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Top 5 Matches of Tam Nakano

9 months ago

Top 5 Matches of Tam Nakano

By: James Carlin

Tam Nakano has been an instrumental name in Stardom for the years since Bushiroad acquired the company, and whilst her walk through the “Tam Road” has been rocky at times, it has allowed her to create a string of memorable matches following her debut in 2017 all the way up to the present day.

From once being called the Violent Kung Fu Girl to now being the Top Kawaii of the Cosmos, Nakano’s legacy has already been set in stone – numerous championship defences, violent battles against partners and rivals, and at the end of it all is one phrase “Believe in Tam”.

A career focused around friendship, betrayal, defiance and fighting spirit – she has never backed down from a fight for doing what she thinks is right. It’s been an interesting six years since she first arrived as part of the 2017 5★STAR GP, and with her retirement looking to be inbound (a thought that she herself has floated around) in the next few years, now is a good time to look back on some of her matches in-ring performances.

Number 5 – Oedo-Tai vs. Queen’s Quest, 01/21/2018

Loser Leaves Unit matches have been in an abundance for the last three years, but there is one match from the 7th Anniverary show that is unlike any other, and would set the precedent for the Queen’s Quest vs. Oedo-Tai Loser Leaves Unit rematch in a cage match that took place in earlier this year.

However, what makes this match so unique from others is that it’s done in a gauntlet-style. Two members from each unit will fight, and the winner goes onto the opposing faction’s next member. The format leaves us with some incredible pairings from each group, and of course the inevitable clash between the unit leaders Io Shirai and Kagetsu.

Matches like these are hard ones to get right, often with awkward downtime or periods of not much going on; this doesn’t happen here as the importance of losing a faction member are clearly felt by every member on both teams, fighting as hard as they can to make sure they come out on top.

Nakano herself may not have a huge involvement in this match until the very end, but she leads a very emotional closing stretch against Momo Watanabe with tensions running high to see who will win the match for their respective unit. It’s a crucial match for Nakano, and the result would end up being a defining moment that changes the trajectory of her career forever.

L-R: Yuu Ishino, Tam Nakano, Natsu Sumire, Kris Wolf, Hana Kimura, Oedo-Tai, in January 2018. c/o Stardom.

Number 4 – Tam Nakano vs. Mayu Iwatani, 08/15/2023

The latest match on this list happened only two months ago, and it was one of the best matches of this year’s 5★STAR GP.

Whenever Nakano and Iwatani get in the ring together, magic is always made. Their last match-up prior to this Korakuen Hall main event came in 2021 at Osaka Dream Cinderella when the two went to a thirty minute draw for Nakano’s Wonder of Stardom championship. Since then, the Top Kawaii of the Cosmos has trained hard to be on the level of the Icon of Stardom, going as far as to mirror her accomplishments as two-time holder of the White Belt and second ever Double Crown champion after Iwatani herself.

As fate would have it, the two were placed into the same block of this year’s round robin tournament, now with Nakano entering her match as World of Stardom instead of Wonder of Stardom champion.

Due to the pandemic, the incredible atmosphere that Stardom has once had for their Korakuen Hall shows which made me fall in love with joshi had been diminished. With this match, that electric Korakuen Hall atmosphere that made Stardom stand-out to me had returned as two of the company’s top stars fight once more for two important points in the tournament.

Iwatani and Nakano have a special bond together in the squared circle. In a way, Nakano is like the current generation’s Nanae Takahashi – she can bring out the fighting spirit, determination and passion not only in herself but in her opponent.

What results is another notch on the belts of both women, giving a clear message as to why Stardom is the best women’s pro-wrestling company going; because when they get it right, they hit the bullseye.

Mayu Iwatani and Tam Nakano meet in singles action for the first time since 2021. c/o Stardom

Number 3 – Tam Nakano vs. Natsupoi, 06/26/2022

Tam Nakano’s former Actwres girl’Z friend Natsumi Maki, now under the name Natsupoi, came to Stardom and immediately joined the war between Giulia and Nakano on the side of Donna del Mondo. The two had already faced one-on-one for Nakano’s Wonder of Stardom championship, yet something bigger and more dramatic was needed for this personal rivalry – a steel cage.

And so, the first ever steel cage match in Stardom’s twelve year history was set, looking to settle the grudge between two former best friends one and for all.

Emotions were not held back as the two valiantly fought each other inside of the structure, throwing their opponent into the steel on the sides of the ring that kept them from leaving, and grating their faces against the mesh to teach a lesson.

At the top of the cage, Nakano made a clear statement to her former friend while keeping hold of her arm, making true of her promise: “No matter how much you kick and scream, I will never let you go” – before putting Natsupoi in a sleeper and choking her until she fell.

For a first-time match stipulation within the company, the two delivered on making it an unforgettable bout full of drama, action, and emotion throughout. Although it may no longer hold the title of Stardom’s best steel cage match, it will go down as the one that started it all.

Natsupoi and Tam Nakano stand-off in the steel cage. c/o Yukihira Kuwahara

Number 2 – Tam Nakano vs. Giulia, 03/03/2021

The culmination of Tam Nakano’s frustration against Giulia comes to a head at the Nippon Budokan in a hair vs. hair stipulation for Giulia’s Wonder of Stardom championship – a title that the Top Kawaii of the Cosmos promised she would have beaten her retired tag team partner for one day.

Hair vs. hair stipulations are a rarity in joshi, and only come around every so often, giving the result much more intrigue going into All Star Dream Cinderella.

It was an interesting eight months not only for Nakano, but for Giulia too. As Giulia used her bye from winning the Cinderella Tournament to ultimately defeat Tam Nakano for the White Belt for the vacant championship, Nakano looked to even the odds against her rival’s unit, Donna del Mondo, by forming Cosmic Angels with Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka. DDM still had more members, but at least now the challenger had backup.

Giulia had already beaten her twice for the belt. A decision match and then a re-match. She was confident that she would win for a third time. After all, she had decisively held the title for 220 days against Konami, Natsuko Tora, Starlight Kid, and Himeka; her only blip was a draw against Syuri in a double-title match for both the White Belt and SWA Undisputed World Women’s Championship.

Giulia enters the Nippon Budokan as Wonder of Stardom champion. c/o Stardom

Both women fight with heart and determination in order to emerge victorious. The champion is cocky, brash and unpredictable at times, piledriving the challenger through a table and throwing her into the barricade. Nakano refuses to give up, and is defiant in the face of certain failure, slapping and kicking Giulia over and over again just long enough to hope she can become the champion.

The importance of this match cannot be overstated. Not only did it give fans an engaging months-long story to follow throughout the pandemic, but it was also the first time that a women’s company had run the Nippon Budokan in twenty four years. This match was additionally the very first time that Tam Nakano used her now-signature “Violet Screwdriver”, bringing it out against Giulia in the match.

It was the end of part one of the historic rivalry between Tam Nakano and Giulia, and if the story had finished there, it would have been perfect – but there was only much more to come in the next two years.

Number 1 – Arisa Hoshiki vs. Tam Nakano, 06/16/2019

After the return of Mayu Iwatani’s old AMA tag-team partner following the Sky Blue Hyper Technician’s 5★STAR GP win in 2018, Nakano had felt that the friendship between her and Iwatani was loosening. Iwatani had already won the Artist of the Stardom championships with Nakano and the returning Saki Kashima, but the revelation that another name from Stardom’s past was looking to join STARS didn’t sit well with the Violent Kung Fu Girl.

The six months that followed saw Nakano’s inferiority to Arisa and jealousy of her close friendship with Mayu Iwatani pop-up time and time again, refusing to acknowledge Hoshiki’s existence in pre-match promos and messing with her during matches, including using Hoshiki as a weapon against their opponents. The score looked to be settled between the two when Hoshiki nominated Tam Nakano as her first challenger for her newly won White Belt.

Tam Nakano refuses to get along with Arisa Hoshiki. c/o Stardom

Before the match, the two cut separate promos that both reiterate the same thought: To convey their feelings in the ring, and to understand one-another.

Highly regarded by fans as one of the best matches in Stardom’s history, Hoshiki and Nakano bring out a side of each other never seen before or never will be seen again.

For many, Tam Nakano and Giulia are wrestling soulmates, but in just a single match together, the soon-to-be DREAM SHiNE tag team partners brought a one-of-a-kind chemistry that relit the fire and symbolism of what the Wonder of Stardom championship was designed to be. A fight worthy of heart, soul, determination, understanding, and ability.

No matter how many matches Tam Nakano has, no matter how many different opponents and obstacles she may face, no matter where the Tam Road takes her, there will only ever be one Arisa Hoshiki vs. Tam Nakano.