World Wonder Ring Stardom: A Beginner’s Guide To Joshi Puroresu

World Wonder Ring Stardom is currently the largest joshi puroresu company in Japan, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon. It’s grown incredibly fast (over the past year especially), with easily available English-subtitled content on their digital streaming platform (Stardom World), and a roster full of young and extremely talented women, Stardom is becoming impossible to ignore for professional wrestling fans around the world.

Stardom started in 2011, but the company has gone through many changes in a short period of time. Stardom in 2019 is a completely different company than it was just two years ago, so there really isn’t anything you’d need to know to be able to jump right in. So no excuses–it’s time to add World Wonder Ring Stardom to your list of wrestling companies to watch.

Stardom has four factions that claim most of the wrestlers in the promotion: STARS, Oedo Tai, Tokyo Cyber Squad, and Queen’s Quest. The big four determine not only who the wrestlers interact with over the course of the year, but also dictate a big part of their demeanor. What’s the difference between the factions?

  • STARS is your babyface* group. Led by Mayu Iwatani, STARS wants to win by trying hard and following the rules.
  • Oedo Tai is your (comedy) heel* group. Headed up by Kagetsu, Oedo Tai wants to mess with people BEFORE beating their ass.
  • Tokyo Cyber Squad is a chaotic neutral group. Spearheaded by Hana Kimura, they’re a group that thrives on their individualism & that looks to disrupt the Stardom status quo.
  • Queen’s Quest is a cocky tweener* group. Headed by Momo Watanabe, QQ wants others to bow down before them.

*Stardom doesn’t exactly have babyfaces, heels, tweeners, etc. in the traditional sense. The women make a commission based on their own merch sales. So instead of working the traditional face/heel trope, each wrestler feels unique, which will most certainly feel like a breath of fresh air to a lot of people.

Hana Kimura leads Tokyo Cyber Squad, the newest faction in Stardom.
Hana Kimura leads Tokyo Cyber Squad, the newest faction in Stardom.

In 2018, Stardom instituted an annual draft where the leaders of the four factions select from a pool of free agents (every wrestler in the company). In the 2019 draft, the faction JAN (formerly lead by Jungle Kyona) was disbanded, and from its ashes arose Tokyo Cyber Squad (lead by Hana Kimura). The draft is very big deal. It shapes the entire landscape for the year ahead.

Now, who exactly is in each faction? Let’s take a look:

One of the best things about Stardom is that most of the roster has been elevated to the point where nearly every woman could be considered a legitimate contender for any championship in the company.

All the championships currently available in Stardom.
All the championships currently available in Stardom.

Stardom has an astronomical amount of championships for a company that usually features around 35 to 40 wrestlers on their roster in any given year. Since Stardom’s gates and merch sales mean everything to the company’s bottom line, the idea is that more titles allow for more championship matches on shows, which in turn makes it easier to sell tickets.

Let’s break down all seven championships in Stardom:

  • World of Stardom (Red Belt): Traditionally the top belt in Stardom
  • Wonder of Stardom (White Belt): The “secondary” belt in Stardom – though many could argue it’s currently the top belt
  • Goddesses of Stardom: Stardom’s tag team belts
  • Artist of Stardom: Stardom’s trios championship belts
  • High Speed: A belt meant for faster-paced matches–formerly held by Hazuki. She made her own rules, one of which required a wrestler to have a six pack (abs) to challenge for the belt
  • SWA: The international belt. The challenger must be from a different country than the current title holder. Usually meant for gaijins on tour with Stardom
  • Future of Stardom: A belt meant for rising talent in the promotion. Wrestlers must be under 20 years old OR have less than two years of experience

Hysterically, one wrestler, Utami Hayashishita, held 40% of the titles by herself this past year. World Wonder Ring Stardom isn’t afraid to put multiple titles on their wrestlers, or for them to win multiple big events in a single year.

One of Stardom's biggest events of the year, the 5 Star Grand Prix.
One of Stardom’s biggest events of the year, the 5 Star Grand Prix.

Just like any other professional wrestling company, Stardom runs special yearly events that attract many eyes to the spectacle of it all. Most of these events are tournaments, but they vary between single-elimination and round-robin. But sometimes they just drop the tournament brackets all together. Sound weird? It’s not, once you know…

  • 5 Star Grand Prix: The 5 Star Grand Prix is a yearly round-robin singles tournament held over a few weeks where the winner usually goes on to challenge for the Red Belt (or also known as the World of Stardom Championship). It’s similar to the G1 Climax held by New Japan Pro Wrestling
  • Cinderella Tournament: The Cinderella tournament is an annual single-elimination singles tournament, usually held on one show (like how WWE used to run King of the Ring). The winner is allowed to “make a wish,” which is usually to challenge for one of Stardom’s championships
  • Goddesses of Stardom Tag League: The tag league is a yearly round-robin tag team tournament held over a few weeks where the winners challenge for the belts, similar to the Tag League held by New Japan Pro Wrestling
  • Rookie of Stardom: This one’s a wildcard. Sometimes Stardom has a ton of new rookies in the company, but sometimes they don’t. It’s been a tournament before, but it’s also just been one match. The reward for winning varies.

There’s always a special event on the horizon in Stardom, as they do a good job at spacing them out over the course of the year. The Cinderella Tournament and the 5 Star Grand Prix are absolutely the most popular amongst fans.

So now you’ve learned about the factions, the rosters, and the championships–what’s next? ACTUALLY WATCHING THE PRODUCT! Once you subscribe to Stardom World, you’re ready to go. I’ll list a few of my favorite matches from this year, but I do not recommend jumping right into them. I don’t believe this is the way to really get into the promotion. They’re fine if you’re just looking to see some good wrestling and move on, but if you actually want to start watching Stardom, do it the right way…

Remember that draft I was talking about earlier? This is where you’re gonna want to start–the show RIGHT BEFORE the draft. This year’s draft was like a hard reset. Yes, there are some overarching stories that you won’t exactly understand at first, but as you continue to watch they become very clear. By starting the show before the draft, this allows you to understand the characters before things get shifted around.

Of course, the next show you’ll want to watch is the actual draft show. This is where the rest of the year is laid out right in front of you. This is a good time to take a moment to choose who you want to get behind. Stardom is infinitely more fun when you’re rooting for a faction or a particular wrestler. My choice? Jungle Kyona. I cheer for a lot of the wrestlers, but Kyona is one that I’m always cheering for a little harder.

That’s it! Once you have those two shows under your belt, you’re free to move on from that point forward. The promotion, the characters, and the rivalries start to evolve from here and lead to fantastic matches down the road.

Speaking of, let me give you a few of my favorite from this year:

  • 3.03.2019 – Wonder of Stardom – Jungle Kyona vs Momo Watanabe – Match Link
  • 5.04.2019 – World of Stardom – Kagetsu vs Bea Priestley – Match Link
  • 6.16.2019 – Wonder of Stardom – Arisa Hoshiki vs Tam Nakano – Match Link
  • 7.15.2019 – Goddesses Of Stardom – Utami & Momo vs Jungle & Konami – Match Link

Congratulations! You now know everything you need to know to get into World Wonder Ring Stardom. I could break down each wrestler for you, but I think that could get monotonous, and honestly half the fun of is learning the characters for yourself.

Sign us off, Queen’s Quest!

If you want to hear more about joshi puroresu, check out Big Fight Feel! Big Fight Feel is a joshi puroresu podcast by the author of this article, James, with a strong focus on WWR Stardom along with a few other joshi puro promotions.