Stardom Io Shirai 10th Anniversary on March 9, 2017
Watch: Stardom World
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan
The future of Stardom has been in question ever since Dave Meltzer reported in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter back in October that World of Stardom Champion Io Shirai and Wonder of Stardom Champion Kairi Hojo were offered WWE contracts. The fallout of this news gave fans pause as the threat of the two top wrestlers in the company would be leaving for the biggest wrestling company in the world. That news came within a week of a show where most people thought Io was losing the World of Stardom Title to Yoko Bito but it didn’t happen. Fast forward to March 8th 2017 to where Meltzer reported future changing news a mere hours before Io Shirai’s 10 Anniversary show in Korakuen Hall. The news broke that Kairi Hojo had signed a 3-year deal with World Wrestling Entertainment, Io Shirai would fly to Orlando to visit the WWE Performance Center to make a final decision of signing herself and Mayu Iwatani would be set to retire at the end of the calendar year.
Even though Hojo hasn’t publicly stated that she is leaving to go to WWE, it’s foregone conclusion that Meltzer is right in this case as wrestlers in the past have very quiet about signing with WWE until the company gives them permission to or holding a press conference for the signee like KENTA (Hideo Itami), Shinsuke Nakamura and Kana (NXT Women’s Champion Asuka) did before leaving.
In the following week after this show, WWE posted a story with numerous photos on their website about Io Shirai participating in a tryout with other women from around the world but quickly took down the story to replace it with a different one without any mention of Shirai and took any photo of hers off the site.
The week after that, WWE announced that wrestlers from PROGRESS would participate in WWE Axxess during Wrestlemania weekend. This marked that current SWA Undisputed Champion and Stardom roster member Toni Storm would be wrestling in a WWE ring.
Stardom has become the proverbial house of cards as the threat of WWE taking three of their top stars for a heavily rumored women’s tournament, a fourth (Mayu) possibly retiring (read that into it as much as you want), and two other up-mid card wrestlers missing significant time due to injuries (Momo Watanabe and Yoko Bito). What should have been a time for celebration for Io Shirai’s 10 Years in wrestling is now a time for wondering if Stardom will bounce back.
Now to the actual show.
AZM vs. Natsuko Tora **
AZM has been improving ever since she joined Queen’s Quest and showed it here, as her and Tora were wrestling at a level better than most of the opening rookie matches. Tora isn’t bad herself, as she has been mixing it up more with veterans in the past couple of shows. However, they definitely had a miscommunication when AZM was coming off the rope late in the match where AZM might have been going for La Mistica (a move she had been practicing with Io in the SamuraiTV documentary about the Queen’s Quest leader) but to AZM’s credit, she rolled her up for the pin. Pretty good for her as she thought on her feet.
Kris Wolf vs HZK vs. Kagestu**
Best interviews of the show go to Kris Wolf and Kagestu as Kagestu referred to Io as “that blonde fool” and Kris Wolf opened her interview by saying “Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin to F*** With” along with “I’m in another 3 way. I know how you guys want to see me.”
This match stuck to the formula of these Oedo Tai 3 way matches as glorified handicap matches. It’s been a running gag for almost the last couple of months that Kris Wolf and Kagestu have completely ripped off the Jimmy’z rubberband spot including it backfiring on one of them. Not to say they’re are not funny, but people will automatically think of Dragon Gate. One scary spot in the match was when Wolf threw a damn big briefcase at HZK’s face when she was pinning Kagestu to break it up. Kris Wolf won the three way in the same way she won the High Speed Championship from Mayu Iwatani. These 3 ways are entertaining but it’s time to use Kagetsu in a bigger role which happened when Kagestu faced Io for the World of Stardom Title.
Midnight Angel & Minoru Suzuki vs. Black Midnight Devil & KAI **1/2
Before the match, the SamuraiTV version of this show aired a video package of Io Shirai asking Minoru Suzuki to come to her Anniversary at Suzuki’s clothing store called Piledriver. Io leaves and comes back as Midnight Angel and Suzuki agrees. Footage of Angel in Stardom played before Midnight Angel came to the store. For those that don’t know Midnight Angel is Io Shirai and Black Midnight Devil is Kaori Yoneyama. Angel’s mask, for those that are old school Joshi fans that have never seen Shirai like this, will remind people of Reina Jubuki which was Akira Hokuto’s gimmick when she went to CMLL. Angel was created by Minoru Suzuki on a show he produced in November 9th 2014 where he had an Ayumi Nakamura (singer of his theme) concert along with it. Black Midnight Devil is similar to the Black Paranoia costume that Kaori used in the Fuji TV taping for last year Stardom’s Docu-Special called “Blossom”.
Nothing against the Stardom World version of the show, but I had to watch the SamuraiTV version also to see Suzuki come out to his “Kaze Ni Nare” theme as Stardom World had to dub the music for rights purposes. It was good to see Suzuki get the crowd up for this match during his famous Kaze Ni Nare entrance cause the Stardom crowd hasn’t really been alive since December’s Year End Climax show. At first, you got the feeling this would be a complete comedy match because of Yoneyama and Shirai being in masks but this was not the case. There were moments like Suzuki taking photos of Devil opening her legs trying to act sexy and KAI yelling “MASAMI” as he kept joking that Black Midnight Devil was Devil Masami. But this match was actually a good tag match when they didn’t do comedy. Angel and Devil did some good Lucha style armdrags while Suzuki and KAI brought some intense forearm battles. Angel won with a splash off the top of Suzuki’s shoulders while he had a KAI in a sleeper hold.
Toni Storm vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto **3/4
Going into this, you had to figure that there would be some political ramifications in this match as Toni is the SWA Undisputed Champion. Depending on which night, the SWA Title is the 2nd or 3rd most important title in Stardom and Toni is one of the last few to get a clean pinfall against Io Shirai. Hiroyo Matsumoto is the OZ Academy Openweight Champion and is being kept strong whether she is in Mayumi Ozaki’s promotion. As expected, this match went to a 15-minute draw with good back and forth action. Storm is developing a thing where she handshakes with opponents in the middle of the match. She did with Viper in her last SWA defense when they were both bridging and she did it here with Hiroyo. The crowd laughs at this but it takes the steam out of the match for a bit. There was a part of the match where they almost botched a maneuver on the outside but they improvised right on the spot which shows how good both are compared to if this happened in a WWE women’s match. Extra points to Storm because she is so young. Just as this was about to get really good, the time limit was up.
Hiromi Mimura, Jungle Kyona, Aoi Kizuki vs. Kairi Hojo, Yoko Bito, Konami**1/4
The SamuraiTV version of this show built up Aoi Kizuki coming into this as she’s not a regular in Stardom. Along with that, Jungle Kyona was coming off a victory in capturing the Goddess of Stardom Tag Team Titles with Matsumoto over Hojo and Bito. It was nice to see that Konami used one of Kairi Hojo’s masks to match with BY-Ho during their entrance.
This match had the flair of Lucha trios match, as there are things in this match that will make you tilt your head such as Jungle Kyona using screaming to stop Konami from attacking her, or Kairi having Hiromi run the ropes like she’s Ryota Hama to tire herself. For one thing, Aoi held her own in this match even though she’s not a great wrestler. I wouldn’t be surprised if she came back to Stardom as a regular to combat the potential losses. She did the best she could when she was in the match as she went toe to toe with Kairi at one moment which could lead to a match down the road. With Hiromi, her only job her was to be the whipping girl for the Konami/BY-Ho team and that’s what happened as she took the pin with Hojo hitting the Diving Elbow Drop. The post match was emotional for Yoko Bito because of her upcoming surgery on her hand but she was in tears hugging Hojo as she had to know of the news that broke hours before the show happened.
Chihiro Hashimoto & Mayu Iwatani vs. Meiko Satomura & Io Shirai****1/4
SamuraiTV had two really good video packages of Io’s voyage in Stardom including the her highs (Winning the World of Stardom Title at Sumo Hall, having a 30-minute draw Arisa Nakajima in a title for title match, stealing the show on the Stardom USA shows, going to Arena Mexico) and even the lowest point of her career where she begged for forgiveness and proclaimed her innocence in a press conference addressing her 2012 arrest with NOSAWA Rongai for marijuana possession from a Mexican return trip (which was later proven that they had it planted by Sugi of Michinoku Pro fame).
In the press leading up to this, Io said she was teaming with Meiko Satomura to create the “Yokozuna” joshi pro wres with this tag team. These two along with Chihiro and Mayu in this match gave off the feeling to the viewer that you are watching 4 of the best wrestlers in the world and it was a cool moment that the present Joshi MVP (Io) started the match with a future MVP (Chihiro). All 4 have history with one another but the last time Chihiro and Io faced each other was in the Gauntlet elimination match between Stardom and Sendai Girls where Hashimoto dominated but Io ended up eliminating her. Chihiro was really good in this match as she brought the amateur wrestling and the German suplexes that made her the best rookie in 2016 not named Matt Riddle. Mayu took a beating in this match and I wouldn’t blame her for retiring from taking the punishment from the team of Meiko and Io. She, like Hiromi, took the pin as Meiko gave her a Death Valley Driver followed by Io’s Moonsault to end a great match. It’s a match that people need to see as it will pop up on MOTYC lists, but it didn’t hit the level of an all-time great match. If they had more time, it could’ve reached that but it’s also Io’s Anniversary Show and not the end to a feud. Afterwards, Kairi came out to challenge Io for the World of Stardom Title and the match was set for March 20th.
STARDOM IO SHIRAI 10TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW ON MARCH 9, 2017
Good - 7.0/10
If you have to chance to watch the whole show, please do because the undercard was easy to get through and the main event delivered as usual with Stardom. The future of Stardom makes me and other fans uneasy, but it is going to be a while before people start leaving. This was a much better anniversary show compared to Togi Makabe’s in New Japan last month and if you are a fan of Io Shirai, it is a must-watch.