Ryogoku Stardom Dream Queendom: Utami Hayashishita vs. Syuri
By: Karen Peterson
Check: Back at Ryogoku Sumo Hall for the first time in eight years, Stardom closed out a stellar 2021 with another outstanding show. In Japan, the New Year season (end of December after Christmas until roughly the third of January) is a hectic time for celebrating, but also a time for some relaxation.
Osaka Super Wars to Ryogoku Stardom Dream Queendom
Stardom cemented the path to Ryogoku with a couple of key moments in the eleven days between Osaka and Ryogoku with their Year-End Climax in Korakuen Hall.
Arrival of The Black Peach (2021.12.25)
At Osaka Super Wars, Momo Watanabe sent shockwaves throughout The Stardom World, when she threw away Queen’s Quest and her moniker as Stardom’s True Heart, after turning on AZM and walloping her with a steel chair. At the Year-End Climax at Korakuen on December 25, Momo Watanabe made her debut in all black and OedoTai purple. While her final OedoTai form has yet to be revealed, her hair is pitch black and for the first time in a very long time, she looked like she was having an absolute blast! I can’t wait to see what is in store for Momo, but more than anything else, I just want her to have some fun. It looks like she’s already got her first target in her crosshairs: her former MOMOAZ tag team partner, AZM.
“Next year, the first one I plan to destroy is AZM. I’m putting her on notice now.” – Momo Watanabe (backstage comments on 2021.12.25)
The Submission Arts #NEVEREND (2021.12.25)
After their emotional UWF Rules match at Tokyo Super Wars and the subsequent announcement of Konami’s departure from Stardom after Queendom, Konami requested her own dream tag match with her mentor and friend, Syuri at the Year-End Climax. The unlikely pairing of Cosmic Angels’ Unagi Sayaka and Donna Del Mondo’s Maika, who agreed to team together purely for the opportunity to wrestle Konami a final time, was quite entertaining but somewhat complementary. Very plucky buddy samurai drama with the serious, straight-laced Maika and the outlandish, plucku Unagi. While the powerhouse combination of Syuri and Konami is definitely something I want a whole boatload more of. Hopefully, should Konami return to wrestling, she and Syuri can team up again. If/When she returns to wrestling, I personally would love to see Konami align herself with whichever faction Syuri is a part of. Go out of your way to watch this match, and revel in the submission symphony the pair create together.
“Syuri, let’s definitely do this again! Never End!!” – Konami (in ring promo; 2021.12.25)
The Assailant Unmasked (2021.12.25)
At Stardom’s Year-End Climax, The Masked Assailant returns with not one but two new henchwomen!! After STARS defeated Cosmic Angels with Koguma pinning Waka Tsukiyama, the mysterious trio entered the ring to attack Cosmic Angels once more. This time, The First also attacked Tam Nakano, bringing Mayu Iwatani and STARS to assist in diffusing the situation. With double thrust kicks from Iwatani and Nakano, it was revealed that Giulia was the mastermind behind the mysterious attacks on the Cosmic Angels newcomers.
“Next year (2022), the numbers of Donna Del Mondo will increase with these two (The Second & The Third). [Tam]… I’m going to crush Cosmic Angels. Queen’s Quest, OedoTai, STARS, y’all are next. Arrivederci! Merry Christmas!” – Giulia (in ring promo; 2021.12.25)
When Giulia was conspicuously late from her highly publicized commentary guest post at Kawasaki Super Wars, I rewatched the movement of the Masked Assailant to confirm my suspicions. I found it curious that with the announcement of her being a part of the commentary team well in advance of the show, that she would be fashionably late, considering that she was sidelined with her injury. Maybe this was intended to give Giulia something to do during her absence, but it seemed slightly out of character unless they are telegraphing a heel turn for DDM or a split between the members.
Welcome to Ryogoku Stardom Dream QUEENDOM
Stardom returned to Ryogoku Sumo Hall for the first time in eight years to close 2021, making it the perfect end cap in a year where they had shows at multiple iconic sports venues throughout Japan. Between their own large scale celebrations at the Nippon Budokan (March 2021; All-Star Dream Cinderella) and Osaka-jo Hall (October 2021; Osaka Dream Cinderella) Hall as well as showcase exhibitions at sibling promotion, New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 15 (January 2021; Tokyo Dome) and Wrestle Grand Slam (September 2021; MetLife Dome), Stardom maximized their tenth anniversary year, thriving as the global pandemic continued.
That Stardom Soundtrack Remix
As the audience filled the venue, they were welcomed to a powered-up remix of the familiar Stardom theme. I’m hoping they’re getting ready to drop another Stardom music CD because the songs could easily be put into high rotation for those needing a pick me up!
English Commentary Available! Stewart Fulton returns to ringside for live English commentary. New York-born and latest Cosmic Angel, Waka Tsukiyama, was announced ahead of time that she would join Fulton after the opening five-way match. I did like that should I wish to watch the Japanese version, I could select either stream to watch. Advancing into 2022 and the continued fiscal growth of the company, I hope Stardom heavily considers hiring a full-time English commentary team, even just for their monthly big events. If only to make it feel just that but more accessible to their international audience.
- Five-Way Battle – Will the celebration be ruined by Giulia and her Masked Assailants again?
- Future of Stardom Championship – The Battle High Schooler Forever Rivalry starts NOW.
- Artists of Stardom Championship – Thank you for the pre-match dance-off!!
- High-Speed Championship Triple Threat – A frenzied, dizzyingly fast match. – Highly Recommend
- Hello & Good-bye Special Single Match – I cried [an expletive deleted] lot. You will, too. – Highly Recommend
- 10th Anniversary Reunion Tag – Hard-hitting, Feel-Good Emotional Palate Cleanser – Recommended
- Wonder of Stardom Championship – Does this Cinderella Story have a Happy Ending? – Highly Recommended
- World of Stardom Championship/SWA Championship – No.Time. Limit. – Highly Recommended
Special Guest Ring Announcer, Bushiroad Idol, and Stardom ambassador, Ai Aiba, announced the Five-Way Battle entrants as well as participated on the Japanese commentary team with Haruo Maruta and Makoto Oe for the show. Special guest: Miyabi Yamaoka, who not only joined Stardom commentary for the first time but also was watching professional wrestling for the first time! Talk about a prime, ringside seat!
Five-Way Battle: Fukigen Death defeats Waka Tsukiyama, Lady C, Saki Kashima, & Rina (6:30)
In a lopsided battle between Stardom rookies and OedoTai, this short, yet sweet match highlighted the comical yet technical wrestling genius that is Fukigen Death. While the referee allowed for some unsanctioned involvement by Tokyo Sports Newspaper shots, Lady C and Tsukiyama fought an uphill battle, while Kashima and Rina teamed up with Fukigen against them. OedoTai’s rapid combination of team moves really navigated the match with Kashima and Fukigen at the helm. Giulia and her new “Friends” did not make an appearance either. Tsukiyama and Lady C walked to the back together safely.
Sidebar: Whatever happened to Rina’s makeover after losing the makeup battle against Hazuki? If memory serves, Rina lost that bet.
Future of Stardom Championship – Hanan (STARS) defeats Ruaka (OET) © (5:20)
What I loved about the limited build to this match was Ruaka intentionally looking past all challengers and calling out fellow 17-year-old, High School Fighter, Hanan. Ruaka’s confidence as champion paired with the desire to fight against another who is to become the Future of the company really resonated with me. After her being away for a stretch of the year, Hanan walked into Ryogoku with brand-new, big match gear, which I always love to see! Ruaka came in with updated hair color, departing from Natsuko Tora’s bleach blonde.
The Battle Arts High School Fighter, Hanan, unlocked a side I have never seen before. Typically when she’s in matches, she has a “happy to be here” feeling, but tonight she dug deep into the fighting spirit side. Not me having a bit of a weep as Iwatani, Hazuki, and Saya Iida all dive into the ring to embrace and congratulate their youngest member on her first championship!! Followed up by a very out-of-character, Ruaka, hugging her forever rival tightly, before shoving her back. We love to see it!! Let’s Goooooooo, New Future Champion, Hanan!!!! I’m so excited to see what 2022 brings for her!
Artists of Stardom Championship – Donna Del Mondo © (Maika, Himeka & Natsupoi) defeats Cosmic Angels (Mina Shirakawa, Unagi Sayaka & Mai Sakurai) (13:23)
After using the Ten Million Yen Tournament to add a pair of successful defenses to their record, on top of winning TEN MILLION YEN, DDM suggested making the trios match at Queendom for the championship as well. As it was Natsupoi pinning Mina Shirakawa in October, which secured the Artists’ belts for DDM, DDM extended the offer confidently to the challenging team because they were fighting without their leader, Tam Nakano. Prior to the match-up, MaiHimePoi ventured to the outskirts of Kanagawa to pray for a successful title defense in the famous waterfall of Yuhi no Taki. They stood under the falls in December. DECEMBER.
Cosmic Angels came prepared with a new dance routine and Mai Sakurai’s new costume had me do a double-take (because I thought she looked like Himeka at a glance)! I do love how CA leans into the pop idol side from time to time with their choreographed numbers. Poor Tsukiyama lamented her own dancing skills, but I think she’s trying really hard! I can’t get enough of MaiHimePoi’s Artists of Stardom Trios gear and entrance dance. Stardom, if you’re going to have more trios matches, I need a matching gear rule. Have tag teams and trios look consistent, please, and thank you.
Cosmic Angels jump the gun with Sakurai leading the charge, attacking Maika from behind. Unlike the sneaky attacks from DDM’s leader, Giulia, MaiHimePoi looked Mai in the eye as they unleashed double and triple team attacks on Cosmic Angels. While all members actively participated in the match, it truly felt like it was centered around Sakurai, who despite her best effort, still was pinned by Maika in the end. She’s a bit more confident than she was when she arrived in Stardom during the summer, and the match showed off her growth in such a limited time.
MaiHimePoi end the year as Artists of Stardom Tag Champions with their fourth successful defense. In January, Natsupoi will be performing in the stage play, Assault Lily: Lost Memories, so I thought there was the possibility that MHP could lose the championship.
High-Speed Championship Triple Threat: Starlight Kid (OET) © defeats Koguma (STARS) and AZM (QQ) (7:56)
When Koguma was permitted to challenge SLK again after having just lost the her HS Championship challenge, I had hoped the addition was to give her a fair shot at the championship, and not to serve as the neutral fall designed to protect both AZM and SLK as tensions between OedoTai and Queen’s Quest continued to escalate in the wake of Watanabe’s defection to OET. Koguma’s expression alone when she entered pretty much confirmed it.
Big Match AZM enters with a brand new Queen’s Quest, Top Tier entrance gown, and new music. Without Momo, it makes me wonder if she’ll emerge not just as the New High-Speed Champion, but the Leader of QQ in 2022.
Living up to its namesake, this was another high-speed, high octane, non-stop match. There is no doubt in my mind that any one of them could be, should be, and have been the High-Speed Champion. Whenever SLK, AZM & Koguma are in the ring together, they consistently elevate the quality of the High-Speed matches, like their own private Secret High-Speed Society. The way they piece together chains of moves in rapid succession is nothing short of art. Absolutely stunning. There was a questionable two-possibly three count near the end of the match, which would have made Koguma the new High-Speed Champion. I did notice that some of the counts near the end were slower for some and faster for others.
In the end, SLK pins Koguma, leaving unfinished business between herself and AZM marching into 2022 like a Tiger. Koguma tried to run away from the humiliation of SLK’s gloating, but OedoTai made sure she didn’t get too far. As OedoTai versus Queen’s Quest continues, a singles rematch between AZM and SLK is definitely on the horizon.
With Starlight Kid being the first member of OedoTai to perform in the Tokyo Dome on January 5th, I understand the reason for keeping the High-Speed Championship on her. Her entrance gown decorated with the masks of her fallen foes will give a fantastic visual as she strides her way to the ring with their LigerTiger overmask. With the impending Black Peach Arc for Queen’s Quest/OedoTai, I also appreciate AZM not being the one to be pinned. I just feel bad for Koguma who not only kept pace with the other two but often dictated the speed of the match throughout.
#NEVEREND Hello & Good-bye Special Single Match: Giulia (DDM; returns to in-ring action) defeats Konami (OET; last match… for now) (12:06)
After Giulia was revealed to be the mastermind behind the Masked Assailants attacking the rookies and Cosmic Angels, my excitement for this match did slightly decrease. I really liked the sportsmanship and playful kinship they shared, both at the announcement of Konami’s departure and at the press conference, especially when Konami ruffled Giulia’s feathers, teasing her about the column Giulia had just written about Konami in Weekly Pro Wrestling Magazine. While I do love heel Giulia, the revelation that she’s been multitasking during her time on the sidelines just put all my feelings in a blender and smashed the frappe button. After her tag with Giulia’s stablemate Syuri, I feel like Konami is leaving the company as OedoTai’s new babyface heel.
If there had to be one sure-fire way to yank heartstrings, it was Konami making her entrance in her Tokyo Cyber Squad gear. Seeing her make her final entrance with a final homage to Hana Kimura had me crying from the get-go. I wasn’t ready for the glitter makeup and double finger guns. The only Stardom show I ever saw live was at Shinkiba in 2020 prior to Wrestle Kingdom and at that time, TCS was my favorite faction, so this send-off for both Konami and Hana hit like a shotgun shell. But it couldn’t get more emotional right?
WRONG. Giulia’s strode in with box braids like Hana wore when she won the 2019 5★GP and carrying a NEVER END flag signed by the entire STARDOM roster happened. Even her costuming was reminiscent of Hana’s 5★GP gear with white boots and open-sided baggy pants (albeit it is also how Giulia styled herself post-Hair vs Hair earlier this year and as ALIKABA with Syuri). Konami fought back tears during the entrance. Their match started with a forced handshake and immediately spiraled into an emotional rollercoaster with unmitigated violence.
Those familiar with the heated rivalry of Hana and Giulia when Giulia arrived on the scene, their stars taking off in 2019 and the shockwaves of loss of Hana in 2020 are in for not a special singles match, but a triple threat. Giulia and Konami weave a tapestry with a third opponent, forever rival, friend, and fallen sister: Hana. It would be Konami who manages to lock Giulia in Hydrangea midway through the match. They both lingered in the submission hold longer than they normally should, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Konami also tied up Giulia in a Jungle Buster, which we haven’t seen since Jungle Kyona went out with injury in 2020 in the wake of TCS being dissolved.
Giulia kicked out, so Konami went up and nailed her with a missile dropkick, another nod to Hana. Not to be outdone, Giulia countered another attempt by Konami, by nailing her with Hana’s package piledriver: Tiger Lily. There would be a tease of Konami’s Triangle Lancer, but in the end, an on-the-verge-of-tears Giulia ends the match with a Glorious Driver. They simply laid there, staring up at the heavens together, smiling through their tears. This match was everything it needed to be: undeniably cathartic.
“ARRIVEDERCI!” – Giulia
“NEVER END.” – Konami
If The Submission Arts tag team of Konami/Syuri is what I want to one day see, Konami/Giulia as a forever rivalry would be the flipside of that coin. While the match was intended to be a return for Gulia and a send-off for Konami, metamorphosed into a special love letter to a dear friend gone too soon. What I would have given for this to be a 30-minute draw, much like Gilua and Mayu’s draw on the anniversary of Hana’s passing, leaving their rivalry open-ended. However, should she return, Konami owes Giulia and Jungle Buster. They walked out together, shoulder to shoulder with the NEVER END flag draped over their backs.
10th Anniversary Reunion Tag: Mayu Iwatani & Takumi Iroha (MARVELOUS) defeat Hazuki (STARS) & Momo Watanabe (OedoTai) (15:36)
The Black Peach makes her entrance with ALL of OedoTai, including Natsuko Tora!! Part of me hoped that just for the sake of the tag, Hazuki would have returned as OedoTai HZK, so there would be a counterbalance to the overpowering double ace combo of Takumi Iroha and Mayu Iwatani. Momo’s new attitude doesn’t hide the fact that at her Peach Pit, she is still one of the standard-bearers and apexes within Stardom. She may be grittier and edgier now, but her heel turn is simply the shedding of the limitations that were previously on her in QQ.
One of the spots I particularly liked in the match was during Takumi versus Hazuki. The Wild Heart charges at the ropes for momentum, hoping to use the rebound for added force in her attack, when Mayu ties her up in the ropes. However, this move saves Hazuki from Takumi’s own offense, causing Takumi to call out Mayu with a “who’s side are you on?!” since Mayu saved her opponent and STARS stablemate, instead of letting her current tag partner throttle her! Mayu throws her hands to her head in an “OMG I totally messed up!” come to God’s moment.
While I wish there was more cohesiveness between Momo and Hazuki or at least Momo trying to lure the former OET member back to the darkness, seeing Momo opt to throw her partner away and attempting to win it all by herself instead proved to be rather entertaining.
“I’ll gladly do all of you the favor of becoming the Darkness Icon of Stardom.” – Momo Watanabe (post-match in-ring promo)
After the intensely emotional match prior, the reunion tag match feels like a palate cleanser full of great wrestling by four of the best to emerge from the STARDOM Dojo system. While Momo and Hazuki have great chemistry, I want a bit more clarity as to what her direction is aside from pure chaotic evil wildly spinning out of control.
Konami joins Japanese commentary for the final matches of the night.
Wonder of Stardom Championship: Saya Kamitani (QQ) defeats Tam Nakano © (CA) (21:59)
“You were an idol, too, so you should understand… There can only ever be one person in the center of any group,” was a spicy reminder from Tam Nakano to former protege Saya Kamitani prior to their match. Earlier this year, Kamitani won the Cinderella Tournament, only to fall to Nakano on her first attempt at the Wonder of Stardom Championship. Since then, Saya has been on the chase back to the White Belt while Tam’s racked up six successful defenses.
I worried that going into this match, Tam would do to Saya what she’s done to several of her previous challengers: not just underestimate her, but look past her to her own walls to scale like Mayu and Giulia. Often Tam’s own arrogance can be her downfall, and this match, it afforded Saya some great opportunities to remind her how much The Golden Phoenix has grown since her first challenge earlier this year. During her feud with Giulia over the Wonder, I cheered for Tam to overcome the wall she couldn’t scale. In this chapter, I cheered for Saya Kamitani as the perpetual underdog trying to dethrone her own mentor. However, sometimes Saya’s biggest obstacle is herself when she gets in her own head.
The Violet Screwdriver and the Twilight Dream almost put Kamitani away, but her long legs saved her as her toes hooked the bottom rope when Tam attempted the pin. Saya turned the tables and nailed Tam with a slick School Girl Suplex followed by a Star Crusher and a Phoenix Splash. It’s been a long, arduous return for Saya Kamitani, but she not only pins her mentor, but Tam insists on crowning the new champion herself, by securing the belt around her waist.
“That White Belt really suits you… well, after me, of course…” – Tam Nakano
Next Challenger: Unagi Sayaka – It’s annoying predictable of her at this point. Read the room.
“I. AM. STARDOM.” – Saya Kamitani
With Tam’s autobiography going on sale at this event with a release date scheduled for mid-January, I was hesitant to get my hopes up for a Kamitani upset. However, the longer the match continued, the more realistic to began to feel. Next week, Nakano and Kamitani will tag together on night two of Wrestle Kingdom against a very reluctant M☆K Sisters reunion between Mayu Iwatani and her former protege, Starlight Kid. I am thrilled to see Ms. Golden Phoenix Splash down in the Tokyo Dome with that Wonder of Stardom Championship around her waist and her mentor and tag team partner, The Shining Stardom Dream at her side. I am curious to see how Saya’s newly won championship plays into their dynamic at next week’s Tokyo Dome show.
World of Stardom/SWA Championship – Syuri © SWA defeats Utami Hayashishita © World (36:33)
Two 409 day reigns. Two Championships were won on the same day. One of the top-rated rematches of 2021 to close out Stardom’s biggest show of the year. The Ace versus The Woman Unlike No Other. 2021 Tokyo Sports Women’s MVP versus 2021 Stardom Five Star Grand Prix Winner. No. Time. Limit.
First things first, if you dislike this match, I genuinely have no words for you. Go back and watch it again. Maybe twice if necessary. Take the time to learn about Syuri’s journey to Stardom and her promise to her late mother after her passing last year. Go watch their 43-minute time limit draw, Syuri winning the 5★GP, and their press conference. Then come back.
There were several instances where I thought we’d see a submission victory instead of a pin fall, which made their battle feel fresh despite revisiting it so soon after their original match earlier in the year. Between Syuri’s White Tiger and Figure Four Leg Lock and Utami going in for the Sleeper after multiple Jackknife BT Bombs, I was surprised either was able to stand up. Oh, and then there was Syuri’s Frankensteiner off the apron and Utami returning the favor with that Air Raid Crash to the Sumo Hall floor. So much happened in the match that I had to watch it twice because the first time through I was so mesmerized by it, that I didn’t take any notes at all!
This was a masterclass with both determined to not only dissect but dismantle the other in the most sportsmanlike manner possible. Neither was satisfied with the potential for a count-out victory, even when they spilled outside the ring multiple times and refused to stop fighting. Their battle was a bitter chess match in which Utami and Syuri systematically sought to completely unravel the other before their tank emptied out. After the year each of them had, this was the perfect result, a thrilling conclusion to this 18-month journey for Syuri.
“Hey, Mom. I finally did it!” – Syuri (post-match in-ring) to her late mother up in Heaven.
“Utami, you and I are the only two who could have had this match.” – Syuri to Utami
Donna Del Mondo afforded Syuri her moment under the bright lights and confetti, waiting for her to exit the ring before celebrating with her. After embracing her teammates, she made her way over to the commentary table and hugged Konami tightly. On Japanese commentary, Konami didn’t turn off her headset when she spoke with Syuri.
“I want you to become the next mountain for everyone to scale in this company. You had better hold onto that belt for when I return.” – Konami
While neither are listed for any of the Wrestle Kingdom shows, after watching that match, they deserve more than a week off. To any of the NJPW fans who are interested in Stardom and confused why both are off WK, I recommend they pick up the iPPV this week or invest the money in Stardom World to watch this match (and the previous one) in their entirety once available. Both Syuri and Utami have set the bar for Stardom in the last year, consistently elevating the company with their diverse styles of wrestling.
Ryogoku Stardom Dream Queendom neatly wrapped up an outstanding year for the company, and I cannot wait to see what awaits everyone in 2022. Have a happy and healthy New Year!
- Saya Iida – Instagram, her personal trainer, Yoshimasa Mizuta at X-TREME Personal Gym recently documented her 10-month fitness and post-surgery rehabilitation journey, discussing how she’s been consistently working toward her in-ring return. The occasional run-ins from Iida in recent months make me optimistic that a return in early 2022 is near. Iida was permitted to second at ringside throughout the event. No further updates; No return match announced yet.
- Natsuko Tora – Made a ringside appearance with all of OET during Momo’s entrance for the 10th Anniversary Reunion Tag. No further updates; No return match announced yet.
UPCOMING EVENTS (January 2022-March 2022)
Live PPV Details for future events are currently TBA. Follow @We_Are_Stardom and @WWR_Stardom for details and announcements.
- January 2022
- Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 2 (2022.01.05) – Mayu Iwatani/Starlight Kid ©HS vs. Tam Nakano/Saya Kamitani ©Wonder; 2nd Match on the card
- Nagoya Supreme Fight (Aichi Prefecture; 2022.01.29)
- February 2022
- Cinderella Journey Aore Nagaoka (Niigata Prefecture; 2022.02.23)
- March 2022
- Stardom World Climax 2022 Days 1 & 2 (Tokyo; 2022.03.26-27) – New Event Announced! Stardom returns to Ryogoku for back-to-back shows! The first time women’s wrestling will be held in Ryogoku on consecutive nights!