Utami Hayashishita: The Red Queen of Stardom Earns Her Crown

Utami Hayshishita made her in ring debut on August 12, 2018, wrestling Jungle Kyona to a fifteen minute draw. Five months later she defeated Viper for the SWA Undisputed and Pro Wrestling Eve Intercontinental Championships, to go along with her Future of Stardom and Goddess of Stardom Championships. In under half a year she had become a quadruple champion on top of making the final of the 5 Star Grand Prix Tournament, which started the month after her debut.

There is no real equivalent for that kind of monumental success so early in someone’s career. When the average Stardom rookie spends her first months looking up at the lights, gaining in ring experience with each loss, Utami had tore through the roster in a dominating display. The ‘Super Rookie’ nickname was more than earned.

Of course, Utami wasn’t your typical no-name rookie. She had appeared on “Tsuukai! Big Daddy”, a Reality TV show that followed her rather large family over the course of seven years, drawing pretty strong numbers in a prime timeslot. There was hype surrounding her arrival into professional wrestling, and fans wouldn’t have to wait long. In only four months she would pass her pro test, aided by her natural athleticism and strong Judo background that she would use to great effect in her early months as she cut a path through the competition like no rookie before her.

Utami as a quadruple champion in her first year. Credit: World Wonder Ring Stardom

Fast forward to June 2021. Utami Hayashishita, just under three years into her career, is now reigning over the company as the World of Stardom Champion. Her run as champion has been solid, but hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. Despite being the top champion, she’s had to sit in the back watching multiple PPV events finish as another title main events: first Tam Nakano versus Giulia for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, and then Giulia and Syuri versus Maika and Himeka for the Goddess of Stardom Championships.

In an interview with Weekly Pro Wrestling, she confessed to feeling depressed and crying when her title defences were relegated to the semi main event multiple times. She had taken over from Mayu Iwatani, the Icon of Stardom, whose title matches always closed the show. Utami asked herself if things would be different if Mayu was still champion instead of her.

Instead of wallowing in that sadness, she would instead use it to fuel her. She’d show management that her matches should be going on last. What Utami needed was a defining moment that would solidify her as the company’s best. A good match wouldn’t be enough, she had been having those already. She needed something more. She needed a match that would turn heads.

At the Tokyo Dream Cinderella event, she would stand opposite her fifth challenger: Donna Del Mondo’s Syuri. A twelve year veteran, former UFC competitor and Pancrase champion; there are few wrestlers on Stardom’s roster who carry the kind of legitimacy that Syuri does. And through 2021 she had continued to cement herself as one of the best in the company, reigning as the SWA World Champion as well as one half of the Goddess of Stardom champions, and doing so with style.

Utami applies a Camel Clutch on Saya Kamitani. Credit: World Wonder Ring Stardom

Syuri had come out to challenge Utami after she had retained the Red Belt against Bea Priestley, but Utami instructed her to go win the Cinderella Tournament to earn her shot. Syuri would fall short of that goal, but what she did manage to do was eliminate Utami from said tournament. What better way to prove your worth than by beating the champion?

And so the match was set to headline at the Ota Ward Gymnasium. Syuri hungry to win the Red Belt for her late mother and in the process become a triple champion, Utami desperate for that statement victory that would prove herself worthy of the top spot. Utami’s meteoric rise was about to be tested in a way it never had been.

For thirty minutes Utami Hayashista and Syuri traded bombs until the time limit expired with no definitive winner. Neither were content with that result, and so they agreed to keep going. For another thirteen minutes they continued to destroy each other with brutal submissions, body crunching slams and strikes that swelled both of their faces. Utami hit her BT Bomb finisher, but her foe landed close enough to the ropes to reach her hand out and break the pinfall as the referee neared three. So close, but the match continued.

As Syuri knocked Utami out with her signature Buzzsaw Kick she too collapsed, having used what little energy she had left to finish the champion off. Neither woman could answer referee Daichi’s count of ten, ending the match in a draw.

It wasn’t the result Utami wanted, but in that moment she had proven without a doubt that she belonged in the main event as the World of Stardom Champion. Syuri’s pained screams echoed through the building as she was carried away, and Utami was left to collect herself before another challenger made themselves known. And so the cycle would continue, a champion’s job is never done.

Syuri slapping Utami during their World of Stardom title match. Credit: World Wonder Ring Stardom

For the first time in her career, Utami has come across a fighter she can’t figure out. Her greatest rival before Syuri, Jungle Kyona, could only manage two draws before Utami started to rack up the wins against her. She openly mocked Kyona, comparing her to a stepladder she’d use to bigger and better things. Mayu Iwatani beat her in the final of the 2018 5 Star Grand Prix, but Utami got her revenge by winning the World of Stardom Championship from her. When her stablemate Momo beat her in America, Utami would return the favour with the Red Belt on the line.

Syuri however has the only victory in their three singles matches so far. She’s also proven herself adept at getting inside of Utami’s head, winning a psychological battle against someone who rarely lets herself get dragged into such business. Syuri’s style, incorporating submissions and deadly strikes, is the type of wrestling Utami struggles with most. She’s the perfect rival to ensure continual growth. And with the spotlight on Utami now more than ever, that inability to defeat her new rival will weigh on her shoulders. With every successful defence of the World of Stardom Championship, there will be that lingering question of “What about Syuri?”

Nobody had tested Utami like she did at Ota Ward. The thunderous kicks that ricocheted off her body and rumbled through the arena. The excruciating submission holds Syuri locked her in as she tried to wrench her arm out of its socket. Halfway through the regulation thirty minutes Utami looked ready to crawl into bed for days as she dragged her body back up – only to have to fight for another half hour.

Yet still at the end of it all she was able to stand tall with the Red Belt in her hand. The fact she was unable to win the match didn’t detract from how important she felt at the end of it. It was an all time classic match from two performers at their best. The way Syuri wrestled that night she would have defeated anyone else on the roster: Mayu, Giulia, Tam, Momo – they all would have been felled. Utami couldn’t be conquered however.

Utami recovering after the match with her championship. Credit: World Wonder Ring Stardom

A career defining match to cement her spot at the top to go alongside some stellar prior title defences. Now the semi-main event position of some of her previous defences don’t feel like such a big deal. At twenty two years old Utami Hayashishita is now a made woman, the indomitable champion that all others must compare themselves by. It felt inevitable based off those first months as she flipped the expectations of a rookie on its head and collected championships. Now the Super Rookie has matured into the Red Queen of Stardom, with years ahead to continue to grow and add career defining matches to her resume.

Eventually, Syuri and Utami will face off again. It might be in the 5 Star Grand Prix, or for one of their titles. When that moment comes the questions will start anew: “Can Utami beat Syuri?”, and the expectation will grow just a little more. Every wrestler needs rivals to continually push them. First it was Jungle Kyona, a wrestler of similar ilk who served as the litmus test. But now she’s chasing Utami, desperate to catch up. Syuri isn’t chasing, she’s the new measuring stick, demanding a better version of the Red Queen than the one that has come before. Given Utami’s progression thus far, the next time they face off Syuri will be seeing an even stronger champion staring her down.