It’s time to start digging into the fun part of the year and that is when we look back at the best of the best from Stardom. This time, we’re looking at the ten best matches from 2022. Stardom put on a lot of great matches this year so narrowing it down to ten was rather difficult, but suffice it to say that these matches were the cream of the crop of this year. Before I get into the bulk of the article, here are a couple of honourable mentions that were absolutely phenomenal but didn’t quite make my top 10 matches.
Mayu Iwatani vs Utami Hayashishita | 23rd October
Natsupoi vs Saya Kamitani | 23rd Febuery
Giulia vs Suzu Suzuki | 1st October
Those three matches were just shy of making it into my top 10 for this year but they were all phenomenal matches. If the other matches weren’t as good as they were, then they easily would have made it into my top 10. So, that said, look them up and enjoy them just like I hope you look up and check out the actual top 10. Speaking of, let’s jump into this and get it going, shall we?
#10. Giulia vs Tam Nakano | 5 Star Grand Prix Finale | 1st October 2022
Tam Nakano and Giulia kick off the list with their match from the Finale of this year’s 5 Star Grand Prix. This was one hell of a match, it even topped last year’s finale of Syuri vs Momo Watanabe. Giulia and Tam took each other to task, continuing their prolonged feud in stunning fashion.
I personally was saddened that Giulia won over Tam, but I can’t complain about it too much. Giulia is a great talent and deserved this win, but so did Nakano. Let’s run this back in 2023 and this time put the Red Belt on the line for it.. provided that Giulia defeats Syuri on 29th December.
#9. Mayu Iwatani vs Utami Hayashishita | Goddesses Of Stardom Tag League 2022 | 23rd October 2022
Mayu Iwatani faced off against Utami Hayashishita on October 23rd and this match was an absolute banger. Utami Hayashishita confidently works on Mayu Iwatani’s back and Mayu Iwatani fights underneath until her comeback. Their desperation builds to a crescendo and in the end, they are doing everything in their power to win this match.
Iwatani reversing Utami Hayashishita’s Hi-Jack Powerbomb (the same move that costs her the red belt) with a Hurricanrana almost leading her to win is awesome. Mayu Iwatani tries to hit her Double Jump Poison Rana but Utami Hayashishita saw it coming and avoids it (unlike Momo Watanabe). Awesome ending as well with Mayu Iwatani hitting two Moonsault to take Hayashishita away. Just an absolutely insane match folks.
#8. Giulia vs Mayu Iwatani | Stardom Nagoya Supreme Fight | 29th January 2022
In a number one contender’s match for Syuri, Mayu Iwatani and Giulia battled to a 30-minute time-limit draw and my god was it brutal. These two just beat the ever-living hell out of each other and it culminated with no one being able to definitively get the win. This was an insanely good time-limit draw and it’s one we weren’t even supposed to get.
Stardom has a tendency to overuse draws but here there was a gradual increase in tension as the match went on and it felt like either woman could win up until the end. Giulia gave her best performance ever and Mayu Iwatani continues to show why she’s one of the best wrestlers in the world today.
#7. Syuri vs Utami Hayashishita | Stardom Gold Rush | 19th November 2022
Syuri and Utami are monsters of stamina, endurance and bumping technique, and they are great rivals despite their wide generational gap. While the previous title matches between these two were on an even footing, here Utami always seemed one step ahead, with a pin-point attack on the neck, and Syuri was on the defensive. Syuri had to dig deep and use the depth of her wrestling to win. Utami having matches of this calibre at her age and experience level will never cease to amaze me. Whether you wanna believe it or not, Syuri and Utami in big match situations will always deliver when called upon.
#6. Giulia vs Starlight Kid | Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix | 27th August 2022
Giulia brought the fight to Starlight Kid early and neither competitor even considered pressing the brakes until the shocking ending transpired. The headbutts were insane, especially considering they were used as key elements of the story at large. The counter-wrestling was crisp, including the final sequence that made me jump out of my seat. The undying ego of Starlight Kid was on clear display, especially in the shocking kick-out moment that said all you need to know about whether or not her mental approach has aligned with her pride.
The moves themselves were insane, as was the pace that made 11 and a half minutes feel like 25. The final few minutes were brilliant, as both wrote their own stories to perfection. The aforementioned pride of Starlight Kid. The unfiltered arrogance of Giulia. Both result in openings for the other to exploit. Both shine through in the closing seconds, including the fall itself. The wrestling was great on its own, but the story was the true main event.
#5. AZM vs Mei Suruga | Cinderella Tournament 2022 Final | 29th April 2022
This was an outstanding match. Mei Suruga is absolutely brilliant. There was a great mix of high-speed action and comedy spots from Mei. Mei using hair manipulation against AZM was so funny. Every sequence was fun in one way or another. I loved the referee misdirection spot. The action went to the outside and it was even more fun. Mei hit a crossbody with assistance from the ring post and AZM hit a killer-looking dive off the top rope.
Sweet-looking double stomps from both girls. There was even some arm psychology as both women were weakening each other for their respective submissions. I adored Mei trying to twist AZM’s arm off a la Zack Sabre Jr. They had an adrenaline rush of reversals, pin techniques and creative rollups. You never knew which one would end the match and that’s what we want from a High-Speed title defence.
#4. Tam Nakano vs Saya Kamitani | World Climax Night 2 – The Top
A very tough fight paying homage to strong style. Falls on the neck and blows to the head caused harsh emotions. The girls showed a perfect match where there is everything, history, drama, contradictions of views on wrestling and of course passion for this sport. What kind of girls are well done and it is such participants who build the legacy of women’s sports.
The ring is honour and glory, and the best come out here to illuminate it and our souls. One of the best matches of the year in the women’s division no matter the company. Tam Nakano and Saya Kamitani always bring out the best in each other and this was just another phenomenal match between these two.
#3. Mayu Iwatani vs Starlight Kid | 5 STAR Grand Prix 2022
This was the one match for the 5 Star Grand Prix this year that I was most looking forward to. To understand the complete greatness of this match, you first must understand the story and why this match was nearly perfect. All Starlight Kid wants to do in her career is reach the level of Mayu Iwatani. The only way she can do that is by beating her. And as this match gets going and Mayu begins to realize how much SLK has improved since the last time they met, you see the greatness unfold.
This is the match from this show that will be talked about five or six years down the line. It’s that important to the story of Starlight Kid and who she is on her way to becoming. Fantastic stuff and one of the best matches of the year.
#2. AZM vs Starlight Kid | Cinderella Journey In Nagaoka | 23rd February 2022
A generational rivalry can not only define two individuals, teams, or factions but it can also define a promotion, let alone a generation. AZM and Kid have had many good to great battles in the past and their story is documented but the reason why I feel this is the best match of theirs to date is that the tone of the match was set from the very beginning. Two different characters that have had a competitive bond for years since they were kids fought once again for the title they defined and the similar goal they still hold: being the best wrestler of their era.
The many fans that grew up with AZM and Kid so much that they have now matured to being great, well-rounded workers recognize how much emotion and defiance they placed here. There is no doubt of the statement when people claim that Starlight Kid and AZM are the best wrestlers of their youth/generation and it is pretty hard to disagree because watching this match, you believe it. They will have many more battles down the road but this match, in particular, was a watershed moment to how far they have come and how much left they still have to conquer.
#1. KAIRI vs Mayu Iwatani | NJPW/Stardom Historic X-Over
There are so many reasons why this match is my match of the year for Stardom. The history that was made by these two was just so perfect for two of the greatest women in Stardom’s history. They were the first women to main event a New Japan show. They were the first women to battle for the IWGP Women’s Championship. What more do you want for a match that features two of the three daughters of Stardom?
Big Match Mayu never fails to show up when needed and Kairi meets her every step of the way in a match laced with drama and violence. Here the big hits are bolstered by phenomenal selling that repeatedly shows the accumulative damage and the toll that’s taking on both performers (something we could have had far more of in the co-main event; Ospreay is phenomenal but he consistently falls prey to selling for minutes and then being immediately fine).
There are also quality callbacks to previous matches between the two of them, the best use of ‘Zombie Mayu’ ever and all these factors are aided by god-tier camera work that shows how every element possible is being used to tell the story (for instance, watch Mayu’s second Koguma and Comomo from about the 20-minute mark onwards and how they help enhance the story). Kairi has said in the past that one of her wrestling idols is Akira Hokuto and she is truly channelling her in this match; eking out every ounce of emotion from the action and making sure everything is utterly dramatic.
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