WADE KELLER PODCAST – Royal Rumble preview with Sam Roberts
(Search “wade keller” to subscribe in podcast app or CLICK HERE to subscribe in Apple Podcasts.)
STARDOM 9TH ANNIVERSARY
JANUARY 19, 2020
TOKYO, JAPAN AT KORAKUEN HALL
AIRED ON STARDOM WORLD
REPORT BY HARLEY R. PAGEOT, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Rina said TCS would win here and retain the tag titles later on. Onozaki said Rina won last time so they wanted to pick up the win here.
(1) QUEEN’S QUEST (Leo Onozaki & Hina) vs. TOKYO CYBER SQUAD (Ruaka & Rina)
Hina and Ruaka started. Rina caught her sister with a chickenwing clutch hold for the pin.
WINNERS: Tokyo Cyber Squad in 3:39.
(Pageot’s Perspective: There have been rumblings that this group here may be the last crop of young girls getting to compete in Stardom and that Bushiroad will have higher age restrictions going forward. That would be a real shame. When I first started getting into Stardom I thought the fact that there were 12 year-olds wrestling on the regular shows was so cool and empowering. You rarely get to see that young of an experience level in American promotions and there’s something really special about getting to watch somebody’s career from day one as they grow and mature as performers. If Ruaka ever wins singles gold in Stardom, even if it’s not for another five or six years, I’m going to bawl like an uncle out of pride.)
-Skye said this was the day she would prove she was going to win the entire High Speed Grand Prix. AZM said she had a plan for the GP but she would utilize it here instead and worry about the GP later. Kid said she’d win and gain momentum.
(2) ARTIST OF STARDOM CHAMPION AZM vs. STARLIGHT KID vs. ZOEY SKYE
All three ran the ropes. Skye with some arm drags. AZM with some take-downs. Kid with a headscissors takedown to both opponents at the same time. AZM ducked a tiger feint kick but Kid caught her on a second swing-through. AZM dropkicked her into the corner. Skye with a flurry of strikes. Backpack stunner to AZM for a two-count. Skye went up top but Kid cut her off. The locals tried for a double suplex to the gaijin but Skye fought them off and hit a double-stomp to both girls dangling from the second rope. Skye kicked Kid to the floor and looked to finish off AZM. AZM hit a springboard dropkick instead. Top rope double-stomp attempted but Skye rolled out of the way. AZM and Kid wound up both catching Skye in a pinning combination but she kicked out. AZM with a suplex to Kid. Roundhouse kick. Top rope double-stomp from AZM to Kid. Skye broke up the pin at two and three-quarters. Tilt-a-whirl into the AZM Sushi on Skye for the pin.
WINNER: AZM in 6:03.
(Pageot’s Perspective: A classic high speed match. Very fun. This is the best Skye’s looked on this tour so far and the neverending AZM-Kid feud has very steadily raised both their profiles and got them both over. I can’t see either girl giving Riho her first loss in Stardom but I also wouldn’t be surprised if, somehow, one of them is our next high speed champion. Maybe a three-way where one pins the other and Riho doesn’t factor into the finish?)
-Sumire said the new Oedo Tai starts today. Tora said the other team sucks and they’re not dealing with garbage anymore. Sumire suggested they can be practice dolls. It’s a trial run, a chance to test stuff out. As they walked off one of them did admit Hoshino is “so cute”, though… Iida said it was her one-year anniversary so she’d be winning today. Kamitani insisted her shooting star press would pull it off. Hoshino just said, “I’m ready.”
(3) OEDO TAI (Natsuko Tora, Natsu Sumire, & Saki Kashima) vs. SAYA IIDA, SAYA KAMITANI, & ITSUKI HOSHINO
Kashima and Hoshino started. Kashima smacked her. Hoshino tried to attack with forearms but Kashima bullied her into the ropes. More forearms from Hoshino, which Kashima laughed off. Sumire tripped the rookie as she ran the ropes and they triple-teamed her. Tora knocked the Sayas off the apron and tossed Hoshino across the ring by her hair. Sumire with the crotch assault. Hoshino caught her with a hurricanrana and finally tagged out at 4:00. 3838 Tag hit a flurry of offense on Sumire. Sumire whipped Kamitani across the shoulder and neck. Tora tagged in and went to work on Kamitani. Kamitani managed a Boston crab but Tora made the rope break. Second rope dropkick but Tora kicked out. Running shooting star press landed but Sumire broke up the pin. Tora with a lariat. Tag to Kashima. Iida also in legally for the first time at 9:00. She fired up and unloaded with chops to Kashima. Kashima popped right back up and yanked her to the mat by the hair. The rookie trio with a series of dropkicks to Kashima. Iidabashi! Kashima kicked out. Iidabashi II! Tora broke it up. Double spear from Tora to Kamitani and Hoshino. Sumire with a placard shot to Iida’s head. Kashima with My Emblem.
WINNERS: Oedo Tai in 12:53.
(Pageot’s Perspective: A lot of subtext going on here. Will the new Oedo Tai actually be a full heel stable? Tora’s general attitude seems to be one of “I’m not fucking around anymore” and Sumire and Kashima appear ready to back her up. I know I’m not alone in wanting Oedo Tai to add Hoshino to their ranks. Their compliment of her as they ended their promo along with the fact that she always seems a little out of sorts with Iida and Kamitani and always a little depressed could be hinting at it becoming reality. A rookie in Oedo Tai would truly be a new era of Oedo Tai. Kashima is also clearly having a blast playing a heel. Like Tora she’s gone all in on the opportunity given to her and has committed 100% to the new role.)
-Producer P was back! Nakano admitted it had been a long time and asked him where he’d been. She said he couldn’t miss today – her last match with Kagetsu. It was supposed to be the final chapter but it didn’t feel right. To honor Kagetsu she’d make this a match for the future. Kagetsu said it was her final match in Korakuen Hall. She only has two Stardom matches left. This would be her third singles encounter with Nakano. Once was a draw. (Footage aired of their Cinderella Tournament post-match from April 29 of last year.) The other time she lost due to outside interference. (Footage aired of their 5Star Grand Prix match from September 24, 2018 that ended with Hana Kimura hitting Kagetsu with a chair behind the referee’s back.) For this third time Kagetsu wanted to take everything Nakano had and finish by beating her.
(4) KAGETSU vs. TAM NAKANO (w/ Producer P)
Nakano was very stoic, seemingly struggling to hold back tears. A couple stalmates in the opening minutes with both women breaking and resetting. Kagetsu got the upper hand by spitting water in her face and tossing her into the fan seats. Suicide dive but Nakano avoided it causing Kagetsu to crash into Oedo Tai at ringside. Nakano followed up with a high crossbody. Dragon sleeper to Kagetsu across the top rope until the refere made her break the hold. High knee from off the top rope to Kagetsu’s head. Back body drop but Kagetsu sprang right back to her feet and hit a flurry of strikes. Ebisu Drop into a kimura lock. Rope break. Death valley driver. Nakano bridged up while Kagetsu went up top for the 450. Superplex from Nakano. Kagetsu no-sold and hit a running knee strike. Nakano returned the favor. Both women were down.
They traded forearms. Nakano with some kicks and a bridging German suplex. Sit-out facebuster. Kagetsu shoved her into the ref and blasted her with the red mist. Tiger suplex from Kagetsu (Nakano’s finisher) but she kicked out. Death valley driver. Oedo Coaster. Nakano kicked out at two and a half. Spinning back kick from Nakano. Tiger suplex but Kagetsu rolled a shoulder free. A trio of running knee strikes from Nakano. Another tiger suplex. And a third.
WINNER: Tam Nakano in 10:15.
-Nakano was sobbing. She can’t rewind time but she can now say with all her heart, “Thank you for letting me choose my path.” Kagetsu straight-up said they didn’t have much time so she’d be quick but the path Nakano chose (joining Stars after losing a “loser leaves stable” match that forced her to quit Oedo Tai) wasn’t wrong. She said she beat her so now she’s ready to go get the white belt. She told her she wants to see her standing at the top and Nakano agreed that’s her goal as well. Nakano’s tag partner, stable mate, and frenemy Arisa Hoshiki was there with Starlight Kid to help her to the back.
(Pageot’s Perspective: A good match between the former stable mates, though rushed. It was clear that they weren’t given as much time as Kagetsu would have liked so they had to squeeze an epic 20-minute format into a 10-minute slot. As a result it was just a good match and didn’t get to reach the heights it could have. Nakano gets a big win, though, and we get more teasing that she’ll be the one to beat Hoshiki for the white belt. Maybe we go full circle with Nakano winning this year’s Cinderella tournament and beating Hoshiki for the title in the same way Hoshiki won the title last year.)
-The Brits were excited. Hayter said they had this one in the bag. Priestley said we’d be looking at the first gaijin Goddess Of Stardom tag champions. Kyona said today was the day she’d knock Hayter down on her butt. Konami tried to calm her down. She knew Kyona would and said she’d procured the finest liquor to celebrate.
(5) TOKYO CYBER SQUAD (Jungle Kyona & Konami) vs. TOP GAIJINS (Bea Priestley & Jamie Hayter) – GODDESS OF STARDOM CHAMPIONSHIP
Kyona and Hayter charged at each other with shoulder blocks. Hayter moved and Kyona knocked Konami off the apron. The heels targeted Kyona’s surgically-repaired shoulder. Priestley walked the ropes while holding Kyona’s arm (à la Undertaker) and hit a double-stomp to the arm. The gaijins continued to methodically work over Kyona. Kyona managed to counter a suplex from Hayter into a suplex of her own and followed up with a clothesline. Priestley tagged back in and shoved Konami off the apron. She took too long showboating, though, and Kyona hit a powerslam. Tag to Konami at 8:00.
Anklelock to Priestley. German suplex. Kyona powerbombed Priestley onto Hayter as Konami assisted with a missile dropkick. Konami with an armbar. Hayter tried to save her partner but Kyona took her out. Priestley made it to the ropes. Hayter with a suicide dive to both opponents. Priestley with a springboard double-stomp to Konami on the apron. Priestley dropped her kneepad and hit a knee strike to the back of Konami’s head. Queen’s Landing for the win.
WINNERS: Top Gaijins in 12:55 to capture the tag titles.
-The new champions reiterated for the live crowd that they’re the first non-Japanese tag team to hold the Goddess titles.
(Pageot’s Perspective: I won’t lie, this really bums me out. And not because Kyona’s my favorite wrestler. If anything, this can be seen as an opportunity for her and Konami to pursue singles gold again. What bums me out is that they’ve spent months talking about wanting to take the titles global and defend them in other countries. That premise was very exciting. Seeing Kyonami defend the tag titles in Eve or AEW or other promotions would have been so cool but that won’t come to be now. It’s possibly Priestley & Hayter do just that (they’ve both made numerous AEW appearances and Hayter is Eve’s international champion at the moment) but it wouldn’t have quite the same impact.)
-Kimura said no one tells TCS what to do. Today is a unit battle? Giulia and her two mystery partners are hardly a unit. Giulia said the day has finally arrived. She said she’s prepared a strong team.
TCS entered first with Ruaka and Rina at their side. Giulia entered alone in a black hooded robe. After a long tease a girl in a red hooded robe entered to no reaction and joined her. After another delay a third woman in a red hooded robe made her entrance. Two people applauded. The third woman posed mid-ring and pulled her hood back to reveal her face. The lights came up in the arena and the crowd yelled for “Hana” instead of either of the two surprise partners.
The on-screen graphics had Hirsch listed as an official member of TCS for the first time. There was some miscommunication on the heel side as Giulia expected to be introduced first for her team but the ring announcer instead called out Maika’s name. (Maika wrestles/wrestled? for Taka Michinoku’s promotion Just Tap Out. She challenged Utami Hayashishita for the Future Of Stardom title at a JTO show five nights earlier and lost but Giulia showed up post-match and invited her to join her new stable anyway.) The third woman on Team Giulia was Syuri. (A wrestler, kickboxer, and MMA fighter, Syuri debuted in 2008 and wrestled for Stardom a handful of times in 2013 and 2014. For the past three years she’s been a freelancer and in 2020 alone she’s already competed for Wave, Ice Ribbon, OZ Academy, Sendai Girls, SEAdLINNNG, and YMZ. She’s also held gold in CMLL and competed in UFC.) She received a handful of streamers.
(6) TOKYO CYBER SQUAD (Hana Kimura, Death Yama-san, & Leyla Hirsch) vs. GIULIA, SYURI, & MAIKA
Death and Syuri started. Death posed to each side of the ring, which Syuri broke up with a kick to the spine and a side headlock. Tags to Hirsch and Maika. Tags to Kimura and Giulia. Kimura tossed Giulia into the fan seats and hit her in the back with a folding chair. She dragged her up the steps and banged her head off a metal sign. Giulia took over on Death and her trio did the Oedo Tai apron pose with Death trapped in the ropes. Back and forth between the groups. Kimura gained an edge over Maika but Maika got a touch of offense in at 10:00.
Giulia tagged in and hit a missile dropkick. Giulia and Syuri double-teamed her. Giulia looked for Stealth Viper but Death and Hirsch broke it up. They hit a double DDT to Giulia. Ground octopus from Kimura to Giulia. Giulia rolled into the ropes to force the break. Hirsch tagged in so the end may be near. She hit a springboard moonsault to Giulia but the others broke up the pin. Hirsch wanted an armbar but Maika interfered again and everything broke down. Death and Kimura were cleared and Team Giulia triple-teamed Hirsch. Giulia hit an over the shoulder tombstone for the pin.
WINNERS: Team Giulia in 14:08.
-Giulia again claimed that Kimura loves her. She said she brought in even more people that hate her and she’ll keep doing more things that Kimura doesn’t like. Kimura said beating her bodyguard doesn’t mean she’s on a roll. She asked if Giulia heard the fans cheering for her (Kimura). Nobody’s interested in Giulia’s trio. A unit?? She probably found them on the side of the road. Kimura has something to protect, unlike Giulia. She doesn’t have time for three streetwalkers. Giulia vowed Kimura would be fighting her for the rest of her life. Giulia suggested to her partners that they pursue the trios titles (currently held by Watanabe, Hayashishita, & AZM). She named her group Donna Del Mondo, which is Italian for Woman Of The World.
(Pageot’s Perspective: And with that Stardom officially has five factions again. We’ll see if they break one up in the draft this spring like last year or if they decide five is a good number now that the roster is swelling in size. I’m not familiar with Syuri or Maika at all but scuttlebutt online is that Syuri’s a bigger deal than Giulia and should be higher than her in the roster hierarchy. We’ll see how that plays out. Based on the name alone there’s an inherent implication that, just as Kimura’s International Army became TCS last spring, any new gaijins or freelancers arriving in Stardom will become DDM members going forward. Meanwhile the absence of Andras Miyagi continues to be a talking point. Will she try to earn her way into DDM by proving to Giulia that she’s worthy? Or could she join TCS out of a unified desire to see DDM destroyed and Giulia humbled?)
-Hayashishita said she’s done everything she said she would and she’d finish it in the ring. Hoshiki said this was about getting revenge for her loss to Hayashishita in the 5Star Grand Prix.
(7) ARISA HOSHIKI vs. ARTIST OF STARDOM, FUTURE OF STARDOM, & SWA WORLD CHAMPION UTAMI HAYASHISHITA – WONDER OF STARDOM CHAMPIONSHIP
Hayashishita’s strength advantage kept her in control through the opening minutes. Aggressive camel clutch with a front chinlock. Hoshiki came back with a kick to the chest and a knee strike to the face. At 5:15 Hoshiki slammed Hayashishita face-first into the ring apron three times. On the second time Hayashishita seemingly failed to get her forearms up in time. The referee separated them and checked on Hayashishita. There was a splattering of blood on the ringside mat. Hoshiki came off the apron with a knee strike that left both women down. Hayashishita had blood across her face and was smearing it on the mat with every movement.
Back in the ring Hoshiki mounted her with slaps. Hayashishita was punch-drunk and threw some right hands that Hoshiki easily avoided. Hoshiki went for a pin but the referee refused to count and ordered her off so he could check on Hayashishita. Hayashishita looked for a rear naked choke but Hoshiki reversed it. Hayashishita’s forehead and nose were covered in blood by this point. They traded slaps. Hoshiki went for a springboard stunner but Hayashishita turned it into a German suplex. She followed with a bridging German for a two-count at 10:00.
Standing submission from Hayashishita with Hoshiki upside down in her arms. Running air raid crash. Hoshiki with a sleeperhold. She tried for a springboard stunner again but Hayashishita caught her with a sleeperhold of her own. Jumping knee strike from Hoshiki. Hoshiki stepped off the top rope into a kick to Hayashishita. A third springboard stunner blocked by Hayashishita and turned into a torture rack, which was then turned into a bridging German suplex. Hayashishita sat Hoshiki on the top rope for another German but the champ fought free and fell backwards into a sloppy cutter. Running knee strike. Hoshiki picked her back up and hit the Brazilian kick to put her away.
WINNER: Arisa Hoshiki in 15:21 to retain the white belt.
-A medic immediately checked on Hayashishita and conferred with the referee. Hoshiki said that Hayashishita was so strong she thought she would die. Her next defense will be her tenth. It’s a milestone and the start of the next chapter. She implied that she knew who her next challenger would be but wasn’t prepared to reveal her yet.
(Pageot’s Perspective: It appeared that Hayashishita’s nose got busted open the hard way when Hoshiki slammed her face into the apron. Credit to everyone involved for continuing through it. I wouldn’t label it an error on Hoshiki’s part. Both women entered this match with things heated between them and wrestled the opening minutes aggressively to sell that. Hayashishita tried to get her arms up during the apron shots at ringside and was successful on the other two. If anything the blood raised the stakes of the match and helped Hoshiki come across as fierce and ready to match her opponents’ aggression when necessary.)
-Watanabe said this was her third time challenging for the red belt. Iwatani wasn’t sure what day it was but she made her debut in January 2011 so it’s almost her nine-year anniversary as a wrestler too. She acknowledged that this is the biggest crowd they’ve ever drawn at Korakuen Hall.
Iwatani has an entrance video now which includes footage of her in action as well as her accepting the 2019 Tokyo Sport Women’s Wrestling Grand Prize. She also new entrance music, replacing her well-known theme, “The Savior.” They shook hands before the bell.
(8) MAYU IWATANI vs. ARTIST OF STARDOM CHAMPION MOMO WATANABE – WORLD OF STARDOM CHAMPIONSHIP
Test of strength to start and a slow feeling out process. Watanabe put Iwatani down with a stiff kick. She went after the right arm, wrapping the elbow around the bottom rope and stomping away at it. She tied Iwatani up in the ropes and hit a missile dropkick to the back. Armbar but Iwatani made it to the ropes. Iwatani caught a kick and turned it into a dragonscrew leg whip. Ground surfboard. Crucifix pin for the first two-count of the match at 6:30. Penalty kick to Watanabe’s spine. Step-up into a springboard dropkick. Watanabe with a ground abdominal stretch into an armbar. Rope break. Iwatani rolled to the floor for a breather at 10:00.
Watanabe with a meteora off the top rope to the heart of Iwatani standing at ringside. Watanabe with a saito suplex and a flurry of strikes. Another meteora for her first two-count. B Driver for two. She went up top again but Iwatani cut her off. Iwatani wanted a crucifix powerbomb but Watanabe escaped. Superkick from Iwatani. Dragon suplex but Watanabe powered back up and hit a release dragon suplex of her own. Both women were down. They traded forearms from kneeling positions. Crucifix bomb from Iwatani. Watanabe avoided a top rope moonsault at 15:00.
Second rope meteora to Iwatani connected. Another from the top rope also found its mark. Rear naked choke from Watanabe. Release german suplex. Peach Sunrise! Iwatani kicked out at two. Dragon suplex and Iwatani kicked out again. Watanabe set her on the second rope but Iwatani fought out and leapt backwards, over Watanabe’s head, nailing her with a poisonrana. She followed with a second rope frog-splash for a two-count. Top rope moonsault landed. Watanabe kicked out at two and a half. Iwatani wanted a dragon suplex. Watanabe struggled and Iwatani hit a DDT. She lifted the challenger up and dropped her with a tombstone. Bridging dragon suplex for the win.
WINNER: Mayu Iwatani in 19:12 to retain the red belt.
(Pageot’s Perspective: Very good match. Not the best I’ve seen from either and probably not my favorite match of the night (in fact I can’t recall the last time one of Iwatani’s matches fit that description) but solid. It felt like this was very much aimed at first-time Stardom viewers and they could have reached another speed and another level if they had wanted to but they felt like it wasn’t necessary on this day. Iwatani’s reign will last for a long while, I suspect, unless Giulia inserts herself into the picture sooner than later. As for Watanabe, this seems like a positive sign that she will remain top tier going forward.)
-Iwatani collapsed to the mat and told Watanabe she’s strong. She said it was her first singles victory over her in four years. She thanked everybody for coming. She promised Stardom would keep fighting to make things interesting. She hoped new fans would continue with them and said she would remember this crowd for a long time. She admitted she’d been talking too long and asked if anybody else wanted to speak. Momo?
Watanabe said it hurts as she held the back of her neck. She was really frustrated. She couldn’t stand it. She apologized for crying. She said she’d keep chasing Iwatani for the rest of her life and would stand on top of Stardom one day, on top of her. She lost and Hayashishita lost but at least Priestley brought the tag titles back to Queen’s Quest. Priestley hugged her before dropping her with a v-trigger.
Priestley ripped off her QQ sweatshirt and kicked AZM off the apron. “QQ is worthless now!” she yelled in Japanese. Top gaijin in top faction. Oedo Tai joined her in the ring. Kagetsu applauded. Priestley, in Japanese, asked for permission to join. Kagetsu gave it. Priestley said she wants the white belt too and called out Hoshiki. Hoshiki said she’s been waiting. “Let’s fight!” Priestley gave her the finger and Oedo Tai left.
“There’s a lot going on,” Iwatani said. January 3 she was betrayed by Kashima. Today Watanabe was betrayed by Priestley. There’s a lot happening with units. She’s just glad to have her red belt back. She wants to stay at the top of Stardom but anyone can come for her. The lights dimmed and World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana World Champion Sareee appeared in a pre-taped video. She said she was free February 8 and would see Iwatani at Korakuen Hall. She made fun of it being pre-taped and said no one would have ever seen the footage if she had lost today. Iwatani said she’s not at her best against opponents like Sareee but she’ll try her best. Stars closed the show.
(Pageot’s Perspective: The death of Oedo Tai is not to be. We may never know the truth behind Kagetsu and Hazuki leaving, and both of those are still punches to the gut, but the unit is back in strong shape. In fact QQ is now the weakest faction with Watanabe and Hayashishita alone at the top. After Kagetsu’s retirement next week Oedo Tai, Stars, and TCS will each have seven official members while QQ sits at five. Could they take in the stray dog that Andras Miyagi has become? Or maybe even Riho. She’s not as bubbly as the Stars crew tend to be. When does Io Shirai’s NXT contract expire again? I’m very happy that the tag league story of an Oedo Tai member and a Queen’s Quest member teaming up finally paid off and wasn’t just left as a weird anomaly with no consequences.
Rumors of Sareee appearing in Stardom have been circulating for a while and this makes it official. I’m surprised they’re going to this match so quickly but it makes for a big news story even if all assumptions place the champion vs. champion match ending in the usual time-limit draw. It is also quite interesting that we’ve now seen wrestlers from multiple other promotions appear on tonight’s show. Stardom doing more talent-sharing would boost all the joshi companies even more and really make 2020 a huge year, as if it isn’t already. Tonight’s 1602-person attendance was the second-largest Stardom crowd in their nine-year history.)