From the emergence of freelancer talents, to the appearances of new overseas stars and deeper development of younger competitors, 2023 was definitely a year to remember for all Stardom fans.
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic was over and the entire scene of Japanese Puroresu and Joshi Puroresu regained their normal atmosphere, we the fans were constantly looking forward to the expansion of this industry in the coming years.
If we look from the last two years to today, the truth is that all the biggest pro wrestling promotions around Japan have continued to offer more high-level matches and iconic moments, while also taking considerable steps in their international expansion.
And one of the main promotions that took major steps in their global expansion is definitely Stardom. Even though Stardom hasn’t stopped growing since Bushiroad Fight took over, I could say that 2023 was the best year for the company so far and the one that laid the foundations for an even bigger growth in the years to come.
However, as a fellow pro wrestling fan, I can’t help but to ask myself a lot of questions to understand the foundations of such statement. Why was 2023 so special for Stardom? What makes it different from the previous years? How could 2023 mark the beginning of a new era and why?.
These are just some of the questions that come to my mind. But, in order to understand my point, we must first go through the following topics that influenced my statement:
Fantastic Matches, Iconic Rivalries & Memorable Moments In Another Great Year Of Wrestling
Throughout 2023, Stardom has once again delivered another fantastic year of high level matches and memorable moments like the ones we are used to. However, I dare to say that this year took the action to an even bigger level.
From the very first months of 2023, we were able to witness a lot of fantastic matches and very interesting storylines with deeper psychologies. Additionally, the introduction of new talents to the roster played a key role in offering more variety in the match cards, as well as giving more alternatives and opportunities to the rest of the talents.
The introduction of new talents, alongside more opportunities to emerging stars, helped to keep up the high-level standard in all the matches and storylines, even in complicated times like the wave of injuries that the promotion suffered in the final months of the year.
Even though we witnessed a lot of outstanding performances, I highly consider that Tam Nakano, Giulia, MIRAI, Maika, Saori Anou and Suzu Suzuki were the ones responsible of leading the path of success throughout the year, and possibly for the years to come.
Additionally, other talents like Ami Sohrei, Mina Shirakawa, Hazuki and the young rising star Hanan will surely be bringing the fight to all of them and will join the ones to watch list of 2024.
Suzu Suzuki, Saori Anou, Mei Seira & The Emergence Of Freelancer Talents In Stardom
Due to the pandemic, Stardom was for many years limited to the contracted talents of the roster and the new rookies from its dojo. However, now that things have returned to be the way they used to be, the promotion managed to sign some of the most interesting freelancer talents of the Japanese Indie scene, bringing more variety to the storylines and new faces for the championship picture.
The most important signings were undeniably Suzu Suzuki, Saori Anou and Mei Seira, who are all familiar to the promotion itself since they competed in the Stardom ring in the past.
Suzu started the year winning the inaugural Triangle Derby with PROMINENCE and challenging her former mentor and then World of Stardom Champion Giulia in a losing effort, to end the year winning the 5 Star GP and fighting for the Red Belt in the biggest event of the year.
Meanwhile, Saori reunited with her former partner and rival Natsupoi to join the COSMIC ANGELS unit, while also winning the Trios and Tag Team Titles and ending the year as the new Wonder of Stardom champion. And last but not least, Mei brought a new air to the Highspeed division and became the new Highspeed Champion just a few months after her arrival, while also pairing with Suzu as ‘Team Crazy Star’ and reaching the finals of the Goddess Tag League.
Undoubtedly, the irruption of these women brought more opportunities and variety to the Stardom roster. And, I am completely confident that the three of them will continue to elevate the bar and reach new heights in 2024.
The Arrival & Featuring Of New Overseas Stars In Stardom
Another important factor for Stardom’s huge success in 2023 was the inclusion of a huge variety of new overseas stars.
Even though the promotion is no stranger to feature international talents or have them aligned in the main units, this year saw more variety than ever with the arrival of new promising overseas prospects that boosted Stardom’s international expansion in big ways.
Throughout the year, we saw interesting talents such as now AEW star Mariah May, Xia Brookside, The Scandinavian Hurricane, ‘Megasus’ Megan Bayne and former WWE Superstar Mercedes Mone to name a few.
It is also important to mention that both Mariah May and Megan Bayne remained in Japan for some considerable months and even managed to win the Goddess Tag Titles.
All of this, alongside the showcasing of the IWGP & NJPW STRONG Women’s Titles and the changes in Bushiroad and NJPW managements, have given more importance to the goal of showcasing Stardom outside of Japan and reaching bigger international audiences from all over the world.
New Rookies & Better Development Of Younger Talents
I highly consider the Stardom dojo to be the founding place of some of the best pro wrestling talents in the entire world. Within the talents that trained there, we can name top stars the caliber of Kairi Sane, Mayu Iwatani, Utami Hayashishita, Maika, AZM and Starlight Kid.
Even though the previously mentioned talents are now top stars within the promotion, Stardom had a huge lack of new rookies and trainees ever since the pandemic started.
Until 2022, the only younger talent to join the Stardom dojo and then move on to make her debut was Miyu Amasaki, who impressed Queen’s Quest leader Utami Hayashishita and joined the unit after her first match. However, everything changed in 2023 with the introduction of numerous interesting prospects to the Stardom dojo.
Throughout the previous year, we saw the debuts of 5 new rookies: Aya Sakura, HANAKO, Yuzuki, Sayaka Kurara and Ranna Yagami. Even though the five of them are in the early stages of their careers, they have all proven to have what it takes to compete in the Stardom ring.
In addition to the new talents, the constant featuring of the Future of Stardom Title, currently held by Rina, and the introduction of the New Blood Tag Team Titles have boosted the amount of opportunities for this new rising stars.
For the past two years, Stardom and the rest of the Joshi Puroresu promotions in Japan have definitely been one of my main interests when it comes to pro wrestling.
I originally became a pro wrestling fan because of an extint local promotion from my home country, which then led me to discover WWE and realize how incredible the top leagues of pro wrestling are. After remaining an only-WWE fan for many years, I opened myself to other promotions when AEW appeared and realized that my passion was not WWE, but the sport of professional wrestling itself.
And it was thanks to my support on WWE and AEW that I grew closer to NJPW and then to the Joshi Promotions, with the last ones playing a key role in showing me that everyone despite their life story or gender could become a pro wrestling superstar.
Now specifically talking about Stardom, It wasn’t too long ago when I discovered the promotion, but the truth is that I still remain completely captivated with the product like the first day I watched one of their shows. I am also very glad to see how the promotion continues to grow and becomes more popular every day, and I definitely recommend it to everyone who is looking for high-level women’s wrestling matches.
So, with nothing else to say, I am fully confident that this new year will bring more success to the company and all the amazing talents on their roster, while also overcoming every odd that gets in the way to reach new levels of Superstardom.
Featured Image Credit – World Wonder Ring Stardom (STARDOM)/BUSHIROAD