December 22, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan
I was lucky enough to also be at Stardom’s big year end show in 2015, which was quite unique as it featured Act Yasukawa’s retirement. I was curious to see how this year’s would be different being perhaps a more “typical” year end show for them.
The show started just a couple hours after my arrival in Japan, so while I made decent time from the airport I still unfortunately missed the first two matches of Azumi vs Arisu Nanase vs Ruaka and Konami vs Hiromi Mimura.
So the first match I saw was a three way tag between Oedo Tai (Kris Wolf & Hana Kimura), Jungle Kyouna & Natsuko Tora, and Kaori Yoneyama & Saori Anou. One member of each team (Hana, Tora, and Saori) was new to me.
There was some comedy early on as the teams taunted each other, then things progressed into back and forth between the three teams and some multiple person spots. Wolf is so charismatic the crowd popped for her surprise win despite her heel status.They kept it short and energetic here, leading to a decent, if unremarkable, triple tag.
The NWA Western States Tag Team Titles were on the line next as Twisted Sisterz (Thunder Rosa and Holidead) (c) defended against Queens Quest (HZK and Momo Watanabe). With Queen’s Quest being a new big heel faction associated with Io, I was honestly was hoping for more from them. All four wrestlers were clearly giving good effort and there were some bright spots, but the chemistry between the teams as opponents just generally seemed poor and there was a lot of awkwardness and things not connecting / coming across quite right. I feel like these teams are capable of more. The heel vs heel dynamic also kept the crowd rather tepid, and QQ’s puzzling loss seems to cut off the relatively new team’s momentum.
A pair of dark matches featuring models/actresses against career professional wrestlers were next.
In her debut match Nana Suzuki got to get in the ring against one of Stardom’s aces, Kairi Hojo, in a singles contest. Nana actually played her role as an overmatched but determined underdog quite well and the match was good. Kairi rightly dominated most of this, but the story was well told and Nana got the crowd behind her comeback spots. Nana seems like she could make the transition and wrestle regularly if she wants to.
Stardom’s reigning champion Io Shirai teamed with the other visitor, Mariko Seyama,to face Hiroyo Matsumoto & Jungle Kyouna. To be honest, Mariko did not come across nearly as good as Nana did, seeming awkward in the ring. The vets held it together well enough, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the previous match. Also, dark match or not, it was odd seeing Io try to play face here and her normal heel character later. The result was the crowd just cheered her in both matches, which perhaps took a little away from the story she was telling with Mayu.
In the semi-main Oedo Tai (Kyoko Kimura & Kagetsu) defended their Goddesses of Stardom Titles against former champions Kairi Hojo & Yoko Bito. There was a lot of interference from the Oedo Tai entourage outside the ring, which generated quite the conquering hero reception for Hojo & Bito when they finally overcame it all and took their belts back. Really good match.
In the main event of last year’s Climax Io Shirai claimed the World of Stardom title from Meiko Satomura in one of the top five matches I saw my entire trip. In this year’s main she defended that same title against her former Thunder Rock partner Mayu Iwatani.
This was a great, pedal-to-the-floor main event with tons of jaw dropping exchanges from two pros extremely familiar with one another. Highlights include Mayu hitting dragon suplexes on the apron and floor (ouch!), trying for one from the top rope only to have Io flip out and LAND ON HER FEET, and a trio of rolling Germans from Io that has to be seen to be believed. Strong back and forth contest and an excellent main event.
I was slightly surprised at the outcome, as once Queen’s Quest lost earlier in the evening I figured we’d get Mayu victorious here to culminate her redemption / revenge story before the heels regrouped and established dominance at a later date. Of course, cocky Io seeming unbeatable is also a compelling story hook.
This was an interesting show for Stardom. There were some issues with storytelling, blurry face-heel dynamics, and occasional missed spots and clunky ringwork. Yet there was also some excellent action and overall things came together and I found the show fun and entertaining despite those weaknesses, which is what really matters. Top two matches in particular are well worth seeking out.