Stardom The Highest 2017 on March 20, 2017
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan
Fresh off Io Shirai’s 10th Anniversary Show that occurred on March 9, Stardom came back to Korakuen Hall with 820 spectators for Shirai to defend her World of Stardom Championship against Kairi Hojo. For the 5th time in 4 years, Hojo and Shirai would facing against each other in a main event singles match going back to their first main event in the 2014 Stardom 5 * Star Grand Prix. All time against each other, Shirai is 3-2 against Hojo coming into this show, but Hojo is the last person to beat Io in a singles match as she submitted her in the 2016 Stardom 5 * Star Grand Prix. Shirai was coming off tailbone surgery and Hojo worked on her back to get the victory but it came at a cost as Kairi was out for the rest of the tournament due to a concussion from taking a piledriver to the floor in the match.
Other than Toni Storm vs. Jungle Kyona for the SWA Undisputed Championship, Kairi vs. Io is the main match of this show as I watched the SamuraiTV version for this review.
EDIT: To make it clear, Stardom World has all of these matches in full length to view. Only the SamuraiTV has these matches in clipped form.
Arisu Nanase & Ruaka vs. Kaori Yoneyama & Natsuko Tora**
This match was clipped a little bit but it showed most of it for me to give a rating. It started with Arisu and Ruaka getting a jump on their opponents with double dropkicks and double teams on the lone veteran Kaori. Once Natsuko Tora entered in the match, it was mostly a spotlight match for her. Tora keeps improving every time she steps into the ring and looks to be the breakout wrestler among the two other rookies (although Tora is in her 20s and the other two rookies are way under that with Ruaka being 12). Tora got the win with a leg lock roll-up combination. Once Tora starts to find herself more and grows out of her rookie role, she will be a solid mid card wrestler going forward.
Christi Jaynes & Deonna Purrazzo vs. Konami & Zoe Lucas vs. Queen's Quest (AZM & HZK)clipped
It was obvious that Queen’s Quest was going to win this match because of the 3 way tag nature of Stardom matches where the factions tend to win these. Konami and Zoe Lucas is an odd pairing but they worked fine together. Queen Quest spent most of their time in the match taking advantage of the 3 way stipulation with sneak attacks and pulling people out of the ring. HZK won with the Bombs Away Drop onto Christi Jaynes. SamuraiTV clipped most of this so you couldn’t get a flow for this match. It’s recommended to view the Stardom World version of this match if you are interested.
High Speed Championship: Kris Wolf (c) vs. Hiromi Mimura**1/2
Finally, Kris Wolf is in a match to defend the title without Kagestu. At one of the recent shows leading to this, Hiromi proclaimed that she would beat Wolf for the title thus the match was set. The beginning of this match wasn’t bad as they tried to show the frenetic pace that fans are used to seeing in these High Speed Title matches dating back to when the title was created in NEO. Hiromi, to her credit, put on a good effort in trying to be a threat in this match by countering Wolf’s signature roll-up victory with ones of her own and kicking out of Wolf’s top rope double knee drop. However, Wolf won by a roll-up again, continuing her reign. The in ring ability of Wolf is starting to catch up with her microphone skills and her being High Speed Champion will help get a lot better in the long run with singles matches as she has to face a variety of opponents like Hiromi. Hiromi, herself, isn’t one of the better wrestlers on the Stardom roster but this was probably one of her better performances outside of a 5* Star Grand Prix and fits well as Stardom’s gatekeeper.
Hana Kimura vs. Mayu Iwataniclipped
This match was heavily clipped at the beginning but the parts that were left in was the pose off between Hana and Mayu. In what Haruo Murata dubbed as “sexy poses” in English, Hana Kimura pranced and blew kisses to the crowd to keep up with persona as the prettiest in Stardom. She challenged Mayu to do the same. It took the fans chanting and Hana booing her for Mayu to agree and it got a chuckle out of Bull Nakano on commentary.
This match was a back and forth affair and with the exceptions of Hana choking Mayu with her scarf along with Kris Wolf helping her, it showed that Hana can be on the level with Mayu. It’s impressive how fast she has gotten better since she made her debut at WRESTLE-1 shows last year. It took Mayu two German Suplexes and a Dragon Suplex to put Hana away in a decent match. Afterwards, Hana got on the mic and talked about how Mayu was “drifting away” from Stardom. I would encourage people to watch the Stardom World version of this as the promo is translated in English and it blurs the lines to what has recently been reported about Mayu retiring at the end of the year.
SWA Undisputed World Women’s Championship: Toni Storm (c) vs. Jungle Kyona**3/4
SamuraiTV aired a video package before the match showing Jungle Kyona recently winning the Goddess of Stardom Tag Team Titles with Hiroyo Matsumoto from BY-Ho in Nagoya. The tag match itself was really good and Jungle being in her hometown added to the match. She got on the mic and said “Dad, I did it” while holding her first title. With this new momentum, she takes on Toni Storm who can be the next Ace of Stardom but that might be unfulfilled as she wrestled at WWE Axxess as part of the PROGRESS roster and could be in the recently announced WWE Women’s Tournament as 32 women from around the world will compete.
Once the match started, you can tell that Jungle is officially on that level with the top stars in Stardom as her and Toni had good chemistry throughout. Jungle showed her usually fire and got the best of Toni in certain moments such as ducking Toni’s chops near the ring post on the outside and kicking her when Toni offered her handshake mid-match. In the end, Toni used a couple of headbutts and a Top Rope Diving Leg Drop to retain. It was similar to when Storm faced Jungle’s tag team partner last month where it got really good once the match hit the 10 minute mark.
World of Stardom Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs. Kairi Hojo***3/4
The video package that aired was really interesting cause you got a sense that it might be Kairi’s last shot at the World of Stardom Title. There were images of these two together in English saying “When did we fall apart?” and “Friends?” citing that Io and Kairi were part of Threedom with Mayu and it came apart once Io turned on Mayu during the Goddess of Stardom Tag League. Also, they showed all of Kairi’s accomplishments such as her debut in Stardom, her first title victory winning the tag team titles and her beating Io in 2015 for the World of Stardom Title.
The opening sequence of this match was more methodical than usual for these two as they started with a test of strength that devolved into Io applying a figure four leg lock for Kairi to fight out. Kairi did something out of ordinary for as she threw the referee onto Io in order to get out of the figure four. Once that happened, the match picked up a lot. They managed to get on the ring apron and Io attempted to do the same piledriver that gave Kairi the concussion last year but Kairi got out only to ram her arm on the ring post to take control. This lead to them fighting on the outside and it went into the bleachers of Korakuen Hall. Once again, Io did a moonsault off the balcony onto Kairi but it did not look good cause it barely touched her. As they got back into the ring, it picked up even more as Kairi managed to come back give Io a double stomp from the top ropes onto her back which gave her the opening to work on her lower back for a bit. Really good storytelling as it’s a call back to when Kairi won last year by submission. Kairi tried to do her Diving Elbow Drop but Io kicked her elbow as she came down.
They got to the ring apron again as Io attempted another piledriver but Kairi gave her a backdrop to the floor followed a diving splash to floor. Kairi would later give Io the Diving Elbow Drop again but Io kicked out this time, which is rare. Io did her Moonsault Press but Kairi kicked out of that in response. Moments later, Io gave Kairi a Tombstone Piledriver and another Moonsault Press for the victory for title defense number 13. Very good match but things were missing such as emotion and the lack of crowd response that you usually get when these two are together.
After the match, they shook hands only for Kairi to smack Io across the face. Kairi cut a promo talking about facing Io on the “next level” for a rematch. Stardom owner Rossy Ogawa would tweet later that Kairi asked him for the next match to be a 60 minute time limit instead the standard 30 minutes but you can also think of that the “next level” Kairi was talking about was WWE. Toni Storm, Mayu, and Jungle came out to challenge Io for the Red Belt but Io told them to win the Cinderella Tournament. Konami also came out to challenge Kairi for the Wonder of Stardom Title which you can view on Stardom World here.
Kairi looked heart broken that she couldn’t win against Io and even though Io is a heel for the most part, she went over again to pick her and raise her arm to the crowd. With the help of Hiromi, Kairi went to the back and waved the crowd possibly for the last time after a World Title match.
The Cinderella Tournament is tricky as it is a one night tournament where you can win by pinfall, submission, and throwing your opponent over the top rope. All of the matches except for the final are 10 minutes and they rarely go that long. It the match goes the ten minute time limit, both women are eliminated. Mayu has won the Cinderella Tournament two years in a row and her winning it this year would probably be the only way she can get a third rematch with Io. Toni Storm is the only person other than Kairi to beat Io in 2016 so she will get a title shot. This probably leaves someone like Jungle, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Konami or Kagestu to possibly win this but Cinderella is very unpredictable this year.
STARDOM THE HIGHEST ON MARCH 20, 2017
Decent - 6.5/10
It’s hard to rate this show as it was a glorified one match card but the wrestling was not particularly bad. For Stardom fans that pay attention to the news, this show will frustrate them as it was business as usual. Maybe these decisions were made so that they wouldn’t lose any fans because of the situations of the top four wrestlers but it is definitely head scratching. However, Io vs. Kairi is a must see match if you are a fan of these two or for someone that has never seen them before and heard about the recent WWE news.