Stardom had a lot go right this past year. They did. We had performers who went above and beyond what they were known for and we had a number of the match of the year contenders, just to name a couple of bumps for the Joshi’s of Stardom. It’s that time for the year-end stuff and I’m going to bring you the top performers in Stardom from 2021 today. When I made my original list, I picked 15 women just because it was hard to narrow down a top 5. Instead of a top 15 though, I’m gonna be bringing you the 10 women who had the best 2021’s. So without further delay or ado, I bring to you the top 10 performers in Stardom for the year 2021, and how did Queen’s Quest rack up against the other factions?… but first!
I have to give three honourable mentions today and that’s because of injuries. I feel that if the injury had not derailed them at crucial times then they would have had better years than they did. My three for the year are Natsuko Tora, Konami and Giulia. Tora wrecked her knee in a match against Utami Hayashishita, Konami has been hospitalized several times in the latter half of 2021 due to some severe intestinal issues and Giulia missed almost half the year due to neck issues. Here’s hoping 2022 is better for all of them. That said, Konami will be going on indefinite hiatus to get healthy once again. I wish her all the best in her recovery and cannot wait to see her in the ring again.
10. Maika – Donna del Mondo
Maika had a quiet, but good, 2021. I wish she had made just a bit more noise than she did, but Maika is like an assassin. You don’t realize how screwed you are until it is too late. People have been clamouring for Maika to get a shot at the top of the food chain and when she was given the chance, she more than held her own against Utami Hayashishita. She came up short in that match but she proved that she can hang with the big dogs of the promotion. I smell great things in Maika’s future and she has a lot of room for growth in 2022. She’s only been at it a couple of years so she has plenty of time to get better than she already is.
9. AZM – Queen’s Quest
Azumi, like Maika, had a mostly quiet but successful 2021. That is until a couple of weeks ago when her longtime friend and mentor Momo Watanabe betrayed not only her but the entirety of Queen’s Quest to join with Oedo Tai. AZM had a less than stellar showing at the two major tournaments this year, far below her standards, but she still had some big moments in each. The 19-year-old Joshi Prodigy has so many years ahead of her that it’s scary to think of just how good she could become. She’s already one of the absolute best that Stardom has on the roster as far as in-ring skill goes. She just needs a bit of a push to shine and I think that is coming early in 2022. Keep your eyes on AZM folks, she is awesome.
8. Natsupoi – Donna del Mondo
When I look at “best” performers in any organization, I don’t strictly look at wins and losses. Instead, I look at the matches themselves and ask myself if I was entertained and enjoyed what I saw. To that end, Natsupoi has to make the list. She’s a former High-Speed Champion in 2021 and she currently is 1/3 of the Artists of Stardom Champions. She had a great run as HS Champ until Starlight Kid ended her reign, and with her teammates (Maika and Himeka) have already surpassed 4 wins heading into 2022 for their trios belt. Natsupoi is one of the most entertaining women on the Stardom roster. Her unique offence combines a high flying, luchador based style with her skills as a gymnast. I’ve found that, especially in 2021, Natsupoi consistently put on phenomenal matches that kept me on the edge of my seat. She doesn’t take as many risks as Mayu Iwatani or Starlight Kid but she doesn’t need to. What she does works and that’s why she is on this list today. 2022 should be a great year for the High-Speed Fairy.
7. Mayu Iwatani – STARS
Okay, come on, did you honestly think that Mayu Iwatani wouldn’t be on this list? Mayu can have a year where she wins five matches and loses a hundred and she will still make a best performers list. If you’re unfamiliar with Stardom you may be asking yourself why I say that. The answer is simple and it’s something I’ve been saying for the last seven or eight years. Mayu Iwatani is the absolute best woman’s wrestler on the planet and, currently, there is only one active woman who has any shot at claiming that crown from her. She may be aloof, bumbling and air-headed outside of the matches themselves but that just adds to her appeal. Watching her forget where she is during a promo, or tripping over a light walking to the locker room, hell even seeing her just play around with her opponents is just fun. Mayu Iwatani, despite her flaws, is an assassin in the ring. She’s not afraid to take the bumps that would injure most. Do you want to see how crazy Mayu is in the ring? She had Hazuki and Koguma prop a ladder, angled, into the turnbuckle. She then climbed to the absolute top of the 10 or 15-foot ladder and did a picture-perfect moonsault from the top. Say what you want about Mayu Iwatani but the fact is she never fails to entertain. 2022 will be a better year for her and STARS.
6. Saya Kamitani – Queen’s Quest
Saya Kamitani had a great year and probably could have been higher on the list, but there were just others who I think had better years. Saya won the Cinderella tournament, which is Stardom’s second-biggest tournament of the year, and lost in her first challenge for the Wonder of Stardom title, then held by Tam Nakano. Despite Queen’s Quest being largely focused on Utami Hayashishita during 2021, Saya kept putting on phenomenal matches and fighting her way through everything Stardom threw at her. Even when Momo Watanabe betrayed Queen’s Quest and joined Oedo Tai, Saya didn’t let that stop her or slow her down. She capped the year off in the best way possible, by defeating her former mentor Tam Nakano and becoming the 16th Wonder of Stardom Champion. Saya has a very fan-friendly style where she can go on the mat or even act as a high flyer or high-speed act. She’s athletic, has a great look and she has come a very long way in her short career. The sky is the limit for the Golden Phoenix of Stardom. If 2021 was any hint of her future, Stardom sees her as one of their future megastars and 2022 should be even better for her than 2021 was.
5. Momo Watanabe – Oedo Tai
Momo Watanabe had one of the quietest, best years that I can remember. She pretty much became the second fiddle to Utami Hayashishita and Saya Kamitani in Queen’s Quest, despite being the actual leader of the unit. She and Azumi failed to win the Goddess tournament for the second year in a row and, despite making it to the finals of the 5 Star Grand Prix, she came up short once again to Syuri. So why does Momo make the list, or even why is she at number five? Well, she shocked fans everywhere when she blasted her longtime friend and protege AZM with a chair during their Captains Match against Oedo Tai. In one instance, Momo Watanabe instantly became one of the most talked-about people in Stardom. She betrayed the unit that she helped found and had been a member of for the last five years to join Oedo Tai. Let’s face it, she was stagnating in Queen’s Quest. She’s one of the best female wrestlers in the world but she needed a fresh start, something new to bring to the table. Joining Oedo Tai was a shock, but it makes a lot of sense. She’s replacing Konami in the group, who left Stardom to focus on health issues that have been plaguing her for months. She’s a big name that adds a lot of credibility to the group. Given how this turn happened at the tail end of 2021, I can only expect that the momentum will only keep going and she will help Oedo Tai have one of their best years ever in 2022.
4. Syuri – Donna del Mondo
Syuri had the best year out of anyone in Donna del Mondo and that’s just fact. She and Giulia won the Goddess Belts together and, despite Giulia going down with an injury, they still have those belts heading into 2022. She has a 411+ day reign carrying the SWA Championship, the second-longest reign in history behind Toni Storm’s 612 days as champion. Plus, she won the 5 Star Grand Prix this year which guaranteed her another World of Stardom title opportunity, which she had failed to capture previously. She put on three matches of the year contenders in two bouts with Utami Hayashishita, one of which went to a double knockout after nearly 45 minutes, and one in the 5 Star finals against Momo Watanabe. To top all that off, at the Stardom Dream Queendom PPV, Syuri finally defeated Utami Hayashishita in a no time-limit match and won the World of Stardom Championship. Sure, I could have put Syuri at the top of the list for this year’s best performers, but she is starting 2022 off strong and that’s what matters.
3. Starlight Kid – Oedo Tai
I’ll be honest here, the temptation to give Starlight Kid the top spot for best performers of 2021 was massive. Sure, she’s perhaps my favourite performer in Stardom, but that has nothing to do with it. Starlight Kid started the year off in STARS where she had been a long time member. She was doing everything right, despite being Mayu Iwatani’s sidekick, and was poised to have just another year. That is until she was pinned last in a unit match and was forced to join up with Oedo Tai. At first, Kid was reluctant and almost seemed to be a hostage. But soon she started to embrace OT and seemed to turn her entire career around. SLK began to show a level of charisma and a presence that she lacked in STARS and that in turn brought about away with the microphone that seemingly came out of nowhere. I believe she has been working with Natsuko Tora to improve both how she talks in the ring and how she presents herself in her matches. This change brought big results for Kid as she finally won the High-Speed Championship and she was one of the best performers in this year’s Five Star Grand Prix. Hell, she was instrumental in the pursuit and defection of Momo Watanabe from Queen’s Quest. Starlight Kid, in half a year, completely reinvented herself and rejuvenated her career in a way that I have never seen before. I cannot stress that enough. I’ve never seen such a complete resurgence in any performer, male or female, from any other promotion. Starlight Kid is in a position where she can easily become the best performer Stardom has. They have been shown to have complete confidence in this new Starlight Kid so look out for her in the future. She is the star to watch in Stardom for 2022.
2. Tam Nakano – Queen’s Quest
Tam Nakano, the leader of the Cosmic Angels unit, had a dream 2021. Well, for the most part. She held the Wonder of Stardom title for 301 days after defeating Giulia for that belt in March. That match was the first Match of the Year contender in Stardom, for my money’s worth, and it had the added stipulation of being a Hair vs Hair match. Which was, without a doubt, the best hair vs hair match that I have ever seen and I’ve been watching wrestling for like 30 years. Tam went on to defend the title six times in 2021 with each match one of the better ones on the show. She and the Cosmic Angels, Unagi Sayaka and Mina Shirakawa held the Artists of Stardom titles for 291 days and had seven successful defences before losing the titles to Donna del Mondo. Despite all the successes for Tam Nakano in 2021, the year ended with her losing the Wonder title to Saya Kamitani.
Not only that but she helped unmask one of the “Momo” attackers that showed up at Kawasaki and revealed the leader of these women to be Giulia. She’s set up to have an interesting 2022, especially since Giulia declared war on the Cosmic Angels and every other unit in Stardom. Tam has all the skills to remain a threat for any title that she challenges for and I expect her to have another stellar year in 2022.
1. Utami Hayashishita – Queen’s Quest
There is, arguably, no one in Stardom who had a better 2021 than Utami Hayashishita. Sure, she ended the year by losing the World of Stardom title to Syuri after a 409-day reign and she witnessed the betrayal of, then, unit leader Momo Watanabe just weeks earlier, but she had one of the best years for a relative rookie that I’ve ever seen. In every title defence, she seemed to get better and better, putting on top-notch performances nearly every time she was in the ring. I’m not shocked at how the year ended for Utami, but her year was the best there was for Stardom in 2021. There are a lot of questions going into 2022 for both her and Queen’s Quest.
Especially now, since there is only one championship in the unit and that is with the youngster Saya Kamitani. I am unsure if Utami will take the reigns of QQ or if Azumi will assume that role, I don’t know where Utami goes from here after losing her title, but all that doesn’t take away from the year she had. Utami was a great champion, that isn’t an understatement. We’ll see what she does in the coming year.