponents more and more. Now, this won’t go down as Starlight Kid’s greatest match as she already has a good catalog of great matches to her name but she certainly can use this effort to drive her forward more and more as we enter the 5STAR Grand Prix later this month.

All signs pointed to the Momoe Latch, a move Kid has been improving behind the scenes with the innovator of the move Momoe Nakanishi, being the central point of the bout. It was and it created some great, late drama because of it.

Kid didn’t back down against Takahashi but rather brought it more than she has for the majority of the year. She was physical against Takahashi, matching passion with passion and happily slapping the taste out of Takahashi’s mouth to prove a point. When she finally got the Momoe Latch roll up on Takahashi, the veteran kicked out at 2.99 to avoid losing and keep the match going. In the end, it was Takahashi who walked away with a victory against the Oedo Tai star but it was Kid who left the match with an added confidence in defeat. Means to me the PASSION INJECTION match accomplished its job once again at MidSummer Champions. ***¾

Goddesses of Stardom Championship
ROSE GOLD (Mina Shirakawa & Mariah May) (c) def. God’s Eye (Syuri & Ami Sourei)

ROSE GOLD were everything the Goddesses of Stardom Championship needed and they didn’t have a team name up until two weeks ago.

Mina Shirakawa and Mariah May have gelled tremendously as a duo, showcasing immense chemistry and a vibe with one another that works far better than probably anyone expected to see when Club Venus was created. And, for their credit, Syuri and Ami Sourei looked like a well-oiled machine. The truth is that both Sourei and MIRAI work better apart from one another than as a team themselves and that was very apparent in this match.

May and Ami Sourei paired off early, both displaying their offensive minds by throwing chops and going back and forth. It brought the match to another level because their segment of the match paired well with the final stretch that was between Shirakawa and Syuri.

When they got in there, it hit that top level that we haven’t seen too much from Syuri this year outside of her match with Chihiro Hashimoto. Shirakawa was willing to stand in there and trade with Syuri, hitting her with countless dropkicks to the knees to try and cut down the former World of Stardom Champion. As the closing minutes neared, the pace was nonstop.

Mariah May hit a beautiful German Suplex to Ami Sourei in the match that left her tumbling and it was eventually left down to Shirakawa and Syuri once and for all.

As we’ve grown used to, anytime Syuri plays a deciding factor in a match, her team is more often than not winning — but not today. Shirakawa was able to get the Glamorous Collection MINA pin onto Syuri to pin her clean in the middle of the ring. For someone like Shirakawa who had lost the Wonder of Stardom Championship to Tam Nakano in only her second defense, the tag title win and now a pinfall over Syuri is how you get her back on track.

This match was able to finish as the second-best of the night which, if you ask me, is a credit to these two teams more than anything. THE NEW ERAS (MIRAI and Ami Sourei) work better apart than together and this night showed that. MidSummer Champions 2023 can be the night remembered as the tag titles getting back on track thanks to ROSE GOLD. ****

High-Speed Championship: Saki Kashima (c) def. Fukigen Death

Saki Kashima defended her High-Speed Championship for the first time on Sunday at MidSummer Champions against her handpicked opponent Fukigen Death. Of course, things have changed a lot since she originally picked Death as Kashima is no longer a member of Oedo Tai and you felt that every second as she made her entrance.

Truth be told, this match wasn’t much of anything other than Oedo Tai trying to trip up Kashima the best they could before the champion would hit the Revival on Death to get the win. In terms of being the weakest High-Speed Championship matches, this will be at the top but it’s part of the story more than it is about the match itself. The best part of everything in this match was seeing Kashima get saved by God’s Eye and officially joining the ranks of Syuri and company seeing the past year has been all about Kashima being terrified of facing Syuri. A full-circle moment in many ways.

Wonder of Stardom Championship: MIRAI def. Tam Nakano (c)

The crowning moment happened at MidSummer Champions 2023.

After winning the Cinderella Tournament for the second-straight year, MIRAI set herself up to finally become a singles champion in STARDOM after her two shortcomings in 2022. And all she had to defeat was the second-ever Double Champion in STARDOM history — Tam Nakano.

The build towards the match saw Nakano challenge MIRAI countless times in the lead-up, questioning her readiness and ability to rise to this spot of being a champion. At the conclusion of her Goddesses of Stardom Championship match at STARDOM SUNSHINE 2023 where THE NEW ERAS lost the gold, MIRAI had said enough was enough. She laid out Nakano and with that being the lasting image heading into this title match, you knew it was going to be physical and more personal than you would have expected when MIRAI originally made the challenge.

When the opening bell rang, it was on. Instantly. MIRAI and Tam Nakano were trading bombs left and right, Nakano hitting some of the best, loudest forearms of her career and it was only the opening minute. The Southpaw challenger didn’t hold back and presented that determination to tell Nakano she won’t be stopped. A brutal opening made for a more intense match, breaking away from the Tam Road and following MIRAI’s hard-hitting measures that we got used to in the 5STAR Grand Prix a year ago.

The physicality would go to the outside where you’d get Nakano’s usual Violet Shoot knee strike on the ramp and while she hit one, she was met by a devastating MIRAI Lariat on the second. And those Lariats would be what would get MIRAI the win in this one.

When they got back to the ring, Nakano would be locked into the Miramare (Kimura Lock), looking for a way to get out of it but the damage was done. MIRAI would load up for one of those devastating Lariats but Nakano met her with a brutal head kick before hitting the Violet Screwdriver. After holding up the challenger for as long as she did, Nakano would have to take a moment to bounce back and that allowed MIRAI to kick out.

The closing of the match was when MIRAI leveled up from “Ash-Covered” to golden. She’d hit Tam Nakano with devastating Lariats, including a leaping one to get herself a near fall. MIRAI would climb up to the top and hit the Aces High Crossbody that won her the Cinderella Tournament earlier this year before lifting up Nakano to hit a multiple-spin Miramare Shock to pin the champion and win the Wonder of Stardom Championship.

MIRAI’s moment was as special as hoped for as she outlasted the Double Champion and was finally able to rise to the top of STARDOM as the new Wonder of Stardom Champion. With a championship that often embodies the passion and story of their champion, MIRAI will follow the likes of Momo Watanabe and Saya Kamitani in trying to bring this title to a workrate level of dominance.

It was easily the match of MidSummer Champions 2023 and credit must be given to both competitors. Nakano was the perfect champion for MIRAI to dethrone, making the moment all the more satisfying. It is officially MIRAI’s time. ****½

Saori Anou def. Natsupoi in an Indian Strap Match

The main event of the evening would go to the personal rivalry between Natsupoi and Saori Anou. Their goals to outdo one another and never be surpassed had finally led both to STARDOM and to solve their problems, they needed to fight. And not only did they need to fight but they needed to do so in a match not-so-ordinary. That’d ultimately be an Indian Strap Match.

As with many firsts in STARDOM, the match had some learning curves to see how they could utilize the strap to their advantage but as the match kept going, they found their necessary footing. The best thing about this match is that you always felt the dislike for one another. They’d use the strap to grab each other by the throat, throwing each other across the ring and into the stands on the outside countless times. Anou was awfully determined and it showed through the entire match.

My main “problem” with this match is that I watched it knowing how much better it’d be had it been a regular singles match. I wrote in my preview how Natsupoi can often be STARDOM’s best big match performer and while we saw signs of that, I still feel as though we didn’t experience that to its fullest potential either like we did a few months ago in her match with Mina Shirakawa.

The match got to its best when they finally got back into the ring and the determination came back into play of winning. Anou would get the first fall by putting on her spider-like bridge to pin Natsupoi, but that wouldn’t be enough to keep her down by any means either.

They’d trade pinfalls back and forth as well as smacking one another with the strap, hitting each other in the face on more than one occasion in brutal fashion. But when it came down to it, the strap wasn’t what would decide the match as it’d instead be a brutal Neckbreaker by Anou that would be enough to keep Natsupoi down. She survived a lot of the onslaught including a Fisherman Suplex and devastating choke where Anou had the strap tying Natsupoi up with nowhere to go.

There were definitely levels to the match I would have liked to see them go that would have been more fitting for a normal, non-stipulation encounter but this was the way to get them from forever enemies to stablemates once and for all. Here’s to hoping we get the true singles match somewhere down the line but for now, we’ll settle for a fine main event at MidSummer Champions 2023 that missed the extra sparkle in the end that Natsupoi can deliver in normal scenarios. ***¼

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