For my 10th birthday I had a party at McDonalds with friends from school. It was pretty sweet. But Stardom has bigger aspirations for their anniversary. To celebrate 10 years of wrestling, Stardom are putting on their biggest show yet: a stacked event inside the legendary Nippon Budokan arena. While technically the anniversary was back in January, this has been what they’ve been building towards to celebrate the achievement.
The All-Star Dream Cinderella is a show featuring the past, present, and future of Joshi wrestling. There’s a lot to take in for both curious newcomers and long term hardcore fans. Before it all goes down Wednesday March 3rd, take a moment to read up on everything you need to know. And for an added bonus, I’m going to embarrass myself by making predictions for each winner. Let’s see how wrong I really am.
Pre-show match 1 (streaming free on Youtube) – High Speed Championship: AZM (c) vs Natsupoi
When Stardom ran their first big arena show last year in the Yokohama Budokan (which they’ll return to next month), they opened that event with a High Speed Championship match. And they’re doing so again at the Nippon Budokan. There really is no better opening match choice. Just like how the WCW cruiserweights would electrify the crowd with their athleticism, High Speed title matches are fast and furious, setting the pace and standard for the rest of the show.
Natsupoi (originally Natsumi Maki) made her return to Stardom at that Yokohama show, and now she gets a chance to claim her first ever title. Her sights have been set on the High Speed title for a while now but AZM has questioned whether or not she’s a worthy challenger. If anyone would know it’s AZM, who has comfortably stood atop the High Speed division since winning the title back in July 2020. At just 18 she’s already an incredible wrestler (which you can read more about here!) and will be looking to further cement her strangle-hold on the championship.
This will be a blink-and-you-miss-it match between two talented wrestlers in their comfort zone with the pedal to the metal.
Pre-show match 2 (streaming free on Youtube) – Goddess of Stardom Championship: Himeka and Maika (c) vs Natsuko Tora and Saki Kashima
The newest champions on the scene: Himeka and Maika claimed the tag titles from the combination of Bea Priestley and Konami during the Valentine’s Weekend Korakuen shows. One Oedo Tai pairing might have lost the titles, but another stepped up to make a fresh challenge. Leader Natsuko Tora and her teammate Saki are looking to each become tag champions for a second time (though never as this pairing).
Both Konami and Bea are more dangerous competitors, so having knocked them off one might think Himeka and Maika have the advantage. Between Himeka’s power and Maika’s deadly Judo game they’re certainly a formidable combination. But Natsuko and Saki are a deadly and unpredictable pairing. Saki Kashima is at her best when catching her opponents off guard with surprise pinfalls and counters. Meanwhile one can never underestimate Natsuko, who is capable of matching Himeka’s strength in many ways.
Expect Oedo Tai to pull every trick they can to gain an upper hand. If you were ever unsure how lenient Stardom referees can be, you’ll probably find out here.
Prediction: Himeka and Maika
When the Nippon Budokan show was announced, they were marketing it as a celebration of the “past, present and future” of Stardom and Joshi wrestling. Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the All-Star Rumble. So far 22 wrestlers have been confirmed to take part, fighting to be the sole survivor, and they come from a range of backgrounds. You have former Stardom names like Yoko Bito, industry legends like Emi Sakura, current stars like Starlight Kid, and future prospects from other promotions like Rin Kadokura.
For the uninitiated, Stardom Rumbles feature eliminations via the usual being thrown over the top rope, but you can also be eliminated by pinfall and submission. Expect a lot of fun and a lot of chaos, especially with entrants who haven’t wrestled in years. Hiromi Mimura alone will bring a bundle of energy as the Shouto! returns to Stardom for the first time since 2018.
Picking a winner is difficult since there’s no set reward at stake besides bragging rights. But Mayu Iwatani stated in a recent Tokyo Sports article that she intends to invite Koguma back to Stardom at the Budokan. If this wasn’t just a throwaway comment, then a Rumble win would be a great way to reintroduce her to the Stardom fanbase, many of whom may not be familiar with the former High Speed Champion. However they might look to highlight one of the big legends like Chigusa Nagayo, or use it as a standout moment for a young up and comer. Remember, they recently ran a Rumble at Shinkiba in February which was won by the teenager Ruaka. Anything can happen!
Momo Watanabe vs Nanae Takahashi
To get an idea of Nanae’s influence on Stardom, one just has to look in the record books. July 24 2011 marked the introduction of the company’s top title – the World of Stardom Championship. It was won by Nanae Takahashi, beginning a 602 day run as champion. She is synonymous with the early days of Stardom but when her and Yoshiko entered the ring last December at Korakuen Hall, they did so representing SEAdLINNNG.
When Nanae left Stardom in 2015, she did so after beating a young rookie still in High School. But now in 2021 that high schooler has become one of the most talented members on the roster. Momo Watanabe, the ‘True Heart of Stardom’, will live up to her nickname as she represents the modern Stardom against its past. The two faced off in a tag match in February (along with Saya Iida and Arisa Nakajima) in SEAdLINNG to give us a preview, but now it’s strictly one on one.
Expect this to be a pretty hard hitting affair, especially with Momo looking to make a statement on her biggest stage yet. Whether she pulls off the win though is another question, but she’ll certainly leave her mark on the show.
Prediction: Nanae Takahashi
SWA Championship: Syuri (c) vs Konami
On the surface, this would be an exciting match between two wrestlers with a lot in common: Strong strikers and capable submission artists. But there’s a lot more to this match than just their in ring similarities.
It’s a common but fun trivia fact that Konami was originally the protege of WWE star Asuka (known back then as Kana). But not long after Konami’s debut in pro wrestling, her teacher would head across the ocean to begin her career in the WWE. Having moved from Hiroshima to Tokyo to train under her, Konami was quickly left in an unfamiliar city with no nobody to lean on. It was during this time that Syuri took her under her wing, helping her out as both a wrestler and as a person. She owes a lot to the woman she now faces at the Budokan.
You can see a lot of Syuri’s style in how Konami wrestles, and in many ways this is a true master vs apprentice match-up. They faced off once since Syuri’s arrival in Stardom at the start of last year, with the win going to Syuri during the Cinderella Tournament. Now she is as good as ever, with an argument to be made that she is Stardom’s MVP over the first two months of 2021 thanks in large part to her work as the SWA Champion. Still, Konami has expanded her repertoire since then, noting that her over-reliance on the Triangle Lancer submission may have cost her back in March of last year.
There’s a fair chance this match steals the show. The main wrinkle being that the SWA Championship has to be defended against someone of a different nationality. Syuri is representing her Filipino heritage as champion, allowing her to defend against Japanese wrestlers. However while travel restrictions still reign supreme, there are very few wrestlers Konami could defend the title against if she were to win. Because of this…
World of Stardom Championship: Utami Hayashishita (c) vs Saya Kamitani
Since Utami Hayashishita won the Red Belt from Mayu Iwatani in Sendai, the theme of her championship run has been about the future of the company. Defending first against the 20 year old Momo Watanabe, she then defeated Maika, who is yet to complete her second year as a wrestler. Now it’s Saya Kamitani who has stepped up to the plate, another young up and comer with lofty ambitions.
The Korakuen Hall crowd seemed a bit unsure when Saya stepped up to challenge her tag team partner. Even Utami herself seems to be fairly relaxed about the upcoming defence, earning herself a hard slap at the press conference as a result. But Saya has been busting out a variety of big new moves recently, and she’s preparing to throw everything she has against the Champion. She’s even gotten the upper hand recently, pinning Utami in a 4-way match as well as eliminating her from the Rumble match at Shinkiba. If Utami’s not careful, she might fall to her AphroditE partner.
If nothing else, Saya Kamitani will try and wow the crowd with some death-defying athleticism. She’s not one to shy away from the spotlight. It’s a classic speed vs power battle, and they may both be carrying a chip on their shoulders since they aren’t the main event despite the World of Stardom title being the top prize in the company.
Prediction: Utami Hayashishita
Mayu Iwatani vs Yoshiko
There is no one who better represents Stardom than Mayu Iwatani. The Icon of Stardom, Mayu is the only one who has been with the company from the beginning and hasn’t left. She rose through the ranks, from the last in her training class to win a match, to becoming a multiple time champion and the face of the company. But standing opposite her is a familiar face from Stardom’s early days
One of the trainees in Mayu’s class, Yoshiko found herself in the main event of the first Stardom show, and would later win the company’s Rookie of the Year award. She would go on to win multiple titles, including the World of Stardom Championship, before leaving the company in 2015 for the reason most Western fans may know of her name.
The ‘Ghastly’ match between her and Act Yasukawa is an infamous and dark part of Stardom’s history. While the circumstances are more complicated than it is sometimes presented, her brutal attack on Act would see her stripped of the championship and removed from the company. After some time away from wrestling, she returned and worked her way through the Japanese independent scene. She’s built a name for herself as one of the best in Joshi, and has thankfully wrestled without any further incidents against her name.
When Yoshiko found her way back in a Stardom ring last December, it was certainly a shock. She was one name that many would have expected to never return. Now Yoshiko has come to challenge Stardom itself. She seemed hesitant at first, but it had to be Mayu who would represent the company. While both are entering the match carrying lingering injuries don’t expect it to keep them from putting on a show. Two of the more talented wrestlers in Joshi, and two friends who trained together but never got to wrestle against each other at their peak. How it ends may depend on whether SEAdLINNG and Stardom plan to work with each other beyond the show, but for now we’ll settle for this dream match.
Prediction: Time Limit Draw
Wonder of Stardom Championship/Hair vs Hair match: Giulia (c) vs Tam Nakano
Tam Nakano has been chasing the Wonder of Stardom championship for years. When Arisa Hoshiki had to relinquish the title and retire during the shutdowns last year, Tam promised her frenemy that she would become champion (cheap plug for more on Tam’s story!). But one person stood in her way. Giulia joined Stardom at the end of 2019 and hit the ground running, becoming one of the new faces of the company and doing so with the White belt around her waist.
The two have been at each other’s throats since Tam’s dream was stolen by Giulia, and every match has been more intense than the last. Tam managed to score a win over her in the 5 Star Grand Prix tournament, but she’s never been able to get the better of her when the title has been on the line. When she stepped out to challenge Giulia again, she was dared to put her hair on the line.
Which brings us to the final match of the All-Star Dream Cinderella show. Not only is the Wonder of Stardom Championship on the line, but somebody is losing their hair. In many ways this may be Tam’s one last chance to beat Giulia and fulfil her promise to Arisa Hoshiki, but it’s also an opportunity to humble an increasingly cocky and brash champion. Giulia’s never been one to hide her arrogance, but recently she has been going a bit mad with power. Leaving the Budokan without her hair would be a victory for most of the roster. Even Starlight Kid, who has had her issues with Tam during the Stars/Cosmic Angels breakup, is no doubt cheering for Tam to win. For all their fighting, Tam never ripped her mask off.
Prediction: Tam Nakano
When: Wednesday March 3rd @ 4:30pm JST /7:30am GMT /2:30am EST /Thursday March 2nd 11.30pm PST
How to Watch Pre-Show: Two Pre-show matches available live via the Stardom Official Youtube Channel
How to Watch Live: Full live stream available internationally via PIA for ¥4400 (roughly £30/$42)
How to Watch On Demand: Replay will be available around a week later via Stardom World for ¥920 per month (roughly £6/$9 a month)
Notes: Live stream will be in Japanese only. On Demand will feature English subtitles for promos
Unlike most PIA-based purchases, no Japanese address or phone number is needed. Not all international countries are listed as available, so check before purchasing.