World Wonder Ring Stardom: Previewing the 2019 draft with guest contributors and a look back at the 2018 draft

By Harley R. Pageot, PWTorch contributor



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Stardom Rebirth
April 15, 2018 @ Shin-Kiba 1st Ring, Tokyo, Japan

The first-ever Stardom draft took place on April 15 of last year at Stardom Rebirth. The main event saw Kagetsu of Oedo Tai vs. Io Shirai of Queen’s Quest vs. Mayu Iwatani of Stardom Army. Decisions could come via pinfall, submission, or over the top rope elimination. Kagetsu eliminated Shirai first by throwing her over the top rope, earning Oedo Tai the first pick in the draft. Kagetsu was then out of the match, leaving Shirai and Iwatani to continue on. Shirai would toss Iwatani over the top rope as well to earn the second draft pick in each round.

The draft consisted of six rounds with wrestlers chosen individually one at a time. Through the first two rounds there were no changes to faction lineups with the leaders choosing to re-draft their most reliable friends and partners. But in the third round everything changed when Kagetsu drafted Hazuki from Queen’s Quest to Oedo Tai. The past year since has shown what a big move that would end up being.

The other biggest consequence of the draft was no member of Team Jungle (Jungle Kyona, Kaori Yoneyama, & Natsuko Tora) being chosen until the end. Iwatani welcomed all of Team Jungle into Stardom Army but they were so insulted by not being chosen earlier that they refused. Instead they would form their own fourth faction, Jungle Assault Nation.

Meanwhile Stardom Army, which had been a ramshackle makeshift group of “everyone else” until this point, rebranded as Stars and began to look and feel like a real faction for the first time.

One year later…

The Second Stardom Draft
April 14, 2019 @ Shin-Kiba 1st Ring, Tokyo, Japan

Precisely one year later the draft begins again but the landscape has changed drastically. This year’s main event sees five women competing for draft picks. Kagetsu for Oedo Tai and Mayu Iwatani for Stars step into the ring again. Former Queen’s Quest leader Io Shirai has left Stardom for NXT so QQ will instead be represented by its current leader, Momo Watanabe. Jungle Kyona has no fears of being picked last this time as she will also be in the mix on behalf of JAN. And then there’s Hana Kimura. Since turning on Oedo Tai six months ago Kimura has been officially factionless, teaming instead with a rotating crop of gaijin sometimes referred to as the International Army. Her presence in this match seems to indicate that her stable may be in line for a JAN-style establishment this spring.

But that’s not enough. One last wrinkle was added, per Kagetsu’s suggestion. Once the match comes down to the final two people, the winner of that duel will earn the fourth draft pick, while the loser must disband their faction on the spot! Entering this weekend our stables currently stand as follows.

OEDO TAI
Kagetsu – World Of Stardom Champion
Hazuki – High Speed Champion
Natsu Sumire
Jamie Hayter
Andras Miyagi

QUEEN’S QUEST
Momo Watanabe – Wonder Of Stardom and Goddess Of Stardom Champion
Utami Hayashishita – Future Of Stardom, SWA World, and Goddess Of Stardom Champion
Konami
AZM
Bea Priestley
Viper

STARS
Mayu Iwatani – Artist Of Stardom Champion
Tam Nakano – Artist Of Stardom Champion
Saki Kashima – Artist Of Stardom Champion
Arisa Hoshiki
Starlight Kid
Hanan
Hina
Rina
Alex Gracia
Natsumi
Xia Brookside

JUNGLE ASSAULT NATION
Jungle Kyona
Natsuko Tora
Kaori Yoneyama
Leo Onozaki
Saya Iida
Ruaka

INTERNATIONAL ARMY
Hana Kimura
Bobbi Tyler
Mary Apache
Goya Kong
Rebel Kel


PREDICTIONS

Contributors:

Megan Nielsen is a wrestling fan from Alaska and co-host of the Hard Times Podcast.  @abrissverlierer

Harley R. Pageot covers Stardom and Ring Of Honor for the PWTorch with written reports on live events. He also hosts the Wednesday DailyCast Talking Honor. He lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. @talkinghonor

Andy Stowell has been watching joshi wrestling since 1989 and Stardom since they started their YouTube subscription service. His three favorite joshi wrestlers of all time are Chigusha Nagayo, Minami Toyota, and Io Shirai. @AkiraMichinoku He would like to thank Kris Erickson for additional insight on his predictions.

Monika Vasquez is an illustrator and wrestling fan since January 2019 living in Maple, Ontario, Canada.

Predicted Order Of Draft Picks

Andy:
1 – Oedo Tai, 2 – JAN, 3 – Stars, 4 – International Army. Queen’s Quest disband.

We’ve got some interesting stipulations here. The format of the match, where the losing faction had to disband on the spot(!), certainly ups the stakes on this one. The only thing I am certain of is that Oedo Tai is okay and will probably come out as the strongest unit.

My instinct is saying this is the end of Queen’s Quest. I think the video of them being attacked by Oedo Tai foreshadowed their end. Plus, with Utami being hurt and out for a while, it leaves her with a revenge scenario. My friend also suggested that AZM might have something to do with their demise since she didn’t go to New York City and the other members only brought her back an M&M’s souvenir.

The format of this match is crazy! If you lose, you have to keep fighting? They announced that Mayu Iwatani is going to take more time off after this match. Could she get beaten multiple times? Will Kagetsu get out early for the best pick or will she stay in to deliver more punishment? And who is going to step up to take on the leader of Oedo Tai? Is it time for Hana Kimura to go on her hero’s quest? I really don’t know.

Harley:
1 – Queen’s Quest, 2 – Hana Kimura, 3 – Oedo Tai, 4 – JAN. Stars disband.

On paper JAN would be the prime candidate for disbandment. In duo, trio, quartet, and quintet matches they have the worst win-loss record of all the factions this year (Queen’s Quest 21-8, Oedo Tai 14-9-1, International Army 10-8, Stars 18-29-1, JAN 7-17) but there have been a number of other recent developments that could either be foreshadowing or red herrings. Queen’s Quest will battle Oedo Tai in a two out of three falls match the night prior to the draft. If QQ lose, they lose their masks. If Oedo Tai lose, they must give up their entrance dance. Mayu Iwatani has been suffering through knee injuries for a while and will be taking an extended amount of time off after the draft. Utami Hayashishita is already on the shelf after requiring surgery on her thumb. Hana Kimura and AZM have both recently dyed their hair, abandoning their natural black for more of a strawberry hue. Arisa Hoshiki also cut and dyed her hair, going to a darker shade. Does any of it mean anything?

Momo wins first so that she can grab Utami Hayashishita before anyone else does. After all, how can Utami not be the #1 draft pick based on the past six months? Kimura gets to go second, if only to thwart the other factions and take people just to mess with them. Kagetsu is third but, like last year, uses her first handful of picks to stake claim to her reliable soldiers rather than anyone new. The match comes down to Kyona and Iwatani and the already-injured Mayu falls like a shooting star.

I believe 2019 will end up being the year of the jungle. Iida is already a strong contender for rookie of the year, Tora has put together an impressive singles record, and Kyona’s match against Watanabe on March 3 left me convinced that she will win this year’s 5Star Grand Prix. I think Stars disbanding leads to JAN’s roster growing stronger and a steady climb to credibility as they battle their way toward championship gold.

Most Glow-Up Potential

Andy:
Hana Kimura. Something big will happen.

Megan:
I think that Jungle Assault Nation has the most potential for a glow-up at this draft. Considering JAN was not even a faction until after the events of last year’s draft I think that they have the potential to really shake things up and expand their horizons.

Harley:
AZM. Or should I say Azumi? Her feud with Hazuki over the high speed title has been one of the top rivalries this year. I think we continue to explore the parallels between them with AZM following a similar trajectory to Hazuki in last year’s draft. I believe her and Kimura have been secret friends for a while and dyed their hair together. AZM becomes her first pick and “graduates” to the Kimura home for rebellious youth.

Monika:
AZM. She has proven to be one of the best youngsters in Stardom and seems like she is on the way to a Hazuki like glow-up, especially if she is chosen to be a part of another faction.

Most Likely To Stay In Their Current Faction

Megan:
This is almost ironic considering what happened to her in last year’s draft but I can’t see Hazuki leaving Oedo Tai. She’s become such a key part of the faction in the past year, working especially close with Kagetsu and even winning the high speed title last December. While I maybe could see her getting moved as retaliation from last year, I would be totally surprised if she got plucked from Oedo Tai.

Monika:
Hazuki. If Kagetsu gets first or second pick Hazuki will definitely be her first choice. She has proven to live up to her potential from last year’s draft and there is no way Kagetsu will let her be picked up by another faction.

Andy:
Andras Miyagi. She’s not going anywhere and will be Kagetsu’s first pick.

Harley:
Andras Miyagi. The newest member of Oedo Tai just debuted and every faction needs at least three people to stay where they are in order to maintain the same vibe.

Most In Need Of Some New Friends

Harley:
Tam Nakano. Tam’s always seemed underappreciated by her group. Even though she’s one-third of the trios champions it feels like Mayu likes Arisa and Saki more than her. It’s clear that Tam doesn’t like Arisa so the two of them ending up in different groups sets up a potential rivalry going ahead. I’d love for Tam to be scooped up by JAN and join Tora as Kyona’s reliable right hand women. The idea of the trios champions all being separated to different factions is also intriguing.

Andy:
Hana Kimura

Monika:
Hana Kimura. Although she is the leader of the International Army I think Kimura needs some steady locals to turn heel and really define the faction.

Megan:
For me there’s only one answer to this question and it’s Hana Kimura. While she’s never been at a loss for friends, since she turned on Oedo Tai her position has seemed rather tenuous. I think that we might see the International Army become an actual stable in a similar way to how we saw JAN evolve after last year’s draft.

A New Member For Oedo Tai

Andy:
AZM

Monika:
Saya Iida. I think Oedo Tai needs a rookie to train and put in those opening matches that they hate doing so much. Plus Saya really proved what she was capable of when she pinned Natsu.

Megan:
I would honestly love to see Bobbi Tyler with Oedo Tai. I know she’s pretty integral to Hana’s whole thing right now but she has a kind of low-key heel energy that I think would play off of the other members of the faction so well.

Harley:
Starlight Kid. The time seems right for her to take the next big step in her development. I think Kagetsu sees the potential in her and wants to help draw it out and push her to that next level like she did with Hazuki last year. Unfortunately for Kagetsu Kid just doesn’t have that secret dark side to her like Hazuki does. So, while joining Oedo Tai may help Kid pick up some wins and grow as a wrestler, I suspect it will be a frustrating experience for the prime minister as Kid is steadfastly unable and unwilling to turn to the dark side in the process.

A New Member For Queen’s Quest

Harley:
Arisa Hoshiki. Again, maybe a hairstyle is just a hairstyle, but I can’t help believing that her new locks are a sign of a new direction for Hoshiki. She’s a top player in Stars at the moment but not a champion. QQ can get her that gold and they’ll need someone strong to replace the loss of AZM.

Monika:
Arisa Hoshiki. Although friends with Mayu Arisa is kind of an outcast in Stars among the top girls, mainly because Tam is open about her dislike for her fellow member. The haircut is also a good indicator that she might be going Utami?

Megan:
Kind of a low-key choice but I think that potentially Hanan could be pulled from Stars to Queen’s Quest. She’s full of potential but she’s fresh enough on the roster that she could easily be molded into a great member of a faction. It could also be potential for light drama if she’s taken away from her sisters. (Alternatively Starlight Kid just because I’d like to see her play off the other women in Queen’s Quest.)

A New Member For Stars

Monika:
I can’t really see anyone else being a part of Stars unless Nao leaving was all a ploy and she really wanted to let her babyface shine in Stars.

Andy:
Momo Watanabe. New top star out for revenge!

Megan:
Not that Stars needs any more members but I could see them drafting Viper. She definitely has a different vibe than any of the other women on the team but I think that her more dominant style would make a lot of sense as an addition to the often high-flying antics of the women in Stars.

A New Member For JAN

Harley:
Mary Apache. We haven’t seen her since January but Apache seems like a fine fit for JAN. She can team with the youngsters like Onozaki and Iida, helping them grow, and she’ll probably be grateful for a new crew. The last time we saw Mary and her daughter Natsumi it was becoming clear that Natsumi’s reached the age where she’d rather hang out and tag with friends her own age than with her mom. Mary can also have a friend her own age in Kaori Yoneyama. Win-win.

Andy:
Konami

Monika:
Tam Nakano. JAN needs a sturdy third member along alongside Kyona and Natsuko. Tam might be the answer to create a stronger faction.

Megan:
I think that Xia Brookside would be absolutely delightful as a member of Jungle Assault Nation. I think her in-ring style would play off of Jungle Kyona so well in any particular tag situation and I can imagine her having great chemistry with the other girls. She’d look great in the JAN colors!

Final Surprises

Andy:
I think they’ll start a tease of Oedo Tai dissension between Miyagi and Hazuki.

Megan:
Last year we saw a lot of the factions stay the same in the first few rounds of the draft with the leaders choosing to keep members that they trusted. I think we might see a face faction draft someone important to Oedo Tai this year, almost to beat Kagetsu at her own game. Last year she caused quite the stir by drafting Hazuki.

Harley:
I think the new four faction system results in a bunch of shifting alignments all over. JAN become the #1 babyface stable full of charismatic, lovable people. Queen’s Quest slide further to the face slide of the spectrum than ever into more of a no-nonsense hero’s clique. Oedo Tai take their former tweener spot with most of their shenanigans being received fondly in an “oh, you scamps” kind of way moving ahead. And this all sets up Kimura’s group as the new top heel faction: a ruthless group of young women, sadistic and cruel, breaking hearts and breaking bones. Who Iwatani will align with when she returns becomes a big story for the future.

1 Comment on World Wonder Ring Stardom: Previewing the 2019 draft with guest contributors and a look back at the 2018 draft

  1. Fun read, thanks for the article.

    I’m just really hoping Hana’s faction is the one to disband. I’ve grown too fond of all the others. JAN especially would be a low blow after how badly they’ve been booked.

    As for who I want to see move:

    Konami – She fades to the background too much in QQ. She could play a much stronger role in either JAN or Hana’s group.

    Arisa/Saki/Tam – They feel too jumbled together as co-number twos for STARS. STARS needs a more clear second in command like the other factions have.

    Natsu Sumire – She would just be even more hilarious in any other faction. That is all.

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