Due to unfortunate occurrences and spread of Corona virus within Japan, many of the country’s wrestling promotions, including Stardom, have been forced to cancel many of their March shows. This is not limited to the smaller companies but larger groups also, like New Japan, who had to cancel their annual Anniversary and ‘New Japan Cup’ series of shows, events that are important parts of their calendar.
In light of this, Stardom decided to continue on with their 8th March show at Korakuen Hall, but hold it as an ‘empty arena’ show instead. For all purposes a normal show except the only people in attendance would be the wrestlers, the commentators and the production staff. It would mean those affected by the show cancellations could still get to see the show and, as it was the first live show Stardom have streamed via their global YouTube account, there was the opportunity for a lot more people to get eyes on Stardom’s product. Not an ideal situation, but one that certainly has benefits.
This is the first Stardom show I’ve ever seen, and as such I was a little in the dark as to what wrestlers were saying on the mic, or what the storylines were behind matches. Still, as that’s not something that’s deterred me in the past, let’s lace up our boots and head to the ring!
Special Time Change Battle Royal
I think this was the most fun I’ve had watching a battle royal in a long time. There was a sense of comedy and clowning throughout but the comedy was pitched just right and didn’t derail the match. Wrestlers entered in intervals, Royal Rumble-style, and could be eliminated by being thrown over the top rope or by being pinned. There was a brilliant moment when a line of wrestlers were all connected in a row by a series of head scissors, allowing the only free wrestler to run down the line administering a mass spanking! In the end, Super Strong Starlight Machine took the win and called out the villainous leader of the Oedo Tai faction, Natsuko Tora, for a match. Tora, scheduled for the ‘unable-to-attend’ Arisa Hoshiki, was more than happy to oblige.
Natsuko Tora defeated Super Strong Starlight Machine
This was probably the worst match of the evening, but only because it had been forced in a rush of necessity and functioned more as a squash for Tora. Tora, it must be said, looked awesome and radiated viciousness as her gimmick should. In fact, I’d happily watch both women wrestle again in a longer match. It just wasn’t given the time to click here.
Jungle Kyona and Hana Kimura defeated Giulia and Malika
This was a really good match, which benefitted from strong psychology and a mix of hard hitting and fast paced action. The ‘Tokyo Cyber Squad’ of Kyona and Kimura particularly impressed me with their colourful, cheery presentation and strong tag team psychology. The Donna del Mundo girls of Giulia and Maika, on the other hand, were mean and moody and vicious with it. A recommended match!
Goddess of STARDOM Champions Bea Priestley and Jamie Hayter defeated Momo Watanabe and Utami Hayashishita
This was a lot of fun, with Priestley and Hayter playing the cool, self-assured and cocky gaijin heels to perfection, and playing to the cameras as if they were the audience. Watanabe and Hayashishita looked strong in defeat, putting in a compelling performance. But for me Hayter came out as the star here, nailing her big impact moves and playing the heel you love to hate with aplomb.
Afterwards there was a challenge from Hayashishita and Saya Kamitani for a match against the champs. Priestley’s scornful, disdaining response, as if hearing a bad joke, was pitch perfect.
Mayu Iwatani defeated Saki Kashima in a Lumberjack match
From what I’ve read online, Iwatani and Kashima were long-time tag partners until Kashima joined the dark side of Oedo Tai. I’ve also read that this type of match is a bit of a novelty to Stardom, so I was certainly interested to see what would go down. I wasn’t disappointed.
The Oedo Tai gang around the ring gave Iwatani an absolute pasting whenever she was thrown out of the ring by Kashima, forcing the face contingent to run the defence, giving the heels a pasting in turn. The action spilled to the empty stands, which was a surreal but cool sight – more room for throwing people onto chairs! Or, if you’re Iwatani, more room to be thrown down the stairwell towards the ring in a particularly painful looking moment.
In the end, after some shenanigans with the ref getting bumped, Iwatani took the win with a frog splash and a moonsault and celebrated with her posse in the ring to close the show (save for a press conference moment with Iwatani afterwards).
On the whole, then, this was a great show! I really enjoyed my first glimpse of Stardom, which had quality wrestling and fun comedy in equal measure, without becoming bogged down in overkill. The empty arena was a bit strange at first, especially when all the lights and smoke were still present at people’s entrances. At first, some of the wrestlers appeared to struggle with the camera audience, not knowing quite how or who to play to. But as the night settled, this looked a lot more comfortable and the camera became the default audience quite easily. If anything, it helped give the show a unique feel.
The problem is, this cannot be a regular gig, not from a financial basis. I really do feel sorry that a lot of companies are in this position, and I do hope for the Japanese promotions they are able to perform in from of audiences again soon so that they keep afloat (people’s health does have to come first, of course).
In any case, this was a really fun show. Check it out on YouTube.