Stardom’s 7th Anniversary Review (1/21/18): Important Loser Leaves Unit Gauntlet & Return of Mayu Iwatani

Photo: STARDOM

Stardom’s 7th Anniversary (1/21/2018)

After a bit of time off from Stardom I’m all caught up again. This is a very major show for pushing the direction of the company moving forward. One of the two biggest picks for future stars will be forced to leave their unit if they lose in the main event stable vs. stable gauntlet match. Ether Queen’s Quest’s Momo Watanabe or Oedo Tai’s returning Tam Nakano will be left out in the cold alone.  This show is also the return of what was meant to be the freshly crowned Ace of Stardom Mayu Iwatani from injury.

Pre Show Concert

Stardom continues the long, and often weird connection with joshi wrestling companies putting out music albums. Really nothing to search out here but they can be a fun diversion. No major hits the Crush Gals would have been proud of. I haven’t looked to deep into it, but Tam Nakano does have a background in Japanese Idol music, and it really does show.

Starlight Kid, Shiki Shibusawa, & Hanan defeated Hiromi Mimura, Konami, & Ruaka (7:21)

All of the rookies have been showing improvement. Mimura really has been clicking much more that she was earlier in her career. Starlight and Konami are always great, and my picks for big time future stars.

Verdict: I was quite surprised with how much I liked this match. I was just expecting a slightly above average rookie opener thanks to Starlight and Konami bringing things up, but everyone held their own weight more than expected.  Having Starlight and Konami as the worker anchors of each team really helped it out. Now if I’m running a company I would not be putting Konami in nothing openers even if she is a 21 year old freelancer.

Team Jungle (Kaori Yoneyama, Jungle Kyona, & Natsuko Tora) defeated World Selection (Nicole Savoy, Xia Brookside, & Miranda) (6:50 minutes)

To be honest I haven’t been very impressed with my first few experiences with Nicole Savoy. I have a feeling that this has been more of being a victim of hype than anything.  Xia is on her second tour and is a promising rookie. Miranda hasn’t really shown anything, but I don’t think she has that much experience.

Verdict: A bit of a letdown after the opener, but I am starting to see why people have hyped up Savoy. She hasn’t quite sold me yet, but I am starting to get it, and I haven’t seen her in a singles match. Not the best Team Jungle match I have seen. Having Hiroyo Matsumoto ringside actually took this down, because she really would have brought this up for me. (I say this as someone wearing a Matsumoto shirt while writing this.)

High Speed Title Match

Mary Apache defeated Kay Lee Ray (12:49)

I had some higher hopes for this match. Apache has been High Speed champion for some time now, and when motivated can be quite good. Her last defense against Starlight Kid was really good. Kay Lee Ray rarely has a match that doesn’t deliver in some way.

Verdict: Never made it to where it needed. Apache wasn’t her motivated self. Kay Lee Ray was good, but wasn’t enough to save it. This was really disappointing, because they are an interesting mix of styles that could work well together.

Mayu Iwatani’s Return Match

Mayu Iwatani defeated Rachael Ellering (11:15)

Mayu’s injury happened at the worst possible time as she was just about to take her place as the Ace of Stardom. After finally stepping out of Io Shirai’s shadow Iwatani finally captured the Wonder of Stardom Title, and for the First time the World of Stardom.  Iwatani was the first to hold both of Stardom’s top two titles. She lost the secondary Wonder of Stardom title to Yoko Bito. Then the next day in the first two minutes of her World of Stardom defense with Toni Storm she suffered a complete elbow dislocation from an unlucky landing on a dropkick she has done hundreds of times. This left Stardom without their newly crowded Ace for 4 months, pushed Shirai back into the position, and now with an unplanned champion on a limited schedule. Ellering on her first tour is coming off a failed challenge for Shirai’s Wonder of Stardom title.

Verdict: This match put the biggest smile on my face. Mayu felt very pensive at the start of the match, and Ellering took advantage of that focusing on the recently injured elbow. Once Mayu caught Ellering with the seated dropkick into the bottom rope that took her out everything changed, and we had the old Mayu Iwatani back. A much better match from Ellering than her previous match with Io Shirai. Mayu had a bit of ring rust, but it doesn’t look like that will last long.

Loser Leaves Unit 5 vs. 5 Gauntlet Match

Queen’s Quest (AZM, Io Shirai, Viper, HZK, & Momo Watanabe) defeated Oedo Tai (Kris Wolf, Sumire Natsu, Kagetsu, Hana Kimura, & Tam Nakano) (39:51)

Oedo Tai and Queen’s Quest has been the focus of Stardom since Mayu was injuried, and plans needed to be reshuffled. Earlier in the month Kagetsu challenged Queen’s Quest to this gauntlet match where the final loser was forced to leave their stable. Oedo Tai felt like this was the perfect away to shake up Queen’s Quest. Tam has been out since the 5 Star Grand Prix working as Oedo Tai’s ringside manager, and this is her return to in ring competition.

Match Rules

A series of singles matches where the winner moves on to the next match until eliminated. Eliminations can be by pinfall, submission, over the top rope, or 10 minute time limit draw. Entrance order has been randomly chosen before the match. The final person eliminated will be forced to leave their stable.

AZM eliminated Kris Wolf (0:08)

Kris hits a knee strike, but AZM rolls up Kris with a flash pin. Kris has been off recent show, and I believe is currently nursing an injury.

Sumire Natsu eliminated AZM (4:58)

Not a bad early fall. Not a whole lot going on in this one yet. AZM almost gets a top rope elimination, but can’t get Sumire off the apron.

Io Shirai eliminated Sumire Natsu (8:59)

Sumire wants nothing to do with being in the ring with Io. She does everything she can to ether waste time for a time limit draw elimination or sneaking out a win over what is Queen’s Quests best threat.

Kagetsu eliminated Io Shirai (14:40)

This is where things start to really heat up. Kagetsu manages to get Shirai over the top rope. As Shirai is about to springboard back in she gets misted in the face and takes a chokeslam out to the floor.

Kagetsu & Viper eliminated – Time Limit Draw (24:40)

Things are still heating up. As a Kagetsu and Viper one on one match this doesn’t hold up, but really made me want that match. Viper had Kagetsu eliminated over the top rope, but Oedo caught Kagetsu before touching the floor. Viper also had Kagetsu pinned, but Sumire interfered pulling Kagetsu from ringside. Like the previous matchups this was designed not to burn the crowd out to early.

Hana Kimura & HZK eliminated – Double Top Rope Elimination (31:56)

Alright things have officially heated up. HZK and Hana have the first match with some real fire. The double elimination is one of the craziest moves I have seen in a while. Both are fighting out on the apron and HZK does a sunset flip powerbomb from the second rope, off the apron sending both of them out to the floor.

Momo Watanabe eliminated Tam Nakano (39:51)

This part of the match was just overwhelmingly tense. Really felt like they were fighting for everything they have in life more than a wrestling match.

Post Match

Now that Tam is officially kicked out of Oedo Tai on the night of her return from injury a lot of things are now up in the air. Kagetsu apologies that she originally asked for these rules, and that none of this is Tam’s fault. Momo challenges Io for her Wonder of Stardom belt. Io somewhat disingenuously offers Tam a spot in Queen’s Quest. Before Tam can respond Mayu offers her to join with Stardom’s home army. After a while Mayu more or less abducts Tam to allow her time to make her own decision.

Verdict: As one on one matches a lot of them aren’t very special, but as a whole this was incredible. Everything was built to put over Momo and Tam big. HZK and Hana were also given a lot of the focus to shine with everyone else mostly being used to set the stage. Hana took a very hard bump onto the floor knocking the wind out of her hard, but I believe she is okay now, didn’t take any time off. In some ways this match might be the most important match Stardom puts on all year. This sets up the direction for everything moving forward. If you are going to watch this make sure you’re not expecting some light viewing, because this was one of the heaviest moments I have watched in a while.

Final Thoughts

This show was very much focused on Iwatani’s return, and the Queen’s Quest vs. Oedo Tai gauntlet match.  The opening match was a lot of fun, but in the end it was just a rookie opener. What this show did was successfully rekindle what was a fading interest in Stardom. With Mayu and Tam making their returns, and stables getting a bit of a shake up the only major thing Stardom needs to do is to get their World title back on track when Toni Storm returns. Match of the night has to be the gauntlet, more specifically Tam and Momo. Really seems like the rough patch for Stardom is over with new things coming.

 

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You can follow me on Twitter @DK1105 where you can read my ramblings about various promotions from Japanese wrestling.