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  1. This was quite the way to end the Stardom/Sendai Girls feud, or at least for now. Story of the match has Io constantly getting drilled by Meiko but still managing to get in some comeback and slowly chip away at Satomura. The strikes here are just nasty, maybe it was the way that the sound was setup but you could hear pretty much every shot the whole match. Wasn't crazy about some of Io's selling on her comebacks, she hit some big stuff a little too easily. Still an awesome way to end the year for Shirai, who is my personal woman wrestler of the year. ****
  2. This was so much better than I was expecting it to be. I remember being cold on Raquel before she got repackaged and she was working mostly Florida live event as Reina Gonzalez. She never really stood out and was always much bigger than most of the other women on the roster but she seemed to be afraid to work like a big girl. Since being repackaged and paired up with Dakota Kai, she's been great. I would have preferred if this was more of a David vs. Goliath type match with Raquel working on top for the most part and Io getting sprints in of her flashy offense instead of having Io work on top for most of the match but I still think this was good as Io went balls to the wall here and busted out some wild stuff such as the neat armdrag from the 619 and the big dive off the top of the skull from the entrance. Dug Raquel rushing to the outside after the moonsault and that lariat after the palm strike was a fantastic way to setup the finish. I'm not a massive fan of Io but this maybe the best singles match I've seen her have in NXT this far.
  3. This is the rematch of the close title match that these two had in May. The big difference here is that Io turned on her Thunder Rock partner Mayu and switched the competitive teacher/student rivalry into something more bitter. I really liked the approach that both took out of the gate. Iwatani tries to be the aggressor by trying to hit some big offense early. Io takes a more methodical approach, looking to try take Mayu down to grind on her in an effort to slow her down. Io's leg work was really good but unfortunately Iwatani was very selective on how she sold it. This does eventually turn into a bombfest, with Io always seeming to be either just smart or just tough enough to keep Iwatani from finishing her off. The finishing sequence was spectacular but I felt that some of the transitions during it were weak which lessen the effect of the moves being hit. Not quite the MOTYC that their May match was but still a great spectacle on its own. ****
  4. This is for Io's World of Stardom title (Red Belt) and if she's successful in defending it she will break her own record of title defenses. Io does a fantastic job of putting over Baszler as serious threat. She bumps and sells incredibly well for Baszler's power offense and submissions. I felt Baszler held up her end of the match fairly well. She has always carries herself well but her in-ring is inconsistent. In this match, her offense looked good and flowed nicely plus her selling was solid. The finish was a bit weird though. Baszler seemingly puts Io out with a sleeper but the ref makes her break the hold which didn't make any sense since that's exactly how Baszler won a trios match at the last show. Other than that, this was great match with probably the best performance from Io in awhile. ****1/4
  5. This is Io Shirai's last match in Stardom before leaving to go to the WWE. This match is a bit hard to judge since while they work in some fun, lighthearted spots into the middle of the match that is mostly serious and competitive. When they are being serious no one lets up at all. Each one of them work really stiff. Io and Mayu do work in some old Thunder Rock spots in the finishing run. Overall, the match is a mixed bag but is still incredibly entertaining. ***3/4
  6. This is Io Shirai's last match in Sendai Girls. She's teaming with DASH Chisako, who she had a tag team rivalry with (each woman teamed with their sister) early on in their careers. These Senjo/Stardom tags are almost always great and this is no exception. The first half of the match has some really good back and forth between both teams before focusing on Chihiro/DASH. I wish DASH had gotten in a few nearfalls during the finishing stretch to set up her and Chihiro's upcoming title match better. Still, great stuff despite the bit of a flat ending. ****
  7. A nice touch here as they added Mio Shirai as the ref for this match after Io announced that she was leaving Stardom. This is pretty much a standard three way although they did there best to minimize the typical drawbacks that this type of match. All three of them worked really stiff, especially Meiko, and busted out a few neat, different spots. At the same time though, they don't try to take the match to a level that it would be something special. Just solid performances all around. ***1/2
  8. This was a special challenge match to setup the Apache sisters challenging for the Goddesses of Stardom titles at the end of the month. They come off looking really strong here as they show off a strong mix of lucha style spots with some real hard hitting strikes. HZK takes the brunt of the Apache's offense, including a couple of nasty figure four variations from Faby. They also work together to contain Io. Overall, just a great showcase for what the Apache's can do. ***3/4
  9. This is a prelude to the Io/Momo title match that would be happening a few days later. If your looking for a new "Kick the shit out of your opponent" tag team then you'll want to check out Momo and Konami. They put a beating on AZM to the point that AZM's screams start to get a bit unsettling and they are not afraid to take to Io either. In the end, the match actually ends up being fairly one sided as Io/AZM never really get any momentum in the match. Still a well worth a watch given the display that Momo/Konami put on. ***3/4
  10. No real build for this match but these two just match up so well naturally I don't think anyone will complain. This opens up with some very nice matwork that both of them use to set up each of their main offense. The main body of the match has a tremendous flow to it. There is a fair bit of back and forth but the transitions are done so well that it never comes off as spotty. The finish worked because they were just in the middle of a finishing run so the draw felt natural. Just a phenomenal match. ****1/2
  11. Loser Leaves Unit - Gauntlet: Oedo Tai (Kris Wolf, Sumire Natsu, Kagetsu, Hana Kimura & Tam Nakano) vs. Queen's Quest (AZM, Io Shirai, Viper, HZK & Momo Watanabe) This was an amazing match, the stakes are high and you can feel the tension. Sumire's sleazy heel character has quickly become one of my favorite things in Stardom - she was so good in this. The Kagetsu-Viper segment had breathtaking spots, and Hana-HZK was a heated back and forth that ends with an insane bump. The final between Momo and Tamu was rough at times, but they fought with a lot of heart and the crowd was hot. ****1/4
  12. Well, I think that match worked as a spectacle but that's pretty much it. The build to the first bat shot was well done. It was shocking when Kagetsu hit Io with the bat because I was expecting Io to avoid it at least one more time before it hit. I'm not death match expert, but I don't understand how the second bat shot didn't directly lead to the finish. Especially after Natsu sold it like she was done only for everyone else to just start working like it was a finish to a regular tag match. I don't know, I guess just find gifs of the bat shots and that's really all that you need to see.
  13. This is for Queen's Quest's Artists of Stardom titles. As someone who was never enjoyed this feud, I was surprised that I ended up liking this as much as I did. This was one of the rare times that Oedo Tai's heel shtick worked well within a match. They also manage to work some nice sequences and pulled off some nice double teams. QQ were also able to give their typical trios level performance because they weren't weighed down by Oedo Tai's antics. A much better match than the overrated elimination match from the week before. ***3/4
  14. This match is for Io's Wonder of Stardom title as she takes on Shimmer champion Nicole Savoy. Savoy hasn't really stood out during this tour but she's not the type of worker that is going to shine in a tag as much as singles. She was fantastic here as she was finally able to show off what she could do in a high profile setting. Savoy's working over Io's arms was great as she would switch which arm she was working over whenever Io would get over defensive on one of them. In response, Io has to take more big risks earlier in the match in order to regain control then takes a shortcut of attacking Savoy's knee, removing her knee brace. I do wish that the finishing stretch was a bit longer as it seems like Io puts Savoy away a little too easily after a such a competitive match. Still, the match as a whole was great, especially as a showcase of what Nicole Savoy can do. ****1/4
  15. Wonder of Stardom Championship: Io Shirai © vs. HZK This is the third match between these two this year, and I thought it was the best of the three. This was an intense back and forth with amazing bumps and counters. Io has been doing a great job of keeping herself fresh lately, she has been finding new approaches to her matches and I thought she was interesting here. HZK's growth was on full display. ***1/2
  16. I'm really enjoying how different joshi group are doing odes to early 90's AJW comm tape main-events. No one in particular has a stand out performance, what makes the match really work is just how well everybody works together with one another. Meiko and Chihiro continuing their feud was a highlight. This match also makes you wish that Stardom would get their head out of their butt and final book a Io/Hiroyo singles match. This is another match in the recent run of very good/great random main-eventer tag matches. ****
  17. Hard to believe that this is the first singles title match that Io has had in five months. I found the way that these two worked this match to be really interesting. Bito's whole approach to the match was to use some really grinding matwork in order to slow Io down so that she could hit her strikes and big moves. In return, Io has to tries to maximize any opportunity that she has to pick up the pace. There were a couple of rough spots during the finish, notable the two of them trying to pull off the old 'rana counter to the Die Hard Kansai, but nothing that really hurt the match. Overall, this was the second straight awesome Korakuen main event for Bito and it's as great as any of Io's other matches from earlier in the year. ****1/4
  18. Io and HZK have been the only team to consistently have watchable matches in this Stardom Tag League. Surprisingly though, this was their best match of the tournament against AZM and Kid. It's getting to be kinda of freaky to see how much better AZM is when she's in the ring with her QQ teammates as opposed to being in there by herself. Even Starlight Kid looked solid, not the typical young who is just going to do a bunch of flippy stuff in a sloppy manner. A very fun match. ***3/4
  19. This match came about after Oedo Tai win over Queen's Quest at the last Stardom Korakuen Hall show and is the main event of Kagetsu's self-produced show. This really felt like a touring champion taking on the local star type match. Io controls most of the match by working over Kagetsu's neck, forcing Kagetsu to go all in with big moves in order to stay in the match. They do a great job of ramping things up during the stretch run to provide an exciting finish. Easily Io's best match since her return in August. ****
  20. World of Stardom Championship: Io Shirai © vs. Mayu Iwatani This was a great match, but never reached that next level due to Io's selective selling of the neck. There are moments where she collapses due to her bad neck, followed by moments where she's jumping around, throwing German suplexes without so much as wincing. I thought it made the match less compelling, and Mayu's big moment didn't feel as grand because of it. But, there is a lot to be enjoyed here, like Mayu's tombstone! I hope she adopts it in tribute to Io. ***1/2
  21. Hey, remember when Stardom use to have really good tag/trios matches on their house shows. This was a flashback to more enjoyable times with this match. QQ cut off the ring on Kyona and do a good job with working her over. The best part of this match is how Kyona never really spends enough time out of the match to truly recover from the beating she took early on. She's able to hang in there for most of the match but QQ keep knocking Bito out of the picture eventually hitting a Bombs Away/Moonsault combo for the win. ***3/4
  22. This is my favourite match between these two so far. Ray's strikes were pretty good as she threw out some nasty forearms and overhand, slap style chops. She also had some nifty cutoffs to Io's comeback attempts. Io is finally able to get some momentum going after Ray's leg and teases the Texas Cloverleaf. The do a neat finish where Ray makes the fatal mistake of blocking an Io moonsault with her bad leg, which eventually leads to Ray taking too long to hit a swanton allowing Io to lock on the Cloverleaf for the win. Good stuff! ***3/4
  23. 5★STAR GP Blue Stars Block: Io Shirai vs. Jungle Kyona Io's injured neck is the MVP of this tournament! I'm liking the matches being built around it so far. Kyona brought her wild energy as the aggressor. Io was bumping hard, and there were nifty spots, like the tombstone counters and Io's springboard dropkick sequence. ***3/4
  24. Goddesses of Stardom Championship: Oedo Tai (Hana Kimura & Kagetsu) © vs. Queen's Quest (Io Shirai & Viper) Oedo Tai's heel tactics™, Io's peril session, Viper's hot tag and chemistry with Kagetsu -- all solid. I still don't like Viper as a member of QQ. She's the same Viper! She's made little effort to fit in with the group. ***1/2
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