The State of Joshi: Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo Leaving Stardom?


While this is not a wrestling newz site that focuses on rumors, judging by the number of visits the site got yesterday (highest in its history) I am assuming that people want whatever details are available about the news from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer referencing Kairi and Io Shirai going to WWE. Most of this article will just be my personal opinion, but first, here is what Meltzer said:

Both Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo have gotten offers to start in WWE in 2017 in the last week or two. Both told Stardom management about it this week. Shirai said she was going, and said that she was called by Shoichi Funaki. Hojo was contacted by Shinsuke Nakamura and Simon Inoki. Hojo at first didn’t make a final decision and there is some question if she can pass the physical because she’s had two major concussions in the last two years. In July, when WWE ran at Sumo Hall, Hojo was introduced to Nakamura through Simon Inoki, who knew her because they had worked together when Hojo did an IGF tour. Nakamura pushed to Hojo that she’d do great in WWE. Hojo most recently told the Stardom office that she’s interested in going to WWE. Stardom officials believe Shirai is gone for sure, but they are working to keep Hojo and Hojo then said she’s not sure what she’s going to do.

Dave Meltzer knows what he is talking about, so we are going to assume that everything said above is true. Before people get too excited or depressed, its important to keep in mind that nothing has been signed yet, physicals haven’t been passed, and things change in the wrestling world rather quickly.

That being said, I think we can assume Io Shirai will be going to WWE sometime early to mid 2017. If she wants to go, and WWE wants her, then she is going. Io Shirai always has come across as the type of wrestler that wants the biggest stage (not an uncommon trait among wrestlers), and she has done all there is to do in Stardom. She doesn’t have any injury issues that WWE would be concerned with, and her style will connect easily with American crowds.

Kairi Hojo is a much more interesting case, I don’t think her chances of leaving right now are better than 40%, based just on what we know. Kairi Hojo has been in Io’s shadow since she started, and following Io would just keep her there as Io will likely do better in WWE as she is a better wrestler. If Kairi stayed in Stardom, she could finally be the Ace, and I assume make more money than she currently is making. There is also the concussion issue, it is not an automatic disqualifer as many current WWE wrestlers have had concussions, but if Meltzer mentioned it then it is certainly something to keep in mind. So I am envisioning a situation where Stardom offers Kairi more both in-ring and financially, and she sticks around. Maybe not forever, but at least in the short term so that the promotion doesn’t lose its two biggest stars at once.

If only Io Shirai leaves, I don’t see that really changing anything Stardom does. Losing an Ace is never fun, but it happens in wrestling on a regular basis (usually due to injury or retirement), and promotions need to be able to adapt to losing one wrestler. They have enough popular wrestlers that the gap can be filled, they would likely lose some fans but if the new wrestlers stepped up they should be fine. It shouldn’t lead to the same drop in attendance that Stardom had after Yuzuki Aikawa’s retirement. Mayu and Kairi will take over as fan favorites with Yoko Bito as their foil, while Jungle Kyouna and Momo Watanabe would continue to be built up to be the main challengers for Oedo Tai.

If both Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo leave, that’s an entirely different situation. Stardom has proven completely unable and unwilling to change the worst aspect of the promotion – continually bringing in less skilled and inexperienced gaijin just because they are willing to lose and work cheaper. To quote their PR rep that runs their English Twitter account:

It’s odd how after 40 years in the business, people don’t get that Rossy Ogawa has and always will bring over gaijin.
He didn’t need to in the 1990’s because there were so many Japanese girls. But he grew up in the era where he was fascinated with the male gaijin wrestlers. He liked the gaijin more than the Japanese stars when he was a kid. Lou Thesz, Fritz Von Erich, Bruno Sammartino, all the names that toured Japan.

When he joined All Japan Women, they ran the same system, Japanese vs Foreigners. It was a style he loved and working in that office from the bottom up, he adopted it as his own style. 

As long as he promotes, he will always bring over gaijin. And in doing so, he doesn’t need to work with anyone that does not want to cooperate.

If you think he will absolutely need to change this in the future…guess again.

Rossy Ogawa is an older promoter and the guy that runs Stardom, in case the name isn’t familar. And he isn’t too flexible in his ways, sometimes what worked in the 1980s doesn’t work in 2016. Anyway, if Kairi and Io both leave you can safely assume that instead of bringing in a big native wrestler like Satomura into the fold, their solution will be to bring over even more subpar gaijins to fill their cards. This is far from ideal and the shows will really slip in quality if Io and Kairi are replaced with wrestlers with 25% of their skill. I think I speak for fans in Japan as well, judging by their reaction (or lack their of) to Tessa Blanchard in the FIVE STAR GP Finals. Worst case scenario, if both wrestlers leave and this is their replacement plan, Stardom may become the Blockbuster Video of Joshi promotions – being too cocky and stubborn to change until its too late.

But we can all hope that doesn’t happen, as like I said I predict that Kairi Hojo will stay and she is enough of a fan favorite that Stardom should be fine. Keep in mind of course these changes at the earliest won’t happen until 2017, we will get some indication by the end of the year as if Io and/Kairi are leaving I assume they will make a big deal out of it to capitalize on a ‘farewell’ show.

One last thing I wanted to address – even though I avoid Twitter these days, I have still heard the buzz that some fans are mad at Io and Kairi for leaving/considering leaving for WWE. I’ve seen this before, like when Shinsuke and Kana did the same, and I couldn’t disagree with the sentiment more. If you are a fan of Io and Kairi, you should want them to achieve their dreams, not hold back. They don’t owe Stardom anything, they are just employees. I’ve been at my current job for five years, but if I got a bigger job offer somewhere else I’d be on my way, that is how things go in life. If you are afraid that Stardom will tank due to them leaving, that is on Stardom, not Kairi and Io. So be happy for them for furthering their careers, and start getting excited for a potential match between Io Shirai and Asuka. Because I know I am.