Yeah, been a minute. I missed writing about wrestling, what can I say?
About a week ago, a match started making waves amongst the proudest of wrestling nerds, and it wasn’t just from the BoD Joshi crew.
Filthy Tom Lawlor – “Watch Syuri Kondo vs Utami Hayashishita if you value your time”
Stardom Tokyo Dream Cinderella – June 12th, 2021
I made the mistake of re-reading some of my old work here, and woof. Wall after wall of text about moves with the occasional quip thrown in that was only about 22% amusing at that. Who can read all that nonsense? So I’m condensing a lot of my match reviews into more about the flow of the match, how it goes from one thematic place to the next, things like that. I’ll still throw in the moves that matter, don’t get me wrong, but I’m trying to move my stuff from ‘unbearably, torturously long’ down to just ‘torturously long’, so if it seems a bit shorter on match recaps, don’t worry – I’ll make up for it by being an overlong blowhard with my opinions and unfunny jokes instead.
From the Ota Ward Gym in Tokyo, Japan! We’ve got English commentary on this one, and I’ll just be straight with y’all – I am not a cool kid. I listen to the English commentary when I watch New Japan, when I watch NOAH – if English is available, I listen to it. So I was thrilled to get English as an option this time out, as Stardom doesn’t normally have it.
Dark match(or as known around here, The AndyPG) – Lady C vs Rina vs Hina
Rina and Hina start by beating the crap out of each other, then turning on Lady C and double-teaming her, then back to beating on each other. Oh, and they’re twin sisters, to boot. Match continues pretty much along that realm, in that the sisters are willing to go 2 on 1 against the taller Lady C, but then go back to wailing on each other. Hina does some pretty nice judo throws, which, as it’s the only martial art I’ve taken classes in, I can appreciate. They do an okay 3-way with Rina bridging Hina for the pin. In the dictionary under the definition of ‘meh’, you will find a still of this match. (Rina over Lady C & Hina, pinfall, 5:44) **
Time to start the card proper with a rundown.
Maika vs Unagi Sayaka – Cinderella tournament semi-final match
Sayaka is on the leg like a dog with a bone here, just attacking it from the jump. This is one of two semis tonight, with the Finals happening later as well. These tournament matches can end with pinfall, submission, or being thrown over the top rope. Maika fights back with power moves and puts on a sleeper, Unagi makes the ropes. Unagi sure does scream a lot. Sayaka does a bunch of moves, kind of ignoring the leg stuff from earlier, and they seem a bit off with each other. Sayaka gets a frog splash for two, but Maika fires up with a lariat, then chokes Unagi out before hitting a Michinoku Driver for the pin. Rough patches here, but Maika came off as the bigger star for sure. (Maika over Unagi Sayaka, pinfall, 8:05) **1/4.
Himeka vs Saya Kamitani – Cinderella tournament semi-final match
The commentary is insanely helpful here, giving background on both competitors (Himeka calls herself the Jumbo Princess because she’s a Jumbo Tsuruta fan! I love shit like that) and in general walking fans like myself who aren’t as familiar through why they’re here. Just really good stuff.
They go a mile a minute to start here, running all over the ring, and Saya gets the early advantage. They work the mat and Himeka really sells the struggle as she makes the ropes off a full-nelson. I already like this match more than the other semi by a good bit. Cute spot where Himeka tosses Saya and Kamitani lands on the apron. Himka charges….but stops short as soon as Saya pulls the ropes down to avoid going over the top. Everyone in every Royal Rumble ever should watch that over and over again. They trade some nearfalls and Saya wipes her OUT with a bicycle kick off a charge. Saya’s selling is just great, as Himeka comes back with a sliding lariat and Saya damn near does a somersault on the mat bumping off it. Huge powerbomb by Himeka gets two. Rainmaker by Himeka, but Saya comes back with a bridging suplex for two. This is fucking great. These two are killing it in there. And just as I type that, Saya hits a Starcrusher for the pin. Jesus CHRIST, they just shoved everything they could into 8 minutes there. I would have watched double that. Just a really, really fun match. (Saya Kamitani over Himeka, pinfall, 8:51) ***1/2
3-Way Tag team shuffle match – Okay, so here’s the deal. This match involves three different tag teams that are, right before the match, shuffled at random. Basically a Battlebowl-type situation. So we’ve got Momo Watanabe (who is fucking awesome) and AZM, Giulia (who is also from the fucking awesome family) and Natsupoi, with Mina Shirakawa and Tam Nakano (who is Talbot’s favorite wrestler in the entire world, trust me, I would never lie to you just to amuse myself) bringing up the rear. They draw straws to see who the teams are, and we end up with the following match.
Giulia/Tam Nakano vs AZM/Natsupoi vs Momo Watanabe/Mina Shirakawa – 3-Way Shuffle match
Nakana and Giulia on a team is gonna be the focus here, I would think, since it was Nakano that ended Giulia’s run as champ AND caused her to get her head shaved. Joke was on everyone, because Giulia still is a great wrestler, great personality, and still somehow insanely hot with short hair. Man, sometimes God gives it out with both hands. AZM and Natsupoi also have some beef here as Natsupoi ended AZM’s high speed title reign.
Bit of wacky to start as Tam and Natsupoi tie up so Mina wants to Momo, her teammate, to do her pose and Momo finally gives in….only for Mina to run into her and send her to the floor. Lots of wacky tag spots here throughout. At one point, Natsupoi goes to superkick Giulia, but stops herself and Giulia’s facials are just insano-great. Natsupoi goes to dropkick Nakano, but ends up hitting Giulia with a senton as a result, so while she begs for mercy, Giulia kills her, because that’s what Giulia DOES. Tam and Giulia hit highspots simultaneously as the world continues to make absolutely zero sense in this match, but they end up coming to blows and get dropkicked down as a result. This is a total trainwreck match, but the weird partners are kind of making it work. Giulia just rules in this match, showcasing huge charisma and drawing your eye whenever she’s near the vicinity of a camera shot.
Mina gets beat up by everyone at the same time, then gets a big comeback and beats up everyone at the same time in a cute bit. Natsupoi and AZM do some crazy fast running sequences against the ropes and hit double kicks. Stacked superplex puts everyone down, and moments later AZM crucifixes Mina for the pin. I don’t know how good it was, but it sure wasn’t boring. (AZM/Natsupoi over Momo Watanabe/Mina Shirakawa & Tam Nakano/Giulia, pinfall, 12:58) ***
Tam and Giulia slap each other after the match, and AZM looks to make up with Natsupoi….but fakes her out with the handshake as Momo is her partner. Man, what a bitch. You won the match with her! Nakano calls Giulia a piece of shit and Giulia bids us arrivederci.
Oedo Tai (Natsuko Tora, Konami, Fukigen Death, Ruaka and Saki Kashima)vs STARS (Mayu Iwatani, Starlight Kid, Hanan, Koguma and Rin Kadokura) – ten person elimination tag match
Oedo Tai are the bad people, STARS are the good people. Sometimes, it really does pay to be that simple. So this feud has been going on for awhile and on the last big show I watched, Oedo Tai ‘won’ one of the STARS members (Gogiken Death, the clown) who has now gone all sad and emo clown on us, which is glorious. Now this one is the same deal – it’s a ten person elimination tag. Whoever gets eliminated last has to join the other stable. See, I think it’s a really cool stip in that it feels like a super-real consequence for the losing team.
Who I can tell you about? Well, Konami impressed the hell out of me at the last Stardom PPV I watched, going **** against Syuri, who’s in the main event tonight. Mayu Iwatani is arguably the ace of the company in many respects. Starlight Kid is an excellent worker, and Rin Kadokura is someone who may seem a slight bit familiar, as she wrestled in the AEW Women’s eliminator tournament in a pretty good match against Aja Kong.
As to the rest, again, I’m more than a bit new to this company in a lot of ways, so any help in the comments is very welcomed.
Eliminations here are pin, submission, DQ, countout, or over the top rope.
The babyfaces attack to start and let’s ring the bell. Oedo quickly isolates Mayu and beat the fuck out of her, and since Iwatani can sell like crazy, it’s a good stretch. Konami in and they drop in that she was trained by ‘the legendary Kana’, who us plebians probably know better as Asuka. Mayu gets to tag out and the faces run wild until Konami and Rin get after each other and talk about a match I would very much like to watch. They do a few good sequences and Saki comes in next to face Rin. More switches as the match stays fast and easy to watch.
Mayu gets the first elim with a dropkick-assisted by Rin crucifix bomb, taking out Ruaka. They do a crazy triple stack splash to Konami from the corner, with Mayu on the shoulders of Koguma and Kid on the shoulders of Mayu, and Koguma follows that with a bridging German for the pin on Konami. BOOO. Tai finally gets a triple-team and gets their first elimination, as Fukigen comes off the top with a senton to pin Hanan.
4-3 in favor of STARS. Rin and Fukigen both end up on the apron over the top rope, and Mayu dropkicks both of them to the floor, making it 3-2 for STARS. Koguma with a cutter and everyone teams up against Kashima, but Tora makes the save. Not long after, Saki evens things up by rolling Koguma up for the pin. Mayu with a tombstone on Kashima and she goes up, but misses a moonsault and Starlight Kid has to save it. She can’t save the second one and Kashima manages to roll her up again and hold her down for three, and now it’s Starlight Kid all alone against the two heels. Kid and Saki trade some rollups and a Fireman’s Carry Trap by Kid is enough to get a pin, so now we’re down to one on one.
Tora, who just gives me a hell of an evil ex-girlfriend from Scott Pilgrim vibe for some reason, goes for a lariat and gets caught in the same trap that pinned Saki, but Oedo Tai pulls the ref out and beat the shit out of Kid, who still gets the hero kickout after a top-rope frog splash from Tora. It’s not to be, however, as Tora makes Iwatani watch before hitting a Death Valley Driver for the pin on Starlight, who is now forced to join Oedo Tai.
This was nutso in spots and awkward in others, which is pretty typical of a lot of ten-person tags. I enjoyed a bunch of it but they did the usual ‘oh shit, we’ve only got so much time left!’ eliminations near the end of the match, and I remain unimpressed by the ‘pull the ref out with no consequence’ finish that permeates in some Japanese companies. Still, it was fun. (Oedo Tai over STARS, 17:56) ***
Post-match, Tora taunts Mayu, who is literally crying in the corner over losing Starlight to Oedo Tai. Mayu gets on the mic and APOLOGIZES THROUGH TEARS and promises to win her back. Damn, I’m all-in now. I want these Oedo Tai bitches to DIE. And now one of the biggest babyfaces in the company is forced to work for the forces of evil. That’s some good shit, pal.
Oedo Tai carries Starlight to the back.
Saya Kamitani vs Maika – Cinderella Tournament Final
Saya goes for the taped-up leg as we saw in the first match that Maika wrestled tonight. Pounds away and puts on a Mutalock for good measure. Kamitani keeps on it for the first part of the match, posting the leg and Maika doesn’t mount any offense for a good bit as a result. Backbreaker by Maika turns the tide, even though she can’t follow up for a few seconds because she does it on the injured leg. Maika’s selling is great. She lets the leg affect her movements and execution of moves as a result. She works the back of Saya, just smashing her in the corner and puts her in a Boston Crab, and case in point, is forced to go to a half-crab because the leg won’t hold after she drags Saya back to the center.
Saya goes back to the leg to regain the edge here, dropkicking it twice. We’ve got dueling stories here, as Saya sells the back and Maika sells the leg. Lariat by Maika gets two. Saya does an super-cool escape from a suplex and hits double knees to the injured leg and follows that with a shooting star press for two. Maika catches her on top and hits a superplex, which, why wouldn’t you just push her to the floor and win? Both women are down.
They slug it out back to their feet, and it’s a pretty good slugfest here. Saya briefly wins it, but Maika gets up and DROPS her with a big forearm. Sleeper by Maika and Saya barely, and I mean BARELY, manages to raise her foot to get it onto the bottom rope. Saya gets a bicycle kick but get dropped by a Maika lariat. Another try is reversed to a Spanish Fly by Saya for two. We’re into the endgame here as they’re throwing big moves at each other to try to keep the other down, and Saya hits a Starcrusher, but goes up…..PHOENIX SPLASH BY KAMITANI! Yeah, that’ll do it as Saya wins the Cinderella tournament!
This was really good stuff and I enjoyed it a lot, but I’ll leave my usual caveat – I don’t love working body parts that don’t figure into the finish at all, although I give full credit that the leg slowing down Maika was done really well in the overall body of the match. Minor quibble as I’ve become a Saya Kamitani fan over the course of this evening for sure. (Saya Kamitani over Maika, pinfall, 15:05) ***3/4.
And now, the match that motivated me to vomit all these words….
Syuri vs Utami Hayashishita (C) – World of Stardom Championship match
I mentioned earlier that I was a big ol’ fan of Konami from the last Stardom PPV I watched, and Syuri was the other woman in that match. She’s great and dedicated this match to her dead mother. Utami is someone I’ve actually written about before if you’ve read my Pro Wrestling EVE reviews, as she is a former EVE International champ (along with a bunch of Stardom title reigns to boot) and she dropped that title to Jamie Hayter in a ****+ match at WrestleQueendom 2. Utami is pretty awesome, one of the best of Stardom.
30 minute time limit on the match, and here we go. They feel each other out a bit to start and then go to the mat. Superb, tight work off the jump here. Syuri controls that as Utami tries to get it back to their feet. The grappling is wonderful to watch here. Back up and Utami runs her over with a shoulder, as Syuri probably doesn’t want to get into a power battle here. Seems as though she agrees, as she takes it back to the mat right away. Commentary is right on it, pointing out that Syuri is forcing Utami to carry her weight along and is trying to wear her down doing so, smartly not battling big moves and power wrestling.
Back up and they go nose to nose, locking eyes and selling the moment as they slug it out. Syuri loses the slugfest, so she bounces off the ropes and tackles Utami to the floor, then hits a PK and a ‘rana off the apron. Syuri goes for a kick, but Utami catches that and slams her knee into the apron to get some space. Both women back in and Syuri is trying to shake off the knee, so Utami goes to work on the leg. And work it she does, putting Syuri in a kneebar after stomping away.
Syuri manages to get the match back to the mat where, again, she’s able to regain control and force Utami to make the ropes to escape a cross-armbreaker. Syuri fires away with kicks )really good ones, too) with the good leg while continuing to shake out the bad leg as she goes. She hits Utami with a running knee to the corner and goes for another pin, getting two. She’s been taking every cover she can to force Utami to kick out and expend energy, going back to her early matwork trying to tire Utami out.
Utami comes back and hits a dropkick off the middle rope and we’re fifteen minutes in. Feels like it’s been five. Syuri comes back with more kicks that would make Kota Ibushi wince, including a giant roundhouse to the head that drops Utami like a sack of potatoes. Another kick and Utami rolls to the floor, absolutely wiped out. Syuri tosses her back in and Utami’s vacant, glass-eyed stare is INCREDIBLE. I’m totally buying what she’s selling, to say the least.
Utami finally buys some time with a German suplex into the buckles as it’s now Syuri’s turn to sell like she’s dead. Utami tries a top-rope Air Raid Crash, but Syuri cuts that off with a Fireman’s Carry into double knees, causing Utami to go to the floor again. Syuri sets up for another Penalty Kick on the apron, but Utami ducks it and Syuri goes FLYING to the floor, taking an insane, back first bump to the floor that made me wince.
Air Raid Crash on the apron by Utami, because sure, why not, these women are both fucking crazy. Syuri returns the favor and DDTs Utami on the mat soon after. Both women try to get back in, but Utami stops Syuri and hits her with a WHEELBARROW SUPLEX TO THE APRON, with Syuri’s head bouncing off the damn thing. She manages to make it back in at 19, where Utami promptly hits her with a missile dropkick…..for TWO.
Five minutes left now and Utami starts throwing everything at Syuri to finish, but Syuri reverses into a DDT and fires knees at Utami before rolling into the cross-armbreaker, Utami makes the ropes. Sleeper by Utami as they’re trading things back and forth as the time gets closer and closer to expiring and it’s exciting as hell. Utami puts her on top and hits a German from there. Sure. Syuri fires up and they have a slapfight in the middle of the ring that Minoru Suzuki would approve of.
Syuri wins that but comes off the ropes and runs right into a huge slap from Utami, who hits a suplex and an Air Raid Crash. Of course, that only gets two because no one here is human at all and it’s just awesome. Jumping knee by Syuri with ten seconds left and she fires forearms, but the bell rings for the draw.
But that won’t do, as both women want to keep going, so we’re going to overtime!
The bell rings and they tear into each other with forearms and there’s this great camera shot as Utami is just wailing away and her facial expressions are PHENOMENAL. DDT by Syuri puts Utami down for two. Cross-armbreaker by Syuri rolls into a Fujiwara, but Utami escapes and puts her in a choke. Syuri breaks with a stunner and it’s back to the kicks. They both fight it out with slaps and kicks, and Syuri hits a Codebreaker….but Utami falls on top of her and almost ends up with the pin, as Syuri barely kicks out after two.
Syuri with a Stretch Muffler, and Utami somehow reaches out her free leg to make the ropes. Straightjacket powerbomb gets two for Syuri. The agony on the face of both women as they continue to fight is unreal. Syuri with KUSHIDA’s Hoverboard Lock now, taking Utami off the top rope and holding it on, but Utami again makes the ropes and the ref has to yank Syuri off Utami. Utami with a German suplex and a Torture Rack Bomb, 1, 2, NO!!
BT Bomb attempt from Utami, but Syuri escapes that into another armbar, then a double before Utami makes the ropes AGAIN. Running knee by Syuri gets two. Driver by Syuri drops Utami on her HEAD, 1, 2, NO! Good LORD. Utami fights back with a powerbomb and she’s up. BT Bomb hits for Utami, 1, 2, Syuri reaches out and grabs the bottom rope to stay alive. Then we get an absolutely amazing sequence as they alternately fire up and fire shots at each other, with Utami hitting a big lariat and Syuri using every last bit of energy that she has to hit a roundhouse kick to put Utami down before collapsing.
The count begins and no one moves. It’s a fitting end as neither woman claims victory on this night, with both wrestlers getting counted down for ten in what will end up being one of the best matches of the year without question.
I can’t praise this match enough. The pacing. The selling. The story as each woman threw every bomb they could at each other but neither could truly claim victory on this night, using real strategies to try to win and shifting them as the match deemed it necessary. Utami lying on the mat as her belt was draped across her stomach as Syuri wept in the corner, knowing that she didn’t get beaten, but she didn’t have enough to win on this night. She’s so overcome, she slaps the champion before falling to the mat in tears again and rolling to the outside, screaming and devastated that she didn’t win for her mother.
This draw was a loss to her and she sold that moment. Utami sold as a champion who was taken to the absolute limit, one who survived a defense but didn’t win her match. This was an epic of proportions that rivaled a beaten and broken Jay White reaching for a belt he didn’t win after 50 minutes at Wrestle Kingdom, and has joined it amongst my top matches of the year. I don’t break the scale, but I do go the full monty when warranted, and by God, it’s warranted here. (Draw, 43:20) *****.
Utami gets the mic after the match, but is interrupted by Tora from Oedo Tai, who is holding Starlight Kid’s mask aloft. She’s there to challenge for the title, and Utami accepts.
Saya Kamitani comes out to close the show with her ceremony after winning the Cinderella tournament, and for her one wish, she calls out Tam Nakano and challenges her for the Wonder of Stardom title. And that’ll do it.
FINAL THOUGHTS: This ruled the earth and came back for seconds. A legit MOTYC in the main event with multiple good matches littering the undercard, if you want to spend 920 Yen, I’m willing to all but guarantee that it will be better than a lot of what you’ll see in North America. I loved it. One would assume that Utami is next for WWE to make a run at, as she’s a phenomenal worker with a great look, so we might as well enjoy her while we can in Stardom.
Alright. Now then, if you enjoyed this, comment and tell me and I may do a bit more Stardom work. I plan to try out something else for a bit here starting in about July, but if folks want some good women’s wrestling content, I’m more than willing to watch it.
And don’t forget to read Jabroniville’s Joshi Spotlight! It’s the best thing going here at the BoD!
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
@MrSoze on Twitter
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