Stardom is a Japanese women’s-only promotion, owned by the same parent company as NJPW, Bushiroad. Much like NJPW, Stardom has a blend of styles; hilarious comedy matches and incredible high-flyers, but generally leaning towards the hard-hitting strong style associated with Japanese wrestling. What Stardom has, that no other promotion can reasonably claim, is the best women’s roster in the world, several performers who are undeniably amongst the best wrestlers in the world regardless of gender.
If a promotion has a women’s division and they’re not trying to emulate the success and quality of Stardom, they’re not competing with them.
Where to Watch
Stardom’s streaming service, Stardom World, is priced around $8.00 (£6) which gives you access to all their normal shows and an impressive backlog, much like most wrestling streaming services. However, their PPVs are an additional cost, approximately $40-$45, but they are added to Stardom World five days after the event. Due to contractual obligations with the PPV host, only the matches are uploaded.
A word of caution: Stardom World bills you on the 1st of each month regardless of when your subscription starts. It’s best to wait until the start of a new month to get your money’s worth!
World of Stardom Championship (Red Belt)
Current holder: Syuri
Considered the most prestigious singles championship in Stardom, this generally main events every show on which it is being defended. With previous champions such as Toni Storm, Bea Priestley, Io Shirai, Kairi Sane and Kagetsu, the belt has a history of being held by the best. Current holder, Syuri, defeated Utami Hayashishita to end her 409 day reign and their year-long rivalry that produced arguably the best series of matches in the company’s history.
Wonder of Stardom Championship (White Belt)
Current holder: Saya Kamitani
The white belt is treated with the same respect as the red belt and, on occasion, does main event shows – even when the Red Belt is defended. It is generally only held by those who represent what makes Joshi wrestling so special. The list of prestigious former champions is as impressive as the red belt; Io Shirai, Momo Watanabe and Giulia have all held the belt at some point in the last 4 years.
SWA World Championship (Black Belt)
Current Holder: Mayu Iwatani
Probably the most interesting title. Challengers can’t be from the same country as the title holder. It means that the holder is often a foreigner/.non-Japanese person. The title has been held by a number of well-known western wrestlers; Toni Storm, Viper, Jamie Hayter, Bea Priestley, and most recently, Thekla. The current champion, Mayu Iwatani, has said she wants to defend in the US.
Goddess of Stardom Championship (Tag Team Belts)
Current holders: Hazuki and Koguma
As factions are a huge part of Stardom, tag teams are important to the company’s ongoing stories. Much like the Wonder of Stardom title, this also has a storied history with long defences from incredible teams including Shirai and Iwatani (11 defences over 407 days), Hana Kimura and Kagetsu (8 defences over 347 days), and now Hazuki and Koguma have defended three times over ~100 days (as of writing).
Artist of Stardom Championship (6-Woman Tag Team Belts)
Current holders: Saki Kashima, Momo Watanabe and Starlight Kid
Much like the tag championship belts, the Artist of Stardom Championship has managed to become an important part of Stardom in the ten years since its introduction. The championship has helped to establish many in the promotion, with most top current and former stars (including Io Shirai) having held the belts.
High Speed Championship (Cruiserweight/High-Flying Belt)
Current holder: AZM (Azumi)
As the name suggests, this belt is usually held by high-flyers. Much like the X-Division championship in Impact Wrestling, holders of this often go on to claim the Red Belt or Wonder of Stardom Championship. It’s generally an indicator of who the promotion sees as important for the long-term future.
Future of Stardom Championship
Current holder: Hanan
This is the newest of Stardom championships, with tight restrictions around who can challenge for and hold the belt. The current rules are that holder needs to either be under 20 years of age or have fewer than 3 years of experience. While the championship has only been around for 4 years, it’s been held by both Utami Hayashishita and Maika, both of whom are amongst the best in the world. Much like High Speed Championship, holders of this belt clearly have the confidence of the company.
The Stars of Stardom
Utami has only been wrestling for 4 years and is already comfortably amongst the best in the world. She’s held every major title in Stardom, became the leader of her faction Queen’s Quest, and had – for my money – last year’s match of the year vs Syuri at Tokyo Dream Cinderella Card. For what it’s worth, that match is currently the Dave Meltzer’s highest-rated women’s match ever (*****½/5). Utami is the present and future of Stardom.
Very few performers have the charisma and stage presence of Giulia. She’s an absolute star. She’s also a natural storyteller, and is constantly reinventing her look. Giulia has improved so much over the last year or so, and is now undeniably complementing her stage presence with in-ring excellence, and has had some incredible matches vs Mayu Iwatani, Syuri, and Tam Nanako.
In a roster of stiff strikers, Syuri stands out. Her boxing, kickboxing and MMA background has translated perfectly to wrestling. She’s a legit fighter, and her no-nonsense in ring style reflects that. She’s also arguably the best striker in wrestling. However, Syuri also wears her heart on her sleeve and win, lose or draw, you can really see what everything means to her.
It’s hard to believe Momo is still only 22. She’s been great since her debut in 2014, and also helped carry the company following Kairi Sane’s departure for WWE. Momo has won every belt apart from the World of Stardom Championship. Though that is a question of when, not if, she will claim the Red Belt.
Iwatani is a Stardom original and “the Icon of Stardom” really is the heart of the promotion. Her matches vs Io Shirai Giulia are particular highlights. Her selling is top tier, and this helps her elevate everyone she wrestles.
Much like NJPW, factions are an important factor in the promotion. It’s a tough company to prosper in, and wrestlers need allies, so most join a faction immediately. This leads to inter-faction conflict, but often some matches between faction members as well.
Led by Utami Hayashishita, QQ are one of the more serious factions in Stardom. It’s a no-nonsense faction with a deep history of amazing wrestlers who let their in-ring work do the talking.
- Utami Hayashishita – Leader
- AZM – High Speed Champion
- Lady C
- Miyu Amasaki
- Saya Kamitani – Wonder of Stardom Champion
Donna Del Mondo
Created and led by Guilia in 2020 as a home for outsiders, as she was targeted for having no allies. The group has gone on to sign several outsiders and have been consistently dominant.
- Giulia – Leader
- Mai Sakurai
Stardom’s newest faction was formed March 2022 after Syuri defended her World of Stardom Championship against DDM leader, and former tag partner, Giulia. After the match, Syuri resigned from DDM to form her own group.
- Syuri – Leader and World of Stardom Champion
- Ami Sourei
OEDotai (Oedo Tai)
OEDotai is the heel faction currently led by Natsuko Tora. If a match ends with shenanigans, it’s probably a member of Oedo Tai. Heelish antics aside, there is a wealth of excellent performers, notably Momo Watanable and Starlight Kid.
- Natsuko Tora – Leader
- Fukigen Death
- Momo Watanabe – Artist of Stardom Champions
- Saki Kashima – Artist of Stardom Champions
- Starlight Kid – Artist of Stardom Champions
Founded and currently led by Mayu Iwatani, STARS is an answer to the other factions who take themselves seriously. By contrast, STARS is not the most organised, often accommodating gaijin working Japan. As a result, many wrestlers defect to other factions, leaving Mayu Iwatani possibly the most betrayed wrestler in the industry.
- Mayu Iwatani – Leader and SWA Champion
- Hanan – Future of Stardom Champion
- Hazuki – Goddess of Stardom Champions
- Koguma – Goddess of Stardom Champions
- Momo Kohgo
- Saya Iida
Led by Tam Nakano, Cosmic Angels are a group of idols and one of the more light-hearted factions in Stardom. It was formed after Tam Nakano, then of STARS, brought in Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka from TJPW, which resulted in inner-faction tension and ultimately Tam, Mina, and Unagi departing to form Cosmic Angels.
- Tam Nakano – Leader
- Hikari Shimizu
- Mini Shirakawa
- Unagi Sayaka
- Waka Tsukiyama
- Tuko Sakurai
If You Like
Sold on Stardom but don’t know who to look out for? This is a brief guide for who to look for if you’re just jumping into Stardom and are looking for performers that are similar to those you like in other promotions.
If you like Asuka, then you’ll probably enjoy matches from Konami – who Asuka trained – and Syuri. Both are non-nonsense combatants and excellent strikers, with Syuri arguably the best striker in the entire business. (Konami is currently on an indefinite hiatus due to convalesce.)
As mentioned earlier, Giulia reminds me a lot of Jericho. Not because of her style, but because she reinvents her look regularly and is the most naturally gifted storyteller in Stardom. Much like Jericho, she also oozes charisma and stage presence. Because of this, she will be a top star regardless of where she wrestles.
If you love the Best Bout Machine, you will probably love Thekla. Omega has his own style, and so does Thekla, but they both have the same fast-paced intensity, put-it-all-on-the-line style that characterised Omega’s NJPW run. Also, she does a crab dodge into a spear that’s just awesome!
If you love Ibushi (and you really should), you’ll enjoy Mayu Iwatani and Saya Kamitani. They’re both smooth, fast-paced, well-rounded performers who bump like crazy, with Mayu Iwatani, in particular, seemingly in a ‘hold my beer’ competition with Ibushi for craziest neck bump in wrestling.
Utami’s made no secret of her admiration of Naitio. Her inspiration can definitely be seen in her character’s understated and aloof persona. Much like Naito, Utami can go from calm and collected to ending a match in a second.