For my second round of auto-ethnographic researching I decided to look at Japanese wrestling. The show in particular I chose to focus on was the first night of Stardom’s 5 Star GP tournament. Just finding the show was an experience in itself. After hours of searching and joining closed Facebook groups I finally found links to watch the show in its entirety. It was actually the first time I’ve watched a Japanese Joshi show from start to finish. I’ve seen a few acclaimed Joshi matches on YouTube but never a full show. I have always been intrigued by Joshi but never really knew how to follow it.
It’s quite hard to get access to the shows and matches internationally. Thankfully fans share a lot of content and that’s how I was able to access this show. It’s sort of sad that there is not option for international fans to support these shows. New Japan Pro Wrestling (the biggest wrestling promotion in Japan currently) has recently opened a streaming platform that’s available internationally. It features a large amount of their back catalogue and live shows for a small subscription. So hopefully its successful and other Japanese companies follow suit.
I went with a sort of review/reaction format because it just felt natural when talking about wrestling. I think this is because I get most of the Japanese wrestling related content through reviews. As I stated in my review I liked the show, especially the Io/Mayu match up. It was exemplary of what I believe modern Joshi (Japanese women’s wrestling) should be.
Stardom is one of the more ‘glamour’ focused promotions currently running in Japan. They even have a TV show Stardom Cafe that is “a monthly show that features the Stardom roster hanging out at restaurants and features an assortment of various clips from matches, modeling, and traveling.”(Source)
But Stardom seems like its in a sort of middle ground. It has the ‘glamour’ stuff but still puts on great matches. I feel as if this balance allows it to not feel like they are blatantly using sex to sell tickets.
Continuing my review of the first night of the Stardom 5 Star GP. If you missed the first part you can find it here. As I noted at the end of that review I enjoyed what I saw but nothing blew me away. So lets see what the final 3 matches have in store.
Starfire Vs. KAORU
KAORU is another veteran of the Japanese women’s scene. She’s been around for 20-25 years. Starfire is a younger wrestler from Mexico that wears a Lucha mask which is always cool to see. The match started out with a lot of shady moves from KAORU. She did everything from choking Starfire with the robe she wore to the ring to pulling her hair. This led to Starfire and her friends doing a few shady things of their own. Kris Wolf who wrestled earlier was at ringside supporting Starfire and jumped into the ring to break up a few pinfalls. I’m guessing this is to create something between KAORU and Wolf because they are probably facing each other later on in the tournament. They then started brawling outside the ring and into the crowd. I was grateful for this as it gave me my first look into the Stardom demographic which from what I could see was mostly males from 20-40 (Spotted a few female fans, through they looked like girlfriends that had been dragged along). After they brawled outside we got our ‘finishing stretch’. Starfire hit a very cool double underhook into face buster but KAORU mostly dominated this and picked up the victory with a twisting moonsault. This match was fun. I’m a sucker for brawling through the crowd and shady hijinks. While the actually wrestling was sloppy at times this was a fun showcase for the legend KAORU.
Io Shirai vs. Mayu Iwatani
Ok this should be something special, I’ve heard a lot of buzz around this match on various forums. These 2 are pretty much the top 2 wrestlers in Stardom. They are currently a tag team and very close friends. That combination always seems to produce good matches. Commentary mentions Io is the ace or something along those lines which is interesting, Ace is predominantly something used by fans to describe the ‘top guy’ in a certain promotion to my knowledge. Mayu got a ton of streamers and they were the same colours as her gear. Dedication by the fans there. Also just as a note for future reference there has been a female commentator this entire show which is something different. Some very vocal female fans cheering for Io early on, maybe my demographic assumptions were a little off.
Picture perfect grappling and counters from both in the early going. Very back and forth. Io hit a bodyslam on the ring apron ouch. Since the body slam Io has taken over. Io hit a very stiff looking dropkick to a seated Mayu. Io gets a bit cocky showboating before a springboard dive and Mayu takes control. Hits her own dropkick to a seated Io knocking her out of the ring, a big dive from the top to Io on the floor outside the ring then Mayu dumps Io on her head with a brutal dragon suplex on the floor. It got crazy from this point on. Big strike exchanges, beautiful suplexes and in the end Mayu hit a reverse hurricanrana from the top that looked insane, Io kicked out but the time limit expired. Announcers sound startled and so am I, completely forgot there was a time limit as I was so engaged in the match. I could watch these two wrestle all night so the time limit draw was a bit of a bummer but it makes sense for a tournament match. Gives them an angle they could go back to in the future and makes you wonder if Mayu was really just about to beat the ace of Stardom Io Shirai. If someone wanted an introduction into modern women’s wrestling in Japan I would show them this. It was fantastic.
Chelsea vs. Kairi Hojo
Another tag team partner matchup as both of these to form a tag team called Candy Crush. Chelsea is an American that doesn’t speak Japanese if the pre match video is to believed and I don’t think Kairi speaks much English. They do seem very friendly though. I think Chelsea is throwing candy to the crowd. Kairi is coming out to a variation of the Pirates of the Caribbean music and came out with a pirate hat and a ship wheel it was pretty great. From what I can pick up from the commentary team Kairi is the former stardom champion. After some grappling at the start and the classic test of strength it has been mostly Kairi on offence so far. Chelsea has now taken over and is working heavily on the arm of Kairi. The arm work makes a lot of sense in this scenario because a lot of Kairi’s offence seems to revolve around elbows. Kairi was in control until Chelsea caught her with arm capture roll up for the victory. The young American upsets her partner and the former champion. This match was good but it couldn’t reach the levels of the previous match. It was worked at a much slower pace and never really ‘got going’. This is the first day of the tournament and having to go after that previous match is very tough so I’ll give them a pass.
Overall this was quite a good show for being just the first day of a tournament. It was a great introduction to Stardom. The Io/Mayu match is the obvious stand out but nothing was bad at all. Everything was good to great. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for Stardom shows in the future.
This is my first experience with Stardom but I am fairly familiar with Japanese Wrestling in general. Stardom is an all female wrestling promotion based in Japan. The 5 Star GP is an annual tournament that they run. It features a round robin system with 2 blocks (Blue/Red) with the block winners facing each other to crown the tournament champion.
Match 1: Azumi Vs. Momo Watanabe
I’ll be honest no idea who is who in this one. Both wrestlers are quite short and the commentators keep saying ‘kid fight’ so I think that’s why these two are paired together. Also I’m pretty sure this is a non tournament match. It seemed like a bit of a throwaway match to just warm up the crowd. Well they are both actually kids that’s why the announcers were saying ‘kid fight’ Azumi is 12 years old and Momo is 15. Ok the match is already over, it was really short with Momo (I think) winning. The work was fine but it was too short to be anything special was more a showcase for the youngsters (Something that is very common for the opening match in Japan).
Match 2: Kris Wolf Vs. La Rosa Negra
This is the first tournament match. Kris Wolf’s entrance involved her playing rock,paper, scissors with a fan it was amazing. The fans are howling at Kris Wolf so that must be her thing. So Kris Wolf is playing the small, upbeat bundle of energy roll and La Rosa is in the serious business ‘I ain’t got times for your games’ role. It was about 5 minutes longer that the previous match but they didn’t really use that time to build a strong story or anything. They just had a decent match but that was it really. The finish was sort of anticlimactic with La Rosa winning with a frog splash.
Match 3: Haruka Kato vs. Queen Maya
Another tournament match that finds the giant European Queen Maya against the poor little Kato. Something to take note of both Kato and Wolf got streamers thrown at them when they were introduced but both of the foreigners didn’t? Anyway this was quite short. Really just a showcase for Queen Maya who seems a bit limited wrestling wise but makes up for it because of her size. Kato got a few bits of offence in but eventually was taken out with a brutal lariat into a chokeslam.
Hudson Envy is obviously the villain, I mean just say that name aloud it sounds so evil. I think I’ve cracked the streamer debacle. They are thrown for the fan favourites or good guys. Yoneyama got them but Envy didn’t. Yoneyama was at the size disadvantage here but she didn’t let that stop her as she wrestled a very fast paced and aggressive style. I have a feeling she’s a veteran as she seems older than Envy. Doesn’t move like she’s older though she’s flying around the ring. Anyway the match ended with Envy hitting a nice air raid crash. This was the best match so far, it was a little short but it was face paced with little to no down time.
Summary time. In my first post I focused on just analysing Godzilla because I had no idea what I was doing. I just pressed record and talked for a few minutes about the movie. Luckily I came up with a point about language becoming white noise that made some sense so I thought I’d look into that.
For my second post I chose to focus on Language in Asian media using my Godzilla ‘white noise’ experience as a jumping off point. My original plan was to use research I found on language as a starting point and then go into examples of different kinds language in Asian media. But when I was recording I went off on a massive tangent about subtitles and their importance. And when I listened back to this I thought it was better than my initial idea so I just went with it.
The importance of subtitles is something I have always thought about. The idea that something is instantly defined as foreign because of their presence. They cause media to be immediately judged as either not worth the effort because “I watch movies so I don’t have to read” or as pretentious foreign drivel.
“Every film is a foreign film, foreign to some audience somewhere.” – Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour, Subtitles
Asian media seems to be thought of as the most ‘foreign’ and ‘exotic’ but it really shouldn’t be. Most of my generation has grown up playing Japanese video games and watching Japanese cartoons. So whether they realise it or not they have been consumers of Asian media from a young age.
And for kids now it should be even easier. Whether it be a K-Pop song on YouTube or an Anime series on Crunchyroll, I think the advent of digital content distribution will do a lot to allow people to actively find international content to consume. And Hopefully this brings an end to this ‘foreign’ stigma that surrounds Asian media.