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Pantoja’s STARDOM Korakuen Tournament Review 11.28.23

December 1, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
STARDOM Korakuen Tournament Image Credit: STARDOM
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Pantoja’s STARDOM Korakuen Tournament Review 11.28.23  

STARDOM Korakuen Tournament

November 28th, 2023 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,117 

STARDOM is in turmoil, with Tam Nakano having to vacate the World of Stardom Title due to injury. Natsupoi also had to vacate the Goddesses of Stardom Titles due to injury and the company has announced a reduced 2024 schedule to help with how many people have gotten hurt. With no Tam, the main event of Dream Queendom and the immediate future is up in the air. However, we do have two major returns to look forward to here.

Enter this important show. Suzu Suzuki will be in the match to determine the next top champion by way of her Grand Prix win. A one-night mini tournament takes place here to determine her opponent, making for a must-see event. Maybe that’s why it got uploaded in just one day to the streaming service.

Rina vs. Yuzuki

Yuzuki is a new rookie and this is, I believe her third match or something like that. Meanwhile, Rina is the Future of Stardom Champion and still just a teenager. Yuzuki looked good for this being so early into her career. The stuff she did never felt awkward or like she was out of place. I’ve heard high praise for her already and I can see why. She did a springboard move that looked pretty cool and was a unique spin on the kind of spot we see often in wrestling. Rina remained her usual solid self. She’s got the basics down and you can tell she’s part of Oedo Tai with her trash talk and aggressive nature. They were given a good amount of time and Rina won with double knees off the top in 9:25. Rina needs a better finisher or to at least make those knees look better. She on Becky Lynch’s level of getting no air on a top rope move. [**½]

Fukigen Death vs. Hina

I think I say it every time she wrestles but I don’t get Fukigen Death. This was another one of her matches, with nothing of real note being different. The usual antics like stealing Hina’s nose and things like that were what filled this match. She won with an O’Connor Roll in a totally forgettable but inoffensive 4:06. Moving on. [*½]

HANAKO vs. Miyu Amasaki vs. Saori Anou

Obviously, Saori is above her opponents on the card but this should still be fun. HANAKO has size that helps her stand out and Miyu might botch a fair bit but there’s a lot of potential there. I liked Miyu and Saori working together to stomp on HANAKO’s feet only to get trapped in a double Boston Crab. Somewhere, Natalya is furious at her double submission spot getting stolen. Saori didn’t dominate this as much as you might expect. In fact, she was knocked outside at a few points, allowing the younger ladies to strut their stuff for a bit with a surprisingly good strike exchange. Miyu survived a pretty Fisherman Suplex only to fall to a less impressive looking rana from Saori in 7:24. A decent little match here with the young girls doing good work and Saori stepping in for some highlights. [**½]

Hanan, Hazuki and Saya Iida vs. Natsuko Tora, Ruaka and Starlight Kid

Stars vs. Oedo Tai. Basically the most likable babyfaces against the most heel faction. That dynamic is exactly why this match worked. It’s a simple formula but getting to see the faces work together as a fun unit followed by the heels doing heelish things followed by the babyface comeback is tried and true. I really liked the Hanan/Starlight Kid interactions and would like a singles match between them down the line. I feel like Hanan has come a long way in 2023 and is someone to watch entering 2024. Ruaka and SLK showed off a nice fisherman suplex combo that I don’t think I’ve seen before. Meanwhile, Tora hit a Kevin Owens level cannonball attack. This fun sprint came to an end when Tora planted Iida with a Death Valley Driver at the 7:49 mark. Just an enjoyable multi-person tag with some good exchanges and a lot of energy. [***]

World of Stardom Tournament Semifinals: Mina Shirakawa vs. Momo Watanabe

I’m very intrigued by where they go with this mini tournament. Here, you could put in the villainous Momo who was on the cusp from what I heard a while back but didn’t have a huge 2023 or you could go with Mina, who had a career 2023 after a stellar 2022. This worked for the same reasons the last match did. Momo is a dastardly villain and Mina is a beloved babyface. Mina fighting from beneath and overcoming the odds is an easy, sensible story to tell. I will say that I don’t like Oedo Tai throwing Mina around the arena into chairs because the referee should be able to hear that. He can’t see with the distraction but he’s not deaf. Other than that, these two had a damn good hard hitting match with intriguing back and forth throughout. Mina’s offense had a lot of fire, while Momo kept this vicious. Momo secured the win by hitting Peach Sunrise, rolling over, and adding a second in 9:56. One hell of a sprint, though I could’ve done with a little less from Oedo Tai and a couple of spots (like Mina’s dive) not looking contrived. Still, the hot crowd added a lot. [***½]

World of Stardom Tournament Semifinals: Ami Sourei vs. Maika

Unlike the last match, this one had an obvious outcome because even though Ami keeps getting pushed, she’s not on the level of the other three. I’ve also been very critical of her, especially after the Grand Prix. That said, she looked the best I’ve ever seen her here, attacking Maika before the bell and laying in her strikes. It set the tone for something hard hitting, which was perfect because that’s exactly the kind of match Maika shines in. They kept up a great pace here, with both just throwing everything they had at each other for 10 or so minutes. Seeing Ami just pop up after taking a big shoulder block from Maika is the kind of energy I need from her more often. Ami hit Maika with her best shots, including getting a near fall on a Blue Thunder Bomb. Alas, as has been the case for most of 2023, Maika proved to be too much for her opponent, nailing a big lariat and the Michinoku Driver to advance in 9:26. That was the best singles match I’ve ever seen Ami Sourei have and if she can bring this level of performance consistently, I’d be much higher on her. Maika was her usual self and I mean that in the best way. [***½]

Scandinavian Hurricane vs. Thekla

Hurricane is also known as Aliss Ink. For the most part though, this is here to likely give Thekla a win heading into her upcoming High Speed Title match. In fact, she had an interaction with champion Mei Seira before the bell. From what I’ve seen, Hurricane brings some shoot fighting action to her matches and Thekla did a good job of combating that. She also did the important thing of injecting charisma into the matter. Sometimes matches based in this kind of fight lack personality but Thekla knew how to fix that with a lot of her antics, facial expressions, and things like that. I appreciated that when Thekla was overwhelmed or outmatched, she really showed it to make Hurricane look good. At one point, she took a breather outside and ate a dive for her troubles. That set up the finish as they fought outside and Thekla held Hurricane in a guillotine to give us a double countout after 8:19. I forgot that Hurricane has a PPV match coming up so I get the idea of protecting both. I dug this and I always want more Thekla in my life. [***]

Giulia and Mai Sakurai vs. MIRAI and Syuri

I’m guessing injuries play a part but it’s unfortunate that there’s no clear direction for the Wonder of Stardom Title going into Dream Queendom. Mai did her best SANADA early on, trapping MIRAI in the Paradise Lock and embarrassing her with it. I appreciated MIRAI doing it back only for Mai to easily escape. Of course I loved getting Giulia and Syuri going at it given they had a legit ***** match last year. They did some stuff that was a little goofier than expected but it still worked. The crowd was totally into everything, especially the Giulia/Syuri stuff. They kept the focus on MIRAI/Mai though, and that played into the finish. Syuri held Giulia at bay in the crowd while the Wonder of Stardom Champion put down Mai with a lariat in 9:01. A high quality undercard tag with some big names involved. [***¼]

AZM, Saya Kamitani and Utami Hayashishita vs. Megan Bayne, Mei Seira and Suzu Suzuki

It’s the big return of AphroditE as Utami and Saya have both been on the shelf since the Grand Prix. They haven’t shared a ring since the excellent cage match where their stable won and remained intact. Opening with Suzu vs. Saya was a great call. The woman who won the Grand Prix against the person many believed was set to win before her injury. I loved that when Saya attempted to tag out because her back and forth with Suzu was done, Suzu just jumped her from behind. That set Saya up as the face in peril for a while, which was perfect against Bayne. When Utami got the tag and cleaned house for a bit, she ran into trouble with Bayne, who she couldn’t knock over. We got some fantastic tandem work from Crazy Star. I know Suzu and Mei have singles stuff going on but they’re a pretty great tag team too. If people thought Saya was going to take it easy now that she’s back from injury, they were wrong. She was flying all over the place and hit a springboard dive to the outside in a big moment. The ridiculously talented Queen’s Quest trio started in with tandem offense from there and looked great. Saya applied a submission that looked particularly brutal on Suzu but it was broken up. The Saya/Suzu battle down the stretch was great and just when Saya was really getting her offense going, the bell rang for the time limit draw at the 15:00 mark. Just fantastic pro wrestling here. Utami and Saya haven’t missed a step, everyone played their parts perfectly, and it was exactly the kind of match I wanted. Just great stuff. Even after the match, they kept teasing Suzu/Saya.  [****]

World of Stardom Tournament Finals: Maika vs. Momo Watanabe

These two met in the Cinderella Tournament (***) and the Grand Prix (***¾) but the stakes have never been higher than right here. This had a lot of the stuff you’d expect from these two. Momo was sure to bring the typical villain stuff like fighting outside, talking trash, and taking cheap shots. Maika was her hard hitting self though she had to fight from beneath given all of Momo’s antics and that’s not a spot I usually see her in. She comes across as rather dominant or as someone you see in evenly matched, stiff bouts. I did like how Momo didn’t get help from Oedo Tai outside of one failed attempt. It felt like she knew how important it was to not only win but to show she didn’t need her buddies. She could beat Maika on her own. Momo also got a boost from her scouting, managing to counter the Michinoku Driver on several occasions, avoiding Maika’s best shot. In the end though, Maika managed to hit it, winning in 14:33. That was a great big fight in front of a molten crowd, capped by a tremendous closing stretch. I do think it lacked some drama because I never believed Momo was going to win but it was still great. [****]

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
That’s more I like it. Outside of a couple of early matches, this felt like the STARDOM I’ve come to love in 2023. The tournament was very good, the return of Saya and Utami went over very well, and basically everything delivered.

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STARDOM, Kevin Pantoja