STARDOM: The Dream Goes Global

On April 4, 2024, World Wonder Ring Stardom held its first professional wrestling event in the United States since 2019, right in the heart of Philadelphia with their event Stardom American Dream 2024.

As this was the week of WWE’s WrestleMania XL, this had to mean something. This had to be a statement that one of the most talented and popular women’s divisions in the world was ready to take over the world. That is the dream. The vision. The reality.

And what better way to follow that dream than in the City of Brotherly Love? Pennsylvania is known for representing the American Dream in films such as Rocky and Creed, so it makes all the sense in the world to hold this event there.

On the card were five matches, with two titles being defended on the show. This show went big. International talents were involved, including Stephanie Vaquer of CMLL teaming with the team of Black Desire (Momo Watanabe and Starlight Kid of the Oedo Tai faction) against Queen’s Quest (AZM and Saya Kamitani) and Camron Branae, formerly Amari Miller of WWE. 

Then, Willow Nightingale of AEW fame teamed with Saki against God’s Eye’s Syuri and Konami. Another AEW talent would join in the fun – Mariah May reunited with Xia Brookside and Mina Shirakawa, re-opening the original Club Venus’s doors as they took on Mayu Iwatani and Momo Kohgo of Stars. AEW Women’s World Champion and Mariah May’s mentor Toni Storm even made a shock appearance, declaring “The Forbidden Door is always open.” The show closed with Maika battling against the towering inferno, Megan Bayne, for the World of Stardom Championship.

Maika and Megan Bayne at Stardom American Dream 2024
Credit: BodySlam

Statement. Made.

As a fellow Missourian, seeing Camron Branae represented in a historic event instilled hope that I may one day see a Stardom show on American soil. We as fans can now see matchups between Stardom talent and AEW’s women’s division, especially around Forbidden Door season. That is entirely possible now that President Taro Okada has the reign to see his global vision.

Before the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for Stardom talent to spread the Joshi wrestling message to other countries, but there hasn’t been as much of a concentrated focus until now. 

The key difference here: these instances were collaborations. Now, it’s an expansion. It’s not just sending a wrestler or two overseas, but full-on events under the Stardom banner.

Since becoming President of World Wonder Ring Stardom on February 4, 2024, Okada-san has put into motion the means to see Stardom wrestlers perform on a larger scale. Fans may have noticed the likes of AZM and Mina Shirakawa making appearances on AEW programming, and that’s just another step for this expansion, a grand one.

X: @we_are_stardom

This is historic for the promotion itself, as it not only signaled a change in regime with Taro Okada’s new role and exploration into new territory but also saw BUSHIROAD buy World Wonder Ring Stardom’s shares, adding so much to production

It’s not as though countries outside Japan haven’t wanted Stardom to grace their shores. Fans have been clamoring for dream matches that are possible. We now have a chance to see the likes of Tam Nakano, Momo Watanabe, and Syuri against competitors from other promotions. This isn’t solely for AEW, ROH, CMLL, or NJPW Strong. It’s for the likes of RevPro, ICW, promotions in Ireland and India. It’s for wherever wrestling lives and breathes.

It is also for Stardom itself. 

There has been no better time to bring the roster all around the globe, either. Look at all the events WWE has held and is scheduled to hold in other countries and territories: Puerto Rico, Wales, England, Australia, Scotland, France. Even All Elite Wrestling’s venture to London for All In in 2023 shows the importance that wrestling has in the world of pop culture and entertainment.

With how large professional wrestling has gotten in recent years, now is the time to capitalize on it. Strike and seize the moment. 

Equally as appealing is the implications that an all-women’s promotion traveling near and far is that there will be women of all ages being represented by high-caliber athletes. Little girls will have more heroes to look up to, and women will find themselves in the likes of Mina Shirakawa, Thekla, or AZM. In the United States, representation on the women’s front is not as strong in the bigger promotions as it could be. This is where Stardom stands out in its women-only roster.

Someone I want to point out as a key player in all of this is Momo Kohgo. Formerly of Actwres girl’Z, Kohgo has since become a member of Stars since joining Stardom’s roster. On the surface, she may not seem to be a prominent player, but when it comes to opportunities in other promotions, she’s there. She was featured in the 4-way match at Impact Wrestling’s Multiverse United 2, against Willow Nightingale at NJPW Strong: Resurgence, and against Mariah May at Ring of Honor’s Super Card of Honor 2024. While the women have been putting on classic matches, she’s been spreading the Stardom name.

She doesn’t have to do that alone anymore. With Okada-san and BUSHIROAD’s dream, fans can follow Stardom’s past, present, and future, and be rewarded with shows closer to home. 

X: @we_are_stardom

For those who are just now getting into the promotion, there’s a wondrous history for sure. But there are a lot of current narratives to sink your teeth into. You can revisit the early days of Oedo Tai, the story of Hana Kimura, and the struggle of Mayu Iwatani over Io Shirai in the company’s glorious early days. 

You can also watch in real time and follow along with compelling, gripping stories. Empress Nexus Venus, for instance, seems headed toward a conflict with Toni Storm with both parties connected to Mariah May. There’s also the return of Thekla, newly anointed to Oedo Tai on a mission to break and destroy the idol culture she so despises. Oh, there are plenty of great things to follow along with, and can be seen on Stardom World.

When I log onto the Stardom World website, I go there to see the intensity and the fire that blazes within the hearts of their wrestlers. Those hard strikes that echo through arenas, the defiant shouts of no surrender, and the chaos of the factions are all so tantalizing. I’m not alone in that, either.Seeing clips go viral of the stunts and sequences of wrestlers pouring their soul into this art of theirs, I can’t help but notice the yearning and clamor for more. I still remember scrolling through Twitter and finding several accounts praising Tam Nakano’s war with Natsupoi in a steel cage in 2022’s STARDOM Fight in the Top or when fans first saw Thekla do her spider-walk. The image of a tearful Mina Shirakawa with a bloody face, missing teeth, and broken jaw is forever etched in my mind.

X: @wwr_stardom

With these moments and the expectation of high quality, just imagine how far these joshi wrestlers will go. A roster full of hungry women eager to prove themselves to new fans, imagine how that hunger will drive them. Imagine how the heart of the crowd will stop and race at every moment, in tune with these women. This is the strength of professional wrestling.

While Stardom’s previous priority was more so an expansion solely in Japan, Okada-san’s vision sees a wider spread – the world. With this direction, Stardom’s wrestlers can now experience the culture of fans in a way that’s different from Japanese crowds. This is what the world has to offer for a promotion that has so much to give in return. 

For years I’ve longed to see these women fight in these new environments, under different presentations, and wow crowds everywhere with the trademark Stardom action. This is the promotion that managed to find growth even when the world shut down. Sometimes the smallest voices burn brighter in the dark and become the light people need.

Now, Okada-san’s approach makes that dream accessible. This is the content we can expect from here on in. I can already imagine fans dressed in Oedo Tai or Cosmic Angels gear. I can just hear people chanting for Mina Shirakawa or Natsupoi. And that excites me. I can see the match graphics featuring Stardom talent and American talent. And that excites me. I can breathe in the notion that this change in wrestling adds another bit of unpredictability to an ever-changing industry. And that excites me.

Globally, you can reach the hearts of people. This is a step out of the comfort zone, a risk to an unknown. In the West, we’ve seen a company realize just what happens when you do that. So here’s to Stardom’s global expansion.

Wrestling doesn’t have to be exclusive. It’s too big, too amorphous to stay in one form and one place. 

When you open your doors, you can reach the world outside.

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