Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

STARDOM 2015 Recommended Matches
Chronological Reviews of the Best STARDOM Matches

STARDOM 1/18/15, NEO High Speed Title Match: Io Shirai vs. Kaori Yoneyama 6:28 of 7:11. Yoneyama lacks the offense of Io, but she can work as fast, and that's really what makes this contest stand out. You get all Io's flashy spots, but chain everything together so well, one spot leading to the next as they countering each other back & forth. Io's style isn't about realism obviously, but this is flowing super well within the context, and fluidity is the difference in a fast paced, high flying match like this, and in Io's work in general. There's none of the usual, you do your spots & I do mine, no one waiting for the other to jump on them, it's all very proactive, with the initial move almost always being countered, and then sometimes the counter is countered as well. They do a particularly good job of building sequences out of Yoneyama's Yone-Zou. Start to finish, this is early 90's level joshi ring work. The only downside is it's sooo short, but I'd much rather they figured out how to make their best stuff work as they did here than lay around on the mat grabbing a leg for 5 minutes then decided it was time to get up & do a totally unrelated match as they so often did in the heyday of joshi. ***1/4

STARDOM 2/22/15, NEO High Speed Title Match: Io Shirai vs. Koguma 16:03. Though nowhere near the evolved level Io was able to attain against former JWP ace Yoneyama last month, this was more of a one woman show that showed how good Io is & how much potential Koguma has. It's a rather "basic" match in construct as you'd expect given Koguma's experience level, but Koguma is someone you can get behind because despite her pint size stature, she fights big & never backs down. They pretty much just threw their best stuff out, though Koguma's offense was toned down over her usual spectacular because that's what she has flying style, probably so she'd be a little more consistent. With Koguma being little more than a rookie taking on the best high flyer in joshi in her own style, it had no real right to even be competitive, much less work as a shocking title change, but Koguma's heart & spunk make it tough to not be happy when good things happen to her. What she lacks in experience & even actual skill, she was able to make up for against a great opponent mainly just by trying so hard & wanting it that bad. She's not nearly as gifted, but she's as close as this generation has to a Momoe Nakanishi type of little athletic girl who overcomes the odds through willpower & skill. Io should be above this title anyway, so this helped cement a new star (who unfortunately once again didn't last long enough to become an old star) while freeing Io up for a run with the more prestigious Wonder of Stardom title. ***

STARDOM 3/8/15, Io Shirai & Koguma vs. Kairi Hojo & Mayu Iwatanai 18:13. With Nanae Takahashi about to leave the promotion, it's pretty clear that these are STARDOM's 4 best workers. It's tragic that Koguma didn't last much longer, as although she's clearly the worst of these four right now, she's also teenager who is about 65 matches into her career whereas the others have more than twice the experience and are more toward their primes. This is a really good Koguma match, fast-paced, all action, highly athletic stuff. This isn't good because of Io's offense, although what she adds is certainly nice. Io mostly takes, letting Iwatani & Koguma shine with their high flying. Shirai obviously facilitates a lot of good work in this Toyota style action match, but Iwatani is the showcase performer, giving the best overall performance. A more one-dimensional match with far less drama than the Korakuen main events, but a good example of the level they can work at when given the proper setting and amount of time. ***1/4

STARDOM 3/29/15, World of Stardom Champion Decision Tournament Final: Kairi Hojo vs. Io Shirai 18:46. The right two performers made it to the final to crown the new champion to replace the rightfully banished Yoshiko, and they quickly exceeded the level of their preliminary matches. Io began teasing a sprint, but Hojo hid under the ring to avoid her dive, which ultimately didn't work out for her as she quickly reinjured her right arm on the ring post when Io avoided her charge. Io did a great job of carrying the match, knowing when to go back & forth between her usual awesome athletic spots & the arm work, and giving Hojo enough comebacks to stay in the match despite being compromised by an injury that effects most of her best offense. Hojo kept avoiding moonsaults & coming back with elbows until she was finally able to steal the match after hitting 2 diving elbow drops. While the finishing segment felt a little lacking, they worked at a really high level throughout. There wre no dull moments, but it was never awkwardly showy, as they found the right times to hit or counter the moves. ***1/2

STARDOM 4/23/15, CINDERELLA TOURNAMENT 2015 Semifinal: Mayu Iwatani vs. Io Shirai 8:21. All the matches in the tournament were short (under 10:00), but Shirai delivered a great High Speed Title style sprint here. Iwatani doesn't have the best offense, but you don't need to against Io, who has offense for days. Iwatani is a great athlete, and her speed & body control are really on display here, allowing Shirai to reach her highest level of interplay. Io is at her best against an opponent such as Iwatani who can match her fast transitions & counters. These two have great chemistry, and the action is faster than CMLL on fast forward (and actually watchable). They still found time to sell here & there, but generally the only things that slowed them down was an early double injury spot where their swinging kicks clashed. As good as the match was given the time they had, the finish was bad as Iwatani countered the Spanish fly by jumping to the floor to invoke the silly over the top rope rule that helped keep the tournament matches so short. Given that Iwatani jumped 1st & pulled Io down with her, she likely hit the ground 1st also (they purposely picked a distant angle where the backs of the audience block the view of the floor), but since Iwatani was supposed to win the tournament the referee ruled that Io touched 1st. ***

STARDOM 5/17/15

Wonder of Stardom Title Decision Match: Io Shirai vs. Nikki Storm 14:37 of 18:37. Stardom has imported a number of sketchy foreigners, but Storm is the UK ace, & she delivered. What makes Io the best is the interplay she's able to get out of her opponents, how she doesn't force her style on them but works the most fluid, back & forth version of both wrestlers styles. This wasn't that typical Io match though, as these two aren't familiar with one another, so they dumbed it down to just trading segments of each other's offense. Storm dominated because she was losing, hitting Io with her vast arsenal of neckbreakers. She's not the most athletic wrestler, but she got the brutal aspect of her arsenal over well. The match worked well enough because of their individual talent, but they could probably add close to a * to this if they had the opportunity to become more familiar with each other. ***1/4

World of Stardom Title Match: Kairi Hojo vs. Mayu Iwatani 19:02. Their familiarity with one another was the key reason this surpassed the previous Shirai/Storm title match. The difference in comfort with one another was so readily apparent from the outset when they crafted a great opening where they matched each other move for move, blow for blow, & counter for counter. They eased into the body of the match, which followed the basic storyline of the 3/29/15 Hojo/Shirai match with Iwatani working over Hojo's injured elbow. Unfortunately, this didn't prompt Hojo to deviate from her signature elbow offense that's actually the weakest part of her game, being not overly convincing and/or dated, but at least Hojo always does an excellent job of playing the underdog in big matches she's actually favored in. Iwatani is better at varying from the standard script, & gave a strong performance here carrying the match offensively with a good mix of themed, signature, & "improvisory" moves. She's such a good athlete that one feels she's only scratched the surface of her potential whereas Hojo is more really good in the programmed manner of Kazuchika Okada. ***1/2

STARDOM 6/14/15

Goddesses of Stardom Title Match: Io Shirai & Mayu Iwatanai vs. Nikki Storm & Star Fire 16:14 of 23:03. Consistently high level action here to be sure, but one of the more oddly structured matches I've seen in STARDOM. It was almost as if they had Shirai unleash her best 10 minutes on Star Fire and Storm unload her best 10 on Iwatani - the bump girls doing just enough to be competitive - with 3 minutes where the other wrestlers interjected themselves to break things up. The clipping added to the feel that the matches weren't totally interconnected, and was surely a shame as none of these wrestlers likely did anything that wasn't spectacular, or in Storm's case brutal. Shirai's match was basically a little more lucha oriented version of her high speed title sprint. It's the highest level I've seen from a Star Fire match, though she was totally along for the ride. Storm was given a more comfortable, in element showcase for her talents here. Her offense looked great anytime she had Iwatani in her grasp, her neckbreakers are really fast & explosive, but apart from her lariat, she struggled the few times she had to set something up with someone on the run. Iwatani helped her out tremendously being a bump girl extraordinaire, and got a good push here picking up the pinfall after taking such a pummeling. I feel like there was a **** match here somewhere, but the way they laid it out & Samurai chopped it up didn't do justice to the quality of the ring work. Nonetheless, it's great to see STARDOM produce a match with foreigners that's at this level, especially after how badly Chelsea is tanking despite their best efforts to get her over. ***1/2

World of Stardom Title Match: Kairi Hojo vs. Meiko Satomura 30:00. STARDOM working with Satomura is a major addition that allows for a whole series of new big matches, keeping everything from just reverting to some version of Io vs. Mayu vs. Kairi. Though Hojo has STARDOM's top title & Satomura is carrying her to one of her best matches, it's nonetheless hard to objectively see why this match is even competitive. I mean, it's mostly a striking match & Satomura has 5 times the impact on her blows, is faster, quicker, crisper, and far more technical & precise. More importantly, Satomura has a whole wide range of techniques & manuevers she can pull out whenever the time/position is right whereas Hojo is totally reliant on Satomura standing in front of her & allowing her to use a ridiculous double chest slap or some variation of an elbow or a spear. I'm going to try to avoid the whole spiel on pro wrestling striking being as dated as the dinosaurs given even the worst amateur MMA & kickboxers figure out not to just stand flatfooted in front of the opponent & wait for them to hit them because Satomura & everyone else are too lazy to learn even the most rudimentary footwork too, but the key point of why Satomura is so far superior is she's 100% effective out of virtually any setup whereas Hojo is only going to revert back to very specific positions to do her same handful of moves. A great example of what Satomura can do in the ring is the spot where she starts out getting whipped into the corner & winds up putting Hojo in an STF. I don't want to rag on Hojo too much because she gives a huge effort in every big match, but it's important to distinguish why Satomura's counters & offensive sequences can be so dynamic & why Hojo's are so linear & predictable. Satomura is miles above Hojo at the start of the match, but Hojo comes on in the 2nd half when she's going through her familiar forms. Hojo is a really good big match wrestler because she takes well & plays an effective underdog, getting the crowd behind her & making things more dramatic. Satomura is so good in this match that Hojo can be somewhat irrelevant. Satomura just keeps the pressure on her with her kicks, armbars to the injured arm, & death valley bombs including a killer one on the stage. STARDOM big matches are remarkable for their lack of downtime, and despite being 30 minutes, this was no exception. Anytime you have Satomura, who has long been one of the top females in the sport, going all out against a more than capable opponent, you are in good shape, and getting a full half hour of this makes it automatically recommendable. They treated this match as pretty much the biggest match in STARDOM history, going back & forth, emptying their arsenals & then some with all sorts of near finishes, mostly Satomura not quite being able to seize the title despite dominating, milking as much drama as they could, except when it came to emphasizing the urgency of time running out. All in all, this was about as good as it could have been given their lack of familiarity unless the lack of a finish annoys you, but STARDOM getting a draw for Hojo rather than having her just immediately lose the title was quite beneficial for her both in the ring & for her overall ranking/name value. ***1/2

STARDOM 6/20/15, Wonder Of Stardom Title: Io Shirai vs. Star Fire 14:18. The standard high quality Io match against a vastly inferior opponent, going heavy on her own excellent offense & keeping it simple for the opposition. Shirai did many of her spectacular spots, & Star Fire did her job, taking well & doing enough cool moves to keep it interesting & competitive. It wasn't the most dramatic match since Star Fire isn't on her level & there was no reason for her to win, but it was well executed with a high work rate. The effort was also very good, maybe 85% of what you'd get from a Stardom Korakuen Hall main, but that's much higher than you normally get on the Nico Nico shows, especially since this was a regular length singles match rather than a tag where they might be asked to give a good 3-5 minutes each. ***

STARDOM 7/26/15, World of Stardom Title Match: Kairi Hojo vs. Meiko Satomura 22:27. They worked together more fluidly in this rematch from last month's draw, pushing a higher pace (since it was a little shorter & someone was winning) & working stiffer with more running & jumping attacks & less flatfooted exchanges. Hojo gave a more confident performance, mainly the difference in impact came from her landing shots that looked more credible against Satomura's bombs, but in general she was more relaxed & willing to trust Satomura to carry her to the best match she could. Satomura kept moving the match forward, forcing Hojo to answer her immediately & constantly. Hojo blew a few spots, but was able to react, & thus at least deviate from her usual setups (even though she still used the same moves) enough that it felt somewhat organic rather than purely rehearsed. Last month's match felt more like a big match in terms of being an epic dramatic battle of the company's top stars, but this match felt more like a great match in terms of building momentum by going all out offensively, upping the ante of big moves because they had to top what they'd previously done to actually get a finish, and also in terms of Satomura challenging Hojo as a performer by forcing her to at least go outside the box to setup her elbows. Basically, Satomura holding back less from her peak skill level forced Hojo to raise her own standard to hang with her. Satomura was not only great here, but great in a way that forced Hojo to swim. ***3/4

STARDOM 8/23/15, 5* GP 2015 Red Stars Block: Io Shirai vs. Mayu Iwatani 15:00. You can't go wrong when the two best workers in the league are going the distance, and Mayu seems to be growing in confidence & capability by the match, but it was kind of an odd match because they wrestled a 15 minute draw using the script for a 30 minute draw except they had to greatly excellerate the rate of damage/fatigue so their near finishes would be credible from a very early point. They were benefits to the long match script in that they were doing more selling throughout & generally putting more effort into making it dramatic, especially early on. However, 15 minutes is, if anything, actually a little shorter than they'd normally work, so the whole idea of suddenly putting over the toll of the match didn't really hold water. Nonetheless, these two are excellent workers, and it was a different really good match than the expected sprint, which is refreshing, it just feels weird typing while it lasted given the story they tried to tell. The offense was great, with several highlights from both including a Dragon suplex on the floor & triple jump reverse hurricanrana by Mayu, but they were some missed opportunities both in terms of what they could have done but didn't. Their 4/23/15 semifinal had better interplay & counter sequences, whereas here they started off great with a series of lightning athletic counters back & forth, but as the match progressed, it was basically just trading sequences of offense. That would be fine if they were working against weaker opponents, but they can do much better than than that together. As they were doing a match with selling, they could have got something out of a worked back injury for Mayu when she was slammed hard on the ring apron & a legit knee thumping because she landed hard only being partially caught on a plancha. Instead, Mayu popped back up & did a great flurry of kicks to show her knee was fine, and although her kicks were a major weapon and very impressive, that wasn't really the moment for her best flurry. In the end, the match just felt so damn short. That shows how good it was because, albeit a little frustrating, in the end it was almost twice as long as their Cinderella Champions Fiesta match, but since they have so much to offer it felt like it should have gone on for another 10 or 15 minutes because there's so much more they can do. On one hand, it was disappointing that this again wasn't the big blowout main event that they're capable of (I question the sanity of rolling Chelsea out there after this), but their having enough diversity that they don't just do the same things in the same manner every match is what makes them so interesting in the first place. ***3/4

STARDOM 8/30/15 5* GP 2015 Red Stars Block: Kaori Yoneyama vs. Mayu Iwatani 9:10. Iwatani is Stardom's most improved wrestler, & I continue to be more & more impressed by her growth. She delivered her best athletic counter laden opening of the year here. I would really love to see her in a World of Sport oriented match where she'd actually develop this style rather than say "ok, now onto my kicks & flying moves". Yoneyama is what you make her as an opponent, she can do most styles really well, &, for better & sometimes worse, she'll wrestle to the level of her opponent. In this case, that's a very high level, & this was a beautiful high speed style sprint. Yoneyama was featured here to the point I further assumed she was losing (she won), & the match was on the level of her challenge against Io on 1/18/15 except she butchered a couple spots. I don't like this 15 minute time limit format for a tournament, but this was certainly fun stuff within those limited parameters. ***

STARDOM 9/23/15, Goddesses of Stardom Title Match: Io Shirai & Mayu Iwatani vs. DASH Chisako & Sendai Sachiko 20:26. There's tons of interpromotional matches in current joshi since every league only has a handful of wrestlers, but here's the extremely rare match that actually felt like it could have been out of '93 because they were able to pull off the athletic, high workrate style and give the general feeling through the intensity, stiffness, & urgency that they upped their game because winning meant more. The Jumonji Sisters earned the title shot by defeating Thunder Rock in Sendai Girls on 7/30/15, an excellent match in its own right, but one that didn't even remotely hint at the intensity & drama they produced here. The initial parity sequence between Io & DASH set the tone for the match as Io did everything in as fast & athletic a manner as she could, which is exactly how everyone worked the 1st match. The difference here mostly came from DASH, who focused on impact & attitude, being purposely methodical & deliberate as a statement of confidence & a way to get heel heat to make this the interpromotional rivalry it could be. One would normally associate DASH's tactics with a larger/stronger bully type rather than a quick 4'11" wrestler, but Satomura trains everyone to put something on all their blows, and by wrestling big & tough we focused on DASH's badass nature & the precision & malicious intent of her execution, thus forgetting she's not our fictitious image of a tough girl. I just loved the dynamics that DASH brought to this match because Thunder Rock were mainly doing the really fast, flashy Manami Toyota match they did 2 months ago, but now you had Jumanji's (mainly DASH) doing an LCO type of match (minus the weapons), slowing it down by playing punk heels & giving Io (mainly) a stiff beatdown. This was all done in a manner that still flowed with what they kept from the first match, but also added dynamics, both styles & tempos, rather than stopping it or taking it in a direction that made it two "separate matches". It wasn't so much the all out start to finish sprint we usually see from Io, they had bursts that were briefly slowed by the bullying & mirroring, the thing is the rudo stuff actually made the match & lent it the atmosphere rather than just stalling it as is the case in most of the Mexican or old school American wrestling, partly because it was well done by wrestlers who weren't doing it because that's all they can do & partly because they weren't wasting time or doing things because they were lazy or wanted to be annoying. The interplay was better because now you kind of had two styles going, and each wrestler is diverse enough that they could do "their" style or they could choose to match their opponent's. DASH's higher impact work prompted everyone to hit harder, which on it's own would obviously be nice, but it's the edge that roughness brought to this match that's important, and was again a difference between the great workrate house show match they did in July & the great "big" interpromotional title match they did tonight. The rematch was also better because they figured out the logical pairings. Mayu & Sendai were perfect counterparts as well, doing a mirror match where they exchanged stiff kicks & beautiful bridging suplexes. Having the match in Senjo helped Mayu especially since she hasn't worked with the Jumanji's much in any form, but there was something beyond mere improved familiarity, it's the rare modern day treat to get a title match where both sides are true teams that are really close to one another in & out of the ring. They busted out some old school double teams such as the double missile kick & stuff piledriver, but I love how the Jumanjis teamwork in particular is actually about sequences where they attacker alternates because they're coming at you from all angles in a much quicker, less deliberate fashion. Down the stretch, of course, it was all out craziness with everyone bringing their best stuff. I'm not sure if there were enough saves, because this was a match where you actually genuinely cared, where you needed the bailout so they'd be forced to continue to come up with more awesome sequences! This match may not have been the greatest recent joshi match at a particular aspect, but it's been a long long time since I've seen a match that moved me, something where everyone was working at a top level, everything was firing on all cylinders, and it was adding up to something dramatic rather than merely being an impressive spectacle. ****1/2

STARDOM 10/18/15, Goddesses of Stardom Tag Title Match: Io Shirai & Mayu Iwatani vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto & Kellie Skater 14:57. Skater was a real breath of fresh air at the end of two nights of STARDOM girls being bogged down by opponents who do everything one step at a time & don't seem to know the meaning of fluid & flowing. I was losing what little faith I have left in humanity when I saw Nicole Savoy actually do a float over suplex in 2 parts! While it's a given Thunder Rock were mostly responsible for this being a good spectacular match, to a great extent you are only as good as what you can get out of your opponents assuming they have something to give, and Skater was fast & athletic enough to go with their action sequences & actually pulled off the striking that Matsumoto was kind of too linear & plodding to really make work in an otherwise fast paced match by encorporating bits into an active sequence oriented encounter. Don't get me wrong, Matsumoto is a capable wrestler who is good in the right setting, but her entire offense required the opposition to just stand there while she hit or charged at them, and that doesn't really cut it in an otherwise kinetic match that works primarily because of the interplay. People pay to see Io fly around, holding someone in a headlock is only interesting when you're telling a story with it such as Toshiaki Kawada playing ball control against Jumbo Tsuruta, not just doing it because, I don't know, that's what you've got in the arsenal. Skater, on the other hand, was more than holding her own, doing lucha sequences with Mayu, and generally going back & forth, matching her step for step. I kind of felt bad that she was the one who got pinned in the moonsault because Matsumoto really only added some Kobashi chops in the corner & heaving opponent & partner over the top to the floor for quasi planchas. ***

STARDOM 11/15/15

Wonder of Stardom Title Match: Io Shirai vs. Sendai Sachiko 10:29. I was expecting their 10:00 draw in the SGPW 6 vs. 6 on 11/12/15 to set up what they'd turn into a blowaway match, but instead it was far less intense & a whole 29 seconds longer, with even that bonus perhaps being attributed to Io's Spanish fly being butchered. It was good, sure, they're too talented for it not to be, but nowhere near the quality of the two Thunder Rock vs. Jumanji tag matches, and actually not as good as what they did in the limited format 3 days earlier. They opened with a nice lucha sequence this time, which was fine, but the opening striking sequence on 11/12 was what racheted up the heat & set everything in motion. They just never found that atmosphere here. They did include a "late" strike exchange, but at that point in the match, there was just no way it was going to have the same effect. It was a really nice athletic match that could have perfectly slotted in with the High Speed Title matches Io was having earlier in the year, except it seemingly was supposed to be something of the culmination of a heated tag team fued that had since been the highlight of not only her year, but the joshi year in general. As with 11/12, Sachiko injured Io early, this time with a DDT on the apron, then focused on the injured area, bridging into the high spots. Though that gave the action some focus for a while, the structuring was so vanilla, pretty much slotting Sachiko in with the no real match opponents, and thus just letting her do her moves before falling prey to the moonsault when Io had taken "enough". Historically, the Wonder of Stardom title has had a lot of 10 minute range defenses, but the next shortest match of the 9 involved in this Io reign was a 13:12 house show match against Queen Maya, who not even the Mafiosa's want to see more than a few minutes of. ***

World of Stardom Title Match: Meiko Satomura vs. Mayu Iwatani 11:29. Again, I'm baffled at how short this was. Satomura goes 30 then 22:27 against Hojo & 24:50 the month after this against Io. Mayu isn't quite the star those two are yet, but 4 years into her career she's already one of the 3 best workers in women's wrestling, and is probably the best natural matchup for Satomura because she's the strongest striker in STARDOM & their all around technician. Satomura was absolutely brutal here. She was pissed that Senjo lost the 6 vs 6 & just wanted to maul the girl who deprived her league of that victory. That was a good win for Mayu, but this booking was very lazy, mostly subjecting her to a big put her back in her place beating to no beneficial payoff. Satomura's offense looked great, as she was holding little back here, & that's just nasty, but there wasn't a lot of back & forth. Mayu had her run, but there was surprisingly little interplay, even when it came to striking, it was more often part of their run rather than an exchange. Mayu seemed a little nervous, uncharacteristically blowing a few spots. The booking wasn't giving her any confidence though. I mean, yes, this was only her 2nd World of Stardom title shot, this one coming only a handful of months after her first, and certainly it's more intimidating to wrestle a legend such as Satomura than a peer such as Hojo, but she wasn't really booked to be competitive here. Satomura started quickly & got close to 3/4 of the offense overall, so Mayu was always playing catchup & it never felt as though she were pushing Satomura. Iwatani plays a good underdog, but there's a fine line between underdog we believe in & are given opportunity to really get behind, and underdog who is outclassed & generally run over. This was closer to the later, & there was absolutely no good reason for that. Sachiko & Iwatani were basically sacrificed in order to set up the big battle of the company aces at Stardom's year end show, but both of today's matches could have been memorable, and still led us to the exact same place. In some sense, Hojo vs. Iwata, as predictable & pedestrian as their offense was, was actually the most successful match of the night because Iwata, the greenhorn who had no right to be competitive against the former champ, willed herself into the match & made us take notice while Sachiko & Iwatani underachieved to the point that your enduring feeling was likely that they got rolled, even though it was't that bad, especially in Sachiko's case since she at least got the majority of the offense before the quick brush off. From purely a wrestling standpoint, this was very good, but as a "competition" I badly wanted to care about, it was disheartening that they kept telling me not to. ***

STARDOM 12/23/15, World of Stardom Title Match: Meiko Satomura vs. Io Shirai 24:50. Stardom's final match of the year saw their ace trying to give the promotion a happy new year by taking the title back from the Sendai Girls founder, who has already beaten their other two top wrestlers, Kairi Hojo & Mayu Iwatani. Whenever these two get together, everyone wins because they are the top of the game, and put on a match that sets out to once again prove it. Satomura's previous title matches had limiting factors, a programmed opponent who reverts to forms in Hojo & no time & apparently not high enough ranking in Mayu, but tonight she could be the best version of herself. Each had an opponent they could trust & didn't have to carry, an opponent who could confidently & competently do every style, make every counter, take every bump, and the time to go in whatever direction(s) they chose, so they were free to do whatever they wanted. Shirai succeeded in defeating Satomura in the midst of her big World of Stardom run in 2014, but still played the underdog here against an ass kicking opponent who is actually somehow still at her peak despite just celebrating the 20th anniversary of her debut. Last year's match tried to work up to Io getting her flying in, but didn't have a clear vision of how to build the match in steps to make this work, & ultimately wound up going from hitting next to nothing spectacular to hitting everything that wasn't countered with something more or less equally as flashy. No one is watching Io to see the utmost believability, so it worked better that they opted for the less ambitious but more workable story of just having Satomura dominate from the outset, with Io able to make brief comebacks when she stunned Satomura with some kind of kick, even if only a dropkick. Satomura was at her brutal best here, delivering the same sort of monstrous beatdown she gave Hojo in the 6 vs 6 on 11/12/15, except for an extra 15 minutes, resulting in Shirai getting the Shinya Hashimoto bloody nose. Shirai was at her most charismatic, popping the crowd with each brief but spirited comeback, really seeming to have a home promotion advantage in this epic battle of the two best women in the sport. She got an imperfect moonsault off the Korakuen entrance in, but just as the momentum seemed to have finally shifted in her favor, Satomura countered her swandive missile kick attempt with a big Dory Funk Jr. elbow off the ropes to the floor. They should have played this up as a near KO & had the big Satomura run that came a few minutes later after the backdrop on the floor, but instead Io came right back catching a kick when she was on the apron & leaping to the floor, wrenching Satomura's knee in the middle rope. I did like that Io tied Satomura up in the ropes so Satomura couldn't counter the swandive missile kick this time. As with the 7/10/04 match, the 2nd half was throwing bombs, but it worked better this time because they did so much in the first half that they didn't feel they had to go for pure spectacle. They were able to take the time to set things up a little better & milk some drama, so it didn't just feel like an elongated finishing sequence. Satomura was also able to use her submissions. You figured it would come down to the Death Valley bomb though, and when Satomura got her legs up for a moonsault & hit 2 in a row the writing seemed to be on the wall, but this was a wild night, & Shirai slipped out of the third & hit a Dragon suplex, a diving elbow for Hojo, & a moonsault for the win. This was the match I hoped for with Mayu vs. Satomura & then some, one where they went all out from start to finish & threw out everything they could trying to have a match of the year. It was a bit goofy at times, mainly the comebacks, but the work was tremendous & these are the two aces, so it was going to take something over the top to get the job done here. The amazing thing about this match is although it was the longest of Io's Stardom notable matches of 2015, it still felt really short in a the best possible way, in that you wanted more & more because it was so good but this time it felt complete. ****1/4

STARDOM 2015 Top 10 Matches
Ranked in quality order

1. 9/23/15, Goddesses of Stardom Title Match: Io Shirai & Mayu Iwatani vs. DASH Chisako & Sendai Sachiko
2. 12/23/15, World of Stardom Title Match: Meiko Satomura vs. Io Shirai
3. 7/26/15, World of Stardom Title Match: Kairi Hojo vs. Meiko Satomura
4. 8/23/15, 5* GP 2015 Red Stars Block: Io Shirai vs. Mayu Iwatani
5. 3/29/15, World of Stardom Champion Decision Tournament Final: Kairi Hojo vs. Io Shirai
6. 6/14/15 World of Stardom Title Match: Kairi Hojo vs. Meiko Satomura
7. 5/17/15 World of Stardom Title Match: Kairi Hojo vs. Mayu Iwatani
8. 6/14/15 Goddesses of Stardom Title Match: Io Shirai & Mayu Iwatanai vs. Nikki Storm & Star Fire
9. 3/8/15: Io Shirai & Koguma vs. Kairi Hojo & Mayu Iwatanai
10. 5/17/15, Wonder of Stardom Title Decision Match: Io Shirai vs. Nikki Storm

STARDOM 2015 Top 5 Wrestlers
Based on ring work only in STARDOM

1. Io Shirai
2. Meiko Satomura (SGPW)
3. Mayu Iwatani
4. Kairi Hojo
5. Koguma

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* Joshi Puroresu Reviews Copyright 2017 Quebrada *