While I typically don’t do rumor/opinion pieces on Joshi City, I’ve gotten some questions (and a lot of website hits) related to all the news from Stardom over the last week. So I hope by putting everything in one long column that I’ll answer everyone’s questions, whatever they may be. To help us out, I will split up the news into three categories: Fact, Very Plausible, and Rumor. Note of course that while I will source where the news came from the best I can, some of this is strictly my opinion and I don’t have any insider sources.
- Io Shirai attends WWE tryout: As reported by Squared Circle Sirens, Io Shirai today attended a WWE Tryout. Interestingly, WWE had an article up about it on their website but later edited it and removed all mentions of Io. I am combining this with the “rumor” that Io may leave Stardom for WWE since obviously they are related. Usually where there is smoke, there is fire, as between being at a tryout and Dave Meltzer reporting she is considering signing with WWE clearly there is something to this. However, there is no indication that she has signed yet, as if she was already signed/about to sign she likely wouldn’t have been at a tryout in the first place (note that Kairi Hojo wasn’t there, who is rumored to have already signed). This proves without a doubt that Io is heavily on WWE’s radar, but it doesn’t help us figure out if she will sign or when she will sign if she does.
- Yoko Bito injures wrist: I’ll be honest – I don’t know where this was originally sourced but since I am seeing it everywhere (forums, Twitter, and Reddit) I will assume it was announced while I was working today. Anyway, Yoko Bito has an injured wrist and will be getting soon. Unknown how long she will be out, however since she has been wrestling through it we can hope it isn’t too serious and she won’t miss more than a few months. (Edit: I found the source! From Stardom themselves, confirms she will be out a few months)
- Momo Watanabe out for the year: This was confirmed by the Stardom account on Reddit, that due to injuring her ACL that she will miss a year of action. A big hit, as Momo is still under 18 but had been wrestling in Stardom for two years and was just moving up the card. Between her age and the seriousness of the injury, its impossible to know if or when she will return, but either way we don’t see her again until 2018 at the earliest.
- Kairi Hojo signs with WWE. I can’t put this as a Fact as while Dave Meltzer’s WWE sources are generally solid, things can change in the world of wrestling. But since it has been reported that Kairi is signing a three year deal, it is safe to assume that unless something surprising comes up that Kairi Hojo will be joining WWE in the near future.
- Mayu Iwatani is retiring. This is like playing a game of telephone and not knowing what was originally said (Do kids still play telephone? I’m old). Dave Meltzer reported this also but it sounded like second hand information, not a direct source. It may be true that it was said, but even if she said that she may retire, there is so much time before the end of the year and people can change their minds. Anytime I hear a rumor that a wrestler said they may retire in the near future I am generally skeptical, so while if she said it I hope that Stardom is ready for it, I wouldn’t put too much stock in it until we get more information.
- Kris Wolf “visa drama.” I have no idea where this started, but I’ve seen on Reddit and Twitter that Kris’ visa expires in May and she “may not” remember to renew it in time. Kris Wolf has been in Japan for over three years and is well aware of how to renew a visa. So I think it is safe to assume that if Kris wants to stay in Japan that she will get the visa renewed. Now if there are some unusual complications that come up I am not aware of (or anyone else is), that is a different issue, but the mere fact that it may be expiring in two months alone isn’t any reason to sound the alarm. (Edit: A few people kindly pointed me to the source of the rumor, which was Kris herself in a Periscope video where she answered a question on how long she would stay in Japan. Clearly her answer isn’t a definite one way or the other and feels more like a musing than anything else, but that is where the rumor started.)
Now what does it all mean? Is Stardom doomed? DOOMED!?!?!?!?! Well no, of course not. But losing any combination of the wrestlers above would certainly hurt the promotion, especially with their International audience which they have been trying to grow. There are too many things we don’t know to get too emotional about things yet (When is Kairi leaving? Is Io leaving? What’s going on with Mayu? How long will Yoko Bito be out?), sometimes you just have to let the events happen first. Stardom has been more committed to native wrestlers lately than usual (Hiroyo Matsumoto finally won a belt, Kagetsu and Hana Kimura are regularly on cards, and Konami has become a fixture so far this year), so they won’t have any problem filling their cards. They will be missing an Ace, as none of the younger wrestlers are ready to take that mantle, so either they will have to have someone like Satomura come in to fill the gap or put more into a gaijin like Toni Storm and hope the crowd gets behind it. But they still have enough quality wrestlers to put on entertaining shows, even though they won’t be quite as much fun (or get as much coverage) if Kairi or Io are no longer in the promotion.
So that is what is going on in the world of Stardom. There is still a lot of information we don’t know, aside from the injuries everything else is still in flux. We will know a lot more in the next few months, and hopefully Stardom is preparing for whatever changes are coming. Either way, they still have a lot of young talented wrestlers and accomplished regular Freelancers, so while short term the promotion would obviously be hurt by losing some of their stars, in the long run they should be fine as long as they adjust accordingly.