Stardom’s Cinderella Tournament Finals Report
By: Karen Peterson
Japanese Commentary Features Special Guests! Haruo Murata (Lead Commentator) with Makoto Ohe (Color Commentary) Momo Kohgo and her Special Secret Sensei, Yuji Nagata (NJPW) joined commentary for the show!! How many of you guessed the secret identity correctly? I kept going back and forth between Kagetsu and Milano Collection A.T. However, both guesses were incorrect as Momo Kohgo invited NJPW’s Yuji Nagata to join her and Japanese commentary for the Finals of the Cinderella Tournament after he spent the day coaching STARS. Stardom released a video where Nagata trained with the members of STARS prior to the finals of the tournament. Momo Kohgo joined commentary after her match. There was another surprise drop-in at the commentary table.
On the Road to Cinderella Tournament Finals
- Goddesses of Stardom Tag: Black Desire (OedoTai; Starlight Kid & Momo Watanabe) defeat Black Designer (DDM; Giulia/Thekla) for V1 with Momo pinning Thekla with Peach Sunrise (21:35)
- Artists of Stardom 6-Woman Tag: Donna del Mondo (Maika, Himeka & Natsupoi) retain over Cosmic Angels (Tam Nakano, Mina Shirakawa & Unagi Sayaka) for V7 with a 30-minute time limit draw (2022.04.23)
If you want a quick run-down of the middle stages of the Cinderella tournament, I recapped the second rounds on POST News Daily with John Pollock. The full opening night review is also available, if you really, really need to get up to speed before digging deep into the finals!
KONAMI Returns for Golden Fight Week 2022!!
At Korakuen Hall, Syuri announced the fourth member of God’s Eye with a taped video message from KONAMI!! She announced that she would be returning to Stardom for one week only, and declared that she would do it at her master’s side as a member of God’s Eye! OedoTai took particular offense at this sudden departure from their group with Starlight Kid calling out Syuri and accusing her of behavior unbecoming of a champion by poaching one of the group’s strongest competitors.
Konami will return to Stardom in her home prefecture of Hiroshima on the first show immediately after the Cinderella Tournament Finals on May 1st. Her final show with the tour will be Saturday, May 7th when God’s Eye (Syuri, MIRAI, Ami Sorei & Konami) squares off against OedoTai (Saki Kashima, Ruala, Starlight Kid & Momo Watanabe) in an 8-woman tag match. Konami has explicitly stated that she will only be participating in this tour. However, this could also be a litmus test to see if her physical condition has healed enough for her to return long-term.
Personally, before any full-time return commitment, I sincerely hope she is the opponent Jungle Kyona has selected for her exhibition match at the second Hana Kimura Memorial Show on May 23rd. They were in Tokyo Cyber Squad with Hana when Hana passed away on May 23, 2020. Konami would later betray Jungle, defecting to OedoTai which would result in the dissolution of TCS. Kyona would be injured later in the year, and quietly left Stardom in October 2021, while rehabilitating her injuries and needing additional corrective surgery. Konami would be hospitalized for acute enteritis last fall, which would ultimately lead to her last match at Wrestle Queendom against a returning Giulia.
STARS underwent special training with Blue Justice Yuji Nagata! https://t.co/St4gBzwwsS
— We Are Stardom (@we_are_stardom) April 26, 2022
Luminous & Pink Kabuki Ends in a Draw
During the Cinderella Rumble, Mina Shirakawa and Haruka Umesaki were eliminated at the same time. They would meet two weeks later at the Korakuen 60th Birthday Joshi Dream Festival tag match where they would draw. Prior to the Cinderella Tournament Finals, Pink Kabuki (Shirakawa & Unagi Sayaka) challenged Umesaki & Miyuki Takase (Luminous) for the WWW DIANA Tag Team Championships. They wrestled to a time-limit draw. In the backstage area, Haruka expressed her frustration at her inability to defeat them, and before Takase could console her, Mina & Unagi confronted them.
— スターダム✪STARDOM (@wwr_stardom) April 29, 2022
“Ending in a draw is frustrating, right? Well, if that’s the case how about you join us on May 13th at New Blood 2 as X? …your boss, Kyoko Inoue already likes the sound of that…” – Unagi Sayaka
- Opening Match: 3-Way Battle: Could tonight be Waka’s night?! – Worth a Watch
- Future of Stardom Championship: The house divided continues… – Worth a Watch
- Cinderella Tournament 2022 Semi-Final: High Speed Fairy vs. New Combat Sports Princess – Highly Recommended
- Cinderella Tournament 2022 Semi-Final: Is The Reunion of Destiny Over?! – Highly Recommended
- 6-Woman Tag Match Gauntlet Match – Very Chaotic in the best way possible. – Recommended
- High Speed Championship: Could the Cinderella Rumble Winner keep up with the HS Champion? – Highly Recommended
- Cinderella Tournament Finals: STARS vs. DDM -or- God’s Eye – Highly Recommended
- World of Stardom Championship: Will the Jumbo Princess topple her former ally? – Highly Recommended
Stardom aired the opening match and the Future of Stardom match for free on their YouTube Channel prior to the start of the iPPV.
Opening Match: 3-Way Battle: Ami Sōrei (GE) defeats Waka Tsukiyama (CA) and Mai Sakurai (DDM) (4:19) with a Brainbuster before pinning Waka
The running challenge is that Waka Tsukiyama just can’t get her first win in Stardom. Entering the company and then Cosmic Angels shortly after Mai Sakurai, she is truly one of the underdogs of the entire roster. You can’t help but cheer for her, and no matter how many times she loses, she keeps going. Mai Sakurai has found her new attitude and style with Donna del Mondo, and her abandonment of Waka and Cosmic Angels also feeds into the story. Mai’s story arc is that with Giulia and DDM, she’s finally evolving into the wrestler she always wanted to become. When Ami Sōrei emerged in Stardom, she aligned herself with arguably one of the strongest competitors and faction leaders in the company’s history.
All three participants originated in Actwres Girl’Z, so for the three of them to reunite and fight one another, makes this opening match particularly emotional. Waka makes a beeline for Mai, which makes me hold out on the hope that when she finally clinches her first victory, she’s finally going to defeat Mai to do it. Waka is surprisingly opportunistic and aggressive in this match, so I think she’s finally discovered her confidence and a way to key into her “Little Devil” of CA persona. There is also a twinge of desperation and frustration, which makes her fight much more relatable and authentic. Maybe the new gear has also turned up the level of her character as well.
Ami is still dominant and Waka does take the brunt of the offense from both Ami and Mai throughout the match, but she is fighting longer and harder by herself. After a massive Death Valley Bomb, a lariat, and finally a massive brainbuster, Waka stays down long enough for Ami to get the pin.
What’s Next: After Golden Week Fight Tour, Ami will tag with MIRAI against Waka Tasukiyama and freelancer Momoka Hanazono at New Blood 2. Mai Sakurai will face Prominence’s Suzu Suzuki in a singles match in the show’s semi-main event.
Future of Stardom Championship: Hanan © (STARS) vs. Hina (QQ) (6:26) with a Backdrop Hold
With Hina’s return to Stardom and Queen’s Quest, she has a cooler, more calculated than I remember. I think her growing out her hair so as to better distinguish herself from both her sisters also helps. It seems that all three girls are likely at high schools with strict dress codes as none of them have elected to color their hair or add extensions, but simply change the cut and style. Hina’s costuming (including hair and makeup) in the QQ-style makes it appear that she is the older sister, when Hanan actually is.
Hina took roughly seven months away from in-ring action to focus on her high school entrance exams, but despite that, it seems she’s been training and keeping track of her sisters’ progress in Stardom while she was away. If I were to put the three sisters on a babyface-heel spectrum: Hanan (STARS) is the pure babyface, Rina (OedoTai) is the heel, and Hina (Queen’s Quest) is smackdab in the middle with a slight lean toward the babyface end.
Their match was short but hard-hitting. Naturally, the sisters know one another better than anyone else, aside from their third sister, Rina. Both Hanan and Hina showcased their judo and technical roots, which made it a very even match. I could see Hina as the one who could dethrone Hanan in the future if Saya Iida doesn’t beat her to it.
Hanan ties Starlight Kid’s Future of Stardom defense record of five victories and now aims to tie Utami Hayashishita’s record at six on her next defense. She’s determined to beat Utami’s record. Her next challenger did not appear, so it may be decided during Golden Week Fight Tour or at New Blood 2. In the backstage comments, Hanan name drops JTO’s Inaba as she is the Sendai Girls’ Junior Champion, but also acknowledges that she has yet to fight Waka Tsukiyama or Miyu Amasaki. Since Inaba is also a champion, she is currently at the top of Hanan’s wish list.
What’s Next: After the Golden Week Fight Tour, Hina and Hanan will tag together at New Blood 2 against JUST TAP OUT’s Aoi & Tomoko Inaba.
Commentary Sidebar: What I liked about experiencing Yuji Nagata on commentary was that it was his first time experiencing a Stardom show, so Haruo Murata drew parallels between New Japan’s championship structure and weight classes to make it easy to understand. I found Murata’s simple explanations made it very accessible for a first-time viewer who might be familiar with NJPW but curious about their sibling promotion in Stardom. Examples:
- Future of Stardom Championship – “if the Young Lions/those with relatively short careers were to have a championship they could compete for.”
- High Speed Championship – “You could compare it to the speed of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.”
2022 Five★ Grand Prix Finals Announced!
Previously, Stardom announced the opening of their strongest woman of the summer tournament, The Five Star Grand Prix (5★GP). Today, they announced the date and location of the finals! Tour dates, ticketing information, participants, and block breakdown to be announced at a later date. Last year’s final saw Momo Watanabe and Syuri have an amazing final bout and both closed out 2021 with remarkable results! Momo would dispatch Queen’s Quest and join OedoTai and Syuri would finally be the one to topple Utami Hayashishita’s seemingly unstoppable World of Stardom run at Dream Queendom!
The 5★GP was the first event I covered for POST, so this year’s finals will mark one year of my coverage of Stardom for POST. The last year of Stardom has been particularly riveting. I can’t wait to see how this year’s 5★GP goes!
5★GP Opening Weekend: July 30-31, 2022 at Ota Ward Gymnasium
5★GP Finals: October 1, 2022, at Musashino Forest Sun Plaza’s Main Arena (Chofu Ward, Tokyo)
Cinderella Tournament 2022 Semi-Final: Koguma defeats Hazuki (6:17) with a Jackknife Bomb
Hazuki defeated Miyu Amasaki and AZM to advance but didn’t have to face the winter of Syuri/Himeka as they were eliminated concurrently due to a time limit draw. Koguma staged upset after upset by defeating Fukigen Death, Saya Iida, and Giulia to face her own tag partner in the semi-finals. Their match was nothing short of a high speed match with both seemingly having an answer to each and every problem posed before them.
Short, sweet, and I was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t go with the obvious choice of Hazuki winning. However, this also means that Koguma is likely being slotted into place to lose against the winner of Natsupoi and MIRAI.
What’s Next: After Koguma fights the winner of Natsupoi/MIRAI in the finals later in the show, the pair will compete as Fukuoka Double Crazy against Black Desire © (Starlight Kid & Momo Watanabe) for the Goddesses of Stardom Championships in their home prefecture of Fukuoka at the Fukuoka Goddess Festival. They originally lost the tag championships to Black Desire, so this is their opportunity for revenge.
Cinderella Tournament 2022 Semi-Final: MIRAI (GE) defeats Natsupoi (DDM) (8:17) via MIRAMĀRE (submission)
You would have thought that Natsupoi and MIRAI had some unknown, unfinished business from another time with the way they went at one another. Their match was dizzyingly fast and hard-hitting. With Natsupoi having already challenged Kamitani earlier in the year for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, I immediately wondered if it would be too soon for them to revisit their rivalry. MIRAI
Ultimately, MIRAI locked in her MIRAMARE and made Natsupoi choose between advancing to the finals and her arms. Natsupoi weakly waved her arm admitting defeat.
6-Woman Tag Match Gauntlet Match – Cosmic Angels (Tam Nakano, Mina Shirakawa & Unagi Sayaka) win with Tam Eliminating Giulia over the top rope.
- Queen’s Quest (Utami Hayashishita, Saya Kamitani & Lady C)
- STARS (Mayu Iwatani, Saya Iida & Momo Kohgo) – (4:06) Mayu pins Lady C
- OedoTai A (Ruaka, Starlight Kid & Momo Watanabe)
- (5:11) Momo Watanabe pins Saya Iida after Hitodenashi Driver
- (5:01) SLK pins Rina after the Black Tiger Punishment
- OedoTai B (Saki Kashima, Rina & Fukigen Death)
- Donna del Mondo (Giulia, Maika & Thekla) – (3:35) Maika pins Ruaka after the Michinoku Driver II
- Cosmic Angels (Tam Nakano, Mina Shirakawa & Unagi Sayaka) – Tam defeats Giulia via OTTR
Girls’ Pro-Wrestling Unit COLOR’s SAKI, Hikari Shimizu, Rina Amikura & Yuko Sakurai enter and challenge Cosmic Angels. Amikura and Sakurai will participate in New Blood 2 in a tag match against Momo Kohgo and Saya Iida. Want more information on COLOR’s? Read until the end!
High Speed Championship: AZM © (QQ) defeats Mei Suruga (Gatoh Move) (13:06) with Azumi Sushi
During the press conference, AZM declared that if she successfully defended, Mei would need to form a tag team with her. The pair would make a force to be reckoned with, especially if they walk into Goddess Tag League together come the autumn.
Their match is one of the more light-hearted High Speed matches I’ve ever seen AZM compete in and she looked like she was having the time of her life in this match with Suruga. AZM tends to be a very focused, serious competitor, so I love it when she gets to cut loose and have a little fun. AZM keeps doing these crazy planchas out of the ring, so I am hoping that one day soon, she’ll also move on from the High Speed class and have other singles opportunities. Mei was a refreshing challenger for AZM and I hope she comes back to Stardom or can work a miracle to get AZM onto Gatoh Move and Choco Pro one day.
Backstage, Mei would break AZM’s heart seemingly rejecting her offer to tag together because AZM hasn’t appealed hard enough! It looks like if AZM is going to make their dream tag happen, she’s doing to need to work a little harder. We’ll have to stay tuned and see what the future holds for them!
What’s Next: This is AZM’s V2, but she owes Hazuki a title shot after her loss during the tournament.
AZM owes Hazuki a High Speed match for her loss in the Cinderella Tournament, so perhaps after Fukuoka Goddess Festival, they’ll line up the match for Flashing Champions (May 28th)
Mark Your Calendars! May 15th at Korakuen Hall: Queen’s Quest will have a five-way match to determine who will take up the mantle of the unit leader. Participants: AZM, Utami Hayashishita, Saya Kamitani, Hina & Lady C. Having only debuted two months ago, Miyu Amasaki was not included in the match. Personally, AZM and Utami would be my picks, especially after the 2021 Utami had and the stellar 2022 AZM is having.
— スターダム✪STARDOM (@wwr_stardom) April 21, 2022
Cinderella Tournament Finals: MIRAI (GE) defeats Koguma (STARS) (11:45) with MIMĀRE SHOCK.
What I liked about this year’s CT Final is the substantial break between semi-final round matches and the finals. With the 6-Woman Tag Gauntlet and the High Speed Championship match, Koguma and MIRAI both returned to the ring and looked refreshed and prepared. They had a quick, non-stop match proving that not all tournament and championship matches need to be a minimum of twenty minutes. Their efficiency and quick pacing didn’t detract but kept me actively engaged throughout the match. Koguma managed to lock in the Bear Pose on MIRAI
I love watching Koguma wrestle, but I always feel that even when she wins, she is often positioned into matches, especially championship matches, to protect other talents. I wish she would get a fair shake for a singles title outside of the High-Speed Championship because she is still very young. She’s only 24, so I feel like she should be receiving more opportunities. Being reminded that she made it to the finals of the Cinderella Tournament before against Mayu Iwatani gave me hope that we could see a Cinderella Dress & Bear Costume victory celebration.
That being said, MIRAI was the right decision to win the tournament this year. Upon her arrival in DDM in January and being immediately pushed into a World of Stardom Championship match against Syuri, which would ultimately result in the pair eventually leaving DDM to form God’s Eye (with MIRAI later choosing to become the third member). Her backstory involves growing up in the Tohoku region which was ravaged by the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.
What’s Next: MIRAI will declare her wish after the main event as the 2022 Cinderella Tournament Winner. Koguma will team with Hazuki on 5/5 as previously mentioned.
World of Stardom Championship: Syuri © (GE) defeats Himeka (DDM) (21:24) with SyuSekai
Syuri and Himeka fought side by side in DDM from the time Himeka arrived in Stardom. Himeka toyed with Syuri in the past, reminding her that there were plenty of quality challengers nearby if she just paid attention. Himeka was a 2020 Five Star Grand Prix Finalist against Utami Hayashishita, and while she lost, her patience paid off.
Syuri drew out a more aggressive side of Himeka, pushing her out of her comfort zone to do things she normally doesn’t do in matches, like jumps from the top rope inside or outside of the ring. I believe this side of the Jumbo Princess was always there, but she needed the right opponent to make it click. They had a great match, one so tough that event Nagata said, “This is Strong Style” without any preface of gender (i.e. “for a women’s match” etc.) Just pure strong style. Period. It was something as a female fan I enjoy hearing, open acknowledgment, and discourse of the competitors on equal footing. Watch the match and just soak it all in. Syuri is consistently one of the best wrestlers out there today. Hands down. Full stop. As her defense record grows, she’s elevating other competitors with her, not smiting them in short matches. This is providing growth for both competitors and the company as a whole.
“Make sure you take plenty of pictures of MIRAI in her beautiful Cinderella dress!!” – Syuri (shifting the focus from her latest victory to the true woman of the hour, the 2022 Cinderella Tournament Champion (and God’s Eye member): MIRAI.
Oh, and I am loving this pattern of World of Stardom Challengers rocking up to the main event in brand new, red gear. Himeka’s new costuming and entrance gown, an absolute show stopper.
What’s Next: During the Golden Week Fight Series, they’ll find themselves opposite each other in an eight-woman elimination match between God’s Eye and Donna del Mondo. Syuri will finally align with Konami, and everyone will have a great time. As an Artist of Stardom Champion, Himeka’s loss could result in a challenge by God’s Eye for the trios titles, if Cosmic Angels don’t come back around after winning the gauntlet match earlier in the night. This is V4 for Syuri. She elects to name Prominence’s Sera Risa as her next challenger for Flashing Champions on May 28th!
2022 Cinderella Tournament Winner’s Address: MIRAI
After the main event, MIRAI returns to the ring in a gorgeous ruffled ball gown in her signature shade of blue. She enters the ring, receives her glass slipper trophy, and addresses the crowd. She’s exceptionally poised and humble despite being nervous. She admits that she’s only wrestled for three years, but she was able to win the entire Cinderella Tournament on her first attempt.
“While I would like to challenge for the Red Belt… I think I need more time, so I would like to challenge for the White Belt, so I would like to call next on the winner of 5/5 (Kamitani/Maika).” – MIRAI
— スターダム✪STARDOM (@wwr_stardom) April 29, 2022
Just enjoy the metallic tape shower celebration!
What’s Next: MIRAI will challenge the winner of the Wonder of Stardom Championship match at Fukuoka Goddess Festival between Saya Kamitani © (QQ) and Maika (DDM). Likely, it will be at Flashing Champions on May 28th.
During her entrance for her match against Natsupoi, MIRAI brought a cheering poster from the New Japan Cup 2019 with Yuji Nagata on it and give it to him on commentary. He gave her a fist bump and wished her good luck. They took a photo together backstage and Stardom labeled it “The Seigigun Cinderella!” I think her combination of combat sports and passion to represent her home prefecture proudly really resonated with Nagata.
Fukuoka Goddess Festival Match Card (Thursday, May 5, 2022)
The press conference was held on April 27th. Full highlights from this press conference will be included in the event report next week.
- Opening Singles Match: Waka Tsukiyama (CA) vs. Hina (QQ)
- 6-Woman Tag Match: STARS (Hanan, Saya Iida & Momo Kohgo) vs. OET (Saki Kashima, Rina, & Ruaka)
- 6-Woman Tag Match: QQ (Utami Hayashishita, AZM & Lady C) vs. CA (Tam Nakano, Mina Shirakawa & Unagi Sayaka)
- Elimination Match: God’s Eye (Syuri, MIRAI, Ami Sorei & Konami) vs. Donna del Mondo (Giulia, Himeka, Natsupoi & Mai Sakurai)
- SWA World Championship: Thekla © (DDM) vs. Mayu Iwatani (STARS)
- Semi-Main Event – Goddesses of Stardom Tag Team Championship: Black Desire © (Starlight Kid & Momo Watanabe) vs. Fukuoka Double Crazy (FWC; Hazuki & Koguma)
- Main Event – Wonder of Stardom Championship: Saya Kamitani © (QQ) vs. Maika (DDM)
Fukuoka is the home prefecture for Maika, Hazuki & Koguma. Jyushin Thunder Liger will be the program ambassador and on commentary and Konami returns to join God’s Eye for a limited one-week ONLY engagement (for now).
Stardom Summer 2022 Big Match Schedule
- Fukuoka Goddess Festival (May 5, 2022) – Fukuoka International Center; Part of the Golden Week Fight Series featuring the limited engagement return of Konami as the latest member of God’s Eye.
- New Blood 2 (May 13, 2022) – New Pier Hall (Tokyo) New Blood 2 Press Conference Highlights will be updated prior to the show on May 13th.
- Flashing Champions 2022 – (May 28, 2022) Ota Ward Gymnasium
- Fight in the Top 2022 – (June 26, 2022) Nagoya International Conference Center
- Five Star Grand Prix (5★GP) 2022 Opening Weekend – (July 30-31, 2022) Ota Ward Gymnasium
- Five Star Grand Prix (5★GP) 2022 – August-September
- Five Star Grand Prix (5★GP) 2022 Finals – (October 1, 2022) Musashino Forest Sun Plaza’s Main Arena (Chofu Ward, Tokyo)
Staring Tomorrow: Weekly Joshi Journal?!
To help the POST community learn more about the wide range of women’s wrestling available in Japan as well as upcoming appearances abroad, I’ve been invited to put together a weekly digest on Saturdays where I will do my best to collect information as well as learn about the entire scope of the Japanese women’s wrestling scene.
The first installment will be a little robust as it’ll be part primer, part calendar, and part news… and trying to make sense of it all. With Stardom seemingly laying out the welcome mat and throwing the front door open, more and more freelancers are dropping by like Prominence and COLOR’s and talent from other promotions like Marvelous, DIANA, Just Tap Out and Gatoh Move are contributing to the New Blood invitational series. Plus, with international travel slowly resuming, more and more talent is taking international bookings, too!
Pull up a seat at the desk next to me as I formally begin a more in-depth international joshi learning excursion! With the limited information available in translation, I hope that the report becomes something that makes this scene more accessible for non-Japanese-speaking fans. There are plenty of fan resources available, but my goal is to weave it all together in a singular place here at POST.