Welcome to the first instalment of Taking the Crown! Throughout this series, we’ll be shining a light onto various champions from across the world and taking a look at who could make a viable challenge for their championship. In this debut edition, we’ll be taking a look at Mayu Iwatani’s current reign as World of Stardom champion.
After a turbulent 6 months which saw talent like Kagetsu, Hazuki and Arisa Hoshiki retire and Hana Kimura tragically pass away, the main event scene has become fairly shallow. With many of the competitors that were seemingly integral to Stardom’s long term booking no longer available, who can make a viable challenge to “Stardom’s Icon”? Let’s take a look.
Despite being one of Stardom’s most consistent performers, Jungle has never managed to win a singles championship – making one challenge for the World title and 5 challenges for the Wonder title. It’d be easy to write her off as a main eventer if we were to look at this information and nothing else.
But, as we know, prior championship success isn’t what makes a main-event talent. Crowd connection, character work, a strong look, promo skills, storytelling and in-ring work are all just as important, if not more so. Kyona has all of these attributes, so why shouldn’t she be considered as someone who could beat Mayu?
Not only does she already have a guaranteed shot at the championship from a win over then-champion Bea Priestley in 2019’s 5Star GP, but she has the best reason to challenge for and win the title when looking at the situation from a purely emotional standpoint.
She has to do it for her friend. She has to do it for Hana.
After the tragic passing of the TCS leader, Kyona vowed to win the championship. This in itself creates a case for her to win the title. Then she said she wasn’t ready to compete when Stardom made its return on June 21.
In an environment where kayfabe is still fairly intact, this emotional speech allowed fans to see the person behind the character in a way, which can only amplify the support that Kyona has. History has proven that many of the biggest stars in the industry have been relatable to the audience.
I feel it would be stupid for Stardom not to push Kyona to the top when considering this. A 5 Star Grand Prix win and a subsequent championship victory would create a brilliant feel-good moment for fans at a time it is needed the most, as well as rewarding one of the most consistent workers n the roster for many years of consistently good work.
Kyona winning the title may happen sooner than we originally thought, though, as a match for the red belt will take place on July 24th in Nagoya – Jungle’s hometown.
Could it actually happen? I think it could
With any other circumstances, it would be fairly clear that Jungle wasn’t going to be a world champion in Stardom. She would’ve most likely remained the overlooked fan-favourite with either the Artist or Goddess championships being her ceiling.
But, as we know, these aren’t normal circumstances. Many of the higher-level talents that seemed integral to Stardom’s main event future are now gone, meaning that there is a need for new faces to rise up and take those spots. Kyona sticks out as the best possible choice for a new star – she’s the total package for a wrestler and she makes the sense from a business perspective as she can speak multiple languages.
Because of this, I wholeheartedly believe that we could see the era of Kyona begin in the very near future. While her path to the top is not as clear as the likes of Momo Watanabe, there’s a strong foundation to build off of. Wins over Bea Priestley, Kagetsu and Tam Nakano in singles competition, a good reason to chase the title and an excellent finisher – the Jungle Buster. All of which can be used to validate her as a main event star. It’s simply a matter of waiting.
Despite only debuting in December of 2019, Giulia is being positioned as one of STARDOM’s biggest attractions. After defeating Hazuki via referee’s decision in her debut, she entered a feud with Hana Kimura, with the match between the two at Year-End Climax receiving widespread praise from fans. She was also one of the 4 women in the STARDOM feature match at the Tokyo Dome – teaming with her adversary Kimura against AMA (Mayu Iwatani and Arisa Hoshiki) on January 4th. The company clearly has big plans for her. Plans that likely include a run with the top title.
She won the 2020 Cinderella Tournament, has her own faction and has been featured alongside STARDOM’s hottest commodities since her debut. So would it really be that crazy to consider her as someone to take Mayu’s world championship? I don’t think so.
The STARDOM main event scene is lacking heels, in my opinion. Kagetsu is gone, Saki Kashima is a possibility, but she just lost to Mayu. Bea Priestley was an option but is currently one-half of the Goddess champions and not one of Oedo Tai’s top stars. Being stuck in the UK for the foreseeable future also takes her out of the picture.
That leaves Giulia, and is that really a bad thing? She has everything needed to be a top star. A strong look, great heel presence, promo skills and a brutal finisher that fits her character perfectly. Most importantly of all, though, she has a potential motive to challenge Mayu for the red belt.
With Arisa Hoshiki now out of the picture (she retired on May 20th) and the Wonder of Stardom championship vacant as a result, Giulia could potentially choose to turn to a bigger part of STARS. Mayu Iwatani. After all, the wish she made after winning the Cinderella tournament can no longer be granted.
I want a match with Arisa HoshikiGiulia, after winning the 2020 Cinderella Tournament
With Arisa no longer around, the option is there for Giulia to change her wish and choose Mayu, justifying it with the fact that Mayu is one of Arisa’s closest allies and a STARS representative.
Could it actually happen? Probably not – or at least not yet.
While extremely unlikely, this situation would do wonders for the main event scene. It would establish Giulia, Donna Del Mondo and the Stealth Viper submission as major threats, allow the likes of Tam and Jungle to challenge (as both are/have feuded with Giulia), and would allow a collection of sympathetic babyface challengers to be created as Giulia dominates. But, as mentioned, we’re not quite ready for that yet.
Give things a year though, and it’ll be a very different story. The whole world will be love, love, loving Giulia. We just have to wait.
Natsuko has been pushed into a very interesting position this year. After the departures of Kagetsu and Hazuki, she was bestowed the leadership of Oedo Tai and had an extremely strong showing in the Cinderella Tournament after many fans expected her to be eliminated in the early stages.
With only 3 and a half years of in-ring experience (the majority of which spent firmly in the midcard), many would be sceptical at the idea of the new Oedo Tai leader having a run with the top title. After all, many main event competitors spend time in the upper parts of the card, something that Natsuko is yet to properly do.
But I don’t think that should stop her from being considered as someone to dethrone Mayu.
Think of what could be achieved with Natsuko at the top of the company.
First and foremost, Oedo Tai gets re-established as a collective of major players after the departures of some of their biggest stars. We’ve already seen the beginning of this, with Jamie and Bea holding the Goddess titles and the faction becoming #1 contenders for Donna Del Mondo’s Artist of Stardom championships. Why not build it up further and have the new leader beat Mayu in a shock upset?
Tora dethroning Mayu would also provide a breath of fresh air to the main event scene. Not only does she have a distinct look which is different from a lot of the higher level talent, but she also brings a more unorthodox, chaotic style to the table.
At Stardom’s return show on June 21, she lost to Konami via DQ after choking her out with a chain. This finish was different from many of the endings I’ve seen since I began watching. It protected both and provided a fantastic visual of pure violence.
I feel that this would work wonders in a main event scenario. Having a challenger get screwed out of the championship after Tora uses the chain would set up an easy rematch for further down the line, with the potential for a hardcore stipulation to be added. Again, providing a breath of fresh air to the Stardom main event scene. Something different from the straightforward singles matches that we’re used to; something which would give Natsuko the edge if she was to challenge Mayu.
Could it happen? Not right now.
While it would certainly be an interesting scenario if Natsuko was to beat someone as high-profile as Mayu, I don’t think it’ll happen just yet. A more likely scenario is that Tora makes a challenge for the White belt.
A victory and subsequent run with this title would allow her to gain more prominence in the company whilst also allowing her to work on any flaws she may have before challenging for the world title.
2019 proved that it’s only a matter of time before Konami reaches the pinnacle of women’s wrestling. Kana’s only student had a very strong year, making it to the finals of both the Cinderella Tournament and 5Star Grand Prix; as well as enjoying a 188-day reign with the Goddesses of Stardom titles alongside Jungle Kyona.
She proved she has all the tools to become an absolute megastar, and proved herself as someone who could make a credible challenge for any title – including the red belt.
She has a great look, a legitimate fighting background and a submission with a 100% win rate in the Triangle Lancer. She also has singles wins over the likes of Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita and Jamie Hayter, all of whom have been built as relatively big parts of Stardom’s next generation.
I feel that these are all points that could be used to justify her as a future red belt holder.
The fact that she has only wrestled Mayu once in singles competition also gives her validity as a challenger.
The only thing that’s slightly holding Konami back is a relative lack of distinguishable character in comparison to the likes of Kyona, Tam etc. She’s simply a badass. And while that’s a great thing, there needs to be something more to her if she is to be one of the faces of the promotion, in my opinion. Being a part of TCS has certainly aided her development, but there are still some small areas for improvement.
But, at the young age of 23, there’s more than enough time to build on that and have her win the top prize in the future.
Could it happen?
The great thing about Konami is her ability to remain a threat, even after taking some losses. Her in-ring style and legitimate fighting background allow her to be presented as a viable challenger for any title at any given time.
While I’m almost certain that she will be a red belt holder in the future, I don’t think she’s going to win it just yet. A more likely scenario is that she wins the white belt or the SWA championship, as it seems the bigger win over Mayu is being reserved for Jungle Kyona or Momo Watanabe.
Momo has long been heralded as STARDOM’s next ‘Ace’ figure, which in itself is a huge reason for her to win the World championship. In the 6 years since her debut, she has won practically every accolade in the company. The only things missing from her resume are a 5Star Grand Prix and the World of STARDOM championship.
And with the current hole in the main event scene, has there ever been a better time to fully invest in the Queen’s Quest leader? She’s marketable, she has a great moveset and can build up and carry a championship well – as she proved in her acclaimed, 358-day run as Wonder of Stardom Champion.
With nothing left to prove with any other championship, it only makes sense for the 20-year old to finally capture the top prize. A 5 Star Grand Prix win on the way to an emphatic victory over Mayu seems inevitable at this point, with the two facing off at the 9th Anniversary Show.
An apt setting for Momo’s coronation (in my opinion, at least) would be a Year-End Climax or Anniversary show. An Anniversary victory would show that Momo will be the face that defines the next generation of Stardom. A win at the Year-End Climax would signify the end of Mayu’s reign at the top for a while and allow the next year to begin the reign of Momo as the Queen of Stardom.
Who do you think will be the one to defeat Mayu for the World of Stardom title? Will it be someone like Momo? Or could someone like Bea Priestley be the one to win the title back? Let us know!
Next time in Taking the Crown, we take a look at current NEVER Openweight Champion, Shingo Takagi!