HomeWrestlingJapanese WrestlingStardom: Introducing Hard-hitting, Emotional, Entertaining, Wrestling!

Stardom: Introducing Hard-hitting, Emotional, Entertaining, Wrestling!

Have other wrestling promotions let you down lately? Do you want less talking and more action? Or maybe you’re just looking to try something new? The good news for fans is that there are lots of options these days to get your wrestling fix. One such option is the Japanese promotion, World Wonder Ring Stardom. This month marks the one-year anniversary of when I first started watching Stardom, and I’d like to share my experience with you.

It all started with a video game. I’m a long-time fan of the Fire Pro Wrestling series, the most recent of which is Fire Pro Wrestling World. They did a collaboration with Stardom a few years ago that made part of the roster playable characters in the game. This was what first put the name in my head, but didn’t quite drive me to check out the actual promotion itself.

Fast forward to a late night in July last year, where I’m stuck on the couch with nothing to do. I see Stardom mentioned on a website and find myself on Youtube ready to finally see what it’s all about. I did a search and there are highlights, but I want to watch a full match. The first one that I see is a match that took place a few weeks prior, Syuri vs. Utami Hayashishita for the Red Belt, which is the promotion’s top championship. To sum up my thoughts in one word after watching that match – WOW!

Hard-hitting. Emotional. Entertaining. One of my favourite wrestling matches that I’ve ever watched. I don’t think I could have picked a better starting point if I tried. When the dust had settled, I immediately looked into how I could get access to more and subscribe to their streaming service. They’ve been around for about 11 years, but at this point, it looks like it wasn’t until 2017 that they started uploading all their shows. There’s other content on the service as well though, and that makes for plenty to check out.

If I started from the company’s creation, I knew I’d never catch up. Instead, I only went back a little ways to the start of 2021 and made that the beginning of my regular viewing. I have not watched every single match since then, but I’ve watched the vast majority of them. I can honestly say that watching Stardom has been a lot of fun and a breath of fresh air.

The first thing you should know is that most of the shows don’t have commentary, and the ones that do are in Japanese. However, from what I’ve seen so far they do have an English commentary version for a couple of their biggest events of the year. If you order one of their PPV’s, I believe all of those have English commentary as well. Most shows at least have subtitles so you can understand what’s being said when someone is talking.

Speaking of talking, there’s a couple things I like about it in Stardom. The first is that there’s not a ton of it. They put an emphasis on the actual wrestling. More action, less words. Sometimes the competitors make a few statements in a very brief pre-match interview. After the main event, the victors will speak for a moment. For the most part, that’s it. With all the other matches, sometimes there will be speaking afterwards if it’s part of a storyline or a challenge is being made. Actual non-wrestling segments are rare.

The second thing is that it feels natural. I have zero knowledge of the way they run things behind the scenes, but if I had to guess I’d say that they don’t speak off of a script. Admittedly, this can be a double-edged sword. The scripted nature that certain other companies use can provide for some great segments. However, for the most part it makes talking feel bland and forced. In Stardom it comes across as sounding more genuine.

Now let’s talk about the most important part, the actual wrestling. From the top of the card all the way down to the bottom, Stardom has many good workers. Main eventers like Syuri, Utami, Tam Nakano, Mayu Iwatani and Guilia lead the way. There’s lots of punishing striking, athleticism and technical skill on display. There’s some high-flying, but they don’t overdo it. It’s not necessary for everybody to be doing dives out of the ring, and in Stardom it’s generally only a handful who do. One neat thing is watching the progression of the wrestlers. They have a lot of younger talent on the roster and it’s cool to see how much their skills have grown in the year-and-a-half since I started watching.

There’s serious moments but there’s also comedic moments, especially if Fukigen Death is involved. It’s also not uncommon to see the referee unwittingly dragged into the action, often by the aforementioned clown. The nice thing is that the comedy never feels overbearing or excessive.

There are storylines, but they feel different than what you might be used to and not everybody has to be involved in one to be seen. You don’t have to worry about your favorite Stardom performers disappearing for long periods of time simply because creative control doesn’t know what to do with them. You also don’t have to worry about your favorites showing up only to get squashed in a minute or two. Squashes are rare and almost every match can be expected to last at least five minutes.

The booking is pretty solid. Not every decision is perfect or makes sense, but they still do a good job. All of the champions that I’ve seen, and there are a lot of champions, have felt like logical choices. Five singles champions to be exact, as well as tag and trios titles. It almost feels like too much, but that’s just a minor complaint. The roster has roughly 35 wrestlers. I’ve seen many times on their bigger shows where they’ll bring in wrestlers from other promotions, so that helps to add variety.

Most, if not all, of the members of Stardom are part of a unit (faction), of which there are currently six: Stars, Donna Del Mondo, Cosmic Angels, Queen’s Quest, the newly formed God’s Eye and the resident rulebreakers, Oedo Tai. This results in a lot of tag matches (2v2, 3v3, 4v4, etc). If you don’t like tag wrestling, that’s something to take into consideration. Although it does have the effect of making singles matches feel more important.

Stardom has several notable events, one of which is just about to get underway. The 5 Star GP is a tournament where two blocks of wrestlers compete in a round robin format, and the top performer from each block competes to determine the ultimate winner and likely earn them a title shot. A similar event will be run later in the year, but this time for tag teams. Another annual event is the Cinderella tournament, which takes place in the first half of the year. This is a single-elimination tournament where the winner dresses up as a princess and is granted one wish. A very magical moment! This is an exciting competition because in addition to the usual ways of winning a match, you can also win by throwing your opponent over the top rope and to the floor. This puts everybody on a more even level and upsets are common.

The future is bright, and in my brief time watching Stardom they’ve done nothing but keep getting better and better. I’ve witnessed plenty of memorable moments along the way: The Syuri vs. Utami feud that lasted the majority of 2021, the return of Kairi (Kairi Sane in WWE), Oedo Tai pillaging Stars, and the subsequent transformation of Starlight Kid, who is also my favorite. Mayu Iwatani landing a perfect moonsault off the top of a tall ladder leaning in the corner of the ring (I thought Maika was too close for it to connect, but she nailed it!!). All of that plus a  treacherous clown, a Toxic Spider, a Golden Phoenix, dancing, betrayal, blood, sweat and tears and more! I’m excited to see where this promotion will take me next!

The bottom line is that watching wrestling should be enjoyable. Your time is precious and if you’re not satisfied with your current product of choice, don’t feel like you need to force yourself to stick with it. It’s a great time to be a fan and there’s many promotions for you to explore. I decided to give Stardom a chance, and I hope you will too.

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