Stardom was the talk of wrestling fandom early last month after the fantastic Utami Hayashishita vs. Syuri match for the World of Stardom Championship became the Wrestling Observer Newsletter‘s highest-rated women’s match in over two decades. The company looks to follow up with its Yokohama Cinderella show. Hayashishita is still in the main event, but this time, her challenger is Oedo Tai leader Natsuko Tora. Here’s all you need to know heading in.
Main event: Utami Hayashishita (c) vs. Natsuko Tora for the World of Stardom Championship
For the uninitiated, Hayashishita is essentially Stardom’s version of NJPW’s Kazuchika Okada. She’s a preternaturally gifted wrestler with great athleticism and power, but what sets her apart is her incredible talent for timing and knowing exactly what to do and when to make a match more exciting. Hayashishita’s timing was a big part of what made her match Syuri match so remarkable. Tora, meanwhile, could be compared to someone like New Japan’s EVIL, an unabashed heel whose stable interferes on her behalf and who isn’t afraid to choke her opponents with a chain.
It can be argued that every single one of Hayashishita’s title defenses has been the best match of her opponent’s career. Maika, Saya Kamitani, Bea Priestley, and Syuri may never have been better than when they got into the ring with Hayashishita. Tora is Hayashishita’s biggest test yet. She’s a talented wrestler with good athleticism and power, but Stardom’s match booking has hurt her. Tora’s match with Giulia earlier in the year was one of the worst major title matches in company history.
With all that said, this feels like a it will be a “filler defense” for Hayashishita; it’s difficult to see her losing the championship until after at least this year’s 5*Star Grand Prix. The real question, though, is how good the match will be. Hayashishita’s had a flawless reign as champion, and despite how Tora’s been booked, I see no reason to doubt Hayashishita to successfully retain at Yokohama Cinderella.
Prediction: Utami Hayashishita
Semi-main event: Tam Nakano (c) vs. Saya Kamitani for the Wonder of Stardom Championship
Kamitani earned this shot after winning Stardom’s prestigious Cinderella Tournament, outlasting pretty much every other member of the roster to win the cup. Traditionally, the Cinderella winner challenges for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.
Nakano has had a great championship run with the white belt over the last four months. She won it in much-talked about hair vs. hair main event against Giulia at Nippon Budokan but has only defended the title once against Natsupoi since then.
This could go either way. Nakano is an inspired storyteller and has as reliable an in-ring presence as anyone else on the roster. Kamitani, meanwhile, is a limitless ball of manic energy who flies all over the place. The company clearly loves Kamitani, and it would not be surprising to see her beat Nakano here. Ultimately, I feel that one defense isn’t enough for a champion as great as Nakano, so I’ll take the champ retaining here.
Prediction: Tam Nakano
Giulia & Syuri (c) vs. Mayu Iwatani & Koguma for the Goddesses of Stardom Championships: This has a chance to steal the show. With no particular match standing out on the card, the ultra-consistent Giulia/Syuri team up against Iwatani is a smart choice. Iwatani and the recently-returned Koguma will not win the titles, but the match should be excellent if given time.
Mina Shirakawa vs. Unagi Sayaka for the vacant Future of Stardom Championship: The Cosmic Angels explode~! These two meet in the finals of a tournament to crown a new Future of Stardom champion, as Saya Iida had to vacate after an injury. Both are relatively inexperienced, and there are arguments for either one winning. This one’s a toss-up.
Momo Watanabe & AZM vs. Starlight Kid & Ruaka: Starlight Kid is slowly becoming “Dark Kid,” who we’ll see in an upcoming singles match against AZM.
Gauntlet match: Maika & Lady C vs. Hanan & Hina vs. Saki Kashima & Rina vs. Konami & Fukigen Death This one’s probably going to be more of an entertainment-style match with less focus on in-ring action as it features a few wacky teams and lots of prelim wrestlers.
Listen to Parker Klyn and Scott Edwards on their debut episode of the Five Star Joshi Show on the Fight Game Media Network