No further ado or buildup. Y’all know who this is.
#1. IO SHIRAI
There can be no other answer. It’s impossible. From what @PrivateEyeball told me, there are some #1 votes for someone other than Io Shirai. Let’s review what Io Shirai has accomplished in Stardom, shall we?
- Two-time World of Stardom Champion, with TWENTY-TWO SUCCESSFUL DEFENSES TOTAL and counting, along with OVER ONE-THOUSAND DAYS as champion. This is basically impossible.
- The only person to hold every belt in Stardom. Even Mayu is short the SWA Championship, Io has held EVERYTHING. She’s a FIVE-TIME Artist of Stardom Champion, too.
- Company MVP in 2013, 2014, and 2016.
- More good matches than you can shake a stick it.
Now, I can see some people arguing that they didn’t want to use kayfabe accomplishments, and would rather focus purely on ringwork. That’s fine with me. Who has had more consistently better matches in Stardom than Io Shirai against as wide an array of opponents? No one. Io has had classics with everyone from Viper to Kairi, from Momo Watanabe to Toni Storm. She has a huge toolbox in the ring, can wrestle as hero or a villain, and is the best rounded competitor on the Stardom roster. She’s as adept at throwing suplexes as she is at going up top – and arguably she’s the model that a lot of Stardom’s best have followed – one can see Io’s influences in Kairi and Mayu’s work.
Character work? Her slow-burning heel-turn over 2016 that led to her turning on Mayu and forming Queen’s Quest was some of the best character work in professional wrestling. Seriously. Watching as Io got pressed more and more by her opposition and her desperation to hold onto that which defined her increased and increased was probably the best storyline Stardom has ever had. Watch her promos from the start of the title reign to the end. Her entire demeanor just changes as the title and the need to be ace alters her into something other than what she once was. Hell, I’m about to start an entire SERIES that’s basically about this, and given how lazy I am, you KNOW something’s good if it’s inspired me to do more work.
Io Shirai has become something of Stardom’s John Cena – with Joshi City’s intrepid reviewer calling her “Big Match Io,” and “LOL Io wins” being a common sentiment on fan Twitter. Look, I get it – I’m as tired of watching Io win match after match as you all are, but her matches are incredible, and very evenly fought. We’re jaded on this side of the Pacific, I think – the idea of someone being as dominant as Io doesn’t make sense to us, because we know that ultimately the outcomes are predetermined. We also may like certain wrestlers more than Io, and want them to win. Long title reigns are difficult to pull off, but perhaps no one is as deserving of a truly epic run atop a company than Io was.
Look, everyone – you all know how much I like Mayu Iwatani. If I could have put her #1, I would have, I promise you. I generally prefer watching Kairi and Mayu to Io when it comes to the former Threedom. I have a great time generally rooting for Io to lose big matches because I am an unrepentant fan of the underdog.
But…come on. At some point, I have to look at the facts. No one’s resume compares to Io Shirai’s. Not Kairi, not Mayu, not Yoshiko, not Natsuki, not Nanae…no one. No one has been better in Stardom’s history. No one has been more important to Stardom in its history. Io Shirai is the Ace of Stardom, a role that defines her quite nicely. She is her generation’s Akira Hokuto or Manami Toyota – a defining, shining talent that, if the world is just, will inspire many young women to enter the professional wrestling business. She’s that talented. She’s that charismatic.
If rumors are true, the Queen may well be set to abdicate her throne in favor of trying to rule over distant lands when she returns from injury If that is indeed the case, and Io is off to the land of McMahon, here’s the best way I can put into perspective how good Io’s been:
Mayu Iwatani came in at #3 on this list. She has one of the best resumes in Stardom’s history. What would she have to do to one day surpass Io? Become the first-ever three-time World of Stardom Champion? That’s probably not even enough on its own. Capture the SWA Championship, to complete her collection of Stardom titles? That’s probably a prerequisite to be considered.
The idea of anyone holding the belt as long as Io or defending as often as Io seems impossible – like comparing Bruno Sammartino’s run on top to John Cena’s. No matter how impressive a modern feat is, what Bruno did simply blows everything else away in terms of longevity. I don’t see anyone ever holding the red belt as long and as successfully as Io did.
In short, will anyone ever dominate Stardom like Io Shirai has dominated it for the past five plus years?
The answer, in my opinion? No.
Long live the Queen.