DISCLOSURE: Karen Peterson recently worked with Bushiroad (parent company of New Japan and STARDOM) on a limited basis on a series of articles on the history of Stardom leading into the Historic X-Over event in November that appeared on their website. The final installment of the column was published last week, prior to the event.
The Ariake Arena is an absolutely stunning venue despite the rainy Sunday afternoon. With a sold-out crowd of 7,102, there was definitely a mixture of diehard NJPW fans and STARDOM fans, but the coolest thing was feeling the energy in the building. Some may have had hesitation about the crossover concept, but once the show got started, it was really well designed to showcase both companies. I felt like it made it really accessible, especially for those unfamiliar with the opposite promotion.
- Japanese Commentary: Haruo Murata, Miki Motoi, Milano Collection AT, Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW) & Utami Hayashishita (STARDOM)
- English Commentary: Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton & Waka Tsukiyama (STARDOM)
The event pamphlet sold out quickly, but I managed to get my hands on one of the last copies the following morning when I dropped by the Tokon Shop in Suidobashi (near the Tokyo Dome and Korakuen Hall). It is only available in Japanese, but it does include short interviews with the IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament finalists, Mayu Iwatani & KAIRI, a crossover interview with The Handsome Aces, Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW) and Utami Hayashishita (STARDOM) and the tournament and big PPV schedules for the rest of 2022 included.
Spoiler-Free Synopsis – From top to bottom the card is genuinely a must-watch, especially if you aren’t familiar with the promotions as it gives a little bit of everything for everyone.
- Pre-Show Eight Man Tag Team: Oskar Leube’s three-year journey to debut arrives
- Pre-Show Stardom Rumble: A fun sampler of all the talent in STARDOM not featured on the main card
- NJPW 8-Man Tag: Lio Rush’s Japan debut & Tag League Preview
- STARDOM 6-Woman Tag: The Women of the World battle Queen’s Quest in the only all-STARDOM tag
- Mixed Match 1: Zack Sabre Giulia vs. God’s Filthy*
- 8-Person Mixed Match 2: Suzuki-gun’s loyalties are divided between OedoTai & Cosmic Angels
- Mixed Match 3: The Handsome Aces take on Nightless Castle
- NJPW 10-Man Tag: United Empire vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon
- The Great Muta’s Farewell to NJPW: It’ll make you a little misty-eyed.
- IWGP United States Heavyweight Title: The Roughneck’s Return from International Excursion
- IWGP Women’s Title Tournament Final Match: The Pirate Queen and The Icon make IWGP history
The Buy-In Pre-Show was streamed for free live on YouTube. It includes both the Noge Dojo vs. LA Dojo 8-Man Tag and the STARDOM 15-Woman Rumble
Pre-Show Eight Man Tag Team: LA Dojo (Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, Gabriel Kidd & Kevin Knight) defeat Kosei Fujita, Oskar Leube, Ryohei Oiwa & Yuto Nakashima (9:39) – with Coughlin pinning Leube with DPD
It’s great to see that the fiery rivalry between the Noge and LA Dojo burns hotter than ever. This was a standard 8-man tag but has since graduated front Young Lion Status, Connors, Coughlin, and Kidd reunited and returned to Japan alongside Kevin Knight, making his Japan debut. The match was Oskar Leube’s debut but felt like his long-awaited debut was eclipsed by the return of the wildly popular LA Dojo mainstays. Even with the short match, the fight started well before the opening bell and continued well after.
- Leube will join the regular rotation of Young Lion matches and ringside work along with Fujita, Oiwa & Nakashima.
- Knight will pair with KUSHIDA in Super Junior Tag League.
- Connors will pair with Ryusuke Taguchi in Super Junior Tag League.
- Coughlin/Kidd will combine forces for the World Tag League.
Pre-Show Stardom Rumble: MIRAI defeated Ami Sourei, Hanan, Hazuki, Hina, Koguma, Miyu Amasaki, Momo Kohgo, Natsuko Tora, Rina, Ruaka, Saki Kashima, Saya Iida, Super Strong Stardom Machine, and Waka Tsukiyama (23:06) – MIRAI defeated Super Strong STARDOM Machine with Miramare Shock
Rules included over-the-top-rope elimination, pins, and submissions. It was a great way to sneak all the remaining STARDOM wrestlers onto the card, and making it accessible for free on YouTube to garner interest in the PPV was a smart move. While there have been STARDOM showcases on NJPW programs previously, it’s been a very limited number of participants with several top stars like Mayu Iwatani having repeat experiences. This was a great way to put a spotlight on the younger talent as well, as they don’t travel to all the shows or participate in abroad tours yet.
What’s Next: STARDOM is in the midst of their Goddesses World Tag League with most competitors participating in the round-robin league series, which concludes on December 4th.
NJPW 8-Man Tag Match (1/20): CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, YOH & YOSHI-HASHI) & Lio Rush defeated House Of Torture (Dick Togo, EVIL, SHO & Yujiro Takahashi) (7:05) – with Rush pinning Togo after a 3K
This match was entirely designed to showcase Lio Rush’s debut in Japan. With his joining forces with YOH Rumble on 44th Street, when he ran in and attacked SHO, Rush, and YOH could make a formidable and popular pairing in SJTL. There wasn’t anything particularly outstanding about this match, other than CHAOS getting a satisfying win over House of Torture largely due to Lio’s arrival in Japan.
While this match was a standard NJPW 8-Man, it did feel like a bit of water treading for Wrestle Kingdom 17, where House of Torture will likely defend their NEVER 6-Man Championship in an opening show gauntlet match or at New Year Dash.
- YOH & Rush will tag together in Super Junior Tag League. Why aren’t they calling themselves LiYOH?
- Ishii challenged Chris Jericho for the Ring of Honor World Championship.
- YOSHI-HASHI will reunite with Hirooki Goto as Bishamon, the defending 2021 World Tag League Champions.
- SHO/Togo will represent House of Torture in Super Junior Tag League.
- EVIL/Yujiro will represent House of Torture in World Tag League.
STARDOM 6-Woman Tag Match (1/20): Queen’s Quest (AZM, Lady C & Saya Kamitani) defeated Donna del Mondo (Himeka, Mai Sakurai & Thekla) (9:20) – with Kamitani pinning Sakurai after a Phoenix Splash
In the only pure STARDOM match on the card outside of the opening Rumble, Queen’s Quest and Donna del Mondo proudly represent their factions and their company in a hard-hitting match up. After Kamitani’s 30-minute draw against KAIRI the night before at STARDOM ~GOLD RUSH~, I was surprised to see how much she had left in the tank for this match. With many of the tag pairings split apart due to the mixed tag matches featured later in the card, these remaining members of QQ and DDm provided a solid showcase together.
- Himeka is tagging with Maika in Goddesses Tag League as MaiHime.
- Thekla is tagging with Giulia in Goddesses Tag League as Mafia Bella.
- Lady C & Mai Sakurai are tagging together in Goddesses Tag League as Mai Fair Lady.
- AZM is tagging with Miyu Amasaki in Goddesses Tag League as 02line.
- Kamitani is tagging with Utami Hayashishita in Goddesses Tag League as AphroditE.
Historic Mixed Tag 1: Giulia & Zack Sabre Jr. defeat Syuri & Tom Lawlor (10:29) – with SZJ pinning Lawlor with a European Clutch
This was personally my favorite match on the card, largely in part due to Tom Lawlor’s love for STARDOM and the collision course Giulia and Syuri are on for December 29th. Plus, there is the added delicious layer from Lawlor/Sabre from the G1 as well. I loved how fast and loose everyone played with the ruleset, especially when it came to the mixing in the match. This would also become an enjoyably consistent theme with all the mixed matches on the card. For those a little sad about the dissolution of ALI KABA and Syuri’s departure from Donna del Mondo, the former tag partners briefly reunited to give Tom Lawlor a two-on-one beatdown that could arguably be filed under “The Best Day Ever” category when it comes to dream match fantasy booking. Those on opposite sides of the Boy George vs. George Michael debate were also treated to outrageously delectable tekkers from both Europe and North America.
I loved seeing Lawlor taking Syuri by the hand and running up the ramp together before charging down on Giulia and Zack. Language barrier be damned, the four of them worked so well together and just looked like they were having a blast, which is the entire point of this crossover showcase.
- Giulia is tagging with Thekla in Goddesses Tag League as Mafia Bella. She is scheduled to challenge Syuri for the World of STARDOM Championship at STARDOM Dream Queendom on 12/29 at Ryogoku Sumo Hall.
- Syuri is tagging with Tomoka Inaba in Goddesses Tag League as KARATE BRAVE. She is scheduled to defend her World of STARDOM Championship against Giulia on 12/29.
- ZSJ will meet Ren Narita in the finals of the NJPW World Television Championship Tournament at Wrestle Kingdom 17.
- Lawlor’s next move remains unseen.
Historic Mixed Tag 2: meltear (Natsupoi & Tam Nakano) & Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeat Black Desire (Momo Watanabe & Starlight Kid) & Suzuki-gun (DOUKI & El Desperado) (12:01) – with Taichi pinning DOUKI after a Black Mephisto
Desperado was in big brother mode, watching out for his wild kid sisters in Starlight Kid and Momo Watanabe, who were ready to take the fight to meltear and Taichi on the ramp before the match even got started. I truly appreciated how much everyone in STARDOM wanted to prove more than anything that they were not only willing but perfectly able to stand toe to toe and nose-to-nose with members of the New Japan roster. For the most part in all three of the mixed matches, the rules were abided by… inside the ring. However, the outside of the ring was a free-for-all much like most matches in both companies, and the questionably long five seconds between the changing of partners due to tagging in and out and swapping partners.
Of all the pairings in this match-up, the unlikely duo of Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Natsupoi might actually be my favorite, especially with their dueling Fairial Mist/Suntory Surprise. Also, when I am getting Momo Watanabe versus Taichi in a singles match… or are they tagging together in the future?
- Tam/Natsupoi are tagging in the Goddesses Tag League as meltear. They are the current Goddesses of STARDOM Champions, meaning they will likely defend their championships at Dream Queendom against the tournament winners.
- SLK/Momo are tagging Goddesses Tag League as BLACK DESIRE. As former Goddesses of STARDOM Champions, they are certainly in the conversation of making it to the finals and or winning the tournament.
- Kanemaru/DOUKI will represent Suzuki-gun in Super Junior Tag League.
- El Desperado will fight Taiji Ishimori ©, Hiromu Takahashi and Master Wato at Wrestle Kingdom 17 in a 4-way match for the IWPG Junior Heavyweight Championship.
- Taichi will challenge Shingo Takagi for the KOPW 2022 Championship in the main event of TakaTaichi Mania on 12/19.
Historic Mixed Tag 3: The Handsome Aces (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Utami Hayashishita) defeat Nightless Castle (Hirooki Goto & Maika) (9:36) – with Hayashishita pinning Maika after a Highjack Bomb
On the surface, it looked like just a pair of Aces and an alignment of the Fierce Warrior and Empress, but looking deeper, it was an even match-up of careers and seemingly mirror images of careers. With Tanahashi and Goto, their roots go back over twenty years together into the Noge Dojo together, and Maika’s debut match was against a heavily decorated super rookie, Utami Hayashishita. This match, like the others, was a treat for everyone, especially those deeply entrenched in the histories of both companies and the careers of the competitors.
Maika made Tanahashi eat his own teasing words about the “morally gray five seconds in between counts,” when she lifted all 220+ pounds of him and sent him flying across the ring. Of all the participants, Goto followed the rules the closest, but even he wowed the world by getting involved in the heated battle. I do hope that moving forward there will be more shows or at least mixed tags, even as a feature on the international shows!
- Utami Hayashishita is tagging with Saya Kamitani in Goddesses Tag League as AphroditE.
- Tanahashi is reuniting with Toru Yano as Toru and Hiroshi in BeBop Season II in World Tag League.
- Maika is tagging with Himeka in Goddesses Tag League as MaiHime.
- Goto is tagging with YOSHI-HASHI as the defending 2021 World Tag League Tournament Winners.
NJPW 10-Man Tag: United Empire (Francesco Akira, Gideon Grey, Kyle Fletcher, Mark Davis & TJP) defeat Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) (9:55) – with Fletcher pinning BUSHI after Corealis
Another solid showcase of two of NJPW’s wildly popular factions, largely circulating around Naito’s tormenting of Lord Gideon Grey and BUSHI and Titan’s recent challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Championships against Catch 2/2 (TJP/Francesco Akira). It’s a great tease for World and Super Junior Tag Leagues, packed with plenty of storyline spinning for the last weeks of 2022.
- Naito/SANADA are tagging together in World Tag League.
- Takagi will defend his KOPW Trophy against Taichi at TakaTaichi Mania on 12/19.
- Hiromu will also be in the 4-way at WK17 for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship against Ishimori, Desperado, and Wato.
- BUSHI is tagging with Titan in Super Junior League.
- Fletcher/Davis are tagging in World Tag League.
- TJP/Francesco are tagging in Super Junior Tag League.
- Gideon is still orchestrating, ring announcing for United Empire, and battling to be the cutest (ichiban kawaii) in all of NJPW.
The Great Muta’s Farewell to NJPW: CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano) & Great Muta defeat United Empire (Aaron Henare, Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) (9:48) – with Okada pinning Henare after a Rainmaker
This was by and large a way to sneak Okada, Yano, and some more of the popular members of UE onto the card ahead of World Tag League on the road to Wrestle Kingdom as well as close the book on the History of Muta in New Japan. It felt like a passing of the torch from one Supernatural Great (Muta) to another Supernatural Great (O’Khan) and they give a reason for Okada to hit someone with a Rainmaker before January 2023.
- The Great Muta/Keiji Mutoh is working his way toward his retirement match in February 2023. Mutoh will face Shinsuke Nakamura at NOAH The NEW YEAR on 1/1/2023.
- Okada is facing Jay White at Wrestle Kingdom 17 for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
- Yano is tagging with Tanahashi as Toru & Hiroshi Bebop Season II in World Tag League.
- Great O’Khan/Henare are tagging together in World Tag League Tournament.
- Cobb’s future is unknown at this time, but he is announced for NJPW STRONG Nemesis next month in LA.
IWGP United States Heavyweight Title (1/60): Will Ospreay © defeated Shota Umino (23:30) – with a pin after a Stormbreaker
Shota Umino returned from his international learning excursion, determined to make a name for himself over the man he’d been chasing his entire time in England, Will Ospreay. When Ospreay was the Revolution Pro UK Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion, Umino challenged him in a valiant, albeit losing effort. This would also plunge him into a feud with the United Empire as Aussie Open was responsible for assisting Ospreay in dispensing with Shooter. At Royal Quest II, Umino had a special singles match against Ospreay once more, but it was cut short when his father, Referee Red Shoes Unno stopped the match. He would miss some time shortly after due to the injuries sustained during the match.
Umino would fight an uphill battle throughout the match, including contending with his father officiating the match. Along with wanting to prove himself in his first match upon returning from excursion, Shota faced the precarious position of having his own father refereeing his match again. This will be a challenge The Roughneck will consistently face in the future, especially if this performance is any indication of what the future will hold for him. Possibly the most moving moment for me was Shota begging his father not to get in the way by stopping the match. Watching him using his own father to drag himself to his feet to keep the match going really hit hard, as one who thoroughly enjoyed his evolution while on excursion and with his frequent visits to NJPW STRONG.
To Ospreay’s credit, he has been an exceptionally formidable opponent for Umino and has provided some long-overdue stability to the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship. While I hoped beyond hope that Umino would be the one to dethrone Ospreay so Umino could single out Tetsuya Naito for his first– exceptionally ambitious championship defense, it would seem that there were other plans laid well in advance.
“Siri, play ‘Trouble’ by Taylor Swift. The Prodigal Foreign Son has returned.
Kenny Omega has elected to come back to reclaim the keys to the castle, but I have a feeling that between Ospreay and Jay White… the locks may have been changed in the last few years. Personally, in the realm of potential WK dream matches, I genuinely don’t feel like Ospreay/Omega required a championship title. However, if the company wants to cement Ospreay as a pillar of the company and further cement the stability of the US Championship, having the current champion face the inaugural champion makes sense. Much like Ospreay has become the mountain for Umino to scale, the wall Omega built has one that Ospreay has yet to scale. In the AEW Trios Championship Tournament, fans around the world got a taste of what could finally be between The United Empire and the Elite, so hopefully, this match will bookend this arc and close that unfinished chapter.
If you’ve followed my other reports, you know how I L-O-V-E LOVE LOVE LOVE Big Match Gear. I love it all the more when there is a special meaning or story behind it. When Ospreay walked out in his Hayabusa gear, I had hoped there was a story because I’ve heard many commentators and fans make the comparison between their styles, especially when Will was still wrestling as a Junior Heavyweight. I’ll be the first to admit that I have known of Hayabusa, but I am tragically unfamiliar with the details of his career. A tribute like this was absolutely lovely, even if the intended time was slightly delayed. It was an exceptionally touching way to make the night even that much more special.
Read notes add.
Tonight was ridiculously special.
Now on to Tokyo Dome. pic.twitter.com/YNVGJ6J7me
— ᵂⁱˡˡ ᴼˢᵖʳᵉᵃʸ • ウィル・オスプレイ (@WillOspreay) November 20, 2022
- Shota Umino – I had hopes for Umino helping to salvage Tetsuya Naito’s Tokyo Dome dreams, but now The Roughneck is also without a plan for January 4th.
- Will Ospreay – The current IWGP US Champion will face the inaugural US Champion in Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 17. So help me gods if they try to go the full 60 minutes, I’ll be making a breakfast buffet during this match.
IWGP Women’s Title Tournament Finals (1/60): KAIRI defeated Mayu Iwatani (25:28) – with a pin after an Insane Elbow
Kairi Hojo set sail for WWE as Kairi Sane over five years ago, and Io Shirai would follow her a year later, leaving Mayu Iwatani as the lone member of The Three Daughters of STARDOM (or ‘Threedom’) to helm the ship. As Pirate Princess stole hearts and claimed a mountain of gold abroad, The Icon stayed behind to continue toiling in STARDOM’s name. In Ring of Honor, Iwatani would make waves winning the Women of Honor Championship, and defending it in Madison Square Garden. With the announcement of the IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament and KAIRI’s reveal as the third competitor in the International Bracket, I knew that she and Mayu would be the final.
In their time apart, both KAIRI and Mayu simply got better and better. Even with the damage from the night before at STARDOM ~GOLD RUSH~ in Osaka, KAIRI with her thirty-minute time limit draw with Saya Kamitani over the Wonder of STARDOM Championship and Mayu winning the trios Moneyball ladder match with Hazuki and Koguma, both went into the match at an equal, but decidedly less than but one-hundred percent condition. Regardless, both pulled out all the stops and reminded fans around the world why they are two of the best wrestlers in the world. Both KAIRI and Mayu would make exceptional champions, and there are strong augments for each, but I was genuinely floored when KAIRI finally toppled Mayu with multiple Insane Elbows and finally got the three count.
Personally, I had no clue when I was ever going to see KAIRI wrestle again after she left WWE in 2021. Making this trip to Japan, I was fortunate to see her wrestle twice. Since they announced the IWGP Women’s Championship, I genuinely believed Mayu Iwatani was a lock as the inaugural champion. However, when Mayu is chasing something, she’s at her best.
- Mayu Iwatani – The Icon’s path has suddenly become very unclear. Prior to STARDOM GOLD RUSH, Mayu vacated the SWA World Championship, so she could focus on becoming the first IWGP Women’s Champion.
- KAIRI – After her comments, she was interrupted by Tam Nakano, who declared her intention to challenge her White Knights tag partner for that coveted berth on the Wrestle Kingdom 17 card. However, her dance card got a last minute addition as a very ambitious Utami Hayashishita cornered KAIRI in the backstage area, jumping the queue and proposing a special singles’ match at STARDOM Dream Queendom.
— KAIRI /カイリ🏴☠️ (@KAIRI_official) November 20, 2022
Four days before her back-to-back matches at STARDOM GOLD RUSH and Historic X-Over, KAIRI sprained her ankle. While the doctor advised her to take three weeks off to heal up, she refused to give up her promise to meet Kamitani and Iwatani in the ring. Let that sink in, she fought that 30-minute time limit draw for the Wonder of STARDOM Championship on Saturday and then brought the house down with Iwatani the following night… on that ankle.
If you are still on the fence about ordering the PPV, check out the highlights and backstage comments to get a better feeling of how special Historic X-Over was for everyone involved. With Super Junior and World Tag League starting this week for NJPW and STARDOM in the midst of the Goddesses of STARDOM Tag League, most of the post-match comments focus on that and the roads to STARDOM Dream Queendom (12/29/22) and Wrestle Kingdom 17 (1/4/23).
- STARDOM Goddesses Tag League runs through December 4th
- NJPW Super Junior Tag League (11/21-12/14)
- NJPW World Tag League (11/22-12/14)
- STARDOM Dream Queendom (12/29) Ryogoku Sumo Hall
- Antonio Inoki Memorial Wrestle Kingdom 17 (1/4/2023) Tokyo Dome