It’s been a couple of weeks since the previous installment of Dream Slam Weekly. With the holiday season in full swing and the post-travel blues as well as burnout being a reality, I’m back to wrap up 2022. Much like earlier in the year, I took a look back at my first full year at POST, covering STARDOM, in this final weekly edition of Dream Slam, I want to look back at 2022 as a whole. As the final hours of 2022 ticked away, inspiration struck and I decided to entire change everything I wanted to talk about in this week’s final weekly installment (more on that later).
This week, I’ll touch on events in each month that stood out to me, events I covered, or items from previous volumes of Dream Slam Weekly which really stood out in my mind. I also wanted to include some promotions, matches, wrestlers, and shows that really drove home why I love my joshi learning excursion so much. Let’s get to it!
STARDOM: Golden Time Showcase match on the main card of Wrestle Kingdom 16! In the continued evolution of the sibling relationship between NJPW and STARDOM, STARDOM graduated from the on site dark matches and pre-show free live streams to a proper tag match on the main card of the show. Mayu Iwatani and Starlight Kid reunite to take on Tam Nakano and Saya Kamitani.
KAIRI Returns to STARDOM!? This genuinely rocked the joshi world as many believed that KAIRI (formerly Kairi Hojo/Kairi Sane) had completely hung up her wrestling boots when WWE Japan dissolved as a result of the global pandemic. She had been busy opening her own personal training gym and enjoying married life, but she returned home to STARDOM to begin a series of special guest matches to elevate the new generation of talent in the promotion she got her start.
STARDOM: WORLD CLIMAX (3/26-27) KAIRI would begin her series of special matches in STARDOM with the special double header at the end of March. World of STARDOM Champion, Syuri main evented the shows with back-to-back title defenses against Giulia and Mayu Iwatani.
STARDOM: Cinderella Tournament Finals (4/29/22) Newcomer MIRAI (Donna del Mondo) took home the Cinderella dress, and glass slipper trophy and requested a Wonder of STARDOM Championship match against Saya Kamitani. Other finalists included Koguma, Hazuki, and Natsupoi.
Dream Slam Weekly Launches (4/30/22) I never thought I would have my own column here at POST, especially as a woman covering women’s wrestling, but I was fortunate enough to be able to launch DSW to talk about two of my favorite things: wrestling and Japan!
NOMADS’ Freelance Summit (5/20/22) One of the things I loved most about NOMADS’ is that they banded together to create a space for all freelancers to come together and work a show, not just wrestlers, but referees and ring announcers included. The pandemic displaced many freelancers, and the NOMADS’ event committee created a place where all are welcome, and brought together many of the hot names in the JP independent circuit today.
Hana Kimura Memorial Show 2: Bagus! (5/23/22) On the second anniversary of Hana Kimura’s passing, her mother, Kyoko, held the second memorial show in her honor. Much like Mata, Ne! (5/23/21), there was no shortage of loving moments in a show filled with laughter, tears, and everyone putting on their absolute best to honor a promising wrestler who we lost way too soon.
TJPW/GanPro: CyberFight Festival 2022 (6/12/22) – Last year, was my first foray into dabbling with the CyberFight group of promotions, primarily due to my long-standing interest in NOAH. However, it eventually spawned into finally giving Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling a try, even after seeing live performances of Yuka Sakazaki, Maki Itoh, and Shoko Nakajima, at AEW shows here in the US. I was also fortunate enough to interview Yuka Sakazaki & Maki Itoh for DSW!
Korakuen Hall Celebrates 60th Birthday (Kanrekisai) – With Korakuen Hall being known as the Hallowed Ground for Combat Sports in Japan, the 60th-anniversary celebration of its birthday was quite the spectacle. The two-day event had two very different vibes with the Joshi Dream Festival on day one, and the dual 50th Anniversary celebrations of All Japan Pro-Wrestling and New Japan Pro-Wrestling on the actual date the doors opened sixty years ago.
TJPW: Summer Sun Princess ‘22 (7/9/22) – Shojo Nakajima vs. Rika Tatsumi headlined the second big TJPW show of their calendar year. This show also featured the return of Thunder Rosa as AEW Women’s Champion and EVE’s Alex Windsor making her Japan debut to challenge Maki Itoh for the International Princess Championship. Also had the chance to interview Princess of Princess Champion, Shoko Nakajima, for Dream Slam Weekly!
Jaguar Yokota Celebrates 60th Birthday (7/30/22) She’s a living legend that is still out there wrestling in her sixties and after forty years in the industry. Let that sink in!
STARDOM: 2022 Five Star Grand Prix Opening Weekend (7/30-31/22) Yes, two full days of league competition before two full months of round-robin league play, along with new shows like New Blood and STARDOM in SHOWCASE and non-League iPPVs. I followed this… alongside the G1 Climax which ran concurrently. It was exhausting. Thrilling, but exhausting. (Day 1 7/30 & Day 2 7/21)
WWE: Damage CRTL Debuts at SummerSlam (7/30) When Bayley rocked up at SummerSlam, she didn’t arrive alone. Io Shirai vanished earlier in the year when she was sidelined with an injury after an extended residence in NXT. Dakota Kai was one of the countless released in April as one of the countless ‘budget cuts’ made by WWE. I was literally in the middle of a live stream on Twitch, and the chat started demanding I put on Peacock… and I did to see Bayley finally back from injury and with two familiar faces that I loved in NXT.
TJPW: Yuka Sakazaka wins Tokyo Princess Cup (8/21/22) The Princess Cup ran alongside the 5 Star and the G1, with Yuka Sakazaki punching her ticket to the main event of TJPW’s third and final big show of the year: Wrestle Princess III. Miu Watanabe and Suzume turned a lot of heads in this year’s tournament by fighting their way to the semi-finals, and Watanabe even pinning then POP Champion, Shoko Nakajima to advance!
PURE-J: Yuu defeats Hanako Nakamori to become Champion (8/13/22) In a summer where STARDOM and TJPW were dominating the conversation, Yuu has been one of the names in 2022 that has cropped up all over the scene, especially with Chihiro Hashimoto as TEAM 200KG, but this was would not be her one and only singles’ championship in 2022.
Ice Ribbon: Tae Honma Wins Mexican Excursion Tournament (9/3/22) What I loved about following the Ice Ribbon Mexico Excursion tournament is that it included CMLL dispatching Dalys and Stephanie Vaquer to Japan for an extended excursion. This led to Honma, Mei Suruga and Hikari Shimizu following suit and going to CMLL in October for the Grand Prix de Amazonas and multiple show dates.
WWE: Damage CTRL Gives Karen a Meltdown – The return of Dakota Kai and the debut of IYO SKY drove me back to watch WWE again. This was very much Triple H’s influence, and it reminded me of the Mae Young Classics when NXT acknowledged the pre-WWE experience of talents brought into the company.
Michael Cole dropping facts about Triple Tails on a WWE broadcast and I'm just imagining @heykarensensei lifting her jaw off the floor
— John Pollock (@iamjohnpollock) September 3, 2022
STARDOM: Guilia Wins the Five Star Grand Prix (10/1/22) The final day of the Five Star was great, but very long after a very long two months of tournament play. No sooner does the confetti fall after Giulia and Tam revisit their infamous WONDER of STARDOM rivalry, STARDOM dove headlong into the 12th Annual Goddesses of STARDOM Tag League.
TJPW: Wrestle Princess III (10/9/22) The final of TJPW’s trio of big shows throughout the year. Nakajima and Sakazaki revisited their forever rivalry, and put on another clinic.
EVE: WrestleQueendom V (11/13/22) Pro-Wrestling EVE brought together wrestlers from around the UK and Japan scene together for a fantastic, two part celebration of women’s wrestling. Championships changed hands, grudges were settled, some old friends returned and some new faces made their EVE debuts!
NJPW x STARDOM: Historic X-Over (11/20/22) KAIRI vs. Mayu Iwatani main evented the ambitious crossover show between STARDOM and NJPW. The mixed tags were some of my favorites, especially Giulia/SZJ vs. Tom Lawlor/Syuri. The journey to the inaugural IWGP Women’s Championship was completed with a fantastic main event.
Dream Slam Weekly… from JAPAN?! (11/21/22) I went to Japan not just for wrestling, but to recharge for the remaining portion of 2022. I finally experienced Korakuen Hall… four days in a row. I had dinner at Yano’s bar and also caught STARDOM GOLD RUSH in Osaka! It was a whirlwind 11 days, but it was worth the jetlag for all the memories I made.
End of the Year Shows/Christmas Fan Service In Japan, Christmas is usually for couples and friends, much like how we celebrate New Years Eve, so many promotions have Christmas-themed shows with costumes and exceptionally generous fan service or special events. It’s also Bounenkai Season (“Forgetting the Year” Parties), where people reflect on the year, thank it for the lessons learned, and then let it go, so they can prepare for the near year.
STARDOM: Dream Queendom II (12/29/22) I loved it last year, and it was pretty stellar this year. Check out the podcast section below for my thoughts, and you’ll see it mentioned in other sections as well.
I wanted to include some superlatives or favorites from my 2022 in watching heaps upon heaps of women’s wrestling. Yes, this list is largely Japanese and most of the wrestlers on it are Japanese or have wrestled in Japan recently (or represented companies during the pandemic when travel into Japan wasn’t permitted). This is by no means a comprehensive list of ALL the wrestling, and there are plenty of names, matches, and shows that I’ve probably (and unfortunately) have forgotten.
Standout Wrestlers of 2022
- AEW: Toni Storm, Jamie Hayter, Thunder Rosa
- Pro-Wrestling EVE: Alex Windsor, 2022 SHE-1 Tournament Winner
- Gatoh Move/Choco Pro: Emi Sakura, Mei Suruga
- GLEAT: Maya Fukuda & Michiko Miyagi – I know they are two of the three contracted women’s wrestlers in the company, but their UWF Rules matches in particular have been unique.
- NJPW: KAIRI, Inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion
- Marvelous: Takumi Iroha, Rin Kadokura
- SEAdLINNNG: Hiroyo Matsumoto, Arisa Nakajima
- Sendai Girls: Chihiro Hashimoto, DASH Chisako
- STARDOM: Syuri, Giulia, Saya Kamitani, MIRAI
- WWE: DAMAGE CTRL (Bayley, IYO SKY & Dakota Kai) – They literally made me open the Peacock app for the first time in MONTHS with their return.
- Freelancers: Hikaru Shida, Yuu, Jungle Kyona, Unagi Sayaka
- Freelance Units: Girls’ Pro-Wrestling Unit: COLOR’S & PROMINENCE
Epic International Excursions 2022
- Choco Pro/Gatoh Move x AEW: Emi Sakura & Mei Suruga
- Ice Ribbon x CMLL: Tae Honma, Hikari Shimizu & Mei Suruga, Dalys, Stephanie Vaquer
- Freelancers: Jungle Kyona (Fall Quarter 2022), Ryo Mizunami
- SEAdLINNG: AMAZON (Ayesha Raymond)
- MARVELOUS x Pro-Wrestling EVE: Takumi Iroha, Rin Kadokura, Maria
- TJPW x AEW: Yuka Sakazaki, Maki Itoh, Miyu Yamashita, Willow Nightingale, Thunder Rosa
- TJPW x Pro-Wrestling EVE: Miyu Yamashita, Nightshade, Rhia O’Reilly, Millie McKenzie, Hyper Misao, Alex Windsor, Hikari Noa, RHIO
Wishful Thinking… or Foreshadowing?
WWE: “Desperate Seeking KANA” – On Asuka’s YouTube Channel, KanaChanTV, after a devastating loss, the Osaka native packed her bags and returned to Japan “to go searching for something (she) lost.” Prior to her departure, she tweeted out a bunch of photos of pre-WWE NXT, queen of the Japanese independents, KANA. In Part 2: “I Still Can’t Find What I Left Behind,” Asuka/Kana-chan provides the world an update on her journey back to Japan.
Standout Matches of 2022
- AEW: AEW Women’s Championship: Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm – Forbidden Door
- NJPW: IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament Final: KAIRI vs. Mayu Iwatani – Historic X-Over
- STARDOM: World of STARDOM Championship: Syuri vs. Giulia – Dream Queendom II
- TJPW: Princess of Princess Championship: Shoko Nakajima vs. Yuka Sakazaki – CyberFight Festival 2022
- WWE: Women’s War Games Match: Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair & Mia Yim vs. Damage CTRL (Bayley, Dakota Kai, IYO SKY), Nikki Cross & Rhea Ripley – Survivor Series 2022
Domestic Dream Slam Honorable Mentions
Prestige Wrestling – The Oregon-based promotion blessed us with Miyu Yamashita versus Maki Itoh main event on the second night of their Roseland 3 show AND they uploaded the match in its entirety for free on their YouTube page shortly after.
DEADLOCK Pro-Wrestling – No sooner did travel open up, the gang at DPW started bringing over some of the hottest freelancers in the joshi scene to mix it up with queens of the US independent circuit. International guests included Emi Sakura (GMCP), Mei Sugura (GMCP), Hiroyo Matsumoto, Jungle Kyona, Ryo Mizunami, Mizuki (TJPW), Miyu Yamashita (TJPW) and Miyuki Takase.
GCW/Game Changer Wrestling – Two Words: RINA. YAMASHITA. They’ve brought her over multiple times in the last year for their deathmatch tournaments and other shows since the reopening of international travel to the US in 2021. Maki Itoh has also dropped by in the last year as well for several appearances.
West Coast Pro-Wrestling – Another solid promotion on the complete opposite coast of the US bringing in a variety of Japanese wrestling talent, including talent from Dragon Gate, ProWrestling NOAH as well as the women’s scene. International guests included Mio Momono (MARVELOUS), Jungle Kyona.
POST Daily News HAPPY PIRATE DAY! The day KAIRI showed up at a STARDOM Press Conference, the international wrestling community rejoiced at the Pirate Queen’s return to Japan and agreed to work with her former promotion. John threw up the bat signal, and I hopped on the Daily News show to celebrate her independence day.
- POST Daily News (4/19) – KUSHIDA Leaves WWE & NJPW Windy City Riot
- POST Daily News (4/29) – STARDOM Cinderella Tournament 2022 Finals
Long & Winding Royal Road: Toshiaki Kawada vs. Satoshi Kojima (2/16/2015) – While I love all my guest appearances on POST PURORESU, POST Daily News & the G1 Coverage I assisted with in the last year, this episode of L&WRR is probably is what I am most proud of in 2022. Yes, I know it isn’t about women’s wrestling, but WH Park afforded me the opportunity to research and translate information related to this match, and one of my favorite wrestlers, Satoshi Kojima. For those who enjoyed the episode, you’ll be happy to know that it was used as a cited reference in Jonathan Foye’s The Muto Years, focusing on Keiji Muto’s time as AJPW President.
POST PURORESU Year-In-Review – I feel like visiting POST PURORESU really opened my eyes to the ever evolving and expanding wrestling landscape in Japan. I can’t thank WH enough for inviting me onto the show throughout the year to help spread the puro love!
- March 2022 – AJPW Champion’s Carnival & STARDOM World Climax
- June 2022 – CyberFight Festival, Forbidden Door & G1 Climax Preview
- November 2022 – Historic X-Over Preview
Syuri vs. Giulia: Last Minute MOTY Contender?! With less than 48 hours left in 2022, John & Wai invited me Rewind-A-Smackdown to talk about the long-awaited rematch between the former Donnal del Mondo stablemates and tag team partners turned rival faction leaders. Honestly, this match skated into the Match of the Year conversation with less than three days left in 2022!! If you haven’t seen STARDOM Dream Queendom II, I highly suggest you check it out!
Thank you, 2022!
This year, I was fortunate to have my coverage at POST expand beyond my wildest dreams. From the launching of Dream Slam Weekly and partnering with Pro-Wrestling Illustrated, to working with NJPW on the Historic X-Column about STARDOM and going back to my second home for the first time since the pandemic hit in 2020, I have been exceptionally blessed. I cannot simply thank you enough for joining me on my joshi learning excursion this year, and I hope that you will continue with me into 2023.
That being said, starting in January, Dream Slam will shift from Weekly to Monthly. The target release will be the last Saturday of the month (or by the 28th for short months like February). I will be changing the format a little bit, but some items like match of the week (month) will remain included. It is my hope to work with more promotions in 2023 to bring more coverage of Japanese women’s wrestling both in Japan and abroad.
Thank you again! If you are reading this on December 31st, yoi o-toshi wo! (wishing you the best in the new year). If you are reading this on January 1st, Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu! (Happy New Year! I look forward to your continued support!)