Welcome back to the Stardom Project! We hit the top six for the Top 25 countdown, which means I’m going to be writing a little (but not as much as I expected – yet, anyway) more about each of the competitors.
The sixth best competitor in Stardom’s history is perhaps its most unsung hero, and one of my personal favorites.
Natsuki*Taiyo competed on the very first Stardom show, in its very first match. Alongside her friend, Nanae Takahashi, she was one of the very few established names that Stardom began with.
Unlike Nanae, Taiyo was ostensibly one of the company’s antagonists in the early days – one of the founding members of the company’s first heel stable, and primary ally of Yoshiko, the company’s first home-grown heel. Nanae spent most of her time as Stardom’s Ace in the early days, but Taiyo was a vital role player in so many ways – the woman who brought the High Speed title (and style, in many ways) to Stardom, half of the one of the company’s best tag teams, and a difficult but attainable barrier for the young, new talent of Stardom to overcome.
She is an incredibly talented performer, and her match for the World of Stardom against Nanae Takahashi is one of the best, most poetic, and saddest matches in company history. In many ways, it’s an analogy for Taiyo’s career in Stardom. Nanae Takahashi may have a bigger name, but Natsuki may well have been the better in-ring competitor – and if not, was definitely the competitor whose style better suited what Stardom worked to develop.
A former Goddess of Stardom and Artist of Stardom, Taiyo never was able to grasp one of the company’s top two belts, but she virtually defined the High Speed Championship for long stretches. Elements of her style can be seen in the main events of modern Stardom shows – all three members of Threedom wrestle up-tempo, aerial styles, and Shirai and Iwatani are of course former holders of the belt Taiyo made famous in Stardom. Compare modern Stardom bouts to the styles of Nanae Takahashi and Natsuki*Taiyo, and it’s easier to see who things are modelled more after.
Currently Seadlinnng’s referee for High Speed matches, Taiyo followed Nanae to the latter’s new company after her retirement match in Stardom – a losing effort to her friend. Natsuki was never able to beat Nanae – not in their excellent World of Stardom match, not in a 5*STAR Grand Prix bout where victory would have put Natsuki on to the finals, and not in Taiyo’s retirement bout, either. Just as Taiyo was a wall for much of the roster, Nanae was ultimately a wall that Taiyo couldn’t surpass – albeit, with one caveat.
On her own terms? Natsuki*Taiyo could, and did, beat almost anyone. Her blend of speed and aerial tactics all packed into a spark plug of a body was a challenge for the best Stardom had to offer. Watching her bout against Nanae for the red belt, one thing was clear right away – Nanae had NO answer for any of Taiyo’s High Speed offense. And yet, Natsuki spent large stretches of the match standing and trading with the larger, more powerful Nanae. Why? My read has always been that Natsuki wanted to prove that she could beat Nanae at Nanae’s own game. She wanted to leave no doubt that she was the best – that she could mix it up with her good friend on any and all terms.
Natsuki*Taiyo may have lost those battles, but in many ways, she won the war for the heart of Stardom. Many of Stardom’s top wrestlers, and many of its up and coming competitors, all resemble the woman who gave everything she had as Stardom’s most unsung and enduring hero. Natsuki*Taiyo was more than just High Speed, she was a blueprint for the style that thrills Stardom fans to this day.
And that’s something that, deep down, could well be more valuable than any belt, red or not.