The World of Stardom Championship or the “Red Belt” is the top main belt of World Wonder Ring STARDOM. It is a singles belt and holds great prestige in Joshi wrestling throughout the World. Wrestlers struggle to get their hands on this highly reputable belt throughout their careers. Some never get even close to it in their entire run, while some have the honour of raising it over their heads very early on in their careers. It was introduced nine months after the promotion started and since its inception in June 2011, there have only been thirteen championship reigns. Wrestlers in STARDOM tend to have long and solid championship runs in order to maintain the Red Belt’s credibility by not hot-shotting it too much. Any woman who has the privilege of wrapping the belt around her waist is bound to go down in the history books. So let’s take a look at the history of this belt and the women who have held it.
When the championship was introduced, a champion had to be decided and to do that Stardom held a 4-woman tournament to determine who would become the first-ever World of Stardom Champion. It was a one-day tournament and the tournament took place on July 24, 2011. The four women selected for that tournament were Nanae Takahashi, Mercedes Martinez, Yoko Bito and Mika Nagano. In the semi-finals, Nanae Takahashi defeated Mercedes Martinez and Bito defeated Nagano which set up Takahashi vs Bito in the finals for the title. Nanae Takahashi defeated Yoko Bito to become the first World of Stardom Champion.
Nanae was one of the three founders of Stardom and some people tried to blame it on nepotism but Takahashi was the best option at the time given that she was one of the more experienced wrestlers on the roster. Takahashi went on to have a strong run as the first champion holding the championship for six-hundred and two days which made her the longest-reigning World of Stardom Champion to date. She had seven successful defences in those six hundred days defeating the likes of Natsuki Taiyo and Meiko Satamura. Nanae Takahashi had become a strong champion. This did wonders for the belt because whenever it was defended it grasped the undivided attention of the audience. Having a well-known name as your first champion was a good decision on part of Stardom. However, on March 17, 2013, at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Nanae Takahashi’s reign was brought to an end by the strong and dominant Alpha Female.
When she won the title, Alpha Female showed promise. Fan imagined that there was going to be another long title run which would have established the German machine as the dominant heel on top of the roster. However, things went the exact opposite way. Forty-three days after winning the World of Stardom Championship, Alpha Female was defeated by Io Shirai at Ryogoku Cinderella Champions Fiesta on April 29, 2013. Alpha Female’s run damaged the reputation of the relatively new World of Stardom Championship but what followed more than restored the honour that the title was meant to be known for.
The win over Alpha Female started Shirai’s first World of Stardom Championship run. Shirai had gotten this opportunity by defeating Dark Angel and Kaori Yoneyama in a tournament to determine the number one contender for the World of Stardom Championship. This was where Shirai really started attracting the attention of wrestling fans worldwide through her remarkable wrestling skills. The title reign was one of the most successful ones in Stardom. Io Shira proved that she was a fighting champion, having classics back to back. During this run, Shirai also had the famous title vs title match against Arisa Nakajima for the JWP Openweight and World of Stardom Championship match which both of them fought to a time limit draw. This wasn’t Shirai’s only attempt at becoming a double champion. She also challenged Natsuki Taiyo for the High-Speed Championship which she ended up winning. After ten successful title defences in four-hundred and sixty-three days, Shirai finally met her match in Yoshiko who took the World of Stardom title off Shirai on August 10, 2014, in a twenty-six-minute showdown.
Yoshiko was a brute. Before winning the title she was partnered with Natsuki Tayo with whom she had a successful run and later retired in 2014. As mentioned before, Yoshiko promptly took the title off Shirai and went on to have a hundred and ninety-nine-day reign as the champion with three successful title defences. However, her title run ended in one of wrestling’s biggest controversies. On February 15, 2015, Yoshiko was set to face Act Yasukawa. In that match, Yoshiko went off script and genuinely beat up Yasukawa. The match was soon ended after Koyoko Kimura threw in the towel. This resulted in Yasukawa suffering a major eye injury and having to retire because of it. This brutal act of Yoshiko’s did not go unpunished. The title was stripped of her and she was suspended. There is speculation that she was also forced to retire from Stardom so they didn’t have to fire her. The controversy caused a lot of bad publicity for Stardom also leaving the World of Stardom Championship Vacated.
Stardom had to get back up from the major blow that they had just taken so they soon announced another tournament to determine the new World of Stardom Champion. This was another four-woman tournament consisting of Takumi Iroha, Io Shirai, Kyoko Kimura and Kairi Hojo which took place on March 29, 2015. Kairi and Shirai headed to the finals to lock horns where Kairi Hojo won the Wonder of Stardom Championship in a tough bout.
Kairi Hojo, now known as Kairi Sane, had her star-making run when she won the title in 2015. Even though it wasn’t as long as some of the other ones, Kairi still had a great reign as champion. Even though she was used as a buffer after the Yoshiko controversy, this title run propelled her to new heights. She stabilized the balance of Stardom and gave it the momentum that it had lost. Kairi had three successful defences during her hundred and nineteen-day run as champion. Her run came to an end at the hands of Meiko Satomura who pinned Hojo on July 26, 2015, for the World of Stardom Championship.
Meiko Satomura was the first non-Stardom regular to win the World of Stardom Championship. She is and at that time was a veteran of the sport. Her run allowed for greater viewership of the product and lasted quite long. We didn’t see Satomura defend her title as regularly as most of the champions have done because she had commitments outside of Stardom as well. This, however, did kind of harm the Championship because fans weren’t seeing it as often as they were used to before. During her hundred and fifty day reign, she defended the title only once. That defence was against Mayu Iwatani which was won by the referee’s decision and didn’t even have a proper conclusion. However, on December 23, 2015, Meiko Satomura shared the ring with Io Shirai who took the Red Belt off of the experienced wrestler and ushered a time which Stardom is known for.
Shirai had become the first wrestler to hold the belt more than once already making history. The first run was quite eventful, but the second run was the most successful Championship run that Stardom had seen in quite a while. Io Shirai and the Red Belt, both worked to each other’s advantage as many people started equating both. Both of them represented quality wrestling because whenever Shirai was in the squared circle, she would deliver classics. Shirai also wasn’t shy in putting the prestigious belt on the line. She had a total of fourteen title defences in her second run which is more than anyone else. Those defences included former champions like Kairi Hojo and Alpha Female. She held the belt for an amazing five-hundred and forty-six days. Now that the Red Belt had gained so much momentum, this title run had to be followed by a worthy wrestler and Stardom picked just that in Mayu Iwatani.
Iwatani faced Shirai on June 21, 2017, at Stardom Galaxy stars and went on to defeat her for the World of Stardom Championship after they had wrestled for almost half an hour. From there on, Iwatani was destined for greatness as she was at the time holding both the Red and White belt; The World of Stardom and the Wonder of Stardom Championships. She went on to defend the belt against Kagetsu, Yoko Bito successfully until she met Toni Storm on September 24, 2017. Iwatani was planned to go over in that match but just two minutes in, Iwatani, unfortunately, dislocated her elbow which caused the referee to call for the bell. Toni Storm had just become the first gaijin wrestler to win the World of Stardom Championship. This was also the first time the Red Belt changed hands outside Tokyo.
Although Storm’s title win was unplanned, she still had one of the more successful runs. The World of Stardom Championship had a new experience being around the waist of a Gaijin wrestler. Fans first questioned this decision and believed that the title would soon go back to a Japanese wrestler, but after a few matches into Storm’s run, people were intrigued how this goes about. However, this resulted in a low time for the Red Belt because she left the country and Stardom fans were deprived of the Wonder of Stardom belt for almost half a year. Her run went on for two hundred days before the belt went to Kagetsu.
Kagetsu faced Toni Storm on June 9, 2018, in Yokohama Radiant Hall after multiple failed attempts for the World of Stardom Championship. Kagetsu fought to victory and the Red Belt saw yet another long run. Having the belt return to a Joshi wrestler was a treat for many fans as they believed that the Red Belt didn’t belong to a Gaijin as it would pose a threat to its prestige. Kagetsu showed promise as she could fill the void as the ace of Stardom after Io Shirai left for WWE. She had a good run, but she couldn’t just break the ceiling that was created by former champions and for that reason, the belt then went to another Gaijin wrestler, Bea Priestley.
Bea Priestley had already solidified her position as a top star wherever she went and this time it was Stardom. She beat Kagetsu at Week Stars on May 4, 2019. She faced some tough obstacles in her run but she was able to successfully defend the belt on five different occasions. The Red Belt did have some benefit with Priestley holding it, but it truly found greener pastures when it went back on Mayu Iwatani just five months later.
After Iwatani had lost the belt due to unforeseen circumstances, it was only fair that she got another run with the World of Stardom Championship. On November 4, 2019, Iwatani defeated Priestley to start her second run. She is one of two people to hold the World of Stardom Championship twice, the other obviously being Io Shirai. Iwatani’s year-long title run is seen as one of the best in the recent history of professional wrestling. Her 2020 was amazing and she produced some of the best matches of the year that have happened to fly under the radar of many wrestling fans. It was unfortunate that she had to drop the title before in such a poor fashion, but this reign definitely made up for it. She had five successful defences and ended the run by putting over Utami Hayashishita.
Utami is just twenty-two years old. She defeated Iwatani at the Stardom Sendai Cinderella pay-per-view on November 15, 2020, for the World of Stardom Championship. So far she has had two successful title defences against Momo Watanabe and Maika. She is the current World of Stardom Champion.
You can watch STARDOM over on www.stardom-world.com, and Zain’s roster review here;