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STARDOM Spotlights IWGP & NJPW Strong Women’s Titles in Busy Weekend

4 months ago Masahiro Kubota | Monthly Puroresu | 2.18.24

Masahiro Kubota | Monthly Puroresu | 2.18.24

STARDOM Spotlights IWGP & NJPW Strong Women’s Titles in Busy Weekend

By: Thom Fain & James Carlin

This past weekend ahead of a pair of integrated STARDOMxNJPW shows, champions with respective titles on the line Mayu Iwatani and Giulia each fought in singles and tag-team competition. Although they don’t share in New Japan’s branding of The New Beginning, Stardom might as well – it was the promotion’s first weekend back in Tokyo following the departure of founder and former executive producer Rossy Ogawa.

We have requested comment from Mr. Taro Okada, the new President and booker of STARDOM, and will have more to follow in the coming weeks.

But on Saturday, a brutal no-DQ match at Korakuen Hall cost international superstar Giulia some of her hair – but it didn’t cost her title, after she proved victorious as STARDOM’s fighting champion. The match helped elevate a title that many – including us at Monthly Puroresu – questioned the need for the NJPW STRONG Women’s Title. In fact, it’s served as the de facto NEVER Openweight Title of STARDOM, with Giulia developing its reputation more than former champion Willow Nightingale thus far in a series of hard-hitting affairs just as she appears set to leave and pursue global superstardom.

On the other side of things lay the IWGP Women’s Championship; with initials that hold such prestige and its first few champions thereafter only adding onto that prestige – KAIRI, Mercedes Mone, and currently Mayu Iwatani who is the star name in the upcoming film Runaway Wrestler. It’s most like the newly minted IWGP Global Heavyweight Championship for STARDOM, replacing the SWA Undisputed World Women’s Title as the IWGP GHC Title did with the IWGP US/UK belts.

With STARDOM looking to expand into Southeast Asia with their new partners GrappleMax (Singapore), SETUP (Thailand) and PUZZLE (Taiwan) who are part of the newly established Asia-Pacific Federation of Wrestling, the hope is that the IWGP Women’s Title can be defended across the continent to allow the best women at the highest level to compete against one another. STARDOM is also coming to Phildelphia in April, and the champion could very well defend against a Western performer to headline the show as Momo Watanabe did with the White Belt in April 2019 in NYC.

Mina Shirakawa is looking to take the Women’s Title off the hands of the Icon of STARDOM, who has had a firm grip on the strap since winning it at Yokohama Arena last April. It’ll be Shirakawa’s second appearance in a New Japan Pro-Wrestling ring, and it’s a tough challenge as the E neXus V co-leader has never beaten Iwatani one-on-one. Both of her losses came to the champion in the 2021 and 2022 editions of the 5STAR GP; but there’s no reason to underestimate her as a challenger as just like Mayu, she won a major singles championship at Yokohama Arena by defeating Saya Kamitani for the Wonder of Stardom title.

While Shirakawa challenges for the IWGP Women’s Title, her fellow unit leader Maika currently sits atop STARDOM as World of Stardom champion and no challenger in sight. The GP is months away and no one has stepped up towards the Crimson Empress with the Cinderella Tournament upcoming. Whoever knocks her out of the bracket will certainly have a chance at taking their shot for the company’s top prize – and in doing so may make it a more favorable option than winning the actual tournament itself.

This is a new era for STARDOM as people may leave in the coming months which will give more room for others to become key players moving forward and to stake their claim towards not only the Red Belt, but Saori Anou’s White Belt too, and even then – the IWGP Women’s and NJPW STRONG Women’s titles are looking to have a much more prominent future for the company moving forward, despite the issue of an overabundance of championships that rotate around the wrestlers.

All photos by Masahiro Kubota for Monthly Puroresu

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