Maika Closes STARDOM Dream Queendom 2023 as World Champion

Maika and Suzu Suzuki clash over the vacated World of STARDOM Championship at STARDOM Dream Queendom. STARDOM provides Wonder and World of STARDOM matches for free after mid-show network outage.

Suzu Suzuki (left) and Maika (right) clash in the main event of STARDOM Dream Queendom 2023. (c) STARDOM

STARDOM closed the books on 2023 with their final show of the year. After a strong start to the year, the second half of the year included some massive bumps as the 5STAR Grand Prix resulted in multiple injuries, making the final spring to Dream Queendom a bit slower than anticipated.  

  • Commentary: Haruo Murata (JP Play-by-Play) & Makoto Ohe (JP Color) & Mai Sakurai (DDM; Guest); English Commentary unavailable 
  • Venue: Ryogoku Sumo Hall
  • Attendance: 3, 063

Network Outage Resulted in Free Uploads of Semi & Main Event! Well done on STARDOM for quickly acknowledging the situation and uploading the semi and main events on STARDOM’s YouTube for FREE (matches linked below). I am curious to see how they elect to compensate those who purchased the PPV as that is a significant portion of their viewing sales internationally. My only qualm with the YouTube uploads is that they cut out the entrances for the two title matches, which is part of what makes the final matches of the card feel truly spectacular.

Free Pre-Show Live Stream

  1. Opening Match: 6-Woman Tag (time stamp: 12:00)
  2. Tam Nakano Address (time stamp: 24:45)
  3. 2024 Q1 Big Match Schedule (time stamp: 33:27)

Free Opening Match 

6-Woman Tag Match: Miyu Amasaki (QQ), Azusa Inaba (GE) & Yuzuki (Rookie) defeated HANAKO (Undeclared), Sayaka Kurara (Rookie), & Ranna Yagami (Rookie) (7:01) – Yuzuki pinned Sayaka

In 2023, STARDOM debuted multiple rookies via their NEW BLOOD series of events. This paired with the inclusion of the younger talent in opening showcases. Seeing the confidence that both Amasaki and Inaba have despite their short careers is really inspiring as they helped lead the match with HANAKO.

Verdict: Worth a Watch  – For those interested in ‘getting in on the ground floor’ of new wrestlers’ careers. 

Tam Nakano Addresses Ryogoku Sumo Hall

During her World of STARDOM Championship defense against Natsuko Tora at Nagoya Golden Fight, Tam Nakano injured her knee. Due to the unknown extent of her injury and without a projected return timetable, Tam elected to do what was best for the Championship, the company, and the fans. This resulted in her electing to relinquish the World of STARDOM Championship before her scheduled defense against 2023 5STAR Grand Prix Winner, Suzu Suzuki at Osaka GOLD RUSH 2023 in November. A mini-tournament was held to determine an opponent for Suzuki, and it would be Maika who earned the honor to face Suzu in the final match of 2023. 

“Good afternoon to everyone in the cosmos and everyone here at Ryogoku Sumo Hall. It’s the cutest wrestler in all of the cosmos, Tam Nakano! There is something I want to address with the fans and my colleagues here at STARDOM, so I made a point to come here tonight. Please give me a few moments of your time. Thank you so much. Two and a half months ago, while I was red belt champion, I had to step away from the ring. I want to take responsibility both for being unable to complete my duties as champion, and also making everyone worry about me. Please accept my sincerest apologies. 

While I was away, I thought about many things. I genuinely thought about walking away from pro-wrestling. However, I couldn’t do that to every fan who – I am not crying – loved and supported me and the love from my peers in STARDOM. Thank you so very much. There was another positive thing that helped me get through being away from the ring, which was being awarded the Tokyo Sports 2023 Women’s MVP Award! At the time, I went back and forth, wondering if it was really okay for me to be this year’s recipient. I realized that this award wasn’t just for my work, but the hard work of the fans and everyone here at STARDOM as well. Thank you again so much.

Thank you for always making time for me. Now it’s my turn to make you a promise. You love has reached me, so now I will make sure I repay everyone in kind. I will return to in-ring competition without fail. That is my promise to you. Currently, I am only a shadow of who I need to be for everyone. Five steps or even maybe six steps away, but I assure you that I will return as the best version of myself. I want to make STARDOM the best company in the world, both with my peers and all of our fans. So please continue believing in me and join me on this return journey. 

Today is the last STARDOM event for 2023, everyone is looking forward to giving you the best show possible, so please enjoy it! Thank you again!!” – Tam Nakano, in-ring promo

Note – Kindly link back to this post if using the translation in part or entirely with credit. Thank you.

Final Thoughts: I am glad that Tam publicly addressed the STARDOM crowd. She has done interviews since winning the ToSpo award, but seeing her ‘not cry’ her way through an emotional roller coaster of a promo was more reassuring than anything, especially when gossip and speculation can cloud the path ahead. She looked healthy which is a relief, but I am also prepared to wait as long as she needs before her return. STARDOM will be fine. I still believe in Tam, too.

2024 Big Match Calendar Announcement

  • NEW YEAR STARS 2024 (1/3/24) Yokohama Budokan
  • ITTENYON (January 4th) STARDOMGATE 2023 (1/4/24) Tokyo Dome City Hall
  • STARDOM’s 13th Anniversary Supreme Fight 2024 (2/4/24) Osaka Edion Arena
  • Cinderella Tournament 2024 Opening Day (3/9/24) Yokohama Budokan
  • Cinderella Tournament 2023 Finals (3/20/24) Nagoya International Conference Center
  • All-Star Grand Queendom (4/27/24) Yokohama BUNTAI

Spoiler-Free Match Card

  • 4-Way Tag Battle
  • 8-Woman Tag – Iwatani returns from injury
  • 6-Woman Tag
  • Goddesses of STARDOM Championship
  • NJPW Strong Women’s Championship
  • Wonder of STARDOM Championship*
  • World of STARDOM Championship*

*Matches were made available on STARDOM’s Official YouTube Channel for free due to a network system outage at the venue. 

4-Way Tag Battle: Saki Kashima & Ami Sohrei (GE) defeated SAKI (COLOR’S) & Yuna Mizumori (CA), Mai Sakurai & Thekla (DDM) vs. Lady C & Hina (QQ) (7:25) – with Sohrei pinning Mizumori after a Blue Thunder Bomb

This was a fun, yet rather uneventful 4-way tag. A simple way to get more of the roster onto the show without opening with a timed rumble or battle royal. SAKI celebrated the 11th anniversary of her debut with STARDOM, tagging with Mizumori. Saki Kashima still continues to hide behind the stronger members of God’s Eye (like Syuri and in this match Sohrei), but it’s endearing to watch her in her post-OedoTai arc. 

Verdict: Worth a Watch  – This is where I start my Thekla for Cinderella Tournament Champion 2024 campaign. After her being noticeably absent in the 2023 5STAR GP, I feel like there should be more plans for her, especially given how long she’s been part of the company.

Mayu Iwatani’s Return 8-Woman Tag Match: STARS (Mayu Iwatani, Hazuki, Hanan & Saya Iida) vs. OedoTai (Starlight Kid, Ruaka, Rina & Fukigen Death) (10:55) – Iwatani pinned Fukigen after a moonsault

After jamming her finger during her IWGP Women’s Championship defense against Stephanie Vaquer at NJPW’s Lonestar Shootout, STARS has been plugging along without the Icon. Of course, the OED contingent was led by SLK, who naturally supported her former MK Sister, Iwatani with a red and blue mask. Aside from Iwtani’s return from injury just prior to the new year, this was another fun multi-person match without any real stakes. With her being the guest of honor, the match was largely built around Mayu and her resilience with the slight undercurrent that all the OED members were at one point under her tutelage as STARS.

 As Starlight Kid has yet to conquer her personal Everest in Mayu Iwatani. It makes me wonder if SLK will be challenging for the IWGP Women’s Championship in the not-too-far future. 

Verdict: Worth a Watch – especially for Referee Barb Sasaki for getting sucked into Fukigen’s cheating ways and accidentally giving Mayu a running Bulldog.

What Next?

  • Mayu Iwatani: Syuri challenged her for the IWGP Women’s Championship at STARDOM Year End Climax (12/24). They are slated to meet at ITTENYON (January 4th) STARDOMGATE 2024 (1/4/24) at Tokyo Dome City Hall prior to NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 18 at the Tokyo Dome.

Special 6-Woman Tag Match: 7Upp (Nanae Takahashi & Yuu) & AZM (QQ) defeated Syuri (GE), Mina Shirakawa (CV) & Mei Seira (11:41) – Takahashi pinned Shirakawa after the One Second EX

Another rare showcase match combining members of different factions together, but definitely my favorite of the undercard thus far. Seeing AZM team with veterans like Takahashi and Yuu, largely to do all the high spots and stealth moves she is known for, was refreshing. The energy between Shirakawa and Syuri was one of my favorite parts of the match. Syuri seemed to draw out a more aggressive side of Shirakawa while Shirakawa helped Syuri cut a little loose during the match. Also, I loved them double-teaming against AZM, but then again, all three are some of my favorites within STARDOM.

Verdict: Recommended – While I would have preferred a different outcome, Shirakawa is one of the plucky babyfaces in STARDOM who can take a loss and come back more powerful. She’s done it before and she’ll do it again.

Goddesses of STARDOM Championships: AphroditE (Utami Hayashishita & Saya Kamitani)  (c) defeated OedoTai XL (Natsuko Tora & Momo Watanabe) (16:22) – Hayashishita pinned Tora after a Torture Rack Bomb; AphroditE V1

The undercurrents of history between Natsuko Tora and Utami Hayashishita paired with Momo Watanabe betraying Queen’s Quest to align herself with OedoTai makes this match a nostalgic favorite for the STARDOM history buffs. Momo just celebrated her second anniversary of throwing away everything associated with QQ and her history as the leader to align herself with OedoTai as The Black Peach. Any time she mixes it up with Hayashishita and Kamitani in the ring, it feels like opening up old wounds, but it’s guaranteed to be one of the hardest-hitting matches on the card. Watanabe’s laundry list of transgressions that QQ committed against her, like Utami achieving the red belt (World) before her and Saya shattering her longest reign with the white belt (Wonder), adds a little extra spice to every single strike she gives them.

Unlike many of the usual OedoTai matches involving heaps of interference, especially from the members at ringside, Watanabe and Tora were very selective as to when they employed underhanded tactics, surprisingly opting to prove they have the ability to dethrone Kamitani and Hayashishitam on their own. The calculated use of green mist and Ruaka’s suitcase were very intentional but didn’t overwhelm the match. Tora’s nod to her predecessor, Kagetsu (retired; now Yu Ishino), was also apparent with the single black eye makeup instead of her usual double red streaks was a nice callback.

Kamitani trying to keep Watanabe occupied so Hayashishita could throw everything she had at Tora and finally pin her rival once more was fantastic. I particularly like Kamitani using the Starcrusher on Watanabe while Hayashishita put Tora away with what felt like a rather desperate Torture Rack Bomb.

Verdict: Highly Recommended While I love both Utami and Saya as singles competitors, as AphroditE they have a rare chemistry that many fused together tag teams don’t have. I hope they are given a monster run with the Goddess belts before we ultimately see them part ways again, likely in pursuit of separate singles titles once more. What I found curious was Hayashishita’s closing remark that “with this win, I’ll move onto my next new dream…” what that means specifically for Utami, AphroditE, QQ, and STARDOM remains to be seen!

NJPW STRONG Women’s Championship: Giulia (c) defeated Megan Bayne (17:02) – via Front Facelock/TKO; Giulia’s 7th successful defense 

Megan and Giulia have been on a collision course since Bayne’s arrival earlier this year. With her power and height, it felt like it was only a matter of time before she became a monster challenge for the roster to be conquered. Much like her match against Willow Nightingale, Giulia had a tall order ahead of her with Bayne. It isn’t often where Giulia meets someone in-ring who can not only overpower her, but stop her in her tracks. Bayne has visibly improved during her time in STARDOM.

It is rare to see Giulia fighting from underneath and receiving the underdog treatment during a match, but that made the match feel far more interesting. The desperation of Giulia, when the Northern Lights Bomb resulted in a kick out and her scrambling to go for a submission, had me on the edge of my seat.

This was a solid match and could have easily been a head turner at a US show. While I love seeing Giulia as champion and her STRONG ROAD run with this belt has been great, I would prefer the NJPW Women’s Championships be defended on NJPW Programming, especially with Wrestle Kingdom next week and Battle in the Valley in several week’s time.

Verdict: Highly Recommended Giulia’s run with the NJPW STRONG Women’s Championship gives me a “what could have been” when I think of her run with the red belt. I love that Giulia has been pushing herself to speak in English as well as to bring stability to the lavender belt. 

Wonder of STARDOM Championship: Saori Anou defeated MIRAI (c) (24:43) – via Japanese Ocean Suplex Hold; Anou becomes the 20th Wonder of STARDOM Champion

This match should easily skate into the last-minute contenders for “must-see in 2023.” While it initially felt like an innocuous pairing, once the bell sounded, it did not stop for nearly twenty-five minutes. They could have easily paced themselves and wasted time, but neither MIRAI nor Anou was willing to do so. Nesting this match between Giulia/Bayne and Suzuki/Maika seemed almost unfair initially, but they reminded everyone around the world that the Wonder of STARDOM Championship isn’t just the “belt of tears and suffering,” but the next big step in the future of their careers. Anou’s in-ring creativity really kept MIRAI on her toes, and MIRAI looked exceptionally strong, even in defeat.

I think that with both Tam Nakano and Natsupoi being out on medical for injuries, that only left Anou and Yuna Mizumori to hold down the fort full-time for Cosmic Angels. What I found frustrating in this match was the camera cut to Tam at ringside and Natsupoi cheering as a second far from the corner. This felt like they were telegraphing too much, and it pulled the spotlight away from the match at times. The match is supposed to be about the competitors in-ring with the support teams secondary. God’s Eye were also at ringside but weren’t pulling the attention away from the match. 

“MIRAI… you’re so incredibly strong. Today is my victory, but I hope you take all that frustration and get even stronger. Let’s fight again someday. When that day arrives, let’s blow today’s match out of the water.” – Anou to MIRAI, in-ring post-match. While Anou offered her hand in sportsmanship, MIRAI acknowledged it but didn’t take it. 

Verdict: Highly Recommended When the time comes, I welcome MIRAI’s heel turn. With her power and ability, it could be the edge to make her even more compelling.

World of STARDOM Championship: Maika defeated Suzu Suzuki (2023 5STAR Winner) (20:39) – via Michinoku Driver II/Pin; Maika becomes the 17th World of STARDOM Champion

When I think back to the finals of the 2023 5STAR Grand Prix, I truly wondered if there was anything left in the tank between Maika and Suzu Suzuki. When the match was set after the mini-tournament to decide Suzu Suzuki’s new opponent for the main event of Dream Queendom, part of me felt that if they were going allow for a 5STAR Grand Prix 2023 Finals redux, that they shouldn’t have made Maika work so hard to get there. Yes, I am aware that the original plan could have likely been a different competitor altogether had Tam not needed to vacate the belt in the first place, but it just felt like a bit of a scramble to right the ship at the last minute.

Kudos to Suzu for making sure the table was not only properly set up, but instructing the seconds to properly hold it in place. This would become essential later on when Maika goes to powerbomb Suzuki through the table but gets reversed and thrown through it herself. While the table buckled, there wasn’t a clean break, which resulted in Thekla checking on Maika immediately afterward. Much like the previous match, Tam and Giulia were supportive but also a bit distracting as the camera cut to them at times as well. I would have preferred Tam and Giulia on commentary specifically for this reason as the voices wouldn’t have detracted from the action and their insight would have been valuable.

Maika intentionally using Himeka’s running powerbomb before systematically dismantling Suzu with a trio of Michinoku Driver IIs in Three Amigo fashion, really hit hard. For those who weren’t dialed into the prime MaiHime tag team era, Himeka’s retirement hit Maika the hardest, so for the Empress to include her in this fourth attempt at the World of STARDOM Championship really made it special.

Verdict: HIGHLY Recommended I could have done without the multiple launches into the audience at the beginning, but I was definitely surprised at Maika finally breaking her red belt curse.

Maika’s Post-match Backstage Comments & Surprise (video)

“After several attempts, I finally managed to capture STARDOM’s top championship. I don’t even know where to start. This year really had its share of ups and downs. It was to the point where I felt like I had hit rock bottom and my heart was shattered. However, everyone supported me. They really became a lifeline for me, and I was able to carry on as a result. Now, it’s my turn to repay that favor and become a lifeline for those who are in similar situations. I’ll do my best to be someone everyone can rely on.

That’s the type of champion I want to be. I want to stand proud with this belt and face the future ahead. While there is the possibility that I could hit rock bottom once again, I’ll take responsibility for those weaknesses, and keep moving forward. 2024 will be the Year and Age of the Empress, so please look forward to it and you can rest assured that STARDOM is in good hands. That is all from me. Thank you so much!” – Maika, World of STARDOM Champion

STARDOM surprised Maika with her former tag partner, Himeka, who retired in May of this year. Himeka and Maika were Goddesses of STARDOM and Artists of STARDOM Champions (with Natsupoi).

Himeka: “Oh, congratulations!”

Maika: “Wait. Hang on a minute!”

Himeka: “Congratulations!”

Maika: “I DID IT! Whose fault do you  think it is that I am now all alone!! (*laughs*) This belt isn’t just mine (implying that her winning was also for Himeka who previously challenged for the World of STARDOM Championship against Syuri among other accomplishments).”
Himeka: “No, you earned this one on your own.”

Maika: “What are you saying!”

Himeka: “Congrats!” (claps)

Maika: “I made the dream come true!” 

Himeka: “I hope you keep doing your best (as champion). I’ll continue watching over you.”

Maika: “Let’s get outta here. Thanks again, Everyone!”

Note – Kindly link back to this post if using the translation in part or entirely with credit. Thank you.

STARDOM’s 2023 Overall Thoughts 

In a year where STARDOM seemingly was plagued with injuries, I feel like many of the other talents stepped up when necessary and others stepped back when they needed to. My only hope is that they all have a healthy and happy 2024 (including a much shorter 5STAR Grand Prix).

About Karen Peterson 108 Articles
Occasionally drops by wrestling podcasts, but remains rather elusive. Joined the Japanese wrestling fan scene in summer 2017, and continues to work on bridging the language gap between fans. Outside of wrestling, she’s a dog mom, perpetual Japanese learner, and when conditions permit, world traveler. Never skips dessert.