LONG STORY SPORT

Stardom 101: Donna Del Mondo

Updated: Nov 11

Before I start this second edition of "Stardom 101", I want to thank each and every one of you who took the time to read my first writeup last week. All of your kind words have fueled me to continue this series so that I can do my part to introduce as many new and potential fans to this awesome promotion as I can. Because the women who wrestle in World Wonder Ring Stardom deserve to be as well known as anyone currently working in either WWE or AEW.


While they haven't achieved nearly as much success in their history as Queen's Quest have, Donna Del Mondo has been one of Stardom's most dominant factions since Giulia, Maika, and Syuri first made their debut as a trio during Stardom's ninth anniversary show on January 19th, 2020. While most of their history as a unit has existed since the start of the pandemic, when cheering became disallowed around Japan, it's hard to deny that DDM has also become one of the most popular acts Stardom has ever known.


In the unit's two year history, members who've flown under the DDM banner have held every title in the company at least once. They have won the following:

  • 1 World of Stardom Championship - Syuri (1 time)

  • 1 Wonder of Stardom Championship - Giulia (1 time)

  • 2 Goddesses of Stardom Championships - Giulia (1 time), Himeka (1 time), Maika (1 time), Syuri (1 time)

  • 1 High Speed Championship - Natsupoi (1 time)

  • 2 Artist of Stardom Championships - Maika (2 times), Giulia (1 time), Himeka (1 time), Natsupoi (1 time), Syuri (1 time)

  • 2 SWA Undisputed World Championships - Syuri (1 time), Thekla (1 time)

  • 1 Future of Stardom Championship - Maika (1 time)

  • 2 5STAR Grand Prix Winners - Syuri (2021), Giulia (2022)

  • 1 Cinderella Tournament Winner - Giulia (2020)

Just like with Queen's Quest, Donna Del Mondo members have also received accolades from most of the major publications that follow wrestling. Tokyo Sports awarded their "Women's Wrestling Grand Prize" to Giulia in 2020, and Pro Wrestling Illustrated named four DDM wrestlers on their PWI Women's 150 list in 2021. And over here on Long Story Sport, they won my "Favorite Stable" award back in March!


As we did last week, this blog post will cover each of the women who currently make up this faction. The list will be in alphabetical order starting with Giulia and ending with Thekla. Following all that, I'll briefly examine the two former members of the faction, Syuri and MIRAI. So without further ado, let's dive into the world of Donna Del Mondo.


(NOTE: With Natsupoi leaving Dona Del Mondo on July 9th, I will be transferring her section to the Cosmic Angels "Stardom 101" post in the next few days.)

 

Giulia

"Beautiful Madness"

Photo Credit: @peko_cookie on Twitter

Debut - October 29th, 2017 with Takako Inoue vs. Nao DATE and Totoro Satsuki at "Ice Ribbon New Ice Ribbon #845"

Date Joined Faction - January 14th, 2020 at "JTO Hatsu"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 1-time Wonder of Stardom Champion, 1-time Goddesses of Stardom Co-Champion, 1-time Artist of Stardom Co-Champion, 2020 Cinderella Tournament Winner, Wonder of Stardom Title Tournament Winner, 2022 5STAR Grand Prix Winner

Rival(s) - Hana Kimura, Mayu Iwatani, and Syuri

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Female Tag Team of the Year (2021 w/Syuri), Female Wrestler of. the Month (October 2022), Favorite Stable (March 2022 and October 2022), Female Match of the Month (January 2022 vs. Mayu Iwatani, September 2022 vs. Mayu Iwatani, and October 2022 vs. Tam Nakano)


There's no better woman to start this Donna Del Mondo explainer than with its first, and so far only leader, Giulia. The four year veteran has made the most of her short time in the business, as she's one of the most gifted all-around talents not only in Stardom, but in Joshi and female wrestling as a whole. She's grown into a tremendous in-ring wrestler who has displayed a strong ability to work with pretty much anyone. Additionally, she's proven to be adept at tweaking her look and her character to the point where she can be both someone you want to cheer for, and someone you want to cheer against depending on who she's fighting. She's unbelievably charismatic, possibly the most magnetic personality the company had ever had next to Hana Kimura and Tam Nakano, who are coincidentally two of her greatest rivals.


Like with every member of Donna Del Mondo, Giulia began her career outside of Stardom. She started up at one of the Joshi giant's fiercest rivals, Ice Ribbon, a company that once held solid relations with Stardom back in the early 2010s, but saw that relationship disintegrate to the point where they never work together anymore. Giulia started training at the dojo in 2017 and eventually made her debut on October 29th, 2017 when she teamed up with Joshi legend Takako Inoue as they took on Nao DATE and Totoro Satsuki.


After serving about two years at Ice Ribbon, Giulia announced that she would be leaving the promotion for Stardom in October 2019, which surprised everyone but no one more than the leaders at Ice Ribbon. Not to get into too much detail, as her move to Stardom isn't the focus here, it got pretty messy between the two promotions. Nevertheless, Giulia wrestled her first match with Stardom against Hazuki on December 8th, 2019. In my humble opinion, if you want to see some pre-DDM Giulia, I'd highly recommend her war with Hana Kimura from Stardom's "Year End Climax" as well as her clash with Kagetsu from January 11th, 2020.


The building blocks of Donna Del Mondo began on January 14th, 2020 when Giulia recruited Just Tap Out's Maika to her group at a Just Tap Out event. The Giulia/Maika duo became a trio five days later when Syuri, who we'll talk about next week, returned to Stardom to align herself with Giulia. This newly minted trio found instant success as less than a month later, Donna Del Mondo beat Queen's Quest for the Artist of Stardom Championships, which are the trios titles in the promotion.


With her new backup in tow, Giulia found incredible success over the next year. On March 24th, she outlasted everyone in the field to win the 2020 Cinderella Tournament. She followed that up a few months later with the biggest win of her career so far, when she beat Tam Nakano for the Wonder of Stardom Championship. She held that belt for 220 days, during which she successfully defended the title six times and had great matches against people like Konami, Syuri, and Starlight Kid.


Giulia ended up losing her Wonder of Stardom Championship against the woman she fought to win it in the first place, Tam Nakano, in the main event of Stardom's 10th Anniversary event at Budokan Hall on March 3rd, 2021. If you haven't seen that match, I implore you to check it out. The sheer emotion the two arch-rivals showcased for 19 minutes was special.


Fortunately for Giulia, she rebounded pretty quickly from this loss as one month later, she and Syuri won the Goddesses of Stardom titles against their fellow DDM members, Maika and Himeka. This tag team between Giulia and Syuri, later named "Alto Livello KABALIWAN" dominated Stardom's tag division for most of 2021, barring a few months when Giulia was out due to injury.


2022 has been an interesting year so far for Giulia, to say the least. She added three more members to Donna Del Mondo. She had a crazy good 30-minute draw against Mayu Iwatani on January 29th and followed that up with a war against Syuri for the World of Stardom Championship on March 26th. A group of freelance wrestlers called Prominence declared war on Giulia and Donna Del Mondo. And perhaps most importantly, Syuri left Donna Del Mondo to create her own faction, God's Eye, and new member MIRAI left to join Syuri soon after.


Suffice to say, it seems to me that anything can happen with Giulia right now. She's in the middle of at least two or three feuds, including a WAR against Prominence. She's still finding success inside the ring, as she's won eight of her last 10 matches (as of May 22nd). And you gotta believe that she's starting to itch for gold very soon. If she's not in line for a run as World of Stardom Champion in the future, I'd be surprised.

GIF Credit: @tde_gif on Twitter

 

Himeka

"Jumbo Princess"

Photo Credit: Stardom

Debut - December 24th, 2017 vs. Miku Aono at "AgZ Act 26"

Date Joined Faction - June 21st, 2020 at "Stardom FC My Stardom ~ Stardom Is Again!"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 1-time Goddesses of Stardom Co-Champion, 1-time Artist of Stardom Co-Champion

Rival(s) - Syuri

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Favorite Stable (March 2022 and October 2022)


Donna Del Mondo's resident giant, Himeka, is one of the most powerful forces on Stardom's stacked roster. While she hasn't broken out as a top tier singles competitor yet, as she's only attempted to secure a singles championship two times since starting in Stardom in June 2020, the "Jumbo Princess" is still a cornerstone of DDM.


Himeka started her career wrestling under the name "Himeka Arita" over at the Actwres girl'Z promotion, which for simplicity we'll call AWG. Making her debut on Christmas Eve, 2017 against Miku Aono, Himeka quickly made herself available for more bookings at various independent Joshi promotions like Pro Wrestling WAVE, Diana, and Pure-J. Interestingly enough, she also wrestled a match in All Japan Pro Wrestling, where she took on Natsumi Maki, who will get to later.


2019 ended up being quite the strong year for Himeka, as she really displayed her growth as a wrestler. She competed in WAVE's annual "Catch the Wave" tournament, where she took on the likes of Nagisa Nozaki, Yumi Ohka, and former AEW Women's World Champion Hikaru Shida. She took on AWG ace Miyuki Takase in a match for that promotion's world title, which she lost. And she teamed up with Takase in SEAdLINNNG, a promotion that exists because of Stardom, to win the "Beyond The Sea Tag Team Championships" off Arisa Nakajima and Sae. Suffice to say, Himeka was mixing it up with the best of the best, and people were noticing.


Himeka finally ditched her last name and made her debut at Stardom on June 21st, 2020 as she teamed up with Donna Del Mondo against STARS in an eight-woman tag team match. So from day one, Himeka has been a member of DDM. While it took her some time to acclimate to Stardom's wrestling style, she did gradually become more comfortable in the ring, especially in tag team matches.


If you ask me, the best thing that ever happened to Himeka in Stardom was when Natsumi Maki, now named Natsupoi, joined Donna Del Mondo in October 2020. Himeka and Natsupoi formed an inseparable pair, and along with fellow DDM member Maika, the trio known as MaiHimePoi started to run rough shot in Stardom. As of writing, the members of MaiHimePoi are in the middle of what is possibly the most dominant Artist of Stardom title reign in history. If they secure one more successful defense, which they hope to clinch on May 28th against Oedo Tai, they will surpass the Cosmic Angels as having the most defenses during a single reign.


Aside from her dominant time spent in MaiHimePoi, Himeka has also spent time as one half of the Goddesses of Stardom Champions, with Maika, and has also found herself in some pretty high-profile singles contests. She famously broke out and reached the finals of Stardom's 5STAR Grand Prix tournament in 2020 after beating superstars like Tam Nakano and Giulia. She eliminated Mayu Iwatani, the ace of Stardom, on her way to the semifinals of the 2021 Cinderella Tournament. And she almost succeeded once again to make the finals of the 5STAR in 2021 after losing her first two matches. Look for her to continue to find success in these tournaments for years to come.


Over her four and a half year career in wrestling, Himeka has gradually become one of the sub-genre's most intimidating powerhouses. If you can take anything from her recent match for Syuri's World of Stardom title, I think it's that her best years are ahead of her.

GIF Credit: @tde_gif on Twitter

 

Mai Sakurai

"Lady of the Ring"

Photo Credit: Stardom

Debut - February 11th, 2020 vs. Miku Aono at "AWG Act 46"

Date Joined Faction - February 12th, 2022 at "Stardom Cinderella Journey in Osaka"

Titles/Tournaments Won - N/A

Rival(s) - Waka Tsukiyama, Lady C

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Favorite Stable (March 2022 and October 2022)


On February 12th, 2022, six months after joining Stardom and spending most of her time with the Cosmic Angels faction, Mai Sakurai shocked just about everybody when she announced that she was leaving Tam Nakano's unit to join her arch-rival, Giulia, and Donna Del Mondo. Her brief career in Stardom up to that point had seen almost no success for the Chiba native, and a change was needed for her to reach her goals.


Before all of that, however, Mai Sakurai started her life as a pro wrestler over at the Actwres girl'Z promotion back in 2020. Sakurai made her debut on February 11th, 2020 at AWG's "Act 46" event against Miku Aono, who funnily enough fought Himeka in her debut over two years earlier. While working for the AWG promotion, Sakurai took on some really interesting talents like Miyuki Takase, Nao Kukuta, Momo Kohgo, and perhaps most importantly, Waka Tsukiyama.


Around nine months after starting her career, Sakurai was surprisingly picked up by Stardom as a full-time freelancer, meaning that she's not yet signed a deal with the promotion, but she's only wrestled there since making her debut in August 2021. What made it surprising to me was that it felt that her wrestling style and ability was not suited at all to Stardom's style and ability at the time. Although it must be said that there's nothing Stardom likes more than to take a wrestler you think you've figured out and make them a much better in-ring wrestler.


I would say that Stardom really threw Sakurai into the fire immediately as she battled Unagi Sayaka for the Future of Stardom Championship during her debut match. After the match, which she of course lost, Sayaka and the rest of Cosmic Angels invited Sakurai to join their faction, which Sakurai accepted.


Over her 40 matches she wrestled under the Cosmic Angels banner, she won only seven times. Of those seven wins, three were as a member of a tag team with Unagi Sayaka, one was via disqualification, and the other three were all pins against the aforementioned Waka Tsukiyama, who has never won a wrestling match in her entire career.


Anyway, she would decide to defect from CA to DDM as I mentioned earlier, and while she has yet to find much more success, her power is starting to grow ever so slightly. And perhaps more importantly, she's picked up a pair of rivals in Waka and Lady C who both appear ready to race Mai up the card.


I'm not fully convinced that Mai Sakurai will ever be a star in this company, but I can't deny that she's been earning more and more respect from me as she continues her work with DDM. She seems to have more focus in the ring. Her strikes come off much more stiff. And she's got an unmistakeable fire to her.

GIF Credit: @AlphaLlyoD91 on Twitter

 

Maika

"Dancing Flames" or "Crimson Cannon"

Photo Credit: Stardom

Debut - May 7th, 2019 vs. Mima Shimoda at "TAKA & Taichi Produce TAKATaichiMania II"

Date Joined Faction - January 14th, 2020 at "JTO Hatsu"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 1-time Goddesses of Stardom Co-Champion, 2-time Artist of Stardom Co-Champion, Future of Stardom Champion

Rival(s) - Saya Kamitani, Utami Hayashishita

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - FFavorite Stable (March 2022 and October 2022)


When Giulia was scouring the planet looking for women to join Donna Del Mondo in early 2020, the first person she turned to who accepted her offer was Just Tap Out's super rookie, Maika. After the Fukuoka native barely lost a match against her future rival, Utami Hayashishita, Giulia came out to invite her to join her in Stardom. Over the two years since making her Stardom debut, Maika has found great success, and has recently become DDM's number two since Syuri's departure from the unit.


Rewinding a little bit here, Maika started her road to Stardom back in 2018/19 when she started her training under former WWE wrestler, TAKA Michinoku, in his dojo/promotion called Just Tap Out. One interesting note about JTO is that it is one of a few promotions in Japan that has a co-ed roster. Nevertheless, Maika's career couldn't have started any better, as she won her first career match on May 7th, 2019 against Joshi legend Mima Shimoda.


After only taking part in 12 matches over about a half year of work, she made her Stardom debut and was starting to make regular appearances as part of the company's hot new unit at the time. And remarkably, three matches into her Stardom career she helped Giulia and Syuri to earn the Artist of Stardom Championships against Queen's Quest.


As if it couldn't get any better for Maika, she would soon after win the Future of Stardom Championship, which had been recently vacated by Hayashishita, in a three-way match against Saya Kamitani and Saya Iida. This match marked the beginning of her long-term rivalry with Kamitani, which would recently crescendo when Maika challenged Kamitani to a match for the Wonder of Stardom belt. There's no doubt that these two will one day battle for the red belt in the future, especially since Maika's already battled her other long-term rival in Hayashishita for said belt in the past.


Maika's wrestling style, if you ask me, is one that perfectly mirrors her background and stature. Before going into wrestling, she was a judo practitioner, so when you watch a Maika match, you'll see many judo-related maneuvers. She's a grappler at heart, and has gradually added more powerhouse attributes as well. She might not be the strongest pound-for-pound wrestler in Stardom, but she's definitely up there.


Since her first few months in Stardom, where she felt unbeatable at times, Maika has blossomed into one of Stardom's fastest rising stars. She's proven to be adept in all facets of wrestling, from her work with Himeka and Natsupoi as one of the most powerful trios in Stardom's history, to her work in main event matches for the company's top prizes. She can be both stone-cold serious and absolutely hilarious and charismatic. I have little doubt that one day she'll be a Wonder or World of Stardom title holder, as well as a 5STAR Grand Prix winner. The only question I have is whether or not she will remain loyal to Giulia and the rest of DDM, or she'll make her own way. Only time will tell.

GIF Credit: @tde_gif on Twitter

 

Thekla

"Toxic Spider"

Photo Credit: Stardom

Debut - April 4th, 2018 vs. Kat Siren at "IPW Germany Eishaus Explosion 2"

Date Joined Faction - December 25th, 2021 at "Stardom Year-End Climax 2021"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 1-time SWA Undisputed World Champion

Rival(s) - Mina Shirakawa

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Favorite Stable (March 2022 and October 2022)


In the short time that she's been in Stardom, the "Toxic Spider" Thekla has rapidly turned into one of the greatest gaijin (non-Japanese) talents in the promotion's history. She's already formed a connection with the Stardom fanbase thanks to her exciting high-speed wrestling style and her strong grasp of her character. Her greatest joys in the ring include psyching out her opponents with erratic movements and wrestling exciting matches with just about anyone. Suffice to say, she's the chaotic center of DDM and already a key member of the Stardom roster at large.


The Austrian-born Thekla might've wrestled her first career match with German promotion IPW, but she really kickstarted her career with Joshi stalwart Ice Ribbon, the same place where Giulia got her start. She made her debut with the company on July 27th, 2019 in a six-woman tag team match that also featured company ace Tsukasa Fujimoto and Prominence's Suzu Suzuki.


Her crowning achievement within Ice Ribbon was when she won their Triangle Ribbon title on May 3rd, 2021, a belt that she subsequently held for 98 days through most of that summer. While she mostly wrestled for Ice Ribbon, she slowly started to make dates in other promotions like SEAdLINNNG, Diana, and GLEAT. On December 1st, 2021, she announced that she would be leaving the company along with most of the promotion's high-profile wrestlers to go freelance.


Around the same time, a story started up in Stardom where two people dressed in Halloween masks started attacking wrestlers during some of their end of year events. On Christmas Day, Giulia announced that these two assailants would be joining Donna Del Mondo at the start of 2022. And low and behold, on January 3rd, Thekla and MIRAI were unveiled as the two newest members of Stardom and DDM.


Since she's joined Stardom, Thekla has been seen wrestling all over the card. She's created a fun pairing with her former Ice Ribbon friend Giulia. She defeated Mina Shirakawa to win the SWA Undisputed World Championship after it had been vacated by Syuri. She held the title for over three months until she fell to Mayu Iwatani in what was a fantastic match And, she's leapt into the High Speed division and will challenge AZM for the High Speed belt on May 28th.


Suffice to say that the Toxic Spider has hit the ground running in Stardom. She's found herself in big matches and situations several times already. And she's become incredibly popular to fans both in the arena and online. I for one am excited to see how Thekla's run in Stardom continues in the years to come.

GIF Credit: @D_Wrestlingifs on Twitter

 

Former Members of Donna Del Mondo


MIRAI - (12/25/2021 - 4/3/2022) Joined Stardom, and DDM, along with Thekla on the same night. She came to Stardom after starting her career at Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, where this writer had her as my second favorite wrestler at the company. After finding immediate success in Stardom, which saw her face off with Syuri for the World of Stardom title in her first pay-per-view match, she quickly became one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch within a promotion with as much talent as it has. On April 3rd, she announced that she would leave DDM to join God's Eye, where she remains as of writing.


Natsupoi (10/30/2020 - 7/9/2022) Was the first member of DDM to specialize in the High Speed division, even nabbing the title from AZM and holding it for 179 days. Along with Maika and Himeka, she tied the record for most successful defenses with the Artist of Stardom trios titles (7), before losing them in their eighth defense to Oedo Tai. She astonishingly defected from DDM to join Cosmic Angels during a five on five elimination match to cap off an amazing feud with Tam Nakano.


Syuri - (1/19/2020 - 3/26/2022) The former UFC fighter and tag team partner of Hikaru Shida joined Giulia and Maika as Donna del Mondo's third member. During her two-year run with DDM, she served as the second in command under Giulia while also growing her own status within Stardom. Her three match series with Utami Hayashishita might be the reason you're even reading this blog at all. A few months after winning the World of Stardom title against Utami, she announced that she would be leaving DDM to start a new faction, later called God's Eye. As of writing, she is still the red belt champ.

 

COME ON BACK NEXT WEEK WHEN WE'LL COVER THE WOMEN WHO CURRENTLY MAKE UP STARDOM'S NEWEST FACTION, GOD'S EYE


BUT BEFORE THAT, COME BACK ON JUNE 1ST AS I'LL GO OVER MY FAVORITE THINGS TO HAPPEN IN WRESTLING THIS PAST MONTH

 

Special thanks to WhoScored, Transfermarkt, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fangraphs, Cagematch, and 1.02.JP for helping make me a more well-informed fan.


Featured Image Credit - @giulia0221g on Twitter


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Contact me at AndrewSoS@protonmail.com if you'd like to write for Long Story Sport or if you have any general requests, questions, or comments.

 

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