Introduction to Cinderella
Everyone loves a tournament.
Everyone loves Stardom (may not actually be true...but it should be).
Therefore a Stardom tournament is a thing of joy and beauty, and April sees the first of the promotion's big competitions The Cinderella Tournament. So it's time to ramp up the excitement and do a bit of a preview.
For those who don't know The Cinderella Tournament is a straight knock-out tournament similar to the New Japan Cup, with the winner 'granted their wish'. Said wish has always been to take a pop at one of the World of Stardom or Wonder of Stardom titles, but we live in hope that one day the winner will demand world peace/domination.
Since its inception in 2015 (when it was initially and bizarrely called the 'Cinderella Champions Fiesta), previous winners have included the 'Ace of Stardom' Mayu Iwatani (2015 and 2016), recent AEW recruit Toni Storm (2017), Momo Watanabe (2018), Arisa Hoshiki (2019), Giulia (2020) and last year's winner Saya Kamitani.
So who will lift the crown, or more accurately don the very frilly dress, in 2022? Below we look at the info around the tournament, the participants, and the potential winners.
All matches are one-on-one matches with the winner advancing to the next round.
In the event of a time-limit draw both wrestlers are eliminated.
Round 1 matches have a 10 minute time limit. Round 2 matches and all subsequent rounds have a 15 minute time limit.
Matches can be won as standard by pinfall, submission, DQ and count-out, but can also be won by throwing your opponent over the top rope.
First round matches, plus Syuri and Saya Kamitani's second round matches, will take place on 3rd April 2022.
Second round matches will take place on 17th April 2022.
Quarter-final and semi-final matches will take place on 29th April with the final headlining that show.
Bio: The first name on the list and I know absolutely nothing about her! Added to the tournament so late that she didn't even make it onto my carefully crafted bracket above, Ami is the first member of Syuri's faction and that's about all we know.
First Round Match: Syuri
Chances of Winning: Who knows? She could be the second coming of Manami Toyota for all I know.
Bio: AZM is the current High Speed Champion and has successfully seen-off all-comers in that division in 2022. She will be looking to use the Cinderella Tournament to elevate herself even further towards the two top belts.
First Round Match: Momo Watanabe
Chances of Winning: A lot hinges on that first-round grudge match with Momo. If AZM keeps her cool to win that match then she will be one of the favourites. But I can equally see her losing to Momo again, or even taking them both out of the tournament somehow.
Bio: The sad-clown-princess of Oedo Tai.
First Round Match: Koguma
Chances of Winning: Can you imagine Death in a ball-gown? No...me neither.
Bio: The leader of DDM has recently both lost to Syuri and lost Syuri herself. On the plus side she did see off the meddlesome Prominence faction at the recent World Climax PPV. Surely a Red Belt champion of the future.
First Round Match: Thekla
Chances of Winning: The 2022 Cinderella champion has a potentially nightmarish route to the final, but she's done it before and would love to do it again. Chances? Pretty decent.
Bio: Hanan is the current Future of Stardom Champion and is fast becoming one of the more dominant holders of that belt in recent history. Definitely one for the future.
First Round Match: Maika
Chances of Winning: A likely first-round casualty.
Bio: The recently returned Hazuki was having a stellar 2022 until last week. However a singles defeat to Momo Watanabe on the back of losing the Goddesses of Stardom titles with Koguma leave Hazuki slightly in the doldrums right now.
First Round Match: Miyu Amasaki
Chances of Winning: Definitely one of the favourites, and would be a hugely popular Cinderella.
Bio: The Jumbo Princess has been almost unstoppable in 2022. With a win percentage higher than anyone (79.2% at time of writing) and still holding an Artists of Stardom belt, not many people will want to face Himeka in this tournament.
First Round Match: Ruaka
Chances of Winning: My pick to win the whole thing, although that very likely requires a win over Syuri in round two...no mean feat.
Bio: Another very promising Stardom youngster, Hina hasn't wrestled since August 2021. Good to see her back though.
First Round Match: Unagi Sayaka
Chances of Winning: Zero
Bio: lover of bears, Koguma goes into the Cinderella Tournament off the back of losing her Goddesses of Stardom title and her most recent pop at the High Speed belt. In spite of this, Koguma has had a great 2022 and is likely to be back to winning ways soon.
First Round Match: Fukigen Death
Chances of Winning: It seems unlikely that Koguma will go all the way, but it would not be a complete surprise to see her go deep into the tournament.
Bio: Now a member of Queens Quest, Lady C continues to take a lot of defeats but she is slowly becoming a more prominent member of the roster.
First Round Match: Mai Sakurai
Chances of Winning: Certainly won't win the whole thing, but a relatively generous draw could see Lady C go deeper than anyone expects.
Bio: Mai rejected Cosmic Angels in favour of DDM, and that decision has paid off with a few recent victories. She did , however, miss out on the Future of Stardom title at the recent World Climax PPV.
First Round Match: Lady C
Chances of Winning: As with Lady C, a potentially kind draw could see Mai get to the later stages. But definitely not a contender for overall victory.
Bio: Maika is one third of the Artists of Stardom champions and is having a fairly epic 2022 in terms of win percentages (only bettered by Himeka). It's surely time for Maika to firmly place herself at the Stardom top table.
First Round Match: Hanan
Chances of Winning: One of the favourites, particularly if she can take down Saya Kamitani in round two.
Bio: The Ace of Stardom and your humble narrator's favourite wrestler in the world.
First Round Match: Momo Kohgo
Chances of Winning: She's already won the tournament twice so I certainly wouldn't bet against her doing it again, even if recent form suggests otherwise.
Bio: Results wise, Mina has had a fairly disastrous 2022 with only 6 wins to her name. Is this the tournament the jolt she needs?
First Round Match: MIRAI
Chances of Winning: An intriguing first-round match gives Mina a chance of victory, but hard to see her going much further than that.
Bio: MIRAI had a big start to life in Stardom with an early Red Belt match against Syuri and some big wins in her first couple of months. Suffered a chastening defeat to Utami at World Climax however.
First Round Match: Mina Shirakawa
Chances of Winning: Relatively slim, but that opening match with Mina could be a great contest.
Bio: A very recent recruit into the Queens Quest stable, we are all still learning about Miyu Amasaki. Early impressions have been very good though.
First Round Match: Hazuki
Chances of Winning: Slim to none. Actually just none.
Bio: Momo hasn't picked up many wins in 2022 as her development in Stardom continues, but she seems happier than anyone else on the roster and in the end isn't that what it's all about?
First Round Match: Mayu Iwatani
Chances of Winning: A smiling defeat in the first round beckons.
Bio: One half of the new Goddesses of Stardom champions, Momo goes into the Cinderella Tournament on somewhat of a roll. She hasn't been pinned in 2022 and already holds a singles victory over her first round opponent this year.
First Round Match: AZM
Chances of Winning: If Momo survives that battle with AZM it won't get any easier with the likes of Syuri, Giulia and Himeka in her half of the draw, but Momo is definitely a contender to win it all.
Bio: Poi recently lost out in trying to reclaim the High Speed belt but does hold one of the Artists of Stardom titles. She missed much of the start of the year but is now back and picking up regular wins...just not in the big matches.
First Round Match: Starlight Kid
Chances of Winning: I don't think Poi will go too far in the tournament this year, but that match with SLK looks fascinating.
Bio: Rina is only 15 years old but under the evil tutelage of Oedo Tai is already showing that she is likely to be a star of the future.
First Round Match: Saya Iida
Chances of Winning: Likely to go out in the first round, but a definite potential future champion.
Bio: The box-wielding battering ram of Oedo Tai. Ruaka is still only 17 so is still eating a lot of pins, but it does feel as if she is very slowly on the up.
First Round Match: Himeka
Chances of Winning: Very long odds considering her first-round opponent.
Bio: The most laid back person in Stardom and probably more concerned about dinner than winning the Cinderella Tournament.
First Round Match: Waka Tsukiyama
Chances of Winning: Incredibly unlikely, mainly because she probably doesn't care at all.
Bio: Saya has recently returned from injury after almost a year out, so it's simply great to see her back in the ring. A definite talent.
First Round Match: Rina
Chances of Winning: Saya won't win the tournament but she has a very strong chance of reaching the quarter-finals at least.
Bio: The current Cinderella Tournament champion and holder of the Wonder of Stardom title. Holds 5 wins from 5 in singles matches in 2022. Quite simply, Saya Kamitani is on fire right now.
First Round Match: First round bye - faces winner of Hanan/Maika in round two.
Chances of Winning: Going back-to-back seems unlikely for Tall Saya, but it is equally hard to see who defeats her right now.
Bio: The Black Tiger remains one of the most entertaining features of Stardom in 2022 and she's recently added the Goddesses of Stardom belt to her accolades.
First Round Match: Natsupoi
Chances of Winning: If she gets through a tough first round match then the draw could open up for SLK. A potential finalist.
Bio: World of Stardom Champion. Recent conqueror of Giulia and Mayu Iwatani in two nights. Arguably one of the best wrestlers in the world right now. There really isn't much else you need to know.
First Round Match: Ami Sourai
Chances of Winning: On form and ability alone Syuri would be the favourite, but it feels like the tournament may instead set up her next Red Belt opponent meaning she doesn't win this one.
Bio: Only 4 wins out of 23 matches tells its own story for Tam in 2022. Definitely struggling since losing her beloved White Belt at the end of 2021.
First Round Match: Utami Hayashishita
Chances of Winning: If she can topple Utami in round one then a run to the final is very much a possibility.
Bio: The current holder of the SWA Title and surely everybody's favourite Austrian. Thekla has been superb since joining Stardom at the end of 2021 and already feels like a major player in the promotion.
First Round Match: Giulia
Chances of Winning: Quite an unlikely victor with her faction leader to overcome in round one, but if she does win that match the sky is the limit.
Bio: Stardom's wacky welcoming party, Unagi plotted an unlikely course to the semi-final in last year's tournament. Definitely improving all the time as part of Cosmic Angels.
First Round Match: Hina
Chances of Winning: An unlikely winner, but we said that last year and she almost reached the final.
Bio: 2021's most dominant champion in the world, since losing her Red Belt Utami has unsurprisingly hit the skids a bit. Still a force to be reckoned with however.
First Round Match: Tam Nakano
Chances of Winning: A very tricky first-round match notwithstanding, Utami has a very good chance of reaching at least the semis.
Bio: The undoubted whipping-girl of Stardom as we speak, but there have been some great performances this year from Waka. Still to pick up a win in her Stardom career.
First Round Match: Saki Kashima
Chances of Winning: The greatest Cinderella story ever told? Sadly not my friends.