Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis

Error: Contact form not found.

Subscribe elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae eleifend ac, enim. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus.

Error: Contact form not found.

Subscribe elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae eleifend ac, enim. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus.

Error: Contact form not found.

An Icon’s Burden: How 2020 Secured Mayu Iwatani’s Legacy

3 years ago
Mayu Iwatani wearing her mask in STARDOM

An Icon’s Burden: How 2020 Secured Mayu Iwatani’s Legacy

By: Mitchell Adams

It wasn’t long ago a socially distanced crowd at Sendai Sun Plaza Hall witnessed history, a peremptory passing of the torch from a veteran ring warrior to the up-and-coming young lioness. On November 15, 2020 Utami Hayashishita defeated Mayu Iwatani for the World of Stardom Championship in a shocking upset. Despite Utami having the best first two years of any joshi performer in recent memory – winning multiple championships both in Stardom and Pro Wrestling Eve in the UK – it was a shock when her hand was raised in victory over Mayu.

Fans expected a classic match, and that it was (you can watch it on It wasn’t just the end of a personal chapter for Mayu, but a whole new era in Stardom with her opponent having overcome the odds to stake her claim as the promotion’s future leader

Twin flames burned in Stardom… but one was just slightly brighter than the other.

Of course, Utami earned the opportunity – even though Mayu had already carried Stardom through its most challenging year ever. Its turbulent times came just as the promotion had caught fire with the zeitgeist, when the early retirements of young up-and-coming stars Arisa Hoshika, Hazuki and Leo Onozaki dovetailed with the tragic death of Hana Kimura in 2020. Mayu nonetheless pulled the promotion through, all while displaying supreme grace under pressure, without the trappings of ego. Passing the torch the way she did felt like a wonderful capstone to her story of becoming an icon.

“The Icon Of Stardom!”

By the end of 2019, Mayu stood atop Japan’s women’s wrestling mountain. World Wonder Ring Stardom had been purchased by New Japan Pro Wrestling parent company Bushiroad, ensuring that she and her fellow performers would be given more opportunities and more of the spotlight. She had had a sensational match with Bea Priestley to capture the World of Stardom Championship for a second time, firmly establishing herself as the “Ace” of Stardom. Tagging with Giulia, Mayu wrestled Hana Kimura and Arisa Hoshiki in front of 40,000 people at the Tokyo Dome for a special Stardom Exhibition Match on night one of Wrestle Kingdom 14. From there, it seemed like Mayu and Stardom were on a rocket ride up; she was noticeably radiant throughout her transcendent performances of 2020, a veteran presence and locker room leader who captured audiences as few can. But that newfound fame and fortune would prove elusory, as the wrestling community would soon find out.

Stardom reported their highest attendance at Korakuen Hall for The Way to Major League 2020, just before cancelling several shows due to the pandemic. Before Stardom had an opportunity to stage a special Spring event (at an empty arena broadcast live on YouTube), canceled events had cratered their ticket sales.

Once given the all-clear, the annual Cinderella Tournament attracted a mere 500 people at the gate. To carry the momentum Stardom had built abroad, the pressure was on Mayu to deliver stellar performances – ones that could be taped and repackaged digitally, for fans trapped at home. And she answered with 5-star matches that looked effortless, guiding the locker room through the uncertainty and showcasing her strength to the growing fanbase abroad.

An Aegis Amidst Tragedy

The sudden death of Hana Kimura by suicide in May of 2020 didn’t just send shockwaves throughout the world of joshi, it made everyone stop and pause to grieve together as society debated how cyberbullying could take a young icon away from us so soon. Tributes have continued to pour in, as the negative effects of young celebrity and mental health rage on. When local authorities in Japan gave the green light to start running events, Stardom and Mayu proved they could fight through this unexplainable tragedy and deliver for their fans.

At Shin-Kiba 1st Ring on June 21st, the collective grief was a black hole of emotion for everyone – except for their “Ace” Mayu Iwatani. Unlike All Elite Wrestling’s booking following the tragic and sudden passing of Brodie Lee in December, Stardom decided not to run a tribute show for Hana. At the request of her family, they kept mentions of her to a minimum. Although several grapplers felt unable to perform on that next show, it was up to Mayu to lead the way and show Stardom’s roster and fans that it would all be okay in the end. It’s what Hana would’ve wanted.

Mayu did so in a spectacular six-person tag team match that helped establish Giulia’s newly formed DDM Stable as proper contenders to Stardom Championships and set the stage for the promotion’s upcoming Five Star Grand Prix Tournament. As 2020 marched on, dragging us all with it, Mayu helped frame Stardom at the centre of the wrestling map with several main event matches that were critically acclaimed. Many fans have asked in her replies, how was Mayu finding all this strength and courage? Especially considering that she holds the tragic honor of wrestling Hana’s final match…

If it affected her, Mayu didn’t show it. Although, on the topic of mental health, she has spoken about an incident in her teen years involving herself and two friends which resulted in her isolating herself from society for three years. It was actually the discovery of wrestling through a Dragon Gate event on television that encouraged her to leave self- imposed isolation and her small rural community in Mine, Yamaguchi to travel to Tokyo without her parents’ blessing to pursue her dream of becoming a wrestler. Was it these experiences that gave Mayu the strength to overcome everything 2020 threw at her and Stardom? Fans can only speculate, but one thing is for sure: Mayu displayed enough guts, grit, leadership and dedication to her cra to earn Stardom fans’ respect forever.

Now that 2020 is well finished and Stardom has a new World Champion in Utami Hayashishita, fans would forgive Mayu if she desired a well-earned opportunity to take a step back. But with the recent returns of former Stardom wrestlers Yoshiko and Nanae Takahashi, who left the promotion in 2015 after the infamous “shooting” incident with Act Yasukawa to found the upstart joshi promotion Seadlinnng, it would seem Mayu is set to defend Stardom’s honor once again. While Utami may now be beginning the journey to eventually become her successor, Mayu is still the first joshi superstar to proudly shout the company mantra “WE ARE STARDOM” every time.

This article first appeared in Monthly Puroresu Issue #3

Written by:

I'm an Australian based freelance writer who covers joshi wrestling for Monthly Puroresu. Since the third issue, I've been an integral part of story ideation and helping the publication branch out into new areas. In the past, I've written for wrestling dirt sheets, Aussie newspapers, and pop culture websites.