Tam Nakano and Mina Shirakawa will collide in the main event of Flashing Champions with both the World of Stardom and Wonder of Stardom Championships on the line. The matchup is guaranteed to be historic no matter the result, as this is only the second time in history that both these championships have been on the line in one match. But why does this match, with these stakes, between these two make so much sense? Their history and their ability to overcome the doubters to be at the top of STARDOM.
Recent History of Double Championship Main Events
When Mina Shirakawa left Club Venus, a double championship match never entered my mind, and I don’t think it entered many others’ either. Shirakawa was certainly on her way to becoming the Wonder of Stardom Champion, but Tam Nakano defeating Giulia, who had won the World of Stardom Championship only in December, felt more unlikely than likely. Of course, fast forward to the end of All Star Grand Queendom, and Nakano was champion.
It’s always difficult to know if a double championship match is the right choice or not. That goes for all pro wrestling companies. We’ve seen WWE combine their titles into the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship just for them to introduce the new World Heavyweight Championship. NJPW turned the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships into the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. If either Tam Nakano or Mina Shirakawa were to win, it’s likely they wouldn’t be combining the gold together. Shirakawa has said as such.
The only other time STARDOM has ever done a double championship match was in 2018 as Yu Ishino (FKA Kagetsu) and Momo Watanabe collided. The match ultimately ended in a double knockout with neither walking away as double champion. And Mayu Iwatani is the only ever woman to hold both the World and Wonder of Stardom Titles at the same time. The truth regarding the latest double championship match is that if there were ever two champions who made sense putting all the gold on the line in one match, it’s this bout between Tam and Mina.
Looking in the Mirror
Shirakawa is now in the same shoes as Tam Nakano when she became Wonder of Stardom Champion in 2021, whilst Nakano has, in many ways, become what she learned to hate. What drove her out of STARS.
When Nakano formed Cosmic Angels, she told Mayu Iwatani that she had been tired of being in her shadow and wanted to rise to her level as a leader of her own group. She had Unagi Sayaka and Mina Shirakawa to aid her in the new faction as she’d use the new confidence to finally win the Wonder of Stardom Championship months later — a title she had made her goal, dream, and destiny. That started specifically when she lost in her challenge to Arisa Hoshiki. The loss drove her forward, made her obsessed, and pushed her to finally win the gold two years later.
Nakano wasn’t the first option or second option in STARS for the majority of her time in the faction. The Stardom Draft from 2019 perfectly shows her placement in the group as she was openly angry when Iwatani waited to select her, picking Hoshiki and Starlight Kid prior. She worked her way to being respected, and by the time she exited STARS, she was number two, but she was done taking a backseat to Iwatani. When changes occurred to the STARDOM roster, including Hoshiki’s retirement, Nakano took advantage of an opportunity and climbed to the top of STARDOM. Now she’s one of few to hold both the World and Wonder of Stardom Titles in her career.
Now Shirakawa is following almost the exact same path. She had a Wonder of Stardom Championship loss that drove her (which we’ll talk about later). Now moving on from Cosmic Angels to make her sub-group a true faction is identical to Nakano, but so is never truly being the first or second option in the group. Up until her exit from STARDOM, Unagi Sayaka long seemed as though she was ahead of Shirakawa in the pecking order. Sayaka seemed to be the future white belt champion, and Shirakawa was struggling by. Fast forward to the summer, and things shifted even more when Natsupoi turned on Donna del Mondo to join Nakano by her side, dramatically changing the way Cosmic Angels was built. Even if Shirakawa had thought she was moving up with her clear improvements, she was shifted back down as Nakano preferred the past instead of the present and future. 2022 saw the Club Venus leader transform as a competitor and do her best to take advantage, but she didn’t have to leave but to get to where she wanted to go — she needed to.
Even if they were considered seconds or below in their factions, the final level for each of them to achieve their dreams was to go out on their own. They’ve done that, and we know how far it’s taken Tam Nakano. She’s made history time and time again. She main evented the biggest show in STARDOM history. Her story isn’t finished, but it’s close to being complete. That’s why this match now takes a turn.
The World and Wonder of Stardom Championships may both be on the line, but it’s now the Mina Shirakawa story that must be brought into focus. It’s why this match is happening. Proving yourself to your mentor is something most people can understand. Shirakawa does not want to be disrespected by Nakano, and it’s because of the last time they battled with championship gold on the line that we have ended up here.
Bloody Angel of Failure: Tam Nakano vs. Mina Shirakawa at Tokyo Super Wars (11/27/21)
Flashback to STARDOM in 2021. Mina Shirakawa had made the challenge to Tam Nakano for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, which would mark her first time challenging for the title. The white belt was all Shirakawa ever wanted. She was going to do anything to win it, too. The problem for her was that she didn’t believe in herself. Despite the confidence we’ve long seen in the model-turned-pro wrestler, she didn’t have it when facing her mentor for the championship she so desperately wanted. So Shirkawa changed it up — to the extreme.
Introducing her alter ego, the “Bloody Angel.” This alter ego was a complete transformation from the Mina Shirakawa we knew then and certainly the one we know now. It was a mix of the Joker and, well, trying to be something she wasn’t. After a 5STAR Grand Prix run in 2021 that saw Shirakawa walk out as an improved wrestler, this was a setback. A big one. She lost to Nakano and, in many ways, lost herself.
Shirakawa looked different, acted differently, and was seemingly out of place by the end of the match. But what Tam Nakano said after the match carries a lot of importance heading into Saturday.
“That’s why you should get close to Tam and get stronger,” Nakano said, following the win.
As Shirakawa cried tears listening to Nakano, all she could do was embrace her with a hug before moving on from the match and eventually forward. Maybe she wasn’t ready to accept that this being that she created also wasn’t good enough to beat Nakano. Maybe it was the realization of how much work would need to be put in to not only become champion but defeat Nakano as well.
The next few months for her weren’t bright as she dealt with injury. She turned back to the “Bloody Angel” once again in the 2022 Cinderella Tournament against MIRAI and failed once more.
It was then that Shirakawa decided to bury the “Bloody Angel” once and for all. From that point forward, she rebuilt herself in ways that involved a new style and the confidence she had been missing in her match against Nakano the first time around.
Brick By Brick: Mina Shirakawa Rebuilds Herself With Confidence
Brick by brick, Mina Shirakawa rebuilt herself. Unless you were following her on social media, the efforts she was making to improve were slowly becoming apparent inside the ring. It wasn’t an overnight switch, but it was continuous work being made to be better. The changing of her style became technical, meticulous, and calculating. The Figure Four Leglock became a major part, but the offence to get there was just as important.
And the better her new style got in the ring, the more confidence she had in a glowing manner. As the 2022 5STAR Grand Prix approached, it looked to be her make-or-break moment. If she could have another positive tournament, then maybe her dreams could become reality somewhere down the line.
The tournament opening match for Shirakawa against Momo Watanabe was the match she needed. These two have always had chemistry, but this was their best outing yet against one another, and Shirakawa used her new style to earn herself a victory. When the 5STAR Grand Prix finished, she only had 10 points, but she had the biggest win of her career up until that point over the Wonder of Stardom Champion Saya Kamitani. As Korakuen Hall was rocking after she hit the Glorious Driver Mina for the win, all of her hard work not only led to this career-best singles match, but a win that led her back to the Wonder of Stardom Championship.
As we know by now, the match between those two with the title on the line ended in immediate catastrophe but became the beginning of her legacy. The injuries to Mina Shirakawa gave her an opening to continue growing because she, without any alter ego, came so close to becoming the champion. When she’d return, Club Venus was born, and the build to the Flashing Champions main event truly began.
The Final Build to One of STARDOM’s Biggest Matches Ever
The build towards this match kicked into gear at Stardom Dream Queendom. Mina Shirakawa was making her return to STARDOM after recovering from her injuries to team with Unagi Sayaka and reform Pink Kabuki. As Shirakawa made her superstar entrance, she was followed by two women who’d turn out to be Mariah May and Xia Brookside. The initial version of Club Venus had arrived, and that was all you needed to know we were headed for the eventual split. After the match, Shirakawa showed a more confident, determined side than ever before. Seeing that the last time we saw her face was her bloodied and crying backstage, this was a complete turn from that. She introduced the world to Club Venus and told Sayaka that Pink Kabuki was over for good. The shift was made, and the road to the Wonder of Stardom Championship was on.
In the meantime, however, Tam Nakano had given Waka Tsukiyama an ultimatum. One that would see her have to win in three months’ time or leave Cosmic Angels altogether. This led to one of the underlying stories in Tam vs. Mina, and it’s that Shirakawa would help Tsukiyama train and work towards that win. She took her by her side, and despite Nakano being Tsukiyama’s partner in the match that she finally won, it was obvious that Tsukiyama learned what she needed to because of her time with Club Venus. As the time arrived for Shirakawa to break away from Cosmic Angels once and for all, we learned Tsukiyama would follow.
Having just lost to Donna del Mondo in what was a preview for Nakano’s title match with Giulia at All Star Grand Queendom, the walls crumbled around her. Shirakawa announced her exit from the group, and it led to Tsukiyama making the decision to do the same. With the biggest match of both Shirakawa and Nakano’s careers coming up, there was a shift in the core of their relationship that fans were waiting for. I asked myself, “Does this lead to Tam losing and going on to challenge Shirakawa as revenge?” As we know now, not even close.
All Star Grand Queendom arrived, and moments were made. Shirakawa wrestled the match of her life, defeating the same woman who had defeated Tam Nakano to win the Wonder of Stardom Championship — Saya Kamitani — to win the title and finally achieve her dream. It was a magical moment where you saw Shirakawa’s evolution since that failure to Nakano at Tokyo Super Wars fully realized. The confidence was there, the match of her life had happened, and she was a superstar to the levels of anyone on the roster — Tam Nakano included. It was Shirakawa’s night, but as we saw in the main event, it wasn’t just her who could celebrate.
Tam Nakano defeated Giulia in a miraculous fashion to become the World of Stardom Champion for the first time in her career. The win was the ultimate moment for her as well, as the Cosmic Angels leader only further showed the world to believe in Tam. All that had to be answered was “now what?” as we moved forward with both women holding the top prizes in the company.
Mina Shirakawa would make her first defence of the Wonder of Stardom Championship at Fukuoka Goddess Legend against Nakano’s tag team partner, Natsupoi. In what would ultimately be an emotional match and what this writer believes to be the best of both, Shirakawa displayed her dominance by decimating Natsupoi after her initial blitz to successfully defend the title for V1. The “now what?” was soon answered.
Shirakawa would lay down the challenge to Tam Nakano — title vs. title. All the gold on the line, and a chance for Mina Shirakawa to prove to herself she was finally on the level of her leader and had the confidence in herself to show it.
Nakano’s response to the challenge quickly told the story and revealed that Nakano had become what she once chased herself.
“I’ll take that precious White Belt from you. Mina, you became strong, but you can’t beat Tam.”
And as we’ve seen through clips, the final build has been that. Nakano has talked Shirakawa down, putting doubt into her mind and telling her she was nothing compared to her in Cosmic Angels. Tam realized what Mina had become, and that’s what she was when she pursued the Wonder of Stardom Championship — her, but a fake.
“Mina said she would end Tam Road, but Mina can’t end it,” Nakano said, as translated by Himanshu Doi. “No one can though! Why you ask? Because Mina is a fake Tam Nakano! Just like Tam created Cozuen while in STARS and became independent, you created Club Venus in Cozuen and became independent, saying you always wanted to be like Tam, your passionate fighting style, your baiting on Twitter, your way of dissing, all you’re doing is following Tam. ‘Thinking about the unit,’ it’s only expected for a leader to do so! How much, how much have I been thinking about Mina? The real Tam Nakano is far, far ahead of you!”
“You can’t surpass the real Tam Nakano! A fake can’t beat the real thing!”
The thoughts of Nakano have become clear. Selfishness, as Shirakawa has believed, could be at hand, but the reality is Nakano may be right. And as she explained in her latest thread about the match, she’s ready to crush Shirakawa’s dreams once and for all.
Reality has set in for Shirakawa, who remains determined to defeat Nakano. Her final message to her former leader was clear.
“I lost, but Tam Nakano! Don’t underestimate me forever,” Shirakawa said, as translated by Himanshu Doi. “I’m not forever beneath you! I have no regrets about Cosmic Angels! I will take your Red Belt, become the double champion, and race to the top!”
Saturday night in the main event of Flashing Champions, it’s quite simple. For Tam Nakano, this is a chance to make more history. Become the second-ever double champion in STARDOM history and prove herself right by making sure Mina Shirakawa can’t rise to her level and show she’s much more than a fake Tam Nakano. For Mina Shirakawa, this is everything.
She doesn’t need to win. But she cannot lose. This is one of those unique situations where a draw fits the story, the match, and the future for these two. Shirakawa has evolved for this match right here. All roads have led her since failing herself at the end of 2021 in her challenge against Nakano. She knows she isn’t a fake Tam but rather the first Mina Shirakawa. Now she needs to make sure Tam Nakano knows that also.
It’s rare a match with this big of a feel is the first title defence for a World Champion like Nakano, especially coming off the biggest show in STARDOM history. But it is.
This story may not end Saturday, but it will tell us if Mina Shirakawa’s work was all worth it. Win or draw, she can show the world she is on the level as Tam Nakano. Lose and it was all for naught.
You can order the PPV here to see Tam and Mina collide:
Flashing Champions 2023 is going to be a night to remember.