STARDOM had one of their absolute best years this past year. Their tournaments were all must-see and it seemed like the bar was raised with each show they put on. They had some women wrestle in over a hundred matches this year which is rather rare for Stardom. It just shows you how much Bushiroad’s involvement has helped them grow. I’m sure that a lot more great things are coming for the 10 year old promotion that hails itself as having the best Women’s Wrestling in the planet. Featuring matches from the 5 Star GPs, Wonder of Stardom Championship, World of Stardom Championship and loads others!
All that said, narrowing this list down to just ten matches was insanely difficult. I’m not gonna lie. In fact, there were three matches in particular that I really had to lump into one spot just because the trio of matches were that damned good. I’m just gonna give you the matches and then a little bit about the match, not going to be going too in-depth with it. Without further ado, let’s get into it folks. These are the ten best matches that Stardom produced this year.
10. Giulia vs Mayu Iwatani | January 8th 2021
In one of the earlier matches for the Five Star Grand Prix this past year, Mayu Iwatani faced off against Giulia. This was one of the best matches of the tournament as they absolutely tore each other a new one. Each element in this fight was somehow directed to the development of storytelling. It wasn’t just a battle between two top-performers, it was an absolute war and that’s the best way to put it. The Icon of Stardom against the absolute MVP of 2020. None of the women wanted to lose their positions, so they gave 210%. Every part of the match worked for the result and showed that both Iwatani and Giulia can sacrifice everything to prove their superiority.
Winner: Mayu Iwatani (18:30)
9. Mayu Iwatani vs Yoshiko | March 3rd 2021
A spectacular outing with great story telling power and ring psychology. Although it wasn’t really evident but this was clearly a battle of the power and strength of Yoshiko against the agility and speed of Mayu. A unique background going back to 2015 when Yoshiko had left Stardom after -that- incident and Mayu took her place and carried Stardom on her back to become the ace of Stardom. Yoshiko operated as a dominant hard hitter and powerhouse while Mayu worked as the resilient wrestler with a lot of heart and was able to awaken the fighting spirit in her later into the match. For 15 minutes this was superb wrestling. It was very hard hitting, especially Yoshiko whose strikes would put down Mayu on just one hit of the forearm. It was during this when Yoshiko riled up Mayu and lit up a fire in her and even her strikes were equally as impactful. Mayu was able to deploy her aerial offense while Yoshiko displayed her powerhouse abilities. A amazing ending stretch with many close near falls and saves. Yoshiko is possibly the best near fall creator. Mayu was able to put down Yoshiko after multiple superkicks and hit the dragon suplex for a kick out at almost 3 and then connected with that picture perfect moonsault to win the match. Mayu’s selling was top notch and she sold very well for Yoshiko. Mayu showed why she is the best women’s wrestler in the world. The work rate was phenomenal as they were able to provide a plethora of content in 15 minutes and the chemistry that both had was incredible. There was suspense as well on the various close kick outs and a lot of intensity and emotions that burst out post match after a highly emotional post match celebration.
Winner: Mayu Iwatani (15:09)
8. Tam Nakano (c) vs Natsupoi
Wonder of Stardom Title Match | April 4th 2021
A phenomenal first defense for the white belt under Tam Nakano’s reign. This match was pure finesse and a story telling master class. This match showcased the high speed and flexibility of Natsupoi as inferred by the initial moments of the match. A fiery and intense encounter with great display of strong emotions which I will mention further into this review. The strong psychology also aided it into reaching the top tier level of stardom matches . The story was the new personality of heelish Natsupoi coming into play simply disrespecting and not leaving any opportunity to embarrass and humiliate Tam. An example being spilling the water over Tam and then kicking at her face continuously. I personally liked how Tam had left her past principles behind and the forgiving demeanor that she had before being champion and this was enforced by her trying to land a steiner screwdriver on Natsupoi on the outside and her doing the same water bottle act that Natsupoi did giving her the taste of her own medicine. Natsupoi did some good heel work and was ruthless in her offense. Given their history in other joshi promotions it was easy to get invested in the story.
Winner: Tam Nakano (18:50)
7. Tam Nakano (c) vs Mayu Iwatani
Wonder of Stardom Title Match | October 9th 2021
This was a great match that was rich with storytelling and emotion as hoped, and continued to get more and more heated as it went on. Mayu coming out with blonde hair and her overall look felt like a psychological message to Tam, as a way of saying that Mayu had made her what she is today. The first two minutes of the match were a stare down, and not much happened in the first five minutes. Things picked up after that, as Tam went into a dark place and took her anger out on Mayu, only to crash and burn before long. Mayu then started being heelish for a bit before getting hit with a DDT on the apron. Once we got to the 15-minute mark, Tam lost it and went after Mayu again before both exchanged big kicks. Tam went for four suplexes to try and end the match and Mayu still kicked out, which was shocking. The exchange of kicks on the ground was cool. Mayu went for a headbutt, which was discomforting to watch, but I guess it made sense in this match as a desperation move? The final 10 minutes were intense and emotional. Tam did a crazy spike crucifix bomb or something and Mayu retaliated with a big move too. Things got very hectic in the final minutes only for the match to end without a winner. The biggest part of the finish was that Tam did not get the signature win over Mayu she has been craving.
Time-limit Draw (30:00)
6. Momo Watanabe vs Syuri
5 Star Grand Prix Finals | September 25th 2021
Syuri came in after 20 minutes of struggling with Takumi Iroha and fought frantically from the bell, and used big moves early on that she normally uses later in the match. Momo was steady as usual and landed a number of powerful head kicks. There was a lot of striking, especially heavy dull sounding kicks. Within the first nine minutes alone, the following things happened: a big battle of kicks to start, Momo blasting Syuri with a kick to the face while trapping her in the tree of woah, Syuri with a B-driver to Momo on the floor, Momo getting dragged off the ring and onto the floor while taking a face bump, a huge forearm battle during which the ref got pushed out the way multiple times, a big slap exchange, Momo landing a roundhouse kick and more. In the second half, we got more big kicks, an avalanche uranage by Momo, a B-driver which Syuri kicked out of, a double knee gutbuster, a tequila sunrise, a big German with a very close near-fall, a Stunner counter by Syuri, a DDT off the ropes and a big flowsion to end it. Whereas some people thought their match earlier in the year was slightly disappointing, this match was an epic that lasted under 20 minutes and was full of action and huge moments.
Winner: Syuri (18:36)
5. Natsupoi (c) vs Starlight Kid
High Speed Championship Match | August 29th 2021
Watching this live was really a great experience. Yes, you could say that there are perhaps too many near-falls here and that the match devolves into a bit of a slog with so many big finishers and moves not being the definitive end, but it’s so incredibly intense that I can’t really put it as a negative here. The narrative of Kid working the leg doesn’t quite pay off as much as I would like: something which does admittedly drag the whole thing down for me as a lot of the match is paced around that and it just sorta fades away when they start picking up steam: but outside of ring-psychology, this was really something else. The roll-up sequence was astonishing, the flips risky as hell, the pace fast as anything. Really enjoyable watch and a superb main event caliber bout. Not perfect by any means but when you’re moving as fast as these two were, it’s hard to be perfect. That said, this was, in my opinion, the best High Speed bout of 2021.
Winner: Starlight Kid
4. Syuri vs Takumi Iroha – 5 Star Grand Prix Match | September 25th 2021
They started off rather slow with Syuri targeting Iroha’s arm, however it transitioned into a quite hard-hitting phase quickly. They exchanged a lot of sick kicks. Then, the last minutes were the highlight, both were desperate to win and that reflected in the way they wrestled. They also showed in form of a great back and forth. Syuri also came back to the arm work she did previously in the match a some sort of last resort. I like the way the match has different chapters, with the opening bit of the match focusing on ground and mat work as they both work to out-wrestle each other. The next chapter saw them trading strikes to try and prove who is the strongest. And the final chapter saw them both throwing bombs as time expires to try and put the other down, as they both kept coming back for more. Both Iroha and Syuri wrestle an excellent match here and both excel both when giving offense and taking it.
Time Limit Draw (20:00)
3. Mayu Iwatani vs Momo Watanabe
5 Star Grand Prix Match | July 31st 2021
This match was absolutely insane. It was a true war between two of the bests, if not the two bests of Stardom. Momo Watanabe and Mayu Iwatani always deliver a very good performance, but here it was even more than just very good. It was fantastic. Mayu Iwatani’s selling in this match was insane, and Momo Watanabe was stiff as hell. Mayu put some incredible kicks too, but Momo was just as resilient as Mayu was. Mayu and Momo joyfully beat the shit out of each other for 17 minutes and it was an easy contender for MOTY. Mayu was great, in her offence or her selling, but it felt like this match was a redemption for Momo. She just destroyed the Icon of Stardom, dropping her on her neck multiple times and hitting her with kicks, elbows, slaps, headbutts and won with a new finisher that looked more like an attempted murder than a wrestling move. There were a ton of great matches during the tournament but for me, this was the absolute best match of its entirety.
2. Giulia (c) vs Tam Nakano – Wonder of Stardom
Hair vs Hair Title Match | March 3rd 2021
This match was also the reason I wanted to see the show, it’s praised everywhere and deserves every kind word. It’s one of the best matches of the year. Of course, it helps to know the story of the two and how the HAIR vs. HAIR match between two women came about. It was flawless. Tam Nakano has only four years of experience in the ring, but executes the moves flawlessly. The Steiner Screwdriver looked badass. Above all the moves, their variation and other elements that belong to the technical side of a wrestling match, was the storytelling. These two punched well above their weight to craft an absolute classic. Tam starts out by trying to grapple, but Giulia immediately is trying for strikes and bombs. She manages to catch Tam with a brutal apron neckbreaker and proceeds to destroy Tam on the outside (including a piledriver through a table). Tam’s selling throughout this is fabulous, from the big bumps like the apron neckbreaker, to the small ones like the Irish Whips in the guardrail. Eventually, they get back inside the ring, and Giulia’s cockiness gets the better of her and provides an opportunity for Tam to come back into it. From there it becomes all about hard hits and big moves, with Giulia’s cocky facade giving way to viciousness, and Tam desperately trying to survive the onslaught and win. The final few minutes with the slap fight and Tam busting out a screwdriver were absolutely glorious.
Winner: Tam Nakano (18:57)
1. Utami Hayashishita vs Syuri – Trilogy
June 12th, September 4th & 29th December 2021
World of Stardom Championship
Utami Hayashishita and Syuri had three absolutely amazing matches this past year. Two of them went to either a time-limit draw or had a double knock out. The third cemented that their matches would be the best of the year, in my eyes. This feud pretty much started the insane growth of Stardom this year with their June match, so naturally this one had extremely high expectations and they didn’t disappoint at all. Every call-backs to their previous matches were brought perfectly and added a lot to their already great story. This was damn madness, what kind of match by god, the storytelling is exceptional, the spots and the moves they make are accurate when you least expect it, the strikes are there at almost all times, the selling of Utami is beautiful i loved that they started slow and then had brawls outside the ring where they did very good sequences, honestly it surpasses their previous match, the best female fight of the year hands down. The last minutes were just insane, all the near-falls and bumps got me on the edge of my seat, and it escalated perfectly until that One Winged Angel/Emerald Flowsion mix by Syuri (that looked once again like an attempted murder more than a wrestling move) that ended 36 nearly perfect minutes and that finally put Syuri at the top of the company.
Syuri heads into 2022 as the World of Stardom Champion