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10 Things You Didn’t Know About STARDOM

10 months ago

10 Things You Didn’t Know About STARDOM

By: James Carlin

World Wonder Ring Stardom has had a unique twelve year history since its announcement in 2010. Even from the very start, people were saying the company was going to be a failure and a risk to have so much young talent as part of its initial roster. Despite the early criticism, Stardom has evolved into the number one women’s pro-wrestling company not only in Japan, but in the entire world and is now the premier destination for women in wrestling.

Throughout it’s time as an active wrestling company, it has produced some interesting facts that newer fans may not know, giving a glimpse into the unique world of puroresu in a time where joshi itself was rebuilding after the dissolution of AJW and had many companies coming and going.

Take a lot at ten things that you may not know about Stardom.

10) Kenny Omega isn’t the only man to compete in Stardom

One of the most infamous moments in Stardom’s history is the match between Kenny Omega and the nine-year-old Haruka that occurred at the company’s first Korakuen Hall show, where the two wrestled to an oddly specific six minute draw, with Omega being asked to help showcase Haruka due to his reputation of being a safe performer as part of DDT.

Yet, Omega isn’t the only male to have had a match in the all-women promotion, as the likes of Kota Ibushi, Ultimo Dragon, Danshoku Dino, Minoru Suzuki and more have competed in the ring at different times over the course of the unique history of Stardom.

Ultimo Dragon teams with Mayuchika and Midnight Angel at the 2015 Mask Fiesta show. c/o STARDOM

One of these matches, Danshoku Dieno and Mayu Iwatani vs. Kota Ibushi and Yoshiko, had an odd stipulation stemming from Yoshiko and Dieno’s rivalry over Ibushi stating that if Dieno won the match then Ibushi would be known as gay, whereas if Yoshiko won then Ibushi would not be known as gay. Despite the stipulation, the four had a great match together that highlighted Stardom as a name not to be dismissed in the puroresu world.

9) The World of Stardom and Princess of Princess Champions Team Together

2019 was a tumultuous year – All Elite Wrestling had just been officially founded back in January and Stardom was looking to reach bigger and greater heights when it was acquired by Bushiroad in October at the end of the year.

In-between this time period where AEW was hosting shows and bringing in joshi talent at a now-inconceivable speed, hardcore fans were treated to a moment that may never happen ever again, now that Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling is under CyberFight and fighting head-to-head against Stardom to see which is the best women’s wrestling organization in Japan.

Only a day after Shoko Nakajima defeated Miyu Yamashita for the Princess of Princess championship on May 3rd, Bea Priestley would defeat Kagetsu to win the World of Stardom championship.

Two months later, at the AEW-produced Fight For The Fallen, a pre-show match was announced in which Bea Priestley and Shoko Nakajima would team together against Britt Baker and Riho.

Bea Priestley and Shoko Nakajima make their entrance at Fight For The Fallen. c/o All Elite Wrestling

A perhaps coincidental booking decision by promoter Tony Khan brought together two fanbases of the two biggest women’s organizations in Japan right now, and with the current landscape of joshi puroresu it’s high unlikely that something like this will happen for a long time, if not ever again.

It’s a glimpse into a future that could have been, and the partnership between AEW and New Japan Pro-Wrestling would only come a few years later, kicked off by Yuji Nagata facing Jon Moxley for the IWGP United States title, as well as KENTA making his surprise appearance on Dynamite.

8) High-Speed Championship Origins

Since Stardom X Stardom 2011, the High-Speed Championship has been a mainstay of the company, defining a unique style of wrestling akin to that of New Japan’s own junior heavyweight division, but the High-Speed Championship wasn’t actually created with Stardom in mind.

The championship’s origins go back two years earlier where its establishment was made in NEO Japan Ladies Pro-Wrestling, with Natsuki Taiyo becoming the inaugural champion in May 2009. Its design was concepted by Kana (now wrestling in WWE as Asuka), who had previously worked as a graphic design artist before becoming a professional wrestler. Kana was the one that gave the High-Speed title its unique design on the front plate that still remains today as a remnant of NEO.

The name was changed from the NEO Certified High-Speed Championship to the High-Speed Championship on November 19th, 2010 and was defended in JWP by Leon from November 2010 to May 2011. Natsuki Taiyo won the belt from Leon in July 2011 to have the belt come under Stardom, although the company already had ownership of the title since November.

NEO President Tetsuya Koda (now of Tokyo Joshi) said that the creation of the title was inspired by a 1994 match he watched between Manami Toyota and Kyoko Inoue.

Prior to the championship’s conception and being brought over to Stardom, Rossy Ogawa’s former company ARSION also had a similar title named the Sky High of Arsion Championship, which reflected Ogawa’s love of lucha libre. Its longest champion was Akino at 490 days, who is also the only two-time holder of the belt.

The championship was retired following ARSION’s closure, and it was rewarded to Dark Angel after she defeated Princess Sujei in April 2010.

Chaparita ASARI with the Sky High of Arsion Championship.

7) Nao Yamaguchi’s “Low-Speed Championship”

Everyone knows the High-Speed Championship, currently held by Saki Kashima, but there was also a Low-Speed Championship.

Much like Kagetsu’s fake cardboard version of the Red Belt, or the “Capture Your Dreams” Championship gifted to Tam Nakano, the Low-Speed Championship was a satirical cardboard belt give to Nao Yamaguchi by her fellow Oedo-Tai member Hazuki.

Nao Yamaguchi with the “Low-Speed Championship”. c/o STARDOM

During this time, Hazuki was the current High-Speed Champion, imposing strict rules in order to challenge. These rules would be that you had to have a six pack, and matches had to last under five minutes. Unfortunately neither Mary Apache nor Nao Yamaguchi qualified for the ruleset, leading to Hazuki giving Yamaguchi a cardboard version as a consolation prize instead.

6) The Third Generation of Rookies in 2011

The five trainees that ended up in the third generation of rookies trained through Stardom may be the most successful for the company so far.

As of writing this, all five of the people that became wrestlers in this class still actively wrestle to this day.

Kairi Hojo, now under the name KAIRI, is a prominent freelance talent that returned to Stardom last year, winning the Artist of Stardom championship with Natsupoi and Saori Anou, as well as her many other accomplishments since her debut match against Yuzuki Aikawa.

Natsumi Showzuki is a former Goddess of Stardom champion with Kairi Hojo under the team name Ho-Show Tennyo, and following an eight-year absence returned to competition for Actwres girl’Z under the name Natsumi Sumikawa, where she leads the unit known as “The Royal”.

Yuuri Haruka first debuted at the end of 2011, and joined Nanae Gundan in February 2012. An unfortunate orbital injury left her sidelined and caused a temporary retirement. By 2013, she had returned under her real name Haruka Kato and became a part of Ganbare Pro’s roster, even having  a short return stint with Stardom. Now, she still wrestles for Ganbare Pro under the masked alias of HARUKAZE, where she and Hartley Jackson (as the team Lethal Weapon) recently won a #1 Contedership match for the Spirit of Ganbare World Tag Team championships.

AZM still wrestles for Stardom to this day, and was the youngest in the class at nine-years-old. She’s a three-time Artist of Stardom champion and two-time High-Speed champion, only recently losing the latter to Saki Kashima at Flashing Champions earlier in the year. In the past, she was leader of the short-lived group “Azumi’s Army”, and was the de-facto leader of Queen’s Quest in the period between Momo Watanabe’s defection and Utami Hayashishita’s assumption of leadership in a battle royal last year.

Act Yasukawa was one-third of the inaugural Artist of Stardom champions with Natsuki Taiyo and Saki Kashima [as Kawakatsu Plus One], and was the first person to win the Wonder of Stardom championship twice. She would retire from wrestling at Year End Climax in 2015, but an attempt by MARU to rip off the mask of Wild Bunny during an Actwres girl’Z show once again re-awakened the Evil Drunken Spirit of ACT, whom she performs under to this day.

READ: Monthly Puroresu’s interview with Act Yasukawa in October 2022

L-R: Kairi Hojo, Natsumi Showzuki, Azumi, Act Yasukawa, Yuuri Haruka

5) Revolutionary Hana Kimura

After Hana Kimura shockingly left Oedo-Tai on September 24th 2018, she spent the next eight months on her own, teaming with a wide variety of people on the Stardom roster. As part of the annual draft in 2019, Kimura was named the leader of the new unit “International Army”.

During this very early period of what would become Tokyo Cyber Squad, Kimura would bring up the idea of a revolution, quoting Che Guevara in her pre-match promo, “Viva la Revolution!”, and editing her face onto his iconic image.

She would once again return to her ongoing theme of starting a revolution in Stardom by bring up the words of Guevara after drafting STARS member Rina, promising to make every member of the new International Army “shine like diamonds”.

Whilst not particularly an engaging or worthwhile piece of information to know, it was the beginning of what would become one of Stardom’s most beloved units going into the Bushiroad era, and still to this day continues to be one of the most iconic and remembered groups in the company’s history.

4) Stardom’s First Factions

Nowadays, the longest tenured factions in Stardom that still exist today are Oedo-Tai and Queen’s Quest, but even in the very early years of the company animosity began to arise between numerous groups of people, who all took different sides in early 2012 that engulfed the company from its rookies all the way past its freelance talents up to their veteran performers.

The first four factions that were formed in Stardom’s first two years were PLANET (led by Io Shirai), Kawakatsu Plus One [known as Trouble Maker 2 from May 2011 to February 2012) (led by High-Speed Champion Natsuki Taiyo), Nanae Gundan (led by World of Stardom champion Nanae Takahashi) and the Full Power Girls (led by Wonder of Stardom champion Yuzuki Aikawa).

Io Shirai was the first to start recruiting members when she was joined by AMA (Mayu Iwatani and Arisa Hoshiki) and then Natsumi Showzuki a week later to form PLANET, in hopes of establishing a “young and prosperous future for Stardom.”

L-R: Mayu Iwatani, Io Shirai, Arisa Hoshiki, Natsumi Showzuki. The day that PLANET was given its name, on January 27, 2012.

On the very same day that Shirai and AMA come together, Yuzuki Aikawa was already looking to add members to her and Yoko Bito’s group BY Cannon, and subsequently took a young Kairi Hojo under her wing after defeating Hojo in her wrestling debut. The next month, the group had the name “Zenryoku Joshi” (lit. Full Power Girls, or “The girls that try to the best of their abilities”), which didn’t sit too well with former All Japan Women’s (Zenjo) alumni Nanae Takahashi, or with Natsuki Taiyo and Yoshiko. By the Summer, Full Power Girls had ZERO-1’s Yuhi and freelance wrestler Hiroyo Matsumoto in their unit.

Kawakatsu (short for Kawasaki Katsushika Saikyou Densetsu) was the tag team of Yoshiko and Natsuki Taiyo that formed after their singles match against one-another in April 2011. The two would be joined by Yuu Yamagata, forming the group Trouble Maker 2. The debuting Act Yasukawa became a part of the unit in February 2012, with the four women (including Yuu Yamagata, for a very brief period) using the name Kawakatsu Plus One (known as either as “Kawakatsu” or 「川葛+1」in official STARDOM posts). Kyoko Kimura would also join the group, but an inter-unit disagreement would see Kimura lose a match against Taiyo to determine the group’s leader, forcing her out of the group. Kimura would remain factionless for two months before forming her own unit, the Kimura Monster Army, in September 2012, which would evolve into Oedo-Tai in January 2015 at STARDOM’s 4th Anniversary show.

3) Saki Kashima, Trendsetter of Betrayals

While Hiroyo Matsumoto was the first person to leave a unit and join another group by deciding to leave Nanae Gundan (though she continually insisted she was never part of the group) for Full Power Girls only a week before, Saki Kashima was the beginning of a trend in Stardom that would see many partners turn their backs on each other, with Kashima herself being the latest with Oedo-Tai attacking her after their cagematch against Queen’s Quest at Stardom Sunshine. But Kashima’s history with betrayals goes back as far as the second year of Stardom itself.

Hiroyo Matsumoto after joining Full Power Girls on June 3rd, 2012. c/o Daily Sports

During Kashima’s initial run with the company, she joined Yuzuki Aikawa’s faction Full Power Girls which had formed from Yuzupon and Yoko Bito’s tag team BY Cannon, before eventually gaining more members during the period of time in late 2011 and early 2012 where the battle lines were drawn between newly forming groups.

However on June 10th, 2012, only a few months into the existence of Full Power Girls, Saki Kashima performed Stardom’s first ever unit betrayal, joining up with Act Yasukawa, Natsuki Taiyo and Yoshiko in Kawakatsu Plus One. Yasukawa and Kashima would later team together in the Goddess of Stardom Tag League, but for the first time a heart-breaking decision was made that changed the course of the faction alignments of the time.

Saki Kashima after joining Kawakatsu Plus One. c/o Junichi Sase

2) Ace of Stardom vs. Ace of Ice Ribbon

At Bull Nakano’s retirement show in January 2012, which featured a special retirement ceremony, a one-of-a-kind encounter took place in the main event as Stardom’s ace, Yuzuki Aikawa, took on the ace of Ice Ribbon, Hikaru Shida.

Both entered as double champions; holding the tag team championship and a major singles belt from their respective promotions.

It’s a fascinating match, as the two seem fairly matched throughout the course of the encounter, but ultimately Aikawa is able to secure the victory over the soon-to-be “butt god” (though this nickname would not emerge or another year or two), who now resides in All Elite Wrestling as a two-time and longest reigning AEW Women’s World champion, and current holds Pro-Wrestling WAVE’s Regina di Wave title that she won from Suzu Suzuki in August of last year.

Hikaru Shida and Yuzuki Aikawa make their entrance at Bull Nakano’s retirement show.

This is the only time that Hikaru Shida and Yuzuki Aikawa would ever share the ring together, as Aikawa would end up retiring the next year at Ryogoku Sumo Hall with an estimated 5,500 people at the show, marking Stardom’s highest attendance ever for ten years before All Star Grand Queendom would break that record in April 2023.

1) Rossy Ogawa Appears At Ganbare Pro

Stardom President Rossy Ogawa isn’t known for making many appearances outside of his own company – he most famously appeared at the WWE Hall of Fame, taking pictures with Becky Lynch, Randy Orton, and former Stardom wrestler Ruby Soho.

In 2019 at the newly established sub-brand of DDT and GanPro known as Potchari Joshi (Plus-Sized Women), Yuna Manase took on the Pocchaminator (Kazusada Higuchi) in a unique match-up that saw Manase needing the strength, courage and motivation to defeat her opponent.

The match saw videos playing on the screen from different people, including TJPW’s Yuki Kamifuku, whose messages were aimed at Manase and showed their “true feelings” towards her.

However, one of the messages came from outside of the world of the DDT Universe – one from none other than Rossy Ogawa himself. Manase had formerly wrestled for Stardom between January 2014 and February 2015, positioned as the successor to Yuzuki Aikawa. She would only have only fourteen matches Stardom before being sidelined by an injury and eventually leaving to join Actwres girl’Z.

Despite her time being short, it didn’t stop Rossy from sending a message to his former talent.

In the video, he expressed his disappointment at Manase leaving the company, but called her a “worthy graduate of Stardom” – encouraging her to be the best version of herself no matter what. He ends his message to Manase with the words “Ganbare, Yuna Manase! Believe now, shine tomorrow: We are…” prompting her to instinctively finish the iconic phrase with “Stardom!” and giving her the motivation to once again fight back against the Pocchaminator.

It’s a light-hearted and humorous cameo from Ogawa that highlighted that he isn’t afraid to put himself in some comedic situations for entertainment – such as at the press conferences that Stardom frequently host nowadays.

HOW TO WATCH STARDOM JOSHI PRO-WRESTLING