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FOUR DAYS IN APRIL: ALL JAPAN, NOAH, AND THEIR TROUBLED HISTORY

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April 2018: Naomichi Marufuji (left) and Toshiaki Kawada (centre) holding a memorial for Motoko Baba.

By the 22nd April 2018, two events had already been planned, Naomichi Marufuji, the vice-president from Pro-Wrestling NOAH, would face the President of All Japan, and old colleague, Jun Akiyama in All Japan’s Champion Carnival. The next day he would have a “talk battle” with old All Japan veteran, Toshiaki Kawada, who was a stranger to him.

Fate, which had played such a role in the lives of three, would play another card to make these events all the more poignant. After a long struggle with liver failure, Mokoto Baba, the widow of Giant Baba, died at the age of seventy-eight on the 14th April 2018. Her death, like much of her life, was kept secret until the 22nd.

What bound these four together from the All Japan days was more of a question of who, rather than what and where.

To understand the story, and to discover the significance behind what happened in April 2018, we need to go back to the source. We need to follow the river upstream, past the ring, the dojo and wrestling politics, newspapers, internet journalists, TV stations, reporters and fan opinion, back to Ashikaga-kodai High School, where Mitsuharu Misawa met Toshiaki Kawada in the late seventies. Both men would go on to join the All Japan Dojo, and train under the watchful eye of Shohei “Giant” Baba. They would become two of the “Four Pillars of Heaven” (as Giant Baba named them, the other two being Akira Taue and Kenta Kobashi), and their wars against each other would be epic, their rivalry on a scale that would never be replicated. Former friends, had to turn into rivals, and the ripples from this would turn into a wave that would blow itself out decades later when the water finally calmed.

Mr & Mrs Baba

Into this masculine world of wrestling with all of its traditions and testosterone, had stepped a young woman called Mokoto Baba in 1972 when All Japan was founded. The Japanese have a private face and a public face, and even now it is very rare to hear wrestlers talk about their personal lives (obviously with some exception), and so it wasn’t known to the public until the early eighties that Baba even had a wife. If the public didn’t know it, then All Japan did.

Puro can be very paternal, (especially in relationships between student and teacher), and so while Baba was the father to the dojo, Mokoto had to be the mother. Baba tended to be the indulgent dad and was beloved by the boys; Mokoto had to be out of necessity, the strict mom, and so wasn’t much liked.

In the early nineties, Jun Akiyama joined the All Japan dojo. He was followed by Naomichi Marufuji six years later. It was management who decided who would train who, and it was fate that put Marufuji with Misawa. Toshiaki Kawada knowing the rules of the game, had to completely withdraw from Misawa, and this meant from Marufuji too. His behaviour was often seen as hostile or perhaps downright rude as he pretty much had to ignore him completely. “Kayfabe” had to be maintained; rivals could not have any contact with each other outside the ring (just as at award ceremonies, promotions were then forbidden from talking to anyone outside the promotion), they were forbidden to give advice to even their rival’s trainees.

However, this did not stop Marufuji reflecting that while all the veterans had something to teach, Kawada was the one who “taught fear.”   

So for two years our four were together in All Japan, but they were tough years by the late nineties. It wasn’t just the strict hierarchy that existed in the dojo (Marufuji would later comment that it was something he had never come across before, there was naturally a hierarchy in Japanese society, but this was something else), it wasn’t the fact that puro was changing (promotions were becoming a little less insular as technology grew, the internet was born and the world began to open up digitally); it was the fact that Baba was dying. A heavy cigar smoker, he succumbed to cancer in 1999. 

Into the void left by his death, stepped his widow, and much to his surprise stepped Misawa, who as per the term of Baba’s will, was now appointed president of All Japan. It was to be both an unfortunate and a remarkable pairing; no woman before had ever headed up a wrestling promotion. Mokoto Baba may have been business savvy, but she was also grief stricken, and determined to keep All Japan as it was under her husband. She knew how to fight, and fight she would.  

Despite his upbringing in the cloistered world of the All Japan dojo, Misawa had been overseas (and had always had a penchant for gaijin wrestlers), and looking around at the new century, he saw new opportunities to take All Japan into the millennium by taking the company in a new and different direction. Friction arose with Mokoto almost immediately. Nothing would change in All Japan; it would remain how it always had been. 

The relationship between the woman who had been the mother to the boys, and the man who had experienced a family life in All Japan, that he had never had in reality, reached the breaking point. Both could be infuriatingly stubborn, both knew how to fight, and neither would give way. Therefore the only option open to save All Japan, was for Mokoto to remove Misawa and he was stripped of his presidency by a majority vote of executive board members. 

Out of the bitterness, the humiliation, the frustration, Misawa decided to create his own promotion, and what is known as “the first exodus” was staged whereby Misawa walked out of All Japan taking with him many of his colleagues, including Jun Akiyama, and his trainee, Naomichi Marufuji. Toshiaki Kawada elected to stay with All Japan. 

Furious and humiliated, Mokoto issued a statement which basically said Misawa had acted rashly and inconsiderately. Misawa also released his own statement at a press conference with those who had elected to follow him out of the safety of established All Japan and onto the small raft that was heading out for unknown waters, NOAH; he praised Baba, acknowledged the difficulties he had, and ignored Mokoto completely. He never spoke publicly of her.  

Mokoto would have her revenge. Misawa was to be left off of any subsequent DVD release, no matter how much the fans wanted to see it, and no matter how much it would have benefited All Japan. His memory was to be airbrushed as much as possible. In a radio interview soon afterwards she spoke of him in a way that sounded as if a mother had lost a son, saying that when Baba was alive they got a long, but after Baba died, Misawa changed. 

All Japan were facing a crisis; Misawa had walked out with the majority of the top talent, and the majority of the future talent, and days later, office workers and admin staff quit to join him. Their TV deal was also cancelled and Noah took their slot. Mokoto, the woman who had been so strict about her husband’s wishes, now shocked everyone by bringing back Genichiro Tenryu, who had left All Japan in 1990. People didn’t leave promotions to go to other promotions. It wasn’t done, and Baba swore that he would never let this wayward son back in the house, but yet here he was, shaking hands with mother. It didn’t make too much of a difference, All Japan found that they were now half selling shows in places they had originally been able to fill to the rafters.   

There would be one more conflict between NOAH and All Japan, and this harked back to the old days with the no contact rule, when NOAH and All Japan participated in four tour dates together in July 2000. NOAH wrestled NOAH, and All Japan wrestled All Japan. Neither side met in the ring or outside of it. There was no friendly meeting with old friends. Nothing. Toshiaki Kawada mentioned that it was unnecessary for NOAH to be there and Misawa was unnecessary for All Japan. NOAH never said anything (although Steve Williams took it upon himself to goad him), and at the end of the tour, Misawa took everybody back to Differ, not even waiting for the show to finish. By this time even Mokoto realised that All Japan could no longer function as barricaded fortress, and a deal was struck with New Japan. 

This would have been unheard of in Baba’s era. Still, the stone had been thrown into the water, and the ripples were turning into waves that would one day reach the shore.

Toshiaki Kawada (left) and Mitsuharu Misawa (right) in high school before the days of promotions, dojos, trainees or rivalries on a grand scale.

With the passage of years, and his decision to freelance (ironically involving difficulties with All Japan), time had done much to mellow the relationship between Misawa and Kawada and on July 18th 2005, they wrestled their final match together at the Tokyo Dome, the place where long ago, their epic wars had taken place. It was a reconciliation of some sorts, but the ice was never properly broken between them.

Following an accident in the ring, caused by years of postponing his own retirement, and an accumulation of injuries, Mitsuharu Misawa died in June 2009. NOAH held memorial shows, on which Toshaki Kawada appeared. Ironically, he also found kind of a home in NOAH, feuding with Takeshi Morishima (who had been one of the trainees who had walked out of All Japan), and participating in the first Global League. The death of Misawa shocked him, and although he never publicly announced that he was going to retire, he did admit that with Misawa gone, his heart was no longer in wrestling. He would reignite his passion in 2018, but in a different way.

Fate decided that it was now time for NOAH and All Japan to cross paths again, this time involving Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama. Fate was about to repeat itself.

In his will, Misawa left the position of vice president in Noah to Naomichi Marufuji. It had been said that Misawa was planning to retire, and therefore would have started to introduce the man who was like son to him, to the business world, but there hadn’t been time, and so Marufuji found himself not only thrust into a role that he didn’t know, but also faced with angry seniors. Those who had been in All Japan during the days of Misawa and Mrs. Baba now felt the same thing. Who wanted to work with this young man? He knew nothing of business? He was going to change things, things they didn’t like, things Misawa didn’t like. Several of the veterans quit, and Naomichi Marufuji spent the next few years learning the ropes and with a pounding headache.

In December 2012, Pro Wrestling Noah took the decision to terminate the contract of Kenta Kobashi due to injuries. Furious at this insult to their teacher, Jun Akiyama, along with four other wrestlers refused to renew their contracts with NOAH, and all left for All Japan. It was a similar repeat of what had happened years before, and while it was on a much smaller scale, it was to have devastating consequences for NOAH. With Misawa gone, the promotion had managed to stay afloat for a few years, but a scandal involving the Yakuza had ruined their reputation (something which NOAH are still feeling the effects of in 2018), and they could not afford the walk out of such talent. The waves from the stone thrown in 2000 had reached the shore.

While Kenta Kobashi seemingly later made peace with NOAH, Jun Akiyama was not forgiven and his actions were seen as a betrayal. Another rift began between NOAH and All Japan, which was not made better when Akiyama became president in 2014 which was perceived as a too close threat to NOAH at a time when NOAH could barely afford such competitors or to have someone who had been once one of their own and a symbol of the company, one of their rivals.

Both companies however were now entering their dark years. NOAH was suffering through scandal and loss of talent (plus the disaster of the New Japan alliance), and All Japan were experiencing the after effects another mass walkout, again due to the company leadership. These walkouts have become known as “The Exodus” and are even numbered. To complicate things even further, the former president of All Japan, became the president of NOAH. The two companies settled into bitter resentment on both sides as they faced their mounting problems and picked up the pieces from the wave that had been waiting to come since 2000.

On February 3rd 2018, Naomichi Marufuji out of the blue announced on a rainy day, that he had been invited to take part in All Japan’s “Champion Carnival”. The news caused outrage, not only amongst wrestlers, but also amongst fans. It had been five years since Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama had had anything to do with other, five years since NOAH lost their talent to All Japan. To All Japan fans it was a question of why on earth NOAH was being allowed back to All Japan? Why was their vice-president here? What was going to come of this? Where All Japan and NOAH going to merge? Rumors and misconceptions flew around.

What came of it was peace. It was finality. It was acceptance.
It was a much needed burial of the past.

On 25th April 2018, after five years, Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama met in the ring. They had an epic battle. In this match everything came out, the difficult years, the dark past, the resentment, the bitterness, the lid blew off and the miasma scattered as they hit each other (the bruises could be seen the next day very clearly). Fans of both NOAH and All Japan, were in tears as it was emotional. Like the ghosts of Taira clan watching Hoichi The Earless play “The Tale of The Heike”, they saw it all; the shared past of Misawa and Kawada, Baba, Mokoto, Jumbo Tsuruta and the old guard, then the upturning of Puro and the new way it was taken in the new century, the return of Kobashi and “The Burning” stable made up of those who walked out of NOAH, all of it.

At the end of it, the demons exorcised, the past was laid finally to rest by a simple gesture of a fist bump between the two.

Nothing more needed be said. NOAH was here, All Japan was here.
Both were still here.

Toshiaki Kawada and Naomichi Marufuji in April 2018. The last lingering ghosts of the past were laid to rest.

There was a final closure to be had the next day when Toshiaki Kawada and Naomichi Marufuji met in the ring. By this time long out of action, Kawada had turned to producing. He too wanted to show the new generation against the older generation, which was a story that Puro knew so well, at his first event “Holy War”.

Unable to wrestle, he and Marufuji basically sat down and talked about All Japan. Kawada noticing that Marufuji was using a lot more psychological techniques, now that he realised that nearing forty he couldn’t really moonsault anymore, and a lot of those techniques where his. Kawada told the bruised and battered Misawa protégée, that his hostility in the dojo stemmed from the way things had to be back then, he couldn’t have helped him, even spoken to or properly acknowledged him, and he didn’t want things to be like that anymore.

It didn’t need to be.

Not now.

There has been a long bitter struggle between All Japan and NOAH for many years, but now both promotions can look to the future. NOAH will never again rely on another promotion only on themselves, and it would be a hideous contradiction of Misawa’s wishes which are held sacred in NOAH, for them to merge with All Japan and vice-versa in All Japan with Giant Baba, but with the rise of the younger generation in both companies, there is nothing now to stop a co-operation between them which can only benefit everybody.

NOAH and All Japan are still here. Let’s keep it that way.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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(NOAH) WEEKLY NEWSLETTER VOL.18 ~ 12TH JANUARY 2019

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We got the important Day 1 review for Navigation for the Future last week from Andrew, but Hisame is the expert. She clarifies things from that first day, on top of events since January 6th.

NEWS

“NAVIGATION FOR THE FUTURE 2019” BEGINS

NOAH began their year in Korakuen Hall on the 6th January. The roster filed to the ring (this years color is red) and stood while Go Shiozaki made the traditional New Years speech (this is either done by himself as Chairman of the NOAH Wrestlers Association, President Uchida or Naomichi Marufuji, but usually by himself), and although naturally he wasn’t competing, Marufuji was there.

Kinya Okada took on Masa Kitamiya, which ended with Kitamiya doing a massive spear on him which winded him.

Yoshiki Inamura took on his hero, Takashi Sugiura. Inamura put up a good fight, and like all the heavyweights, participated in the unofficial competition that they seem to have, which involves lifting Sugiura up and for as long as possible. He even once or twice managed to knock Sugiura down. However, the match finished as it only could, with the win by Sugiura via the infamous chokehold.

Atsushi Kotoge teamed with Masao Inoue against Hi69 and Minoru Tanaka.

The cape was the star of this match; Minoru Tanaka wore it on his head, Hi69 put it on to do the “Revolutionary Splash” and then got into a fight with it when he took it off over his head and it got kind of stuck.

Kotoge thought that they were going to join the “Revolutionary Army” (which so far has only one member, and no one wanting to join), when Tanaka sarcastically put the cape on at the end of the match and did the revolutionary fist when his arm was raised for the win.

They didn’t want to become his junior corps however, and Kotoge found himself thrown out of the ring, and looked up to see Minoru Tanaka using the cape to wipe Hi69’s ass…

The Backbreakers had their “assessment” match with Seiya Morohashi and Junta Miyawaki to see if they were eligible to challenge for the GHC Junior Tag Team titles. They weren’t as they lost, but afterwards Ohara predicted great things for Miyawaki, and said that he had the potential to be putting on a belt in the spring.
In the meantime, The Backbreakers have been challenged by Keisuke Ishii and Kouki Iwasaki.

The Hooligans had their first match of the evening when Akitoshi Saito teamed with 50 Funky Powers against them (Mitsuya Nagai, KAZMA SAKAMOTO and Cody Hall).

Due to interference by The Hooligans, who shoved Referee Nishinaga down, the match was abandoned after five minutes. This was a taster of what was to come in the title match.

A much healthier, happier and relaxed looking Naomichi Marufuji announced that he would be returning to the ring on the 1st February. After that he remained on commentary for the rest of the event.

The three remaining RATELS took on YO-HEY and his new friends, Yoshinari Ogawa and Kotaro Suzuki. Harada was not wasting any time as he stamped across the ring while he was being announced, not even bothering to look away from YO-HEY or even remove his RATELS jacket as he attacked him. YO-HEY won against the man he used to call “The Boss”.

After the match, HAYATA was bending over Harada, as YO-HEY looked on at Ogawa and Suzuki approaching them. HAYATA stood up, Ogawa said something to him, HAYATA put his hands on his hips and looked away, and the three of them left. HAYATA left soon after, leaving the seconds to help Harada out of the ring.

The Hooligans had their second match of the evening as Yuji Hino and Maybach Taniguchi defended the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship against Go Shiozaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima, following the bloodbath in Yokohama at the end of the year.

The problem with this match was the stop start, stop start, Hooligan interference, which after a while got tiresome. The booking was in itself very Suzuki-Gun, which is not something people really want to be reminded of. When the match was allowed to flow, we got some good moments, especially the dynamic between Katsuhiko Nakajima and Yuji Hino when neither would sell each others moves; Nakajima’s eyes filled black when Hino yawned in response to his kicks.

In the end (and beating up Atsushi Kotoge on the way who seems to have attached himself to Shiozaki and Nakajima, although no one has probably asked him to), The Hooligans retained.

Fifty Funky powers then challenged them for the titles with Quiet Storm telling them that everyone was sick of The Hooligans, and the way they fight, and they would finish them.  

In the main event, Kaito Kiyomiya came full circle, and beat Kenoh to retain the GHC Heavyweight championship.

Kenoh entered with slicked back hair and the usual scowl (he hasn’t debuted the hair since, probably because he was teased, or else he is saving it for big matches), and Kiyomiya entered with a Kobashi mannerism, where he pauses to look at the crowd as if he can’t believe they are cheering for him. They had what will be probably the start of their epic battles. Kenoh had said that neither he and Kiyomiya were the same people they were in January 2018, but I don’t think he really knew that Kiyomiya was not this young boy anymore, who he swung alternately between seeing as a younger brother, and an a potentially dangerous rival, who he had so easily kicked around in 2018. Sugiura had underestimated Kiyomiya during Global League, and Kenoh, while not making the same mistake, made the mistake as seeing Kiyomiya as still somewhat green and unprepared for his role as the GHC Heavyweight Champion.

Kiyomiya knew Kenoh well, he was able to dodge his moves, and he also knew when to play dead and come out of his daze. They had great chemistry together, and this match, already a match of the year to some, was hard fought all the way through, and a solid fight from the start.

At one point, seeing Marufuji on commentary, Kenoh paused to glare at his hated obsession.

After the match, Atsushi Kotoge (mercifully wearing a fresh new cape which hadn’t been anywhere near Hi69’s hindquarters, although lets face it, ALL those cloaks probably have a rude backstage story to tell on a Misawa level), came out to challenge Kaito Kiyomiya.

Kotoge proposed starting a revolution together, and fortunately for Kiyomiya, he was saved from this by Masa Kitamiya, who also challenged and said sensibly (and firmly) that “the GHC Heavyweight does not need a comedy wrestler”.

Kiyomiya, as polite as ever, left the company to arrange the details and Kotoge and Kitamiya will face each other on January 20th to determine the number one contender, with the winner facing Kiyomiya on February 1st.

During the pre-matches, neither Kotoge or Kitamiya got the pin or had the pin given on them by Kiyomiya directly.

Kaito Kiyomiya says that he wants to be an approachable champion, one that talks to fans and makes people leave the event smiling. He was driven by Kenoh to become champion, and he is driven by the memories of the dark days of Suzuki-Gun and the vicious circle it created with the fans who felt the crisis in Noah, which was transmitted to the wrestlers, and when no one was happy. As well as being the youngest GHC Heavyweight Champion on history, he also wants to beat Takashi Sugiura’s defensive record of fourteen people.

NOAH are currently approaching the end of their three day in a row event. Hi69 said that the attendances have not been good, and more people need to come, but for winter in the provinces, the attendances weren’t bad; there was a long line to see Katsuhiko Nakajima, and according to Kaito Kiyomiya, a lot of new fans came to the events.

IPW

RATELS (including YO-HEY) are taking part in IPW’S Junior Tournament on the 15th January. Their opponents for the first round have been announced as:

Daisuke Harada vs Chris Ridgeway
HAYATA vs Kid Lykos
YO-HEY vs Ben Basden
Tadasuke vs James Basden

While Harada is yet to comment on his opponent (who seems to do the Sugiura mouth-guard thing), although he did say that this will be the first time he will ever have competed for a belt concurrently in another promotion, HAYATA doesn’t use social media, YO-HEY said he wanted to meet Mr. Bean, Tadasuke has commented that he will “knock down” his opponent.

Tickets can be purchased here

DDT
Naomichi Marufuji and Go Shiozaki will be taking part in DDT’S 22nd anniversary event “Judgement 2019” on February 17th.

President Uchida represented Marufuji at the press conference (Marufuji has had to be very strict with his rehabilitation, and so cannot travel with NOAH to the events in the countryside, and sometimes has to miss things for treatment), and was met with Tetsuya Endo (who will be Marufuji’s opponent), eating his lunch.

Endo basically said he respects Marufuji, but he doesn’t care about the actual match, he’s out to crush him, he also said that he didn’t think that Marufuji would be physically or mentally ready for it either.

Fortunately, having had the experience of both Kenoh and Sugiura in his face and therefore being familiar with such behavior, President Uchida just ignored him.

CURRENT CHAMPIONS

TOUR TIDBITS
~ Hajime Ohara announced that NOAH will be returning to Kultz Kawasaki on the 27th July, and he will once again be involved in the booking of the show.
~ Yuji Hino said about Mohammed Yone, “The Afro is dead”.
~ YO-HEY appears to have an invisible friend…
~ Atsushi Kotoge’s cloak fell off when he attempted to do the “Revolutionary Cloak Splash”
~ HAYATA did not second Harada and Tadasuke in Hamamatsu
~ Takashi Sugiura bought home a little yellow hat for his puppy. He also said he realizes that his account should be used for photographing people, and not his dog, but he doesn’t apologize; he is going to keep photographing his dog.
~ There seems to be friction developing between Kenoh and Katsuhiko Nakajima, and the fans want to see a single match.
~ Despite the manner in which he left NOAH, and where he is now, Taiji Ishimori appears to be on good terms with Marufuji. Marufuji congratulated him on winning the IWGP Junior in New Japan, and Ishimori thanked him and said he remembered the lessons and experience he had in NOAH. Even if he does return as a Freelancer, which he may well do one day, hopefully Ishimori will be back in the NOAH ring one day.
~ Two small kids ran to Kenoh (who was standing watching the ring action) and asked if they could shake his hand, he was very gentle with them in doing it.
~ Tadasuke turned 33 on the 13th January.
~ President Uchida hinted that a GHC Heavyweight Title defense could take place in Canada (or on IMPACT) as a thank you to Scott D’Amor who took care of him when he was overseas.

KING SHAMELESS CORNER
He’s been good as he’s got a new dog.
His good behavior won’t last, especially when summer comes, or when he finds Masao Inoue at the urinal.

BROADCASTS
I am afraid that no broadcasts have been announced as of yet, although it is likely that the last day of tour (1st February which is the GHC Heavyweight title match and Marufuji’s return) will be broadcast, and perhaps the 26th January in Osaka.

BOOK CORNER
The translation of Naomichi Marufuji’s biography, “Heir to The Ark” continues.
In this chapter he dispels a lot of the myths surrounding himself and KENTA. Its a commonly held (and dearly held belief) that they were close, if anything, they were anything but. They rarely had any contact outside the ring, never socialized or had really had any significant contact out of tour, and Marufuji said he lent him a CD which he never returned.

LINKS
“No memory of the match” ~ Kaito Kiyomiya, the youngest champions first defense
Marufuji’s enthusiastic return on the 1st February at Korakuen
The Hooligans do as they like
“Whichever comes, I will not lose” GHC Heavyweight Champion, Kaito Kiyomiya’s confidence about Kotoge and Kitamiya
Kaito Kiyomiya’s first defense and an ambition in Canada
The birth of the youngest GHC Heavyweight Champion ~ Kaito Kiyomiya’s interview (1st defense)
Wrestling Grand Prix Fighting Spirit winner Kaito Kiyomiya, “My starting point for battle came from Fujinami and Choshu”

NOAH FROM THE VAULT
Kaito Kiyomiya’s “My Turning Point” (translated by Purodino)

Photos & gifs – credit to Noah GHC, IPW, PDXD & Puroresu Weekly


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Stardom New Years Stars 2019 Day 1 Results & Review (1/2/2019)

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New Year, New Years Stars Stardom event! Do things start off hot, or are we looking for more of a simmer to the start of the year? Mathew let’s us know.

Welcome back to Stardom as we start some coverage for 2019. It’s been over a month since I covered Stardom due to being too focused on All Japan’s Real World Tag League, so let’s take a quick little recap of what we missed during that gap.

Arisa Hoshiki made her return to Stardom and has joined STARS, AZM has defeated Natsu Sumire to win back her mask and flag, Momo Watanabe and Utami Hayashishita have not only won the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League but have also won the Goddesses of Stardom Championships, meaning Utami is apart of Queen’s Quest. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE – Hazuki defeated Mary Apache for the High Speed Championship, and Jungle Kyona got the pin on Kagetsu to set up a World of Stardom Championship match at their 8th Anniversary Show on January 14th.

We got a lot to look forward to 2019 so let’s get started with our first Stardom show of 2019 and…dive right in!

 

Three Way Match
Kaori Yoneyama vs. Natsuko Tora vs. Alex Gracia

Review: Our first match of 2019 here in Stardom is a Three-Way Match between two of JAN’s members, Kaori Yoneyama and Natsuko Tora, and Alex Gracia. Alex Gracia is someone completely new it looks like and this is also her first time in Japan as she calls herself the Pink Dream, I don’t know where she had her first real start but I do wish her well and see how she does here. Will Alex be able to win in her Stardom debut or will it go to one of the JAN girls?

This one is pretty much how most triple threats go with all of them getting a little bit of offense with not much big shown on here. How did Alex fair off in her debut? Honestly, she didn’t do badly at all as she sold fine, her bumps were clean, and nothing really stood out as her messing up or anything. Kaori and Natsuko also did their best to help her out in the match and had decent back and forth action. Kaori would hit the Senton on Alex to go for the pin but Natsuko would hit a Senton of her own on top of Kaori to break the hold before she made her way up the top rope to hit her Splash on Alex for the win. After the match, Stardom Trainee, Saya Iida came to the ring and said she would like to challenge her to a match when she makes her debut. Natsuko said she’s very happy about the challenge, but she’s going to make her regret it when they fight. Good luck to Saya and same to Alex.

Rating: Tony Schiavone and a quarter

 

Three on One Handicap Match
Viper vs. Hanan, Hina, & Rina

Review: Our next match is a Handicap Match but not a two on one but a three on one as Viper makes her return to Stardom to take on Hanan and her sisters, Hina and Rina. Hina and Rina are Hanan’s younger sisters as they are both twelve years old and have made their debut a little after the last show I covered so I have no idea how good they are or anything, but I’ll be going to find out now. Will Viper be able to fight off the sisters or will they find a way to get a surprise win?

I’m not exactly sure if Hanan, Hina, and Rina are exactly the right opponents for her since I feel like Hina and Rina are still very green in the ring and while Hanan has improved a lot, still probably not ready for someone like Viper. Least they were smart with Viper not really selling the strikes they were giving her due to the fact that she’s bigger than all three of them while they’re young and weak, so I’m glad they made it believable. There would be times that the sisters would outsmart her like when Hanan was behind Viper while Rina Dropkicked Viper to make her trip as all three of them went for a pin, them dodging the turnbuckle spots, and even Hanan pinning Viper when Rina and Hina held her down with an Armbar. The sisters wouldn’t last much longer as Viper slammed all three of them down and hits a Diving Body Press onto all of them for the victory.

Rating: Vince Russo and three quarters

 

Tag Team Match
Jungle Kyona & Ruaka vs. Mary Apache & Sadie Gibbs

Review: Our next match is a regular tag match with JAN members, Jungle Kyona and Ruaka taking on former High Speed Champion, Mary Apache and Sadie Gibbs. Sadie Gibbs is another new girl much like Alex Gracia with little to no info about her but it looks like she’s from the UK scene with her accent. I always do enjoy seeing new people enter the world of professional wrestling and let’s see what she can do. Can Sadie and Mary win or will JAN take it?

So now that I’ve seen Sadie make her debut, how did she do? I think she had a decent amount of time to get a fair rating of her and I think she definitely does have the potential there as she has the look, she had a little sloppy moment in the ring but she managed to recover from it and is a solid athlete. Ruaka did improve quite a bit since I’ve last seen her and was able to hold her own against Mary in the match. It didn’t feel much of a tag match since Mary and Sadie was an odd pairing while Jungle and Ruaka didn’t do so much teamwork together, but it was still a solid match for the time we were given and nothing was terrible. Sadie would wow the audience when she does a cartwheel into a backflip to the outside of the ring to land on her opponents. Sadie would bring Ruaka into the ring and hits the Michinoku Driver for the three count and wins in her debut. Was kinda surprised with the outcome since I expected Kyona to get a win for some momentum towards her match with Kagetsu and maybe pin Sadie, but I guess they wanted Ruaka to eat the pin. Congratulations to Sadie Gibbs and best of luck to you!

Rating: Eric Bischoff

 

Six Man Tag Team Match
Oedo Tai (Kagetsu, Hazuki, & Natsu Sumire) vs. Hana Kimura, Jamie Hayter, & Bobbi Tyler

Review: We got a six-man tag match next with Oedo Tai members, Kagetsu, Hazuki, and Natsu Sumire taking on Hana Kimura as she brings Jamie Hayter and Bobbi Tyler with her. Bobbi is a Freelancer from the UK scene and this is her Stardom debut with about three years of experience under her belt, so let’s see how she fairs with Stardom. It appears as though Hana is not done with Kagetsu and Oedo Tai yet and would possibly want a rematch with her soon since she didn’t technically tap when they last fought. Will Hana be able to win to get Kagetsu’s attention or will Oedo Tai win this one?

What better way to start the new year than with Oedo Tai doing a dance for the audience and Nao Yamaguchi is back as their permanent manager due to her unable to compete in the ring still after that concussion. I’m not sure who drugged Sumire’s mochi but she started moving her body around and started to dance to ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen as the fans sing along as I think she saw Bohemian Rhapsody recently, she’s awesome. The match started off a little bit over the place when they were outside, especially with Hana and Kagetsu as they fought on top of the bleachers for a little bit. Jamie would slap Sumire’s taped up shoulder as it made her cry but Sumire psyched her out to attack her a little bit and when did Jamie improve? Because she did a lot better here than she did at the Five Star Grand Prix, I wanna see more of this Jamie please because she’s awesome like this.

For Hana, I still get confused about how she performs a lot better anywhere else but with Stardom, it’s just completely different for her with how she wrestles and I don’t get why that is as it frustrates me. Bobbi did impress me in the match as she pulls a Clothesline to the corner shades of Miz and tops it off with a Flatliner on Kagetsu but she gets a two count. It looked like Bobbi was going to get the win but Jamie betrays her teammates to help out Oedo Tai! She throws Hana out of the ring while Kagetsu hits the Oedo Coaster onto Bobbi to get the pinfall! After the match, Jamie would talk to Oedo Tai as she requests to join the faction and Kagetsu accepts her without hesitation, welcome to Oedo Tai!

Rating: Eric Bischoff and a quarter

 

Elimination Ten Man Tag Team Match
STARS (Tam Nakano, Starlight Kid, Saki Kashima, Arisa Hoshiki, & Natsumi) vs. Queen’s Quest (Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, Bea Priestly, Konami, & AZM)

Review: Our main event for the evening is an elimination match with our two factions, Queen’s Quest and STARS. Representing Queen’s Quest for this one are Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, Konami, AZM, and Bea Priestly and representing STARS, Tam Nakano, Starlight Kid, Saki Kashima, Natsumi, and Arisa Hoshiki. Basic rules for an elimination match in Stardom as you can win by pinfall, submission, and throwing them over the top rope. Also, if you’re wondering where Mayu Iwatani is, she’s unfortunately out due to a minor injury she suffered from her ankle and should make a short recovery soon. We do have future matches building up with Utami and Starlight fighting for the Future of Stardom Championship the next day and Momo defending the Wonder of Stardom Championship against Tam Nakano, so this would be a build-up for momentum with these two factions. Do Queen’s Quest win or will it go to STARS?

The first part of the match is Tam and Momo starting things off while showing us a little preview of what’s to come as they kicked each other back and forth for a little bit and after being in a stalemate, they tagged in Utami and Starlight. Those two would also give us a little preview before tomorrow’s title match and would quickly tag out to not spoil us anymore. They usually do these ten tag matches well together out of the other multi-man tag matches since they all have a fair amount of time to shine while giving one some momentum before elimination. They would do their usual spot where they are all going for a unit Suplex but Tam would grab the referee to have them help them out with the Suplex as six is better than one to make STARS beat Queen’s Quest in the battle of Suplexes this time around. Natsumi had some improvement in the ring when she does the Wheel Barrel into a roll-up on AZM and is moving a lot crisper until AZM stopped her momentum and Queen’s Quest do their famous 5 person Dropkick onto Natumi before AZM hits a Double Stomp off the top rope to eliminate her.

AZM would celebrate a little too soon as Saki almost threw her over the top rope when she wasn’t looking but Queen’s Quest would be able to save AZM. Konami is in the ring now as he and Saki go at it for a minute until Saki threw her into the corner and ran into her, but Konami would throw her over the top rope. Saki was hanging on as Konami would try to kick her off as STARS would attempt to Dropkick her and Bea but they would dodge out of the way as they accidentally hit Saki to eliminate her as well. Arisa gets in the ring now to try and fight Konami but Momo would hold Arisa by the ropes as Tam does the same to Konami, but Starlight and AZM come in to Dropkick their opponents but accidentally hit their partners. AZM and Arisa are in the ring as AZM would try to get the quick pinfall as Arisa kept on kicking out of them as they now both go back and forth till they stopped after they kept kicking out. Arisa would run into AZM and think she kicked her in the face and pinned her to get her eliminated. Konami is back in as she hits a Misle Dropkick onto Arisa and Starlight comes in to try and fight her off until Konami kicked her in the chest and in the face to knock her down for a two count but she’s not done as Konami goes running to the top rope as Starlight pushes her off to eliminate her!

We’re now tied with three members each as Momo and Tam are now in the ring with each other once again and the two would go at it until they would be over the top rope and onto the apron where they will keep on fighting. Momo would kick Tam down and hits her with the Package Driver but Tam didn’t roll out as Momo then hits the Somato only for Tam to slide under her to hit a German Suplex onto Momo on the apron and before Tam would roll out, she would take Momo with her for a double elimination. Utami and Starlight are next in the ring as Starlight hits a Dropkick while Utami responds with a Shoulder Tackle to take her down, but now Starlight would hit the Sliced Bread #2 for a kickout. Utami would go for the Torture Rack and Starlight fought out of it go for a Hurricanrana but Utami would hold her up to try and throw her out as Starlight tosses them both out, leaving Arisa and Bea the last two in the match. The two start kicking each other in the head and it looked like Bea would win when she pushed her off the top rope but Arisa was still holding on as Bea ran into her for only to be tossed over as the two are now on the apron. The two fought a little bit more as Arisa had the advantage and ran towards Bea to only eat a knee to the face to get eliminated as Bea wins it for Queen’s Quest! After the match, Momo said this would be a great year for Queen’s Quest and told Tam that she was going to beat her when they have their match. Utami would tell Starlight that she will take the title away from her and before she could give Starlight a chance to speak, Utami pulls the mic away from her as they closed the show. I can’t wait for these matches to happen.

Rating: Bruce Prichard

 

Overall: Aside from two impressive debuts, Jamie joining Oedo Tai, and a great main event, I thought the show was a little lackluster but there’s also enough enjoyment out of it and plenty of hype towards the 8th Anniversary show along with what’s in store for tomorrow.

Favorite Match: STARS (Tam Nakano, Starlight Kid, Saki Kashima, Arisa Hoshiki, & Natsumi) vs. Queen’s Quest (Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, Bea Priestly, Konami, & AZM)

Least Favorite Match: Viper vs. Hanan, Hina, & Rina

Score: 6.5/10


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