April 5, 2019 in Brooklyn, NY
Wrestlemania weekend in the NYC area saw the return of Joshi puroresu company Stardom to the US for the first time since their two show CA tour in 2015. This was also my first time attending a Stardom event since the end of 2016. There were a number of talents I was particularly interested in seeing, as well as curiosity about what Stardom would choose to present to the foreign audience.
There were some operational difficulties to talk about. Fans were not let into the building until less than ten minutes before the advertised start time, leading to a disgruntled start for attendees having spent significant time waiting in line outside in the cold rain. Attempts were being made to repair the broken bottom rope, leading to the show starting about a half hour late. The rope was never fully repaired and sagged nearly to the mat, unable to support any weight. So the entire show was performed with a functionally unusable bottom rope.
The live stream also reportedly had problems, but the replay is up in its entirety now and as I’m sharing my impressions of attending live it doesn’t have an impact on this writeup.
Stardom stressed at the outset that they intended to have a traditional Japanese show for the American crowd, starting with having their regular ring announcer here.
1. JAN (Jungle Kyona & Natsuko Tora) vs Sonya Strong & Violette
Good choice for an opener, with the local team the clear heels allowing the crowd to get really into the visiting team, particularly Kyona. JAN wins a decent, crowd pleasing opener.
2. 3-Way: Hana Kimura & Bobbi Tyler vs Brittany Blake & Dr. Britt Baker vs Bea Priestley & Konami
“You blocked me on Facebook. Now you’re going to die.”
Hana was CRAZY over, but her & Bobbi were also able to get boo’d as needed for the story of the match. Excellent work by both. This was a bit rough in parts, but nicely energetic and chaotic in largely good way leading to a fun encounter overall. Crowd seemed to be waiting for a little more of a spotlight on Konami, but she looked good in what we saw of her. Hana picks up the win, and goes CRAZY and starts throwing things at the ring announcer when the wrong music plays. She was on point and in character every second she was visible (more on that later) and it’s really cool seeing how far she’s come as a performer since I last saw her in her rookie year.
3. High Speed Championship: Hazuki (c) vs Dust
Short but effective. Feels like this may have been where they shaved a little bit of time after the late start. Dust is a bit under appreciated I think, and has really found her grove the last couple of years. She worked well with Hazuki, whose general presence and mannerisms were striking. Champ retained here.
4. Wonder of STARDOM Championship: Momo Watanabe (c) vs Utami Hayashishita
Excellent, and even more impressive once discovered that Utami chose to work through a broken thumb here. This completely lived up to expectations, while leaving room for the inevitable rematch to take things a step further. It’s also a nice illustration of Stardom following through on giving NYC an authentic, worthy show, as this was a big, important first time singles title match for them between their current reigning tag team champions. The hype around Utami seems justified, and it’s nice to see Momo excelling as (one of) Stardom’s ace(s). It took a lot, but Momo eventually prevailed with a clean pin over her rookie partner and retained her title. Just the start of the story though I’m sure. This was the match I was most hyped for, and it delivered big time.
Main Event. Elimination Match: Oedo Tai (Kagetsu, Andras Miyagi, Jamie Hayter & Session Moth Martina) vs STARS (Mayu Iwatani, Saki Kashima, Arisa Hoshiki & Tam Nakano)
Was a little surprised this main evented over the Wonder of Stardom title defense, but I do understand the choice to end on a big all out battle between two top factions. Japanese style rules here, with eliminations by pinfall, submission, or over the top to the floor.
Oedo Tai’s dance makes quite the spectacle live, and both teams felt like big deals during the introductions, heightening anticipations. This was a lot of fun, and made good use of the format. It was really well booked to keep the audience invested, and the crowd erupted when Mayu ultimately pulled out the victory for her team.
I was also particularly impressed by Arisa, who I’ve heard a fair bit about but hadn’t seen. She did a wonderful job as a subtle workhorse here, a role similarly filled by Hayter on the other team. Miyagi seems to be doing well in her new home promotion and is a great fit with Oedo Tai. Kagetsu plays her role really well and it’s easy to see why she’s one of the wrestlers Stardom has built around, and Tam’s always fun to see. Good match to end on a high note with the audience.
STARS called the rest of the roster back to sign off with in a one time show of unity to represent Stardom and thank the fans. Hana alone remained lurking on the stage off to the side where she watched the main event from, dismissively staring at her various former compatriots. Nice touch.
The show ended at 6:15 pm, running fifteen minutes past the supposed plan, bringing the show time to about an hour and forty-five minutes with the delayed start. I was one of the people who left immediately to go to NXT, so didn’t participate in the meet and greet following the show.
The show felt energetic and fine in length overall, largely because the wrestlers made the most of the time they had and Stardom put together a card of smart matchups. As Stardom stated, this card is totally one they could have run in Japan, which was 100% the right approach to make a good impression and potentially draw new viewers into following the company regularly.
Working around not having a functional bottom rope was a challenge, and the wrestlers all adjusted admirably. I do however wish they didn’t have to and had the opportunity to go all out.
I personally feel like Stardom can get in its own way sometimes and find them a bit hit or miss, so was thrilled to see them put their best foot forward and have everything come together from an in-ring perspective here. Overall this was a focused, well presented and performed show under extremely difficult conditions. While there are valid criticisms and preparation issues to address, I hope it will be remembered for the level of wrestling and not the surrounding difficulties. This show was great live.