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The Twilight Dream of a Pirate’s Treasure

1 year ago

The Twilight Dream of a Pirate’s Treasure

By: James Carlin

Two months after Kairi Hojo had left Stardom to become a part of WWE, Tam Nakano made her debut in Stardom by competing in that year’s 5 STAR GP, eventually joining Oedo-Tai at the end of night 7 and signing with the company full time in November 2017 just months later.

Throughout her five years in Stardom, Tam Nakano has been kicked out of one faction, joined another, left a faction and created her own. She was kicked out of Oedo-Tai after an elimination match between Queen’s Quest and Oedo-Tai at Stardom’s 7th Anniversary show, being invited by Mayu Iwatani into the Stardom Army, before being renamed to STARS in the 2018 Draft in April.

Tam’s time between 2017 and 2022 was filled with trauma; winning the Goddess of Stardom Tag League with DREAM☆SHiNE partner Arisa Hoshiki but failing to win the titles, and promising to win the Wonder of Stardom championship from her one day yet unable to accomplish that goal before Arisa’s retirement.

Her former best friend Natsumi Maki, now Natsupoi, joined Stardom and a lengthy rivalry ensued before the two reconciled when Natsupoi betrayed Giulia to join Tam in Cosmic Angels alongside the freelance unit COLOR’S and the original trio of Tam, Unagi Sayaka and Mina Shirakawa. In March of 2021, the Cutest in the Cosmos won the Wonder of Stardom championship from Giulia, holding the title until December, where she lost it to Saya Kamitani.

Tam once viewed the White Belt as the cursed championship of emotions, and upon seeing Syuri’s World of Stardom title up-close after their match at MidSummer Champions said “This is the landscape at the top. It’s beautiful”, promising that one day the Red Belt would be hers to hold like the White Belt was once before.

Tam Nakano gazes upon the World of Stardom championship she was unable to win. c/o STARDOM World

During that time, Kairi Hojo, now with the last name Sane, won the 2017 Mae Young Classic, was NXT Women’s champion, WWE Women’s Tag Team champion (with Asuka) and upon returning to Stardom in early 2022, came back with just the name KAIRI.

So much had changed since KAIRI had last graced Stardom’s wonder ring. There are two new factions, entire switches of allegiance and groups, new tag teams, new top contenders, new faces. It was no longer the company that the former Kairi Hojo had left in 2017.

Was she still as good as she was five years ago? Had she been surpassed by the talents that arose following her departure? Almost everyone that she had once known in the company had left or retired. Some remained, such as Momo Watanabe or the returns of Hazuki and Koguma, yet the atmosphere of the organisation in the present was unlike what it had been previously.

Io Shirai, the former two-time World of Stardom champion, told Tam that she reminded her of Kairi Hojo. They were both cute, fun, and could wrestle well. Most importantly, the two both fought with emotion and had the power to move the hearts of those that watch them. It only seemed like destiny that the two would one day meet each other.

But at this time, Tam felt the pressure of being compared to KAIRI. She was weak, alone, and couldn’t win. She felt inferior to the person that Io had compared her to.

Every day, she fought harder and harder, waiting for the day that KAIRI may come back. And when KAIRI returned, she requested one match from Rossy Ogawa: Tam Nakano.

KAIRI’s first match back in Stardom in five years was a tag team match, teaming with Mayu Iwatani (Team Yamaguchi) against Unagi Sayaka and Tam Nakano.

Of course, in her quest to “assess” everyone, Unagi’s attitude led her to Stardom’s newest arrival. She didn’t care if she was a former WWE superstar, she wanted to assess her and see if she was good enough.

Tam on the other hand, the leader of Cosmic Angels, had something different in mind. For the years that KAIRI had been gone the Top Kawaii of the Cosmos took her time working up the ranks of Stardom, and she wasn’t just going to let a former star waltz back in and take the spot that she worked so hard to earn, she was going to prove that she was equal to KAIRI just like Io had told her.

It was clear that KAIRI hadn’t lost her step, she could hang with those that had built up the company in her absence. Her look may have slightly changed yet inside there was a more fierce Pirate Princess, one that looked to prove, alongside her best friend Mayu Iwatani, that she was still the Kairi Hojo that was once World of Stardom champion.

Despite losing against the returning Pirate Princess, Tam still had her eyes on her – an alluring figure that had made a new for herself across the world, just missing out on the opportunity to know her before she left to start her voyage.

Two months after World Climax, where KAIRI’s return match took place at Ryogoku Sumo Hall, the Cutest in the Cosmos found herself teaming with KAIRI under the name White Knights. She stated that there was still so much she wanted to do across the ring from her, but she can live with teaming with KAIRI against the Queen’s Quest duo of Utami Hayashishita and Miyu Amasaki. Tam believed it was fate that the two were put together – they were chosen by the White Belt and their paths perfectly came in line.

Even after the two had won the match, the leader of Cosmic Angels wanted more, but she would have to wait – KAIRI would reform 7KAIRI with Nanae Takahashi as well as challenging Saya Kamitani for her Wonder of Stardom title before becoming the first IWGP Women’s champion in November by defeating Mayu Iwatani.

With KAIRI now as a singles champion once again, it was Tam’s time to re-enter the spotlight next to her. She issued a challenge – she wanted to fight KAIRI for the IWGP Women’s championship at Wrestle Kingdom, the biggest Japanese wrestling show of the year. Not just as part of an untelevised match – part of the real show. The Pirate Princess accepted the challenge.

All the friendships she had built, all the things that she had accomplished. Six years after Kairi Hojo had left Stardom, Tam Nakano felt like she was finally in the position to surpass KAIRI and to prove her worth once again.

It was at the beginning of March that Tam Nakano had one simple phrase to tell to the returning KAIRI: “Many people will warmly welcome you, but I have no intention of giving up my seat to you”.

Throughout KAIRI’s time since returning to her home promotion, she has taught the lesson that wrestling isn’t just about having fun – but the pain that must be endured alongside it, as she has taught towards Miyu Amasaki and Lady C. Of all the members of the Stardom roster, Tam Nakano has experienced the most pain of them all. Losing friends, partners, teams, championships, opportunities: She has seen and felt every type of hurt that can be had by a pro-wrestler, and now KAIRI comes face-to-face with the one that has learned every lesson KAIRI wishes to teach everyone else.

Tam Nakano has a dream and a promise that she made to herself: She will become the top women’s professional wrestler in Japan; she will show the world the greatness of STARDOM. In order to do that, she must fulfil her dream of capturing the treasure of the Pirate Princess.

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.