Welcome back to the Stardom Project, as we enter the rare air that is the top ten. At this point, it gets harder and harder to differentiate between competitors. Today, we’re going to discuss the #10 and #9 competitors. Next up will be #8 and #7, and from there, #6-#1 will all have their own posts.
#10. KYOKO KIMURA
I meant, in the aftermath of attending what turned out to be Kimura-san’s final Stardom match, to write a post about what she meant to Stardom during her time with the company. This won’t be as long as I’d intended that piece to be, but it’ll hit the key points that made Kyoko Kimura one of the most important wrestlers in Stardom’s history.
What Kyoko Kimura meant to Stardom goes far beyond matches and far beyond accolades, though she certainly had good matches during her time in Stardom, and she definitely racked up her fair share of accolades. Watching Kimura wrestle outside of Stardom is to get a more complete picture of who she is and what she can do, but Kyoko Kimura played a vital role to Stardom, one more important than simply showing off the breadth of her talents in a professional wrestling ring.
Kimura spent her entire time in Stardom as its lead antagonist. Heel units in Stardom can trace themselves all the way back to Kawasaki Kawashima Saikyou Densetsu Plus One, which Kimura joined upon entering the company. Kimura was responsible for the faction’s ultimate split, and would go on to form the Kimura Monster Army, consisting of Kyoko and a wide variety of gaijin monsters of the day. The Monster Army would eventually become Oedo Tai, adding the likes of Act Yasukawa and Kagetsu to the stable’s usual gaijin bent. Until Io Shirai turned on Mayu Iwatani and formed Queen’s Quest, not only were Oedo Tai the company’s top heels, they were virtually Stardom’s *only* heels.
Kimura is a three-time Goddess of Stardom, and two-time Artist of Stardom. She never held the World of Stardom or the Wonder of Stardom, but she never truly needed to. While freelancing in companies all over Japan, Kimura remained the central antagonist in Stardom’s story.
This is especially important because of what Stardom is: a company based around the concept of young, athletic, attractive women. Most of the best villains in joshi puroresu have names like Dump Matsumoto or Bad Nurse Nakamura, or are 100% MILFy evil, like Mayumi Ozaki. The bright, fresh-faced, pretty babyfaces need their antithesis to go against, and Kyoko was happy to choke and big boot her way to the top of Stardom in any way necessary as the leader of a wide-variety of evil foreign menaces.
Beating Kyoko Kimura always meant something, whether it was Nanae Takahashi defeating her to retain the World of Stardom, or Queen’s Quest executing its three finishers in succession on her to win the vacant Artist of Stardom Championship. She is defined as much by the talent whom she helped as the wins that she has. Oedo Tai is in a much stronger position for her leadership, and she has undoubtedly helped and advised scores of wrestlers over the years.
Even in retirement, Kyoko’s influence over Stardom continues in the form of her daughter, Hana, who is rapidly rising up the ranks of Stardom, albeit in a slightly different manner to her bruising, menacing mother. It is perhaps the ultimate irony of all that the afroed, marijuana-leaf clad gladiator known for competing in deathmatches and her roughhousing style gave birth to the woman now engaging in sexy danceoffs with Rebel on Stardom shows.
The world works in interesting ways, doesn’t it?
#9. YUZUKI AIKAWA
If not for Yuzuki Aikawa, Stardom would likely not exist. A strong statement, but very likely a true one as well. Yuzupon was previously a well-known gravure idol before being recruited to the professional wrestling ring. As I’ve noted on the blog, Stardom is in many ways a continuation or extension of Jd Star’s “Athtress” concept, and Yuzuki Aikawa was both athletic and a capable actress during her time with Stardom.
From her very first match against Nanae Takahashi on a self-produced show, Aikawa had an impressive grasp of professional wrestling. To be sure, Stardom brought her (and her fellow trainees) along intelligently, focusing on what she could do well, highlighting her strengths and minimizing her inexperience. Among those strengths were Aikawa’s obvious stage presence, good kicks, and a pretty cradle suplex. She adapted to whatever role she needed – equally adept at being the rookie fighting from underneath as well as being the veteran who welcomed Kairi Hojo to Stardom in a brutal (albeit less so) fashion, just as Nanae welcomed Yuzupon at the first ever Yuzupon Matsuri show.
Aikawa was arguably never really the ace of Stardom – that title belonged to Nanae Takahashi. She may not even have been the best in-ring competitor of that initial group – Yoshiko or Yoko Bito could argue over holding that title, too. What she absolutely was, however, was the Star of Stardom, the company’s most popular star (the North Star, if you will), and someone who was entirely credible in that role in spite of her paucity of experience as a professional wrestler.
Her ongoing rivalry with Yoshiko produced many great matches, be it the Wonder of Stardom Championship decision match, or any of the tag battles with BY Hou against Yoshiko and Natsuki*Taiyo. Aikawa held the Wonder of Stardom and the Goddesses of Stardom, and was never defeated for either belt. Additionally, she won the first ever 5*STAR Grand Prix, challenging Nanae for the red belt in a match that one has to imagine that she would have won had her retirement not been imminent.
Aikawa’s retirement took place on the biggest stage Stardom has performed on – Sumo Hall, going out in defeat to Yoshiko. Without Yuzuki Aikawa, however, it is doubtful Stardom would have been in the position to run Sumo Hall in the first place. The popularity that she took from being a well-known gravure idol gave Stardom an initial shot in the arm, one that the company has used to continue to this day.
Aikawa is THE what-if to end all what-ifs. She cited the damage being done to her nearly thirty-year old body as a reason for her retirement, but what if Aikawa had discovered wrestling earlier? If still active today, she would likely be high on the list of WWE poach targets, and would be having phenomenal contests against Stardom’s current crop of stars.
At the end of the day, Yuzupon was Stardom’s Supernova, a brightly burning star that winked out too soon. It is through Aikawa’s hard work and personality that the dream of Stardom continues to live on. For any who question whether Stardom can survive the losses of Kairi Hojo and Io Shirai, I would point them to the fact that Stardom once lost the woman the company was founded around, and continues to endure, and thrive.
When we return to the Project, #8 and #7, including one name that I’m sure many will find is ranked too low. We shall see!