A WWE Fan’s Journey To Stardom

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A WWE Fan's Journey To Stardom
Photos Courtesy of World Wonder Ring Stardom

Established in 2011, World Wonder Ring Stardom has become the home of the best women’s wrestling in the entire world. Located in Japan, many well-known current stars in the United States including Io Shirai and Kairi Sane made their names in women’s wrestling as members of the Stardom roster. Many fans around the world have helped make Stardom a staple in professional wrestling. Despite the tough 2020 for them so far, they only look to continue their growth to a world-renowned company.

As a longtime WWE fan, I have spent my past year getting accustomed to the wrestlers of AEW and NJPW among other companies. It was only recently that I made the jump to Stardom to learn what the hype has all been about. Now, after taking in over 60 matches through the years, I believe it’s time for me to share my opinions on the incredible women who have made up the roster over the year. See me as the fresh, new fan and perhaps this can help you also dive into the incredible world that is Stardom and why this version of professional wrestling could very well be the best in the world.

Note: These are my opinions and I only hope they help you adjust to the Wonder World of Stardom and give them your time as a pro wrestling fan. I will discuss all the great performers I have seen in alphabetical order and why you should (or shouldn’t) go out of your way to check them out.

Arisa Hoshiki Stardom

Arisa Hoshiki: There may not be a more natural professional wrestler than Arisa Hoshiki. From her moments in early Stardom that made me a fan of her to her return in 2018 where she put the world on notice that she was not only still capable, but even better than she was almost a decade later. Arisa had the moves, presence, and everything in between to make her a star. There’s a reason in her short return she not only won the Cinderella Tournament but also ended Momo Watanabe‘s historic Wonder of Stardom title run. She was that good. Her style of the Brazillian Kick instantly became my favorite move in wrestling. The fact that she had to retire leaves plenty of sadness and even more “what could have been.”

When it comes to talents I wasn’t familiar with before starting this journey, Arisa places right behind one in terms of being amongst my favorites. I’ll hold out hope forever that maybe, somehow, someway she can return once again.

AZM

AZM: Incredible. AZM is a future face of Stardom for all I’ve seen (if she isn’t already). Still only 17 years old, her small but impressive stature is what gives her that perfect underdog story moving forward. Her success already just means for a bright future. Her match with Momo Watanabe is one that really sticks out to me as one that showed the future was in great hands. Down the road, AZM is going to win a lot of gold. Her style is almost addictive as well, fitting into the high speed like a glove.

Death Yama San: In the single match that Death was included in that I viewed, I learned that she perfected comedy wrestling in an instant. The continuous “rockstar” hand signal and ability to keep the crowd engaged was something that was welcoming in Stardom. Considering the amount she is included in the current product, I look forward to seeing what else she can do.

Giulia: She’s got “it.” There was more hype on Giulia than anyone on this list in terms of my anticipation via Twitter, friends, and more. Her star is on a dramatic rise as she is already Wonder of Stardom Champion and the winner of the 2020 Cinderella Tournament. I was smart to make my own opinion prior due to the 50/50 reaction she seems to get from fans on Twitter and it resulted in me becoming a big fan. The presence she carries anytime she enters the arena and what she is able to do inside the ring makes her the full package that is one of the main stars of Stardom moving forward. I’m excited for her hopeful longer match with Momo and her first with Mayu Iwatani. Giulia is an absolute superstar.

Hana Kimura

Hana Kimura: Hana Kimura was special. She was infectious. Whether she was in the ring or simply supporting her team (Oedo Tai or Tokyo Cyber Squad), you had eyes on her. As the leader of TCS, she made it clear that everyone should be welcome and loved. In the ring, she was one of the rising stars. Her match with Giulia at the end of 2019 is not only one of my favorites but a true sign of how incredible she was in-ring. Her entire entrance attire made her the coolest in the room from the gas mask to the sword and the bright neon colors. She instantly became one of my favorites in a match when she was a member of Oedo Tai. What was even more telling was I hadn’t known it was her until the end.

She will forever be missed and forever be remembered as a beautiful soul and a special part of Stardom. Yes Sir!

Hazuki/HZK: Underappreciated is a good word to describe Hazuki and her time as a member of Stardom. Her matches with the likes of AZM and Io Shirai were among the most enjoyable I saw. She never got the nod one would expect considering her talents, as her only singles gold came in the form of the High-Speed Title. An enjoyable run at that, she was one that many fans should only appreciate more now that she is gone. I know I do.

Hiromi Mimura: While a smaller talent, she was one of the most enjoyable to watch and learn about. Mimura was one of the outgoing and telling women from my earlier viewings of matches and I only wish I could have seen more of her work. What’s even more impressive is her short time in the business of four years. I could only wish there was more of a catalog to look from as she had something when it came to her ability in wrestling.

Io Shirai Stardom

Io Shirai: The reason this is an article. Io Shirai was the ace of Stardom before heading to WWE and for good reason. Shirai was and remains my favorite wrestler in the world and her Stardom work only certified that. Her silky smoothness as she soared through the air via springboard dropkick and jaw-dropping moonsault was only the beginning of her greatness. The number of classics she had with Mayu Iwatani, Momo Watanabe, Yoko Bito, and Hazuki is only the beginning of her greatness as a member of Stardom. Add in her time as partners with Mayu as Thunder Rock and you have one of the best tag teams you can see. The two played off each other as opponents and partners like few could, and it makes sense as to why the ace was passed on from her to Mayu.

Shirai was bona fide greatness as her mixture of charisma and in-ring ability is unmatched and she was the true Queen of Stardom. Starting the group, Queen’s Quest, was only another feather in her legendary cap in the company. There’s room in my heart that someday, Shirai returns to Stardom for one last match, hopefully with Mayu, to close her career in the best way possible. If you are unsure of trying Stardom, watch any match with Shirai and Iwatani. You will be locked in forever.

Jungle Kyona: I guess there always comes a time with a wrestler that fans adore and you don’t totally get. I could be in the wrong here, but Jungle Kyona is that for me. People clamor for her to rise and win the red belt but I am not too sure that direction is necessary for her. A white belt victory is more of her style for right now, as carrying the company on her back just isn’t something I see. Again, that’s just me. Her style doesn’t connect with me for some odd reason.

Kagetsu

Kagetsu: Heels can be the coolest part of professional wrestling. And then there are some that transcend that stigma of heel or face. Kagetsu did exactly that. When it comes to this list, you can see a lot of “queens,” per se. They are that special. But Kagetsu was above that. She made you glue your eyes to the screen during her matches because she was simply that good. The best part was she had fun doing it. Every match, you knew that was something she enjoyed, even when she had hated it at one time. Kagetsu made her matches, appearances, anything you can dream of a special event.

Even when she was in non-title matches, you were waiting as if amazement would happen because that was how good she was. She was the best. It is a pity I started this journey after she retired. I get the sadness so many shared when she had her final run. She was so special in the ring and as a professional wrestler. One of the instant favorites that make you a Stardom fan for a long time. Oedo Tai’s true leader was one of a kind.

Kairi Hojo Stardom

Kairi Hojo: One member of the legendary Threedom and one of the best Joshi in the world. Kairi Hojo left her mark before departing for the WWE in 2017. The difference between the WWE Kairi and Stardom Kairi is very noticeable as well. Consider how good she was and stiff she could be with her strikes. To me, Kairi was one of the best to ever step in Stardom and you understand the prestige she carried when she joined the WWE. Her matches with Maya Iwatani and Hiromi Mimura really stand out to me as ones to watch for anyone.

That is only two of many classics that she performed. Along with Io Shirai, she was the perfect wrestler to really get me into Stardom and keep me here as a fan for the long run. One of the best talents in the companies history. Seriously, her ability doesn’t get enough credit and the idea she could be done is very sad but makes you smile as well.

Konami: The connection for me isn’t there when it comes to Konami yet. She shows some slick movements in the ring and has a number of impressive moves. However, she doesn’t strike me as the elite. It’s personal preference but her matches haven’t been something of must-see in my eyes. Her match with Arisa in the 2019 Cinderella Finals had more to do with the greatness of Arisa rather than Konami in my opinion.

Mayu Iwatani

Mayu Iwatani: I have watched professional wrestling for the better part of the past 13 years. I have gone into archives, seen some of the best matches wrestling has to offer. I am here to say that when it comes to in-ring performance alone, Mayu Iwatani may be the best I have ever seen. You can keep your Rainmakers and Cleaners. She is the best in the world today in my opinion. More so, she has never had a match that I’m not at least on the edge of my seat.

Mayu’s importance to Stardom is the most possible in history. They have lost so many great talents over the years due to retirement and leaving for other ventures. Through it all, Mayu Iwatani has been there to pick up the slack and run to another stratosphere with it. Her mix of strength, unmatchable speed, and incredible flexibility are what make her the best.

Her matches with Io Shirai as friends and rivals are my favorites yet. However, Mayu’s instant classics with Takumi Iroha, Momo, and others are all reasons to make my point clearer. Mayu’s ability to be herself through and through makes her special, and her in-ring ability makes her the best. I have never once seen a bad match out of Mayu and that’s why I hold her at this highest of judgment. She is Stardom’s dorky ace and an absolute rockstar.

Meiko Satomura: A true Joshi legend. With prior knowledge thanks to the second Mae Young Classic, I knew what to expect with Meiko Satomura. Even with that feeling of what to expect, she still stunned me with how much better she was outside of the WWE umbrella. It was as though she could snap her fingers and turn it on. A credit to her.

Momo Watanabe

Momo Watanabe: Threedom aside, as they were the only three I had any knowledge about before starting this journey, Momo Watanabe is my favorite wrestler in Stardom. As just 20 years old, she has created an incredible resume. Her Wonder of Stardom run was historic and tremendous. She captured the title from Io Shirai and lost it to Arisa Hoshiki — two of my favorite matches. But what makes Momo my favorite was her in-ring style which led to many of my favorite matches. Some of the stiffest kicks you’ll ever see and some excellent confidence that goes with it. Her countless classics with Mayu, AZM, and Tam also come to mind besides Shirai and Hoshiki, as she really came into her own.

Maybe there is something special when it comes to being the leader of Queen’s Quest, considering my affinity for Shirai as well. The fact that she does not have a red belt reign yet gives me hope and excitement. Perhaps I can see that moment myself when the time comes. The whole character that Momo brings to the table mixed with her hard-hitting style is what makes her my favorite and someone everyone should see to get it.

Nanae Takahashi: From the earliest days of Stardom, Nanae Takahashi helped set the perfect picture as to what this company would be. From her brutal strikes to her ability to soar through the air with ease, Nanae was someone that anyone that considers themselves a pro wrestling fan should see. Her match with the incredibly young Arisa Hoshiki was the initial match to get my Stardom journey going. From there, I was locked in. 2011 was long ago for Stardom, but worth every bit of your time thanks to Nanae Takahashi.

Natsuko Tora: The new leader of Oedo Tai is good, but she doesn’t carry that same aura as the former leader Kagetsu. Additionally, they aren’t the same wrestler, so that makes some sense. Tora has a brawler mentality that is unique in the world of Stardom. She isn’t someone I have connected with as of yet. To be fair to her, I have only seen her a handful of times.

Takumi Iroha Stardom

Takumi Iroha: The coolest of looks mixed with one of the most impressive movesets in all of wrestling, Takumi Iroha has to be a favorite for anyone who watches her. The Ace of Marvelous became an instant favorite of mine, with her match vs. Mayu Iwatani from earlier this year being the best case as to why (MOTY, by the way). Iroha may not be a Stardom star anymore, but her undeniable ability could have me venture to Marvelous in the future.

Tam Nakano: Tam can be really good. When she is hitting her strikes, she is one of my favorites to watch in action. The underdog aspect of her makes her someone anyone wants to cheer for and her time is coming. Her showing in the QQ vs. Oedo Tai elimination match is the one that really caught my eye. Matches with Momo and especially Arisa also are up there for me as some of her best, as she has what it takes to be one of the faces of Stardom. I hope her time is coming, especially as a full-time fan after all this time.

Utami Hayashishita: Utami is someone I’m waiting to see more of. I like her tag team action, whether she was teaming with Momo or Saya Kamitani. Her singles haven’t wowed me yet but she has got better and better. In time, I believe I will become a bigger fan.

Yoko Bito

Yoko Bito: One of the more underrated in terms of recognition and talent. Bito was one of the women that really helped me get into it early on. Her matches between her return and eventual retirement were excellent. I got the sense when watching her that her talents were underappreciated and she was one of the best to watch, especially in 2017. Bito is someone who doesn’t necessarily receive the credit of the likes of the Threedom and Kagetsu, but she was one of the most enjoyable watches in all. Her style was one that anyone could be a fan of.

Yuzuki Aikawa: Yuzuki Aikawa was there for the beginning and really set a precedent for what the company could be. Just brutal, stiff kicks on the behalf of Aikawa that would make you wrench in pain while watching. That’s how good she was and again, someone anyone should go back and watch. To learn where a lot of the greatness Stardom rose from and simply to see how great Yuzuki was in her own right. The catalog is not long in what I saw. However, it was enough to help me really grab on to being a fan of the company in the long run.

More From LWOPW

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.  And make sure to subscribe to Stardom World to see these fantastic matches from one of Stardom’s best years

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