STARDOM Nagoya Big Winter 2023 Review (12/2/23)


Is the feeling back in STARDOM? Not yet, but nights like Nagoya Big Winter 2023 are how we slowly get back to that feeling.

STARDOM Nagoya Big Winter 2023 Review

Mai Sakurai def. Ruaka

When this match was placed on the undercard, it felt very out of place. Mai Sakurai vs. Ruaka in a singles match on a pay-per-view with nothing on the line certainly isn’t full of excitement.

And, well, it wasn’t. It was just a way to fill some time with nothing of note happening. Mai Sakurai won by hitting her version of a Seatbelt-like flash pin. This was just for the post-match promo. Very forgettable.

Rating: *½

Saori Anou & Yuna Mizumori def. wing*gori (Hanan & Saya Iida)

There’s zero doubt in my mind that this match should have been the one opening the show. The energy that these two teams brought every ounce of energy that they could for an undercard bout. It was a reminder of where the Cosmic Angels were prior to the injuries that forced Natsupoi and Tam Nakano out of action. They were putting in these great efforts on house shows and that’s exactly what happened here.

Saya Iida has been on a role that few have been able to touch since her Passion Injection match against Nanae Takahashi. She delivered a highlight when she gave the Kenta Kobashi machine gun chops to Yuna Mizumori in the corner.

The best part of the match came when Hanan and Anou were tagged into the match. It’s no secret how great Anou has been since returning to STARDOM back in April, but she has thrived in these random tags more than most. These two were trading big forearms back and forth before Hanan got the advantage, giving Iida a chance to get in there and hit some double-team moves including a double Running Uppercut. The closing stretch was where we got the most excitement. Hanan and Anou both traded near falls before Anou hit the Ripcord Neckbreaker for the victory. If you want an early match to watch, this is a fun one to do so.

Rating: ***¼

High-Speed Championship: Mei Seira (c) def. Thekla

Mei Seira has been an MVP for STARDOM since joining the company back in April and she showed why in this match.
Now, this wasn’t anything special like many High-Speed Championship matches have been over the past couple of years. It did accomplish to show the brilliant flashes of talent that Seira possesses though — which has been her reign to this point. My main critique of this match is that it ended right as it was hitting the next gear. Thekla and Seira were trying to figure one another out and before you knew it, the match was over after Seira hit a Jumping Spin Kick and cradled Thekla for the win.

The early going wasn’t clean or the usual high speed you’d hope for. Thekla used a more hard-hitting approach for her offense — which worked — but just didn’t fully click with it mostly being forearms. Is what it is.

I’m still awaiting the first great title match for Seira. She’s the next high-speed ace and should hopefully get a match that shows that sooner rather than later.

Rating: ***

Oedo Tai (Natsuko Tora, Momo Watanabe & Starlight Kid) def. God’s Eye (MIRAI, Syuri & Ami Sourei)

The main draw of this match wasn’t the bout itself but who would be stepping up to MIRAI for the Wonder of Stardom Championship at the conclusion. It really made this an afterthought — though we got some of the best wrestling on the show in about a minute-long stretch between Momo Watanabe and Syuri.

Any time these two step into a ring against one another, they have a determination to destroy each other and nothing less than that. They traded bone-crunching kicks to the chest before Syuri hit Watanabe with a nasty German Suplex. The match from there came down to limiting Ami Sourei, which Oedo Tai succeeded in doing. Watanabe and Natsuko Tora hit Sourei with their tag team-assisted Spinebuster before Tora finished Sourei off with a Death Valley Driver and Swanton Bomb for the win. As we’d see later in the night, the effort by Watanabe and Tora specifically would be to earn them a tag team title match, so it shouldn’t be a shock that they got the win.

Rating: **¾

After the match, Saori Anou made the challenge to MIRAI for a rematch with the Wonder of Stardom Championship on the line. Certainly not the choice I would have made but if it’s between the Anou rematch and what we saw last year for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, this is a major upgrade.

Nanae Takahashi def. Scandinavian Hurricane in a UWG Rules Match

I’m not a huge fan of UWF Rules matches. Rarely do I ever find enjoyment in them but sometimes they work out. This was… kind of one of those times?

This match was weird in every way. Takahashi has a background of MMA training but seeing her do a UWF Rules match this late into her career and against the new international talent of STARDOM.

What I can say positively is that the best showings of the Scandinavian Hurricane have been in the two UWF matches she’s now wrestled. Her shoot style works much better in this than in normal matches against lower roster members. She looks comfortable and is more than willing to trade strikes as the match goes on and she realizes how hard her opponents are willing to go. Takahashi slapped the taste out of her mouth after some softer kicks so she learned pretty quickly where this match was going.
The only highlight of this match was the two nasty Spinning Elbows that Nanae Takahashi hit to win the match. Clean knockout for Takahashi.

I’d be perfectly fine with no more UWF Rules matches but this was fine for what it was.

Rating: **¾

STRONG Women’s Championship: Giulia (c) def. AZM

Giulia may be the talk of the wrestling world these days but it’s AZM who deserves the world of praise after this match.
I’ve been looking for AZM to get a big opportunity since dropping the High-Speed Championship a few months back. She killed it in the 5STAR Grand Prix on numerous occasions, had a great anniversary match against Mayu Iwatani, and finally entered a spot where being elevated up the card made sense. My initial hope was that the match would be for the White Belt, but a chance against Giulia with all eyes on her is almost just as good.

And to the surprise of no one, she lived up the opportunity.

AZM kicked off the match with a rapid surge, putting Giulia on her heels from the get-go. She utilized her high-speed prowess by getting several early near falls, getting the Azumi Sushi on once early. She’d then hit her signature Pop-Up Crossbody to the outside on Giulia and crush her. Where it finally went wrong, however, was that she went for a Diving Foot Stomp to the outside and missed, which gave Giulia control for a big chunk of the match.

What’s so good about AZM is that while she looks great on offense, she’s all the better at taking punishment but fighting back. In the biggest singles match of her career, she kept coming back — even when Giulia hit her with everything and more.

Giulia hit two huge Closed Fist Punches to AZM, but she would not go down. AZM was able to hit two Destroyers on Giulia in the closing minutes, including one followed by her signature Azumi Sushi but Giulia just survived. It all looked to be over when Giulia hit the Glorious Driver, but the moment of the match was when AZM kicked out. The roar of the crowd was the loudest all night, which was quickly followed by another brilliant Azumi Sushi near fall that had the crowd going crazy once more.

Unfortunately for AZM, she’d get caught with the Northern Lights Bomb and fall to Giulia — but she got so much out of this despite the loss. She’s good enough for anything. And soon enough, she will be winning one of the top titles. It has to be inevitable because at 21 years old, AZM wrestles like nobody else on the planet.

These two were going so far at one point that they had a slip-up or two. They never let those bother them and kept it going, making this match the second-best of the night and the unquestionable best of Giulia’s STRONG Women’s Championship reign.

Rating: ****

Goddess of Stardom Championship: AphroditE (Utami Hayashishita & Saya Kamitani) def. Divine Kingdom (Maika & Megan Bayne)

A match of survival.

Saya Kamitani had been out of action since July 23rd. Utami Hayashishita had been out since September 18th. With just one match under their belt via their return at Korakuen Hall, they needed to be a team more than ever to overcome the seemingly unbeatable Divine Kingdom. And that’s the story that was told throughout this match.

AphroditE were not the better wrestlers in this match. But they were the better team. Coming into the match, Divine Kingdom’s only loss as a duo was a countout loss to Mayu Iwatani and Hanan in the Goddess of Stardom Tag League. Other than that, pure domination from start to finish. And what cost them at the end of this match was their first true slip-up, giving AphroditE the avenue they needed.

Much of the match was both Kamitani and Hayashishita taking punishment — especially Hayashishita in the last five to ten minutes. But there were moments where they went all out to get the upperhand. At one point, Kamitani hit a Diving Crossbody onto Bayne and down to the floor at ringside. If there was an opportunity to slow down Bayne, AphroditE took it because she was the force they needed to stop in the end.

It was rather easy to lose count of the times Kamitani made the save one way or another for Hayashishita, including at the end of the match.

In the closing minutes, Kamitani once again came through to throw off Bayne, hitting a Frankensteiner from the top rope to once again throw her off and aid Hayashishita. When they both got to their feet, Maika went for a Spinning Lariat but Kamitani ducked, leading to the ultimate slip up as Bayne was taken out. Hayashishita earned the win by following up with a Bridging German Suplex.

If you went into this match expecting a crazy, all out brawl between three of the Golden Generation and Bayne, you may have left a bit letdown. But if you followed the story of teamwork that AphroditE showed, there wasn’t a better story told on this show. A really good match that followed a trend on this show — ending just a tad bit too early.

Rating: ***¾

Natsuko Tora and Momo Watanabe walked out and confirmed we would continue the story from earlier this year when Queen’s Quest and Oedo Tai collided in a Steel Cage. A welcoming Goddess of Stardom Championship match as there’s plenty of story and chemistry to lean on.

World of Stardom Championship Contender Certificate: Suzu Suzuki def. Hazuki

We have our Stardom Dream Queendom main event and they made sure to have an excellent match to get us there.
There simply are not enough Hazuki main events in STARDOM year after year. I say this because there may be no one as consistent as her — no matter where she is on the card. So when this match got the main event, I had all the confidence to lock it in for the match of the night.

The energy of this match was similar to that of Giulia vs. AZM, but it benefitted from being a cleaner match while also feeling complete when the finish came around. Suzu Suzuki has been undeniable for a long time now. Her spot in the Stardom Dream Queendom main event isn’t due to luck but rather her being good enough to have that very spot.

Probably any other match like this would get rated a bit lower by me because we all knew who was winning. There was never a question if the 5STAR Grand Prix winner was going to get her shot or not. But they were just so good it didn’t matter.

The match started hot by trading forearms and they went back to that time and time again as the match went on.

Hazuki put it all on the line time and time again, including a Suicide Dive to wipe out Suzuki. The challenger had the advantage for so much of the match — including this great Crossface where Hazuki pulled on Suzuki’s neck and leg to try and keep her from getting to the ropes. It wasn’t enough, but it added all the tension you’d want in a match like this.

The finish would come when Suzuki would reverse Hazuki’s Hazukistral flash pin attempt with three swift kicks to the head. She’d follow it up with her Locomotion German Suplexes but Hazuki managed to kick out. Rather than pulling a “ah, I can’t believe it” face, Suzuki followed right up with a Deadlift German Suplex to earn herself the victory.

A remarkable main event that is what STARDOM should be all about. Maybe in another world, this would have been for the World of Stardom Championship. Fate kept that from being the case but it didn’t need those stakes. It just needed two wrestlers going out of their and putting on a show. That’s exactly what they did.

Rating: ****¼

Final Thoughts

Nagoya Big Winter 2023 will go down as a tale of two shows. The second half will be what carried it and even so, the last three matches had all the potential to be even greater if there was more time. We haven’t fully entered the new era of STARDOM yet but with Stardom Dream Queendom 2023 taking shape, we’re almost there. The feeling that this company brings to so many fans hasn’t returned just yet but again — almost there. More wrestlers need to return. Big matches need to be made. And a new World of Stardom Champion needs to be crowned to carry us forward.
Patience and some hope. That’s what will be needed heading into the end of the year.

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