As I keep working on catching up with NJPW, currently watching 2020 New Year Dash, I realized that NJPW caused a major negative in wrestling, much like the Young Bucks have. Japan has had less selling for decades. "Fighting Spirit" always gave us wrestlers kicking out of insane moves, and major spots (even things such as pile drivers off the ring apron). It was never that big of a deal, because it was pretty much limited to Japan. It was a novelty. It was different, and thus generally acceptable. Then it spread all over the world, and stopped being special, and started to come across as kind of ridiculous. Gaijins also just aren't as talented as making that style seem "real" or "acceptable." The Japanese have been selling that style forever, and others trying to do so comes off as a cheap imitation.
In the same way, The Young Bucks used to be the only team that worked their style. It was over the top, overly fast, sort of like a cruiser-weight style on speed. That was their gimmick, special to them, and I accepted it, even enjoyed it. Then we started getting knock offs, copycats, etc. No one did it as good as the Bucks, and even the few that did, just made it too much.
"Fighting Spirit" and "Young Bucks Style" were cool when they were limited. Once these two things started being done by nearly everyone, it got to be way too much. Now when you get all these "wrestlers' combining those styles, it's really difficult to take. Watching two big men no sell killer moves, in Japan, is one thing. Watching tiny little men do it, while also flying all over the place with no rhyme or reason, is just....stupid. In fairness, The Young Bucks are best at what they do, and the Japanese are best at what they do. I just wish those "styles" would have remained exclusive with those teams/groups. This is what makes me appreciate the catch style that wrestlers like Zack Sabre Jr utilize. It's different, fresh, and realistic. I just so wish that there were more wrestlers capable of that style. This is also why I absolutely love the "Bloodsport" shows. More diversity of ring work style is what we need for wrestling done right.
Maika is a rookie, trained by Taka Michinoku. She's not completed her first year in wrestling yet (she will do so July 5th of this year). She is one third of Stardom's Artist champions (trios) with the Donna Del Mondo faction, that includes leader, Giulia, and one of the best women's wrestlers in the world, Syuri Kondo . Maika isn't signed officially by Stardom, as she works regularly with "Just Tap Out" promotion as well, where she is very dominating. This woman, short of an injury, will be a giant star in the business soon. She's going to be a big deal, and remember who told you all about her when that happens! Maika is "Wrestling Done Right!"
Wrestling hasn’t been the same since the Jim Crockett Promotions era. Oh I can hear all the “Okay Boomer” comments now. But bear with me. To be fair, I did decide to “evolve” a little, since the JCP days, falling in love with Ring of Honor Wrestling around 2003, when they had wrestlers like C.M. Punk, A.J. Styles, Christopher Daniels, Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, and Low Ki. For many years I followed Ring of Honor religiously, attending many live events, and conventions that they held. Sadly, things started changing in Ring of Honor when “The Elite” took over. Not because I despise The Elite necessarily, but the wrestling, the atmosphere, and the presentation, just wasn’t the same, and it kept getting worse. While I was a fan of New Japan Pro Wrestling, at one point it seemed as if Ring of Honor existed to put NJPW over. Then The Elite left, and things have gotten even worse for Ring of Honor. It’s nearly unwatchable for me these days. So why all this fuss over Ring of Honor in an article about World Wonder Ring Stardom (Stardom for short, from this point forward)? Fair question, and the answer is that Stardom very much reminds me of 2003-2008 Ring of Honor.
For those that have no clue, Stardom is a Japanese Women’s Wrestling promotion, which is called “Joshi Wrestling,” and will be called such in this article as it goes on. Sadly, many wrestling fans these days hear “women’s wrestling” and instantly lose interest. I’ve heard excuses for that being the size of the women, the age of the women (very often quite young in Joshi), and that women just can’t be taken seriously for any number of reasons. All the excuses are lost on me, because if like me, you absolutely love good, tight, snug, pure, pro wrestling, then you should want to watch it anywhere you can find it. Stardom has that style of wrestling in droves. From the top of the roster, to the bottom, there’s nothing in a Stardom ring that’s embarrassing, or foolish. All the women take wrestling serious, and the vast majority of their roster have trained in wrestling since they were small children, often ten to twelve years old. This is something Jim Cornette often mocks, laughing at the idea of a nine or ten-year-old training to be a professional wrestler, but this is common in Japan, and is also the reason that so many Japanese wrestlers are so damn good.
From the moment you turn on a Stardom show, you will notice that all of the wrestlers have amazing gear. You won’t see anyone wrestling in jeans, or sneakers. These ladies dress professionally, so that means you won’t be seeing nipple slips, or accidental wedgies either, so if you follow women’s wrestling because you want to see skin, Stardom isn’t for you, pervert. While it’s true that you might see a wrestler or two that look to be wearing (as Jim Cornette calls it) a Japanese school girl outfit, that really isn’t the norm. The women of Stardom dress like warriors, Japanese warriors, and they most often look cool, or even bad ass. Most of the Stardom ladies also wear entrance gear, something that seems to be dying in American Wrestling. From amazing robes, to cool jackets, scarves, and even head dresses, the Stardom women come to the ring looking incredible. They don’t wrestle in their entrance gear, or t-shirts, as no wrestler ever should! When the bell rings for a Stardom match, you are in for a fight!
The actual wrestling in Stardom is very snug, or “tight.” Yes, some of the women need to learn to strike better, but so do American stars like The Young Bucks, and Kenny Omega. However, the top of the card wrestlers are some of the best strikers in the world! You will see brutal knee and forearm strikes, incredible back and forth blows, dives (not excessive) and technical wrestling like you see from wrestlers like Daniel Bryan, and Drew Gulak today in American wrestling. Yes, none of the women are very large. I fail to see why that matters if much of the roster is generally the same size. Why is that any different than watching the straw weight MMA fighters go toe to toe? Often the light weight MMA fighters are the most exciting to watch. This is true of Stardom as well. Best of all, Stardom matches are not all 20-30 minutes long. Often the main events run 20-30 minutes, but every other match on the card run anywhere from three minutes, to around twelve minutes! These ladies work a very good simulated fight (which is what wrestling is supposed to be) in a decent time frame. Doing this keeps the Stardom wrestler’s from having to spam huge moves all match long, kicking out of said moves, just to keep things going. Stardom is faction focused, meaning nearly every single woman is part of one of five factions. The factions are Queen’s Quest, STARS, Oedo Tai, Donna Del Mondo, and Tokyo Cyber Squad. These factions are how “stories” are told in Stardom, and it works very well. (Side note: WWE wrestlers Kairi Sane, and Io Shirai came from Stardom, and were the two main stars of the promotion for years).
The worst thing about Stardom is the same issue all over wrestling today, and that’s the promos. The women do pre-match promos, and often they are funny, and sometimes they are cool (You have got to see AZM’s, pronounced Azumi). If promos could be better, and expanded, Stardom would be even better. As is though, Stardom is clearly the best wrestling in the world, if like me, you love the in ring product, more than anything else. If you love wrestlers like C.M. Punk, Daniel Bryan, A.J. Styles, Drew Gulak, and Samoa Joe, then Stardom will excite you, maybe as much as it does me. The only other negative that I can think of, is that sometimes the foreigners (called Gaijin’s in Japan) that Stardom invites in, can sometimes be pretty bad. Don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent Gaijin’s that work in Stardom, but there are also too many that don’t really deserve to work there, but at least they are only there occasionally, not full time.
I’ll leave you with a link to highlights of an Arisa Hoshiki match. Arisa is one of the best wrestlers on the roster, the current Wonder of Stardom Champion (second tier title in Stardom) and one of the best wrestlers in the world currently. What you’ll see here is what you’ll see in Stardom overall, for the most part. Wrestling Done Right!
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