In Nippon Budokan on March 3rd, a promise was fullifilled. A shining dream was accomplished. Tam Nakano became the new Wonder of Stardom champion after defeating Giulia, in an intense main event capping off a major success of an event for Stardom.
With Tam being the new champion, I suggest we take a look at what could or for some, should be the purpose of her reign, and what it can accomplish.
Time to get those braincells to work, shall we ?
Following Tam’s emotional victory over Giulia in Budokan, claiming her first ever singles championship in pro wrestling, we now have questions being raised when it comes to the Wonder of Stardom championship scene : Who will Tam first defend against ? How long of a reign should she have ? Who should be the one to beat her ? Et cetera. Let’s try to answer those questions.
The first thing to discuss is : Which kind of champion are we expecting Tam Nakano to be ? That question alone needs to be answered in order for us to try and figure the rest out. This is Tam’s first ever singles championship win. Her first reign. First reigns are always interesting to look at as they can tell how a company sees a wrestler. In Tam’s case, she has never been a major player up to this point. The feud with Giulia and the current STARS vs Cosmic Angels program have helped propelling her to top champion status. Now, reaching that status is one thing, what it means about the following reign is another. Let me ask this next : Is Tam Nakano a champion you build a scene around, or is she more of a « title holder » you use to put someone else over the hump eventually ?
To answer this last question, and thus the first one we focused on, let’s look at the timing of her win. Tam’s win comes at a very convenient time when thinking about the yet to be concluded STARS vs Cosmic Angels program. Or should I say, the Mayu Iwatani vs Tam Nakano feud. After reaching the 15 minutes time limit last January in their last singles match, both women left Budokan with huge momentum. Tam won the biggest match of her career, claiming her first singles title, while Mayu also claimed victory in what may have been the match of the night. With Stardom running a show in the « other Budokan » in Yokohama on April 4th, there is what looks like the perfect opportunity for Tam to make her first successful defense of the Wonder of Stardom championship, giving closure to her current program by overcoming Mayu for the first time ever.
Now looking a little more into Stardom’s schedule, Usually happening at the end of April is the the Cinderella tournament, usually deciding of the next challenger to the white belt. With Stardom’s first tourney of the year approaching, let’s now look at its potential implications regarding Tam’s run.
When looking at the tournament’s history, one thing stands out : Its purpose has been to take someone, usually valued to a relatively high degree, and push said someone to a new standard, leading to tangible success. Mayu Iwatani, Toni Storm, Momo Watanabe, Arisa Hoshiki and Giulia not only all won the tournament, but all ended up becoming either World or Wonder of Stardom champion not too long after. This trend alone tells us that there is little, if not no reason at all for this to not continue. After all, Stardom does have a few names in the pipeline which would greatly benefit from winning the Cinderella. Then, looking at Tam herself, a fair question to ask is where should her reign go, following a defense against Mayu of all people ?
After all, assuming a Tam white belt run were to end before Summer even shows up, she still would have beaten a wrestler Stardom put a lot of effort in to build up to win the title, and the company’s own icon to successfully defend it. And while that Mayu match is still hypothetic at the moment these lines are written, no doubt that its meaning and the emotional weight surrounding this match-up would be there. Just like against Giulia.
It now is time to look at who could benefit not only from winning the Cinderella tourney, but from ending Tam’s dream run. Could Saya Kamitani keep her ascent towards the top of Stardom through a white belt run ? Can the likes of Natsuko Tora and Starlight Kid, already vanquished rather recently by Giulia, re-enter the title scene through the tournament ? Shall it be AZM’s time to shine outside of the High Speed ranks ? Or could a returning Jungle Kyona exceed expectations and make her comeback earlier than expected ?
While there are cases to be made for all of these options, some stronger than others, allow me to establish something which I think matters when it comes to decide who fits the bill the most here. One of Tam’s main strength in the ring is the emotional weight she can add to a match, relying heavy on a story or not. Through facial expressions and selling, in a scenario where she ultimately loses, her job would be to make her opponent look dominant. A job she excels at. Now, looking at the array of challengers, which kind would be the most fitting to end the reign of one of Stardom’s most beloved figures, in dominant and impressive fashion ?
While I could have answered Natsuko Tora, out of the possibilities already mentioned, her challenge from earlier this year makes me think another white belt challenge isn’t happening just yet, even through a tournament win. However, the answer here still lies within Oedo Tai, in none other than their own Submission Sniper, Konami. Out of everyone listed, quite possibly the wrestler fitting the bill previously listed the most.
Konami may have lost in Budokan against her mentor Syuri, yet she still remains in that pack of wrestlers which are « on the rise » as we speak. Following previous Cinderella and 5Star Grand Prix finals appearances, as well as multiple white belt challenges lost, Konami is in a position which isn’t too different to Tam’s before winning the Wonder title. She never truly managed to break the glass ceiling as a singles wrestler in Stardom, still waiting for her first singles title win.
If there is one wrestler in Stardom who has a lot to gain from winning the Cinderella tournament and beat Tam Nakano for the white belt : Is there anyone ranking above Konami at the moment ?
To add more credibility to this hypothesis, let’s look at the story elements turning the Konami choice into the logical choice. First of all, the ongoing STARS vs Oedo Tai « war », as declared by Natsuko Tora. This program is bound to be one of Stardom’s main faction feuds for the next few months, if not the remainder of 2021. It would be surprising if one of Stardom’s main titles did not end up being involved at some point. Then, looking at the Tam vs Konami head-to-head record, the current Wonder of Stardom champion leads 3-0. Konami has never once beaten Tam in singles competition. The accumulated frustration regarding past past failures, and her new heelish ways could ultimately motivate her to put an end, THE end, to Tam’s dream championship run. Breaking her own ceiling by crushing one’s dream.