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Tam Nakano vs. Natsupoi: Idols, Friends, Enemies

2 years ago

Tam Nakano vs. Natsupoi: Idols, Friends, Enemies

… and the first ever cage match in STARDOM history

By: James Carlin

Why a Steel Cage Match?

Steel cage matches have had somewhat of a diminishing effect when it comes to talking about their significance in the western world of wrestling. Many puro fans perceive them as overused, replaced in modern times by the concept of Hell-in-a-Cell. But in joshi, the idea of a cage match as the be-all and end-all for extremely heated rivalries is still intact and as prevalent as ever, so it only makes sense that STARDOM’s first ever steel cage match took place between two former best friends, Natsupoi and Tam Nakano.

With the match being the first time a joshi wrestling promotion has used the stipulation since All Japan Women’s Wrestling in 2002, there’s a reason that the story of these two women has come so far to have needed a steel structure to contain them both. Tam Nakano may have had an acclaimed feud with Giulia in 2020 and 2021, but that’s nothing compared to the emotionally charged rivalry she has now with the former Natsumi Maki. This match wasn’t about making history in STARDOM.

It was about two women who found wrestling through the same path, became friends, despised each other for years— it was about finally giving them the chance to lay their feud to rest once and for all. It only makes sense that their story culminates in the promotion’s first-ever steel cage match.



In the beginning, both wrestlers started out in Actwres girl’Z (AWG), often teaming with or against each other after being trained by Yuna Manase. Unlike Maki, Nakano started out as an idol and a dancer for the company in 2016 before fully becoming a wrestler the next year. Tam looked up to Maki, saying that “she really made me want to become a cute, strong and cool wrestler like her.” Maki was always supportive of her friend, offering help and advice and reminding Tam that they were “all in this together.” But when Tam made the decision to leave Actwres girl’Z in 2017, everything changed. Maki’s friendly personality shifted when she revealed in ShuPro magazine that she could never forgive Tam for leaving her on her own in AWG. Tam knew that it was her own fault that their friendship had been destroyed, yet it was a necessary step to become a better and stronger version of herself.

After leaving AWG, she began freelancing and making regular appearances in STARDOM before officially signing with the company in November 2017. Tam developed the monikers “Top Kawaii of the Cosmos” and “Cutest Idol Wrestler in the Universe” while joining Mayu Iwatani’s unit STARS as part of the 2019 STARDOM Draft. In that time, she began teaming alongside “Shining Star” Arisa Hoshiki as DREAM SHiNE, perhaps insinuating that she had moved on from the friendship she once had with Maki. Three years later, in October 2020, Natsumi Maki joined STARDOM and changed her name to Natsupoi, affiliating herself with Giulia’s unit Donna del Mondo.

Chasing Dreams and Chasing Friends

The decision to join Donna del Mondo couldn’t have been a coincidence: ever since Giulia had won that year’s Cinderella tournament, she had found herself fighting against Tam Nakano and, not long after, Tam’s newly founded unit Cosmic Angels. This meant that Natsupoi was directly opposite her former best friend as Donna del Mondo began to feud with the new group. After Tam had defeated Giulia for the company’s secondary title, the Wonder of Stardom championship, her first challenger was an all-toofamiliar face from her past. It wasn’t someone who had been in STARDOM since she began wrestling there in 2017, but it was someone who she had known all those years back: her old friend, Natsupoi. She wasn’t the same Natsupoi from Actwres girl’Z anymore.

She had become more fierce; filled with anger, disdain and loathing for her former best friend. Feelings of being replaced and undesirable went through Natsupoi’s mind, especially seeing that Tam had a close friendship with Arisa Hoshiki — is this what her friendship with Tam had been, so easily replaced? Natsupoi gave the champion a hard-hitting fight, disrespecting her by pouring water over her head and kicking her, but underestimated how resilient Tam was, refusing to give in and let her former friend get the best of her.

Natsupoi became frustrated at Tam’s tenacity and, despite her ruthless offense, she was unable to find a way to keep the Top Kawaii of the Cosmos down for good. Tam had once looked up to Natsupoi as an example and a role model, but throughout the course of the match Tam became her own person, retaining her Wonder of Stardom championship and proving that she had become stronger and better than she had been when they last saw each other in AWG. As Tam continued to defend the White Belt, the Cosmic Angels trio of Tam Nakano, Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka was also defending the Artist of Stardom championships — leading to a confrontation against Donna del Mondo’s MaiHimePoi (Maika, Himeka, Natsupoi) where once again, Tam and Natsupoi would be on opposite ends of the ring.

The last time that these two teams had encountered each other, they went to a timelimit draw. Cosmic Angels had become stronger together the more they had defended the championships, and MaiHimePoi had also formed a close bond from teaming together so often. At the start of their reign, Tam was doing most of the legwork for the trio but as time went on, they became much more fluid and teamed together extremely well yet it was not enough to secure them another title defense as Natsupoi would pick up the win for her team, capturing the Artist belts.

First Time, Last Time

By the middle of March 2022, Natsupoi noticed that Tam was looking bored and uninspired, and so challenged her to another singles match. No championships on the line, no prizefighting — just the both of them enclosed in a steel cage where they can both get their frustrations out, see who the better person is, and settle their grudges once and for all.

Inside the cage, the hatred between the two wrestlers was palpable. These former best friends had a lot to prove to each other. Natsupoi needed to get a win and Tam Nakano needed to show that she has truly become stronger, refusing to capitulate. The match brought out everything in the two women, with Tam pushing Natsupoi’s face against the steel walls, delivering stiff and brutal strikes and both wrestlers fighting each other on the top of the cage. Tam gets the advantage by hitting Natsupoi with a deadly Violet Screwdriver.

Tam tries to escape, but Natsupoi holds her down because she knows she can’t let Tam get the best of her once again— still, Tam is able to get her in a sleeper hold near the top of the cage, giving her enough time to climb down the other side of the cage and win.

Despite Natsupoi’s best efforts to surpass her former student and best friend, Tam Nakano had shown that she had grown since her time in Actwres girl’Z and was finally the wrestler she had set out to be: strong, resilient and unforgiving in the ring when her emotions get the best of her.

Written by:

Initially hired for social media management and Joshi coverage, I lead the coverage of joshi between May 2023 and March 2024, and worked behind the scenes in multiple roles since August 2022 that allowed Monthly Puroresu to smoothly operate.