“Being a Jungle Kyona fan is pain.”
This is a meme that circles around the Stardom fanbase online whenever wrestler Jungle Kyona is in a big match, particularly if it is for the World or Wonder of Stardom Championships (the company’s equivalent of the World/Intercontinental Championships). The reason being a fan of hers is pain is not that she isn’t talented, quite the contrary. In terms of in-ring skill, athleticism, charisma, ability to convey a story, Kyona is one of the most talented wrestlers in that promotion.
No, being a Jungle Kyona fan is a pain because every time she challenges for a singles belt she, despite all her talent, her determination, her obvious drive, all traits of someone that would be perfect as a fiery babyface champion, fails.
Jungle Pain Nation
The most recent failure took place as Stardom’s recent show in Nagoya (Jungle Kyona’s hometown) on July 24 when she lost in the main event against Mayu Iwatani for the World of Stardom Championship. In a vacuum, it was a very good match. Both Iwatani and Kyona are two of Stardom’s best and they had instant chemistry in this, their first singles match against one another. But if you look at the online responses, it told a very different story.
(It is at this point that we must mention that Kyona had dedicated this match and attempt at victory to the recently passed Hana Kimura, who was a colleague and dear friend to her. While the responses to Kyona’s losses in title matches are not new, this very real tragedy compounded the reaction in some ways)
If you follow the joshi fandom scene, particularly on Twitter among non-japanese fans, you would’ve seen a lot of responses to the match. Furthermore, if you follow Stardom’s English Twitter account, you would notice the disproportionate level of traffic tweets about Kyona, in particular, her losses, get. It is a lot of people mad that, once again, their favorite lost.
The thing is, I am not surprised that Jungle Kyona has a lot of western fans. If I had to compare her to someone for a more mainstream western fan, it would probably be NXT-era Sami Zayn, a skilled but perennial underdog who fights and fights and fights and never gives up, despite all the losses. They both have a charisma that sells the struggle both inside and outside the ring. A big example of that was the last time Kyona lost a big match in Nagoya, March 2019, against Momo Watanabe. Your heart absolutely ached in that promo she cut afterward, how sorry she was for losing in front of her friends and family, and it only reinforced your desire to see her finally win the big one.
So why is there this almost paranoia every time Kyona loses? And it’s not just her: others like fellow Tokyo Cyber Squad member Konami and also recently Tam Nakano (whose recent loss over Giulia deserves its own full article) tend to get this fury online. Now the main reason is that Stardom has such an insanely talented and deep roster that not everyone can be on top, but there is another reason that I can only theorize as to why these responses keep happening…
To me, the most important match in western wrestling of the last decade was not CM Punk vs John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011 or Sasha Banks vs Bayley at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn or the myriad of great matches happening in the independents. To me, the most important match was the 2015 Royal Rumble match. Up to that point, the trust between WWE, the biggest wrestling company in the world, and its fanbase had been strained to its absolute in the war to get Daniel Bryan to Wrestlemania XXX the previous year only for it to be cut short after. As such, when Bryan returned just prior to the start of 2015, the story for the fans was perfect: Daniel Byran wins the Rumble and goes on to face Brock Lesnar for the title at Wrestlemania XXXI.
WWE… did not do this and instead eliminated Bryan in one of the most contemptuous ways they possibly could think, having him in for about ten minutes before elimination and then having the words “Shattered Dreams” appear on the titantron. To say this forever broke the trust between wrestling booker and wrestling fans forever would be an understatement. We are still feeling the aftereffects of that booking to this day.
So what does this have to do with the topic at hand? Well, like it or not, most wrestling fans in the west probably first started with WWE and saw that trust eroded until it snapped. That if your favorite/a good chunk of the fans favorite isn’t pushed as “The Guy/The Gal” or “The Ace” it’s End of Days stuff. And the thing is, in any other company, Jungle Kyona could be built as their Ace. She has everything needed except one thing: the backing of the company.
And here is something that some fans are not gonna want to hear: Stardom’s booker, Rossy Ogawa, has a few booking quirks in common with Mad Vince. Two, in particular, is a “Shiny New Toy” Syndrome (example being new stable Donna del Mundo having five belts in about a month) and not particularly being subtle about who he wants to push, the most recent one being the push of Giulia, who recently won the Wonder of Stardom Championship along with being one-third of the Artist of Stardom Champion. On top of being one of the four women to be in the Tokyo Dome dark match in January, there is a not too small resentment that this relative newcomer to the company is getting this monster push over wrestlers that have a firm bond with the audience on top of the argument that there are better overall performers.
Now these traits as a booker aren’t bad per se, but there is a level of frustration that comes from the fandom from it when others have put in the work and it comes off that it doesn’t matter. My cards on the table, I am not a particular fan of Giulia. I don’t hate her, but her skills as of now just aren’t there yet for me and would benefit from a longer-term build. So having the one-two punch of Kyona losing and her winning in a 48-hour period was aggravating.
So, Now What?
So, the window on Kyona as a big-time main eventer in Stardom is probably closing. I am worried that the upcoming 5-Star Grand Prix, Stardom’s big mega tournament, is going to be her last chance. If she wins it and then goes on to beat Iwatani at the End of Year show will be the last time she’d be taken seriously as a big singles competitor. But I also fear that others like Momo Watanabe and Utami Hayashishita will have priority, despite them being younger and theoretically will be here for longer.
So what do you do when your favorite will not be The Ace?
Well, the first thing you should do is remember that no matter how much you disapprove of booking or a wrestler’s push, they don’t deserve harassment. No one deserves harassment, especially for something that is as relatively inconsequential as pre-determined fighting.
As for the less obvious, I think one thing to consider when dealing with this is to not lose sight of what made you care about the wrestler in the first place. I’ve seen when resentment for the booking turns into resentment for the wrestler and it’s such a sad thing. I mean if it comes to the point that the booking overall isn’t working for you, there’s nothing stopping you from…stop watching for a bit. There is such an abundance of wrestling out there and maybe you’ll find a wrestler that you can like see become the Ace.
As I said before: Being a Jungle Kyona fan is pain. But it’s also fun, because we all found someone to root for and celebrate her victories, even if they can be few and far in between.