wrestling / Video Reviews

Jack’s Pro Wrestling Adventures: Stardom of Champions

May 17, 2017 | Posted by Jack Stevenson
6.5
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Jack’s Pro Wrestling Adventures: Stardom of Champions  

Stardom is the most prominent, serious women’s wrestling promotion in the world. It is (or was, since at time of writing her signing with WWE had just been announced) the home of Io Shirai, one of the finest pro wrestlers on the planet, as well as the likes of Kairi Hojo and Mayu Iwatani who have made appearances for Lucha Underground. Stardom of Champions was a six match card in February with four titles on the line, ranging from the SWA Women’s Championship, a belt defended in no less than five different promotions across the world, to the World of Stardom Championship, the most prestigious in the company. Shirai defended it in the main event against Shayna Baszler in a match that got a lot of hype. Let us check it all out!

1- Arisu Nanase & Hiromi Mimura vs. Christi Jaynes & Zoe Lucas vs. Kaori Yoneyama & Natsuki Toro vs. Queen’s Quest (AZM & HZK)
I know this is horribly patronising but the little pre match promos everybody does are all completely adorable. Kaori Yoneyama and Natsuki Tora promised to use a Senton at some point during the match, and finished by exclaiming “win and be happy!” Arisu Nanase and Hiromi Mimura admitted that a four way tag match would be a bit hard, but decided that they would still win anyway.

This worked fine as an opener. Clearly not everyone in the match is fully developed as a wrestler and so there were a fair few moments of awkwardness and people not being on the same page, but there were enough moving parts and things happening in the match that I didn’t really mind. I’d rather have something going on, even if that something wasn’t always perfectly executed. You could be eliminated from this match by pinfall, submission, or being thrown over the top rope, and Queen’s Quest secured the victory by simultaneously dropkicking Yoneyama and Toro out to the floor at 9:28. ** 1/2.

2- Konami vs. Yoko Bito
This was pretty decent. Both women spent much of the match trying to kick the heck out of each other. For a while, Konami was doing a better job of this, but her stint in control of the match had this really nice, competitive feel to it, where it always felt like Bito was actively shooting for a comeback rather than just letting Konami run through her moves. The finishing stretch became a bit of a slugfest, and ended with Yoko putting Konami away with the Jig ‘n’ Tonic at 7:18. For a sub ten minute undercard bout, I felt this was everything you could have wanted it to be. It was restrained and won’t overshadow the rest of the show, but made the most of the time and space it had. ***.

3- SWA Women’s Championship- Toni Storm vs. Deonna Purrazzo
I can’t say I was too impressed with Deonna Purrazzo here. She appeared to wrestle almost everywhere in 2016, and managed to make appearances for WWE, TNA and Ring of Honor, but nonetheless she still looked underdeveloped in this match, especially in comparison to Toni Storm. Her moveset largely consisted of indifferent striking, and while that was enough for her to appear competent, it didn’t make me want to see her wrestle again. Storm in contrast had a nice range of offense, but did whiff badly on a suicide dive, catching her leg on the middle rope and flopping helplessly to the floor. She recovered to pick up the win with a piledriver at 8:09. * 1/2.

4- High Speed Championship- Mayu Iwatani vs. Kagetsu vs. Kris Wolf
Enjoyed this. Total breeze it was. It told a familiar story, with Oedo Tai stable mates Wolf and Kagetsu turning the bout into a handicap match against Iwatani, before their partnership disintegrated as both came close to victory. Most of the match was wrestled at a quick pace and that was definitely a good thing, despite the occasional sloppy moment and an odd extended spot where Wolf twice attempted to snap a streamer into Iwatani’s face from halfway back across Korakuen Hall. I’ve seen it done by the Jimmyz in Dragon Gate as well and I never quite understand what’s meant to be going on. I’m going to get to see Wolf live this week at Fight Club and after this I’m quite excited. She doesn’t look the most polished performer but she has this oddball charisma and sort of nervous energy about her that makes her really likeable. And what’s more, she managed to win the High Speed Championship here, catching both women simultaneously in a funky bridging pinning combination at 10:01! *** 1/4.

5- Wonder of Stardom Championship- Kairi Hojo vs. Jungle Kyona
I think I respected this match more than I liked it. It started off like it was going to be your traditional David vs. Goliath encounter, with Kyona just bullying Hojo all around the ring. I would have been fine with that because David vs. Goliath is one of my favourite match structures, but Hojo made her comeback unexpectedly early in the bout and from there it became a full on slugfest, and then mutated into something different again at the end with Hojo perpetually on the brink of victory but unable to quite put Kyona away no matter what she tried. All these different stories could have made the match feel disjointed, but they connected together very smoothly in the end, and that final stretch with Hojo just unloading everything she could think of on Kyona felt a properly dramatic crescendo. My main issue with all of this was that it all happened at a kind of monotonous pace. If a bout begins at breakneck speed and keeps it up the whole match I can get behind that, I enjoy being blitzed into a contented submission by a full throttle totally insane ten man tag, but this match was slower. Not painfully slow or anything, but slow to the point where I was sort of hoping it would move up through the gears at some point. That never really happened, and it made the bout feel longer than it was and was the main black mark against the action. It wasn’t a sufficiently gleeful viewing experience for me to go really high with the star ratings, but I liked a lot of what Hojo and Kyona were doing here and I have definitely seen more irritating epic style Japanese title defences. Hojo eventually kept Kyona down with a flying elbow drop at 17:51. *** 1/4.

6- World of Stardom Championship- Io Shirai vs. Shayna Baszler
This was a heck of a match which has received well deserved adoration in some quarters. I wouldn’t say it’s a serious match of the year contender for me, but that speaks more to my tastes in wrestling than anything. The storyline for this was simple, logical and accessible- Baszler dominated the early goings with her MMA inspired offense, totally overwhelming Shirai, the undisputed best wrestler in Stardom. Shirai had to figure out a way to adapt, which is something she’s consistently brilliant at, and she was able to disorient Baszler with a couple of high flying moves and then beat the heck out of her on the floor, almost earning a count-out win. This made perfect sense as a strategy, since mad aerials and chair shots are not things that Shayna would have encountered much in her MMA career. From there, we got a finishing stretch that swung back and forth with both getting some exciting near falls. Shirai may actually be the best high flyer in the world, in the sense that every time she hits an aerial move, it looks completely fucking deadly. Even the best high flyers are prone to their offense looking more gymnastics than pro wrestling, which honestly I barely even mind, but I still definitely appreciate Io’s ability to make every dive look like it’s done with murderous intent. The main drag on the match for me is that, as strong as the finishing stretch was, it didn’t come close to reaching the levels of action and drama that my favourite bouts of the year have done, that point where you feel like the match has completely shattered some kind of nebulous glass barrier and reached a transcendent new level. That’s what the frenzy of a Dragon Gate tag feels like to me, or the utter recklessness of a Hiromu Takahashi singles, and by comparison this felt a little restrained, to the point where, a bit like the last one, it’s a match I admire more than I love. It’s a terrific achievement with some great individual moments that didn’t quite reach an entirely satisfying crescendo for me, but like I say others have adored it and I can understand why and wouldn’t argue against them. Shirai pinned Baszler with a typically violent Moonsault press at 16:45. *** 3/4.

6.5
The final score: review Average
The 411
A decent show all round, culminating in a really worthwhile main event which I liked a lot and you might like even more. The neat thing about Stardom World, Stardom's online streaming service, is that all the shows are divided into individual matches, which is a moderate pain when you want to watch everything in one go but is terrific for picking and choosing. Shirai vs. Baszler and Hojo vs. Kyona are the most interesting matches on the card, but if you take in the whole thing you'll get an entirely watchable little card of wrestling.
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