Giulia: The Never-Ending Road To Redemption

2021 has been a year where many wrestling promotions have grown, many wrestlers have blossomed, and wrestling as a whole has almost got back to where it was before the world shut down. That was following 2020, the year many rather would forget than remember, yet it was a year that made the beauty of 2021 possible. Stardom is at the head of the pack in wrestling in terms of growth, growing over the last 365 days more than any other promotion besides AEW. As other Joshi promotions deal with the difficulties of what the past two years have brought, Stardom storms forward and is seeing many of their wrestlers become bigger stars because of it. Utami Hayashishita and Syuri were at the helm, but heading into 2021 there was no one who felt bigger than Giulia.

When 2020 came to a close, there was no one in Joshi that felt on the level of Giulia. She was almost the reverse of how 2020 felt, coming in stronger than ever and at the top of her game. She was the reigning Wonder of Stardom Champion, leading one of the hottest factions in all of wrestling in Donna del Mondo, and looking to remain unstoppable as Stardom prepared to jump to all new heights. An impressive resume to kick off the year but so many more expectations for her to live up to. Within a few months, however, that would all come crashing down.

The confidence of Giulia got her into a title defense that saw her lose it all – the rebuild back to the top had more roadblocks than maybe anyone expected. As 2021 is closing out, it’s almost as if she has everything to prove in 2022 after coming into the year with nothing but greatness. Proving wrong those who doubted her isn’t something new for Giulia: it’s a story that has become overlooked but one that allows her to rise to the top once again in her newest yet most complete form to date.

Credit: Stardom

In an interview with Mugiko Ozaki back in October, Giulia detailed that she was bullied in her youth and much of that is how she became the person she is today. It taught her to embrace herself, becoming stronger and more confident which is echoed in her personality every time she shows up in a Stardom ring.

“That’s where it started, y’know,” Giulia said as transcribed by the Shine Today, Believe Tomorrow blog. “From then on, if someone hit me, I would hit back. If someone said something to me, I would absolutely talk back. From then on I just got more and more cocky like ‘Alright, who wants to try me next?’ kind of stuff. I was still scared but the more important thing was I didn’t want to lose anymore.”

It’s this mentality that has led to Giulia taking Stardom and the Joshi world by storm. Her jump from Ice Ribbon to Stardom remains a sensitive topic as it was unlike anyone to move on like she did, but it remains to be the move that has elevated her to a whole new realm of stardom (no pun intended).

Since becoming a full-time member of the roster, Giulia has shown that fighting-back, cocky mentality that she developed at a young age. Her first feud with the late, great Hana Kimura was one that did them a world of good. It allowed Giulia a chance to show what she was about and instantly paired her with someone in Kimura that had the same fire to match. In their one singles match at the 2019 Year-End Climax they established a feud that felt destined to go on for years. It was that hard-hitting, smash-mouth action that makes Joshi such a special style to watch as a wrestling fan.

Giulia was rising through the ranks faster than almost anyone who had just joined Stardom, she had gold in her eyes but needed the backup to aid her. Donna del Mondo would be created in early 2020 as Syuri and Maika also came into the promotion to be a part of something special. With Donna del Mondo there for support, Giulia’s rise felt unstoppable. The Wonder of Stardom Championship was one that she became enamoured with, knowing that she could make her impact with a championship that relied on the story and passion of the sport. The Donna del Mondo leader would win the 2020 Cinderella Tournament, getting her chance to make the wish of a Wonder of Stardom Championship match come true, against super-champion Arisa Hoshiki. Unfortunately, that match would never happen as COVID-19 hit and forced retirement for Hoshiki. The title was made vacant, it was open for Giulia to take the throne.

And soon she did. Giulia’s confidence would not be broken but only strengthened when she defeated Tam Nakano in a tournament final at Stardom Cinderella Summer in Tokyo, becoming the Wonder of Stardom Champion and continuing her undeniable run to greatness. Just thinking back to her first half year in the promotion and all the change that she had got through, it almost feels as if what she went through at a younger age built her to take the helm when it was desperately needed. She didn’t lose a beat but that match with Nakano did become the chink in the armor of what felt like Giulia’s unbreakable greatness at the top. Nakano’s guarantee to follow Giulia to the end of the universe would be where we’d see her fall from the top to the bottom, but that’s a bit further down the timeline.

Giulia successfully defended the title once more against Nakano before moving on to other challengers in Himeka, Konami, Syuri, Natsuko Tora, and Starlight Kid. Her record as a singles star followed much of what it had before winning the title, showing this ability to beat anyone and everyone. The 2020 5 STAR Grand Prix would be the only time she was challenged until losing her gold, as Himeka, Konami, and Tam Nakano would all defeat her, giving them each a chance to challenge for the title down the line. As noted, Giulia was able to roll through everyone but Syuri, who she went to a 30-minute time limit against.

Tam Nakano would get one more shot at Giulia and it would be in the main event of All Star Dream Cinderella, a show that may very well be the biggest in Stardom’s history. And not only did she get one more shot, but she upped the stakes to make it Hair vs. Hair, where the loser would have to shave their history and put an end to the feud once and for all. 

Credit: Stardom

They’d go on to not only have one of the most emotional battles in professional wrestling all year but one that had unmatched physicality and drama up until the final bell. Nakano would introduce her Violet Screwdriver in this match before finishing Giulia off with the signature Twilight Dream for the win. Once the count of three was made, Giulia’s impenetrable armor was broken. Her greatness at the top was destroyed. As her head would be shaved as a result of the loss, her confidence seemingly had gotten the best of her and it was time to rebuild from the bottom and climb back to the top once more. That happened in March and as the end of the year comes around, the rebuild of Giulia has still not been completed.

Head shaved and title gone, Giulia decided it was time to start from the bottom and find her way back up. She would ditch her normal gear, more so going for a look that felt very “G.I. Joe-like”. Baggy cargo pants, tank top, and a baseball cap with her wrestling boots – that was the look as she tried to understand who she was again. But maybe the most interesting part of her change was that it wasn’t just the physical appearance that changed but her in-ring style. The more technical moveset that Giulia utilized in her title reign was abandoned and on came a more brawler-based style. Giulia would also debut a new finisher in the Northern Lights Bomb, dropping people right down on their heads with no worry in the world. It fit the whole look and really, it fit Giulia.

All of her offense felt more physical, reminiscing that mindset she had from her younger days as ready to fight back at all times no matter who it was.

Giulia would begin teaming with Syuri, forming Alto livello KABALIWAN, better known to many as ALK. They would main event Yokohama Dream Cinderella against Maika and Himeka for the Goddess of Stardom Championship and would win the titles in that match, remaining champions since.

Credit: Stardom

The title win gave Giulia a new identity almost. While Donna del Mondo has been Artist of Stardom Champions before, this tag reign has given her a shot to lean on someone else as she builds back up. As we have seen over the course of the year, ALK has become one of the best tag teams in all of professional wrestling. Every single match was a must-see affair as ALK went at a pace that left challengers needing to sink or swim to be successful. During all of this, Syuri was the one to propel herself to the top, having a match of the year contender and one of the most important matches in Stardom history against Utami Hayashishita for the World of Stardom Championship. It was as if Giulia took a step back from even being at the head of her own group for the first time, watching Syuri become the main event figure that Giulia had been for the majority of her run. And that was okay for Giulia. It gave her time to develop, try something new, and become that “boss” in her own time.

By the time the 5 STAR Grand Prix began, it was the first moment that the old Giulia was back. In her second match against Mayu Iwatani, she would debut gear that was reminiscent of the warrior-like gear she had worn as Wonder of Stardom Champion. But the twist was that it echoed that of her new style and ALK style. The baggy pants but angel-like shoulder pad, going with the colors that she had dawned before losing the title and her identity. 

Giulia was this whole new version that felt was back in the main event picture and going to ride through the tournament to get that long-awaited match with Utami Hayashishita for the World of Stardom Championship. After all, it was winning that title that would bring her back to the top. Going back to the Wonder of Stardom Championship was never the direction. It was the World of Stardom Championship and it was that match with Hayashishita. It’s the major match that Stardom has in their chamber that they have not used yet and there’s a reason for that. There’s a special feeling to that one. The “big match feel” that people talk about so much. Yet the possibility of that match happening was destroyed when Giulia got injured midway through the 5 STAR Grand Prix, effectively pulling out of the tournament and overall action. It’s been that way since the middle of September as her last match occurred Sep. 20.

Syuri, of course, would be the one who’d win the 5 STAR Grand Prix as Giulia helped aid her throughout the final night, being by her side in what felt like a sign of what could have been. They were on a journey to face each other but all that was halted when Giulia’s nonstop march back to the top needed to be stopped for her long-term future. Who knows, maybe Stardom Dream Queendom’s main event was always supposed to be Hayashishita vs. Syuri in the rematch of rematches. Maybe. But we will never know if Giulia was destined to take her spot atop the world of Stardom or not.

Giulia has stuck around for the most part since being taken out of action. She’s aided her Donna del Mondo stablemates in their matches, been at ringside for them when needed, and done commentary on their pay-per-views. At Tokyo Super Wars, Hayashishita made it perfectly clear that she is paying attention to Giulia when she tossed her signature rose at the former Wonder of Stardom Champion as she was sitting at the commentary desk – potentially a telling sign of the future. But it is now known that Giulia’s journey to the top will be restarted at Ryogoku Sumo Hall as someone else’s journey takes a break for the time being.

Credit: Stardom

On December 4, Konami announced that following Stardom Dream Queendom, she will be taking time away from the ring to take care of her health and well-being. It was then that Giulia made her return match evident. She’d lay down the challenge to Konami, setting themselves up to have a match of epic proportions. Konami tweeted out following the match that Giulia is “more passionate and compassionate than anyone else. It has reminded me of ‘her’ and I liked that.” Fans on Twitter have taken to the assumption that the reference of “her” was to Hana Kimura, making this match have more meaning than initially thought. Nearly two years to the day will be the anniversary of Giulia and Kimura’s one singles match that allowed Giulia to show who she could be in a Stardom ring. Interesting how wrestling works. 

Giulia’s story is nowhere close to perfect. She, like many of us, has had those ups and downs throughout life. Being bullied at a young age and turning that into power. Facing adversity when she jumped from Ice Ribbon to Stardom, keeping her eye on the prize, and showing that it was the move for her. Getting to the top of the mountain and becoming everything she could have ever hoped to be in wrestling, before it all came crumbling down in one night. And then, despite all of that, pushing forward to get back to the top despite a new look caused by embarrassment, an injury that has taken her out of action for months, and a rebuild of who she is as a wrestler, all to reach the peak once more.

If life were perfect, then the journey wouldn’t be all that interesting. Nothing in Giulia’s life has been perfect and even when it felt it was, outside factors proved that she needed to keep pushing to show nothing could stop her. Giulia will make her in-ring return at Stardom Dream Queendom when she takes on Konami. It will be there that not only do they seemingly remember a friend together, but they take the next major step in their journeys. The story of Giulia getting back to the top will find its next chapter and that chapter will be her most important yet. What a journey it should continue to be.