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  1. This is Bito's return match after a 4 year absence. It was surprising to see just how competitive Bito was right from the start. She gets the early advantage on Hojo, staying threatening till the end. She did seem to run low on gas towards the end but the match layout covers for it by keeping the match moderately paced with high-impact strikes. Overall, a surprising strong return match and it will be interesting to see how Bito continues to develop during her return. ***1/2
  2. They work a 30 minute draw that never drags. While Satomura is terrific, it's Hojo's performance that really makes the match. Early on in the match, Hojo quickly establishes that she not afraid of going toe-to-toe with Meiko. She hits Satomura with a nasty backfist out of the opening collar & elbow, and breaks up a Boston Crab attempt with an even nastier slap. Of course, this doesn't always work out well for Hojo as she running into some nice submission counters and eating some really brutal looking shots. Around the halfway point though, you see Satomura start to get more aggressive. After Hojo rolls out of the ring, Meiko follows her out, drags her to the entrance, and then lands a DVD with a sickening thud. She follows that up great looking backdrop suplex and the best looking sleeper you'll see. Hojo sells all of this beautifully but still manages to keep fighting back. She never just pops up and goes on offense, she seems to slip through a crack in Satomura's attack and get back in control through her own sheer will. Just an amazing must see match. ****1/2
  3. I am SUPER high on this match. I thought it was so, so, so excellent. Amazing performances by both & great storytelling throughout the thing; loved Baszler establishing dominance with her MMA-esq work over Kairi. Her strikes were really great. Loved the arm work, that had such a charm to it - gave me some Billy Robinson vibes. Great stuff. Kairi's selling of that was great, as it was in general from start to finish - she showed such great heart & fire. Her countering that brutal arm work of Shayna's by going after her ribs was excellent & played well into the finish with her dropping that beautiful Elbow on her. Absolutely loved everything about this. The way the crowd got more & more into it as it went on was so awesome. Excellent package of pro wrestling. ****1/2
  4. I liked the work in this match. While it did lack a big narrative hook, they did a very nice job of progressively building up the offense in the match as they went along. There was a couple of nasty spots where Sane was off but they covered up for it in a way that didn't cause the match to lose momentum. Really entertaining even if it was a bit run of the mill for these two. ***1/2
  5. I have mixed feelings about this match. I thought the work here was really good but it lacked a real narrative hook to get you invested in what was going on. Pairing up two women who are strong faces in a WWE environment had a lot to do with that. Still, both women had strong performances. Especially Kai, whose selling was terrific and she really made her offense count. Very enjoyable but not something that I'd be going out of my way to see again anytime soon. ***1/2
  6. Coincidentally, these two were going to have a match last year in Stardom's 5*GP last year but Sane got injured and had to pull out. This was the best that I've seen Tessa look, mainly because she looked calm and focus rather than her typically being skittish. As a result, she ended up being a great showcase opponent for Sane because Kairi was able to just go through her regular routine and have it look good. Great TV main event. ***1/2
  7. Before this, I only knew Bianca Belair from some gifs I had seen on twitter, so I had no idea what to expect. Damn did her performance really blow me away; the match saw her really dominate Kairi until Kairi made her big comeback & won the thing. Kairi was obviously awesome, selling her ass off & her comebacks were really great, but goddamn, Bianca stole the show. Her work over Kairi was so great - all of her offense came off as very violent, I loved it. She laid all of her stuff in like a veteran. That hair gimmick was AWESOME. I also thought that she gave a very strong character performance - at first she was really cocky because she was dominating the tournament favorite, but as she wasn't being able to put her away, the frustration & desperation grew and all of that could be seen in her facial expressions & overall body language. The 450 was really cool & added to that, with her busting such a big move out to try & put Kairi away. Terrific performance. I just looked up on Cagematch and she has only been wrestling since September of 2016. Goddamn. There's some serious potential in there. This was great, great stuff. ****
  8. This is for BY Ho's Goddesses of Stardom tag titles as they are challenged by rising star Kyona and veteran freelancer Matsumoto. Like both of her other two title matches from earlier this year, the match is built around making Jungle Kyona look like a major player in the promotion. Again, while there are times where her work isn't smooth and her inexperience shows, she still manages to look like she can hold her own. Hiroyo looked great here too. It shows you how she's a super underrated tag worker she is when she already has two great tag title matches this year with completely different women in both matches. The finish is well done as the match is held in Kyona's hometown so the crowd really gets behind her during the nearfalls and the eventual win. ****1/4
  9. This is kind of two matches for the price of one as it starts out with the listed matchup but after a double countout, Konami asks for everyone to switch partners which leads to Hojo/Io vs. Konami/HZK. In that sense, the match does have a house show main event feel but the work here is still of high quality. Even after the partner switch up, both teams still work really well together. Nice to see that the novelty of the match produced a couple of quality matchups. ***3/4
  10. This is for Hojo's Wonder of Stardom title. Wow, there are a lot of streamers thrown during the intros. Probably the most for a non-retirement match that I've seen in a while. The match itself gets off to a rough start, quite a few awkward moments along with a forced crowd brawl that they only do so that Hojo can do a diving elbow off the back entrance. Things get much better when they start doing more focused body part work with Iwatani getting her back worked over and Hojo with her arm. In fact, the finish is great with Mayu trying to hit her finisher with a bad back. A solid last big title match for Hojo in Stardom. ***1/2
  11. Even though both women have titles at this time, this is a non-title match. The opening to this has some really good matwork as Hojo goes all shootstyle to try and counter Storm's British style. Things take a different turn in the middle of the match when Storm goes after Hojo with her butt attacks so Hojo decides to start working over her butt. This isn't a comedy spot, Hojo legitimately works over Storm's butt like it's her arm or back. It's weird. Still, if you get past that awkwardness, the rest of the match is really well worked. The nearfalls leading up to the draw are well worked but at fifteen minutes it is a bit short. ***1/2
  12. This is for Queen's Quest's Artists of Stardom Titles. This is yet another match in the line of smoothly worked QQ trios matches that have happened in the last few months. They control the match in the early going with some slick triple teams. The action is fairly quick throughout, even Mimura and AZM do a solid job working the finish. QQ cut off Mimura from the rest of her team and seemingly had the match won but Mimura gets surprise rollup on AZM to get the upset. ***1/2
  13. This is for Io's World of Stardom title as Hojo was the last woman to pin Io in a singles match back in the 5*GP last year. It's also almost exactly two years to the day that Hojo beat Io for the then vacant title that started her rise in Stardom. I really like the opening sequences in the match as they established the Io was seemingly always a step ahead of Hojo. They also play off of their last match a fair bit as they tease the ganso bomb type move off of the apron a few times and Hojo takes control of the match by working over Io's back. I was surprised that the finish wasn't nearly as elaborate as you would expect between these two it came off as simple compared other big joshi title matches. Still this is a great match and most likely the end of their rivalry in Stardom at least, with Hojo stating that she wants it to go to the "next level." ****
  14. This is a second round match of the Cinderella tournament. Another strong showing for HZK. Her offense isn't flashy but she's getting smarter at knowing how to use it and her heel persona effective. Hojo gives her a lot here as HZK controls most of the match and Hojo has to earn all of her comebacks. Even the draw finish makes HZK look good as she gets a bit to cocky leading her to hit finisher too late but still could have finished off Hojo. Another strong short match from this show. ***1/2
  15. Wonder of Stardom Championship: Kairi Hojo © vs. Hana Kimura This was Hojo's homecoming so the crowd is extremely pro-Hojo, so much so that they boo Hana-chan's dancing! This was 20 minutes and a good chunk of that is Hana dominating. She takes Hojo on a tour around the arena, kicking her down a long flight of stairs and choking her in front of school students. A lot of stomping and foot-choking and lewd dancing. It gets tedious after a while, but Hana draws a ton of hate, and the crowd wants the Hojo comeback badly. I liked the slap exchange, although Hana had some timing issues, she caught Hojo with a couple of stiff ones. Hikari was really soaking this in -- it's not often that a modern joshi crowd gets this riled up by heel work -- but the action was nothing special, and rough around the edges at times. ***
  16. Wonder of Stardom Championship: Kairi Hojo © vs. Konami Konami is such a fascinating character. Outside of the ring, she's a UFO enthusiast who vlogs about eating 'shit curry', but in-ring she is reserved, focused and rarely makes a sound. This was such an amazing sequel to their match at WILD HERO 2. Konami picks apart Hojo's limbs with hellish kicks and submission holds; arm, leg, whichever she can get access to. Hojo was in shambles by the end of this, she sold everything wonderfully, and her comebacks were hard-hitting and hard-fought. It's so nice to see that signing with WWE hasn't stopped her from taking crazy bumps like the neck-drop she takes on the German suplex; she puts her all into her performances. ****1/2
  17. 5★STAR Grand Prix Blue Stars Block: Kairi Hojo vs. KAORU KAORU was working old school heel style; arrogant, calculative, methodical, but she's a high flyer too and was quick to remind Hojo of that whenever the Real Pirate tried to get flashy. Hojo would dig down deep for her comebacks, super motivated to advance to the finals of the tournament, but KAORU's thick slab of wood was always there to stop her progression. Simple, effective storytelling. There's a gruesome spot where KAORU counters Hojo's diving forearm by batting her out of the air with the wood. Hojo gets struck on the arm and rolls to the outside writhing and screaming in agony. Some great mature woman heel work that makes Hojo's victory a satisfying one. ***1/2
  18. This is a battle of semi-regular tag partners and Chelsea's first title match. This actually starts out with some solid chain wrestling, which is something that you wouldn't expect from these two. Chelsea breaks out some neat offense and does a good job of trying to neutralize Hojo's elbow-based offense with armwork. Hojo is great at selling Chelsea's offense and making it seem like she is real threat till the end. A quality, main event title match. ***1/2
  19. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efiCL-ZrQ_U This is a rematch of their match from last March for the then vacant World of Stardom Title. These two don't waste time going as they go right at each other right at the bell exchanging nasty strikes and holds. The middle portion of the match is really well done with focused offense from both women as well as some solid transitions to keep the action going back and forth. The match does go a bit long, (and that with some slight editing done to the TV version) as your left kind of waiting for them to pick it up toward the end. The finish itself leans away from the main part of the match as it turns into more a standard pro wrestling finish which is something they didn't really work earlier on. Still, this highly entertaining even while it overextends itself a bit. *** 3/4
  20. This is another match between the top two women in Stardom, the third in 17 months. To be honest, I feel that this is the best match that these two have had so far, although I haven't been that high on their other matches. The main story of the match is Hojo working over Io's back like her other opponents had in earlier matches. Io decides to fire back with some big time offense, including the infamous piledriver/powerbomb to the floor. Hojo's strategy ends up working in the end as she hits all of her big moves while targeting Io's back, finishing her off with a cross-legged crab hold for the win. ****
  21. This is for the Wonder of Stardom title and also Newell's only single's match during this tour. Like Ray/Kyona, I thought this would also be a styles clash as what I had seen of Newell before this she was more about a fast pace and highspots. She seemed like a better matchup for Io or Iwatani than Hojo. I was glad I was wrong, because this turned out to be much different than what I was expecting and it was damn good too. They get to the main story of the match right away as Newell blocks an early Sliding D attempt from Hojo by kicking at her elbow. Newell then focuses on the arm in a nice Finlayesque fashion by wrenching and stomping on it. Hojo manages to counter the arm work by going after one of Newell's knees. The match then turns into a contest of who gut her way through working with a bad limb in order to hit her big moves to get the win. It was great for Hojo to put over Newell strong in the post-match although she almost spills that Newell is WWE bound. ***3/4
  22. This is for Hojo's Wonder of Stardom title (White Belt) and is Kyona's second title shot in less than a month. It's clear from the early going that the intent of this match is to make Kyona more of a potential threat to the top girls in Stardom and it definitely succeeds in that regard. From the very start Kyona shows little fear of going toe-to-toe with Hojo, even managing to hold her own in strike exchanges. Hojo herself does a great job of putting over Kyona's performance. She goes from confident veteran showing no fear of what Kyona has to offer to realizing that she is going to have to hit all of her big moves if she is going to retain. Just an excellent, well built match that builds on the star potential of Jungle Kyona. ****
  23. This is the main event of Stardom first show of the year with the new tag champs, Hojo and Bito, taking on Io and her Queen's Quest partner HZK. The QQ duo control the early going with some effective bullying tactics, managing to cut off the ring on both Hojo and Bito at separate times. HZK looked solid working as a heel and was fine holding her own during the finish although she should try to develop her own shtick rather than aping Yoshiko. Io and Hojo carry the the finish of the match. The two of them continue to have fantastic chemistry together. A high quality main event to start off the year for Stardom. ***3/4
  24. This is a rematch of the February title match that these two had. These two had been a bit disappointing when working together when you consider that you had one of the best joshi workers of 2015 taking on one of the best women on the indies but I thought this was easily their best match together. Santana had her best performance in Stardom. Most notably, she did a great job of holding the match together when Hojo messed up a couple of spots. Other than the miscues, I thought Hojo was pretty good. I like how she mixed in submissions when Santana was getting the advantage in order to try and slow her down. The finish was well worked as Hojo was able to survive all of Santana's finishers in a reasonable way as to make her own comeback for the win seem realistic. ****
  25. This is a very fun, U.S. style tag match. The Owens twins are both solid here and do a good job of playing heels. Both of the Stardom women play good babyfaces. Timing their comebacks well and doing a strong job of keeping the crowd into the match the whole time. Entertaining stuff. ***1/2
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