World Wonder Ring Stardom’s annual round robin tournament has begun. My plan for this year is to watch every single match and to hopefully review and critique the tournament as it progresses. There are a ton of matches involved, and it promises to be an exciting tournament.
The GP is split into two blocks of 13 wrestlers each.
- Mayu Iwatani (STARS) – SWA Champion [international belt]
- Giulia (Donna Del Mondo)
- Saya Kamitani (Queen’s Quest) – Wonder of Stardom Champion [white belt]
- Momo Watanabe (Oedo Tai) – Artist of Stardom Champion [trios belt]
- Starlight Kid (Oedo Tai) – Artist of Stardom Champion [trios belt]
- Hazuki (STARS) – Goddess of Stardom Champion [tag belt]
- Saya Iida (STARS)
- Natsupoi (Cosmic Angels)
- Mina Shirakawa (Cosmic Angels)
- Hanan (STARS) – Future of Stardom Champion [rookie belt]
- MIRAI (God’s Eye)
- Ami Sorei (God’s Eye)
- Suzu Suzuki (Prominence) – Regina Di WAVE Champion [WAVE promotion title]
- Syuri (God’s Eye) – World of Stardom Champion [red belt]
- Tam Nakano (Cosmic Angels)
- Utami Hayashishita (Queen’s Quest)
- AZM (Queen’s Quest) – High Speed Champion [her belt]
- Koguma (STARS) – Goddess of Stardom Champion [tag belt]
- Maika (Donna Del Mondo)
- Himeka (Donna Del Mondo)
- Unagi Sayaka (Cosmic Angels)
- Saki Kashima (Oedo Tai)
- Mai Sakurai (Donna Del Mondo)
- Risa Sera (Prominence)
- SAKI (COLOR’s/Cosmic Angels)
- Momo Kohgo (STARS)
Each competitor will face off against each wrestler in their block and gain points for victories and draws (nothing for a loss). The winners of the blocks will then fight each other to be crowned champion and get a shot at the World of Stardom Championship (red belt).
It is a prestigious tournament and previous winners have done incredibly well from winning. Interestingly, no one has yet to win the tournament twice. There is potential for that to occur this year as previous winners include Syuri, Utami Hayashishita and Mayu Iwatani. Looking at the tournament objectively I’m going to try and break down what I think will happen and try to predict who will win (I will also cheat and pick multiple winners, as is writer’s prerogative).
The Probably Nots
Tournaments can elevate a wrestler so looking at it from a booking point of view there are clearly people who do not need elevating or would not benefit greatly from winning. Syuri is the first glaring example. The winner gets a shot at the red belt which she holds, and doesn’t look like dropping any time soon. So if she was to win what would the outcome be for her? To challenge for the white belt and have both? She is already an incredibly dominant and credible champion and winning would not benefit her that much.
The other wrestler who could be in the opening match for the rest of her career but still be a beloved legend within the company is Mayu Iwatani. I think the only reason for her to win is to give her the distinction of being the first person to win it twice, and that would be a waste of an incredibly stacked tournament. I think that outcome is pretty low.
The next step in eliminating possible winners is to look at the rookies, the ones who just about scraped getting in. Momo Kohgo is a late replacement for Thekla due to injury. I think she has a positive showing as her progress is really showing lately. At most she is getting one or two victories, and looking at her block I’m struggling to see who she could legitimately pin (SAKI?). Mai Sakura, Saki Kashima, Unagi Sayaka, Mina Shirakawa, Saya Iida, Hanan, and possibly Ami Sorei are not getting anywhere near the top. There will probably be some flash pins from Saki (against Syuri would be amazing). But their stories are more about the individual effort they can show. Can Unagi do well against her Cosmic Angels teammates? Can Hanan show her improvement and last against Giulia? For me, these will be the interesting matches as the outcomes are pretty much nailed on, but it will be exciting to see what they do with the opportunity.
The two Prominence wrestlers, Risa Sera and Suzu Suzuki I think will do incredibly well. They’ve picked some victories up whilst being in Stardom and even being allowed to have a hardcore match (with barbed wire kendo sticks). I don’t think either will win as outsiders but both will be in contention until near the end.
Now we look at the upper midcard who really shouldn’t win, but conversely could win, and if they did would probably do really well and make me think that Rossy has access to a crystal ball. Recently Natsupoi and Tam Nakano had a three match series which developed out of relatively nowhere. Strangely the first match was a cage match and what followed was one of the most intriguing and engrossing three match series I’ve seen in a long time. Natsupoi defected from DDM to Cosmic Angels and Tam looked like an absolute boss. Before the matches happened it just seemed a very odd booking decision but after seeing it play out, I’m learning to have faith and to trust the process more.
I would put into this group: Natsupoi, Himeka, Maika, Koguma, AZM, and Starlight Kid. All are incredibly talented, on the up and improving all the time and have the potential to carry the red belt at some point in their career. My preferred outcome for the tournament is a winner to come from any of these. My dark horse pick is AZM. She has been in the tournament previously and shown she can compete throughout and be counted on to work the schedule. Incredible talent and her ceiling just seems to get higher every year.
The final group is the established upper card workers. All could win the red belt tomorrow and straight away be a credible champion: Giulia, Saya Kamitani, Momo Watanabe, Hazuki, MIRAI, Tam Nakano and Utami Hayashishita. I think this is where the champion is going to come from this year. Interestingly most are in the blue block. Syuri has been on an absolute tear with the red belt and looked dominant and commanding in all her victories. It is going to need an absolutely monumental effort in order to overcome her to win the red belt. The question is will Rossy want to build up a new rising star or reaffirm an existing one? Giving MIRAI or Saya Kamitani the nod versus Giulia or Tam Nakano.
Dark horse: AZM – Even though she has been wrestling for longer than most on the current roster, she is still very young. Is there a need for her to win so soon when the roster is so deep?
Prediction: Utami Hayashishita. Has been relatively quiet recently. Cemented herself as the leader of Queen’s Quest and what way to re-establish the group as to dethrone Syuri and have your faction control both the red and white belt?