STARDOM: Who to Watch in 2021 | Oedo Tai on the Rise?

With 2021 in the books, I wanted to take a look ahead to 2022 today. World Wonder Ring Stardom is on the rise on the worldwide stage, which is such an unbelievable thing to me. They’ve been through a lot in their previous 10 years, but they are set up to keep growing and growing. Here we take a look at the 10 stars from the different factions in STARDOM who could breakout in 2022. Will it be someone from Oedo Tai? Donna del Mondo with the Momo gang?

For those of you who don’t know, Stardom saved my love of professional wrestling. With how WWE was doing things in the US at the time (and still are), and the lack of any sort of real competition or alternatives, I was just about done with wrestling altogether. But then, I discovered New Japan and Stardom.

While I love NJPW for different reasons, Stardom stood out to me. It called to me, you could say. In the last ten years, I’ve seen some of the best wrestling in the world just out of this one promotion and I’ve seen three women vie for being known as the best in the world for the better part of the last seven years. Stardom is packed with talent and they are only getting bigger and better. So, that said, today I want to give you ten women to watch for in Stardom for 2022. I think they will have huge years ahead of them and will help Stardom grow even more than they did in 2021. Without any more rambling on my end, let’s just get right into it folks.

10. Giulia – Donna del Mondo

Giulia shocked Stardom at the Year-End Climax show by being revealed as the ring leader of the masked attackers that have been targeting the Cosmic Angels unit. At the same time, she declared war on every single unit in Stardom. Before a neck injury sidelined her for the latter part of the year, Giulia was poised as one of the favourites to win this year Five Star Grand Prix. I believe, provided she stays healthy, that she can have the run she was supposed to have this year and potentially be crowned the winner. Her declaration of war aside, Giulia is one of the most consistent performers that Stardom has and she has a large fan following. Sure, a lot of that came from her Ice Ribbon controversy but she is someone that Stardom should be able to rely on in the future. Of course, her neck issues will be the determining factor there. I still think that 2022 will be a great year for Giulia. It may even culminate with a Red Belt win, who knows.

9. Mayu Iwatani – STARS

Okay, so it’s not a shock that I would pick Mayu Iwatani to have a great 2022. Let’s face it, Mayu did not have a great 2021. She lost Fukigen Death and Starlight Kid, both longtime allies, to Oedo Tai and she seemed helpless at times. STARS was on the brink of oblivion at one point as well. Thanks to the returns of Hanan and Koguma, and the addition of Hazuki, Mayu was able to salvage her 2021 and end the year on a relatively high note. Trust me when I say that Mayu’s long overdue for a strong year and I can’t help but think that 2022 could be that year. I think 2022 is the year Mayu returns STARS to where they once were and cements herself where she belongs, which is unquestionably being labelled the best female wrestler in the world. Mayu Iwatani is so damned good that she can do anything she wants in that ring. Watch her turn 2022 into her year.

8. Maika – Donna del Mondo

Maika had a quiet but damn good 2021. Coming into the year, she wasn’t viewed by the worldwide audience as being someone worthy of being at the top of the card, but Maika shut every one of them up in one performance. Her match against Utami Hayashishita at Tokyo Super Wars was everything she needed to do to cement herself as someone who can carry the company in the future. She had a really good performance during this year’s 5 Star GP and she even won the Artist of Stardom titles with Himeka and Natsupoi from the Cosmic Angels. Big things are in store for this young lady in the future. I don’t know what they will be, but she has the talent to be anything she wants to be. I think a run with the Wonder of Stardom title sounds about right. She’s already been a Future of Stardom Champion, maybe she can have another run with that. I don’t know her age but she’s been competing for two years so perhaps she cannot carry that title anymore. I’m not 100% sure but she deserves some sort of title run in 2022.

7. Unagi Sayaka – Cosmic Angels

Okay, so I did not anticipate Unagi having the kind of year that she did. At all. Coming into 2021, I didn’t think for a second that Unagi would win the Future of Stardom Championship. Nor did I envision that she would improve so drastically this year. I mean shit, she’s not on Tam Nakano’s level but Unagi is so damn good in the ring now that it’s a shock she hasn’t gotten more chances at the top belts than she has. She got one shot at Tam Nakano and her Wonder of Stardom title a few months ago, which she came up short in, but Unagi put herself on my radar as someone you absolutely cannot take your eyes off of. Especially for the coming year. Unagi has a lot of upside to her and she may have a chance at winning the Cinderella tournament in 2022. I don’t see her coming close during the Five Star this year, but she has a damn good shot at Cinderella. Watch her continue to grow and prosper within the Cosmic Angels unit. She’s gonna surprise a lot of you next year.

6. Hazuki – STARS

At the beginning of the year, I never once considered that Hazuki would come out of retirement and return to the ring. That said, she did compete at the Hana Kimura memorial show (Rest in Peace Hana, you are forever missed) and seemed non-committal on a potential full-time return to the ring. Fast forward about half a year and she shows up out of nowhere and announces her return to Stardom. Not only that, but after her return, she teamed with Koguma to win the Goddesses tournament and also joined STARS, pretty much single-handedly saving them from obscurity after they lost both Fukigen and Starlight Kid this year. Add to it that she had a World of Stardom title match against 400+ day champion Utami Hayashishita and just how good she’s looked in the ring since her return and it’s not hard to see why I pick her to have a good 2022. Hazuki has fit in well with STARS, much to my shock, and I can see her helping them regain the prominence that they had not so long ago.

5. Saya Kamitani – Queen’s Quest

Saya Kamitani had a near dream 2021 for someone who has only been wrestling for two years. She won this year’s Cinderella tournament and has had some of the best matches of her short career this year. One, in particular, was her Wonder of Stardom title opportunity against Tam Nakano after the Cinderella tournament. She had another chance at that very title at the Stardom Dream Queendom event at years end, which she succeeded at and will enter 2022 as the Wonder champion after all. You never know. Given how good Saya is though, it’s a shock to me that she has not held the Future’s title at all. If I was Rossy and Stardom, I would have started Saya’s rise to the top with that very belt or given her a chance to challenge Starlight Kid for the High-Speed title, but a reign as the Wonder Champion is an even better sign for her. It’s quite clear to me that both Rossy and Bushiroad are very high on this young lady and rightly so. The Golden Phoenix of Stardom is on the rise and she will only get better and better with each passing year.

4. Tam Nakano – Cosmic Angels

Only one woman in Stardom had a better 2021 than Tam Nakano and I think that Tam will continue that momentum into next year. Tam put on a match of the year contender in a hair vs hair match against Giulia, which she won, and also won the Wonder of Stardom title in that same match. Since then, she’s shaken off every challenger that has come calling for her title. Names like Mayu Iwatani, Saya Kamitani, Mina Shirakawa, Unagi Sayaka, Natsupoi and Starlight Kid have all been turned away from their challenges. Sure, Saya defeated her for that belt on 12/29 but Tam was a stellar champion that deserves respect. Stardom has been high on Tam for a few years now and since her time in the promotion seems to be nearing an end, I think that Stardom will give her a chance to have the best years of her career until she calls it quits. It wouldn’t shock me at all if Tam wins the 5 Star GP this year, or even the World belt. She’s too damned good to not be in contention for either honestly. Look forward to Tam having one hell of 2022.

3. Syuri – Donna del Mondo

Syuri is poised to have the best year of her career in 2022. She won 2021 5 Star GP, she’s put on two, what I consider to be,  match of the year contenders against Utami Hayashishita and she is had been positioned to be the one to dethrone the 400+ day champion at Dream Queendom. She did dethrone Utami at the Dream Queendom show and ended the year on the highest note possible. A lot is riding on Syuri’s shoulders going into t2022 but she is determined and capable of handling anything that comes her way. I don’t doubt for a second that she will be an incredible World champion for Stardom. She’s put on phenomenal matches this year alone with several names, like Konami, Utami and Giulia and she seems to be someone that Stardom feels they can rely on for their future. I can understand that sentiment. The former UFC fighter is damned good at incorporating her MMA style into the ring and she is capable of getting good matches out of lesser opponents. 2022 could very well be the year of Syuri in Stardom.

2. Momo Watanabe – Oedo Tai

Earlier when I spoke of shocking events taking place in 2021, perhaps nothing was more shocking than when Momo Watanabe betrayed the unit she helped create in Queen’s Quest, in favour of Oedo Tai…

Momo betrayed them to join Oedo Tai. In so doing, she completely reinvented herself and is already more entertaining than she has been in years. This Gothic and demented version of Momo is hell-bent on destroying Queen’s Quest at any cost and seems to have her sights set fully on doing just that. Add to it that she just makes Oedo Tai even more of a threat than they already were and you’re poised for an outstanding 2022. Momo nearly won the 5 Star this year, losing in the finals to Syuri, but she is a threat to win that tournament every year. There are a lot of fans even calling for her to win the Red Belt next year, which is not outside of the realm of possibility. We’ve had OT Momo for a week and I already love everything she’s doing. She desperately needed to be reinvigorated and reinvented and this move to Oedo Tai is the perfect chance for her to do just that. We’ll see what comes her way in 2022, but I expect her to have one hell of a year.

1. Starlight Kid – Oedo Tai

Perhaps no one has had a more impactful year on their career than Starlight Kid did in 2021. She was forced to join Oedo Tai when Natsuko Tora ripped her away from STARS, but ever since then she has had the best year of her damned career and I am not just saying that. SLK has completely reinvented herself since joining OT and it’s been nothing short of amazing to behold. When you look at her now and when she was in STARS alongside Mayu Iwatani, you can’t help but feel that she was being held back. She’s been training with Natsuko Tora, who is Stardom’s best promo and best heel by far, and it shows how she has developed herself in the latter half of 2021. Add to that her first-ever reign as the High-Speed Champion and you’ve got to see just how special this has been to witness. You have to even add on top of that though! She was seemingly behind the Momo Watanabe turn against Queen’s Quest and it was truly masterful! Starlight Kid is being poised to become one of the future stars in Stardom. She could eventually be considered the best wrestler in the world. Just watch, she will have a kick-ass 2022 and we will say how 2021 was the start of something special with her.

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