At the end of a tough, but nonetheless hugely entertaining and successful 2020, Stardom is looking forward to its traditional end of year show on 20th December in Osaka. With what will hopefully be a fully attended extravaganza to come in March 2021 for their 10th Anniversary, perhaps this show isn’t the pinnacle for the promotion that it has been in the past, but it still looks like a stacked card ripe with in-ring and storyline possibilities.
At the top of the card is the mouthwatering contest between recently crowned World of Stardom Champion Utami Hayashishita defending her Red Belt against stablemate Momo Watanabe, a match that generated a pulsating draw during the 5 Star Grand Prix. The second main event of Giulia v Syuri should also be a fascinating encounter pitting the two Donna Del Mondo stars against each other for both the Wonder of Stardom and SWA World Championships.
Elsewhere on the card there is potential faction warfare, a cross-promotional title match and so much more to look forward to, so as we approach the show, who is in form, who is having a tricky time of it, and which factions are looking to either cement their dominance or grow in stature? For the previous power rankings see https://www.prowrestlingmusings.com/post/stardom-power-rankings-pre-goddess-of-stardom-tag-league-2020 and please note these rankings were produced before I could watch the shows on the 13th and 16th December (due to my stupid shoot-job getting in the way of my far more exciting kayfabe life).
1. Utami Hayashishita (Up 1 Place)
Can many people in wrestling anywhere in the world really claim to have had a better 2020 than Utami Hayashishita? She has now held the Goddess of Stardom tag belts for over 140 days with Saya Kamitani. She won the 5 Star Grand Prix 2020. And at Sendai Cinderella she dethroned the Ace of Stardom Mayu Iwatani to begin her first ever reign as holder of the Red Belt. The only thing that could bring Utami down would be a defeat to Momo Watanabe in her first defence in Osaka in what should be an absolute belter of a match. The two battled each other to a 20 minute time-limit draw during the 5 Star GP, but based on her year so far, few would bet against Utami going one better this time and underlining her dominance of Stardom.
2. Mayu Iwatani (Down 1 Place)
Mayu held the Red Belt for 377 days before finally succumbing to that defeat to Utami in what was yet another brutal affair in a 2020 that has seen Mayu really put through the ringer. It should go down as one of the more impressive title reigns in Stardom history, and seemed destined to continue indefinitely when Mayu avenged her defeat against Takumi Iroha by battling through to victory in a superb match. Any thoughts of recapturing her belt, which Mayu has already stated her intention to do, will have to be put briefly on hold though as Mayu deals with potential dissension on the Stars ranks. She will lead her team against Tam Nakano’s off-shoot unit in Osaka and it really does look like there is potential for Mayu to lose her faction so soon after losing her title. Stardom couldn’t be that cruel….could they?
3. Giulia (Rank Maintained)
Giulia continues to feel like a Red Belt champion in waiting whilst also continuing to hold the White Belt and lead an incredibly strong Donna Del Mondo. But it is from within her own faction that the next threat has arisen, as Giulia prepares to face Syuri in a match for both that White Belt and the SWA World Championship. Whilst Giulia would have preferred to get a shot at Utami, she will see this as an opportunity to underline why she should be first in line when that chance comes again. But it will not come easily. Despite the good natured competition between Syuri and Giulia, when they get between the ropes I fully expect to see an absolute war, and it really is anyone’s guess as to who walks away with the two belts.
4. Syuri (Up 1 Place)
Perhaps the main talking point of the last few months for Syuri has been the announcement that she is now a full-time member of the Stardom roster. Whilst that will be a disappointment to those who have seen her kicking people all over Japan, it should allow her to focus on rising to the top in Stardom, a journey Syuri started by decimating Bea Priestley to win the SWA title. Few would argue that belt has carried a huge amount of prestige in recent years, but with it now sitting in Syuri’s hands it does feel more important, and it would not be a surprise to see her add the White Belt following that clash with Giulia. And if that does happen? The Red Belt beckons.
5. Momo Watanabe (Previously Unranked)
It’s fair to say that Momo didn’t seem the obvious candidate to step up to challenge Utami for her first Red Belt defence. However winning the Tag League with AZM and a particularly impressive win over Himeka mean that Momo is going into that match in very good form and distancing her from her disastrous feud with Bea Priestley. She also has a recent win over both Utami and Saya Kamitani in a triple threat match (which I haven’t seen at time of writing) which will be a huge psychological advantage. Will it be enough? She starts as the underdog certainly, but everybody knows what Momo is capable of. Maybe this will be the time for her to show it to the world.
6. Tam Nakano (Up 2 Places)
Is Tam Nakano the self-styled cute and harmless pixie of old? Or a snake in the grass attempting to bring down the beloved Stars faction. Her Cosmic Angels group with Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka currently sits within Stars rather than against them, but it is clear that tensions are rising. Osaka seems like the place to settle the issue as Tam and her Cosmic Angels face Mayu, Starlight Kid and Gokigen Death in a match that will likely focus on Tam and Mayu. If Tam can orchestrate a win in this match, it is likely the future of the faction would lie in her hands.
7. Himeka (Down 1 Place)
It feels like Himeka hasn’t pushed on since her run to the final of the 5 Star GP, and a bruising failure to wrest the White Belt from Giulia, coupled with a damaging loss to Momo Watanabe seem to have strengthened this view. But Himeka continues to exert her dominance in tag and six man matches, and was even given the opportunity to beat two opponents at once when she squashed Hanan and Ruaka. In addition, the Osaka show sees Himeka team up with Natsupoi in what looks like a very promising tag team, and that may be the way that Himeka finally manages to get a Stardom belt around her waist.
8. Saya Kamitani (Previously Unranked)
Arguably one of the most improved wrestlers in the world let alone just in Stardom in 2020, Saya Kamitani must be looking forward to 2021. She will go into next year still holding the Goddess of Stardom titles with Utami after they saw off stablemates AZM and Momo in a superb match to wrap up the 2020 Tag League. Perhaps more importantly however Saya is now moving more into the singles ranks, and despite a recent defeat to Bea Priestley, a victory of Mina Shirakawa felt like a big moment for Saya. At Osaka she goes again for the Future of Stardom Title against holder Maika and Saya Iida, and could leave the show as a double-belt holder. It would be a fitting way to end a great year.
9. AZM (Up 1 Place)
The prodigiously talented AZM now has a Tag League tournament win to add to her increasingly impressive list of achievements, and whilst her and Momo weren’t able to convert that into a title victory, AZM will certainly consider the year a success so far. However that could all come crashing down when she defends her High Speed Championship against Marvelous’ Mei Hoshizuki in Osaka. It’s an intriguing match that was teased with their interactions earlier in the year, and if AZM does take the win it is another feather in an increasingly feathery cap.
10. Bea Priestley (Down 1 Place)
Bea has lost and gained a belt during the last couple of months, but the punishing defeat to Syuri in losing the SWA title will still linger in her mind. Other than that defeat though, Bea really hasn’t taken a lot of pins since returning to Oedo Tai, and with her appearances in NJPW as well it feels as if 2021 may see some big things for Priestley. The Osaka show will be a chance to underscore this potential when she and Saki Kashima face Himeka and Natsupoi, and you suspect that a win in that match could be a launching pad for more title action for Bea in the near future.
1. Queens Quest (Up TwoPlaces)
I don’t know how many people saw this coming at the start of 2020, but QQ are without doubt the dominant faction in Stardom as we move towards 2021. Holders of the Red Belt, the Goddess of Stardom belts and the High Speed belt, and with faction leader Momo as the next in line for a Red Belt opportunity, it’s simply not possible to put anyone above them right now. The only question that may gnaw at the minds of QQ fans is whether the impending clash between their top two will cause any simmering issues, but that seems unlikely, and whoever wins that clash, QQ look set to end 2020 on a high.
2. Donna Del Mondo (Rank Maintained)
Probably the strongest faction of 2020 as a whole, DDM will be somewhat disappointed not to end the year in that position. Yet without a Red Belt contender in the ranks for the 20th December show, it is hard to see how they would leapfrog QQ before the New Year. Having said that they still boast a dominant White Belt holder, a new force in Stardom as SWA Title holder, and the Future of Stardom belt holder in the increasingly impressive Maika. And that’s without mentioning Himeka and Natsupoi who could be about to embark on a wonderful ‘little and large’ tag team journey. If you had to bet on a faction to have the strongest year in 2021? I’d be recommending you to put your money on DDM.
3. Stars (Down 2 Places)
Stars’ position at the top of this list previously was largely down to Mayu Iwatani bestriding the promotion like a slightly clumsy colossus. But with Mayu finally having been defeated for the Red Belt, suddenly Stars finds themselves bereft of significant gold, and in the midst of an internal power struggle which threatens the very future of the faction. Yes the Cosmic Angels have recently wrested the Artists of Stardom trios belts from Oedo Tai (again in a match I have not yet seen) but are they doing that in the name of Stars or in the name of slightly odd space-travel gimmickry? Time will tell, but I’m certainly not hopeful right now for the future of Stars.
4. Oedo Tai (Rank Maintained)
I mean….at this stage what is actually the point of Oedo Tai? It is atrocious to say this considering their history and the well-earned love that the faction has amongst many fans. But currently their role is simply to ruin everything, and it’s wearing very thin both as a fan of quality matches, but also in a kayfabe sense. Their rinse-and-repeat tactic of using weapons and Bea Priestley saying people suck isn’t getting them anywhere. Even a short-lived reign with the Artists belts is already over and the addition of Konami hasn’t helped yet either as she has spent the last month or so out injured. In terms of power, it’s as low as the faction has ever been, and there surely has to be a change of direction in 2021 to stop Oedo Tai as a concept falling into irrelevance.
Power Rankings Within Factions
1. Utami Hayashishita
2. Momo Watanabe
3. Saya Kamitani
Donna Del Mondo
1. Mayu Iwatani
2. Tam Nakano
3. Starlight Kid
4. Mina Shirakawa
5. Gokigen Death
6. Unagi Sayaka
7. Saya Iida
1. Bea Priestley
2. Natsuko Tora
3. Saki Kashima
5. Natsu Sumire