by Sonny Gutierrez
Sunday I ventured out to Shin-Kiba in the eastern part of Tokyo, and attended Stardom’s first show since their February 22nd show at Korakuen Hall. That show featured the infamous main event between Yoshiko and Act Yasukawa, which we covered extensively here.
In the weeks since, Stardom held a press conference at which Yoshiko was stripped of the World of Stardom championship and suspended indefinitely. Stardom also apologized to fans and laid down some new ground rules for every show hereafter: A doctor will be present at every show; Closed fist punches are from this point forbidden, and will result in immediate stoppage; Kairi Hojo was appointed as the new representative of the wrestlers, acting as a go-between for the kouhais and senpais (younger and veteran wrestlers) and management; lastly, Stardom brass Rossy Ogawa, Fuka Kamimoto and Nanae Takahashi will take a thirty percent pay cuts for three months.
Act Yasukawa also underwent nasal surgery, and is currently still in the hospital, but will be released near the end of the week.
I was very critical of Stardom for the incident taking place. However, I was willing to give the company a chance to redeem itself. I have lived in Japan for nearly nine years. Most of my time I lived in Okinawa, so I would only visit Tokyo during short trips and vacations. During those trips, I would watch as many shows as possible from many companies.
When I moved to the Tokyo area last summer, I made a conscious decision to primarily support Stardom. Going to shows for all of the companies, within the confines of everyday life was not financially feasible. So I went with Stardom, because I enjoy their product and their wrestlers.
When I arrived at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring on Sunday morning, I noticed that there were two boxes near the merchandise tables. One box for Yoshiko, and another for Act Yasukawa. These boxes were for fans to place any messages that they would like to be passed onto these wrestlers. There was also a staff member with a voice recorder that fans could leave voice messages for Yoshiko and Act. Every chair within the arena had a paper that was an opinion poll for Stardom to get feedback from the fans about how the fans view the product. These could be turned in to staff members after the show. Within the arena were banners for nearly every wrestler, including Act Yasukawa; there was no banner for Yoshiko.
The show began with Rossy Ogawa and Fuka coming to the ring and issuing a formal apology to the fans, and thanking everyone in attendance. Stardom sold out all of the A, B and C level seating, with only D tickets remaining before the show. Once the show began, there was standing room only.
Stardom’s big shows usually take place at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The Shin-Kiba shows are more intimate, and often lighthearted. The advertised card leaned towards being lighthearted and fun, and the show did not disappoint. The event provided a good time to the fans, fans that enjoy and support Stardom. There were plenty of chants by fans supporting their favorite wrestlers, and even chants of “Stardom, Stardom!” which is very unusual for a Japanese crowd. The feeling in the atmosphere was fresh. Revitalized.
There was a doctor present at a new ringside table, which was never the case before. He was there for the entire show.
At the end of the show, Stardom wrestlers went into the crowd thanking fans and handing out a glossy group photo, as a token of appreciation to the fans. Fans could get this photo signed by any of the wrestlers after the show, for free.
Stardom has always been a company that has put on good shows for wrestling fans. It is a shame that problems behind the scenes allowed a situation to brew that lead to the February 22nd incident at Korakuen Hall. However, I believe that Stardom has started down a new path, one in which they wish to show change, and one that will produce positive results over the coming year.