LONG STORY SPORT

Stardom 101: Prominence

Back in January, the freelance death match collective known as "Prominence" invaded Stardom during their "Nagoya Supreme Fight" event. The women; Akane Fujita, Hiragi Kurumi, Mochi Natsumi, Risa Sera, and Suzu Suzuki, have since wrestled in Stardom a few times, mostly working with Donna Del Mondo. But with two of their members currently competing in the 2022 5STAR Grand Prix, I felt that it was appropriate to talk about these women a little bit.


Prominence began as a crew back in December 2021 when the five wrestlers involved announced that they were all leaving the Ice Ribbon promotion to go their own way. Their mission statement from the start has been to shine a brighter light on the often forgotten Joshi death match scene, a sub-genre that was once well known and loved back in the 90s thanks to legends like Megumi Kudo and Combat Toyoda.


Over their collective careers, Prominence's members have won several championships across a multitude of companies.

  • 5 ICExInfinity Championships - Hiragi Kurumi (2 times), Risa Sera (2 times), Suzu Suzuki (1 time)

  • 14 International Ribbon Tag Team Championships - Hiragi Kurumi (6 times), Risa Sera (5 times), Mochi Natsumi (4 time)

  • 1 Triangle Ribbon Championship - Akane Fujita (1 time)

  • 2 IW-19 Championships - Hiragi Kurumi (2 times)

  • 2 FantastICE Championship - Akane Fujita (1 time), Risa Sera (1 time)

  • 1 Reina Di Wave Championship - Suzu Suzuki (1 time)

  • 1 Princess of Pro Wrestling Championship - Suzu Suzuki (1 time)

  • 1 Blast Queen Championship - Risa Sera (1 time)

  • 1 19 O'Clock Girls Tournament Winner - Hiragi Kurumi (2012)

  • 1 ICExInfinity Title Tournament Winner - Risa Sera (2016)

  • 1 Kizuna Tournament Winner - Akane Fujita (2019)

  • 1 Women's Current Blast Princess Tournament Winner - Suzu Suzuki (2021)

  • 1 Catch the Wave Tournament Winner - Suzu Suzuki (2022)

Additionally, they also won my Favorite Faction of the Month award for January 2022.


So let's get this latest edition of Stardom 101 going. As always, we will talk about each member of the faction in alphabetical order, starting with Akane Fujita, and ending with Suzu Suzuki. Thank you as always for reading.

 

Akane Fujita

"Juicy Tangerines Sent Directly From Ehime"

Photo Credit: r/IceRibbon

Debut - 5/23/2013 vs. Meari Naito at "Ice Ribbon #470 ~ Yokohama Ribbon 2013"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 1-time Triangle Ribbon Champion, 1-time FantastICE Champion, 2019 Kizuna Tournament Winner

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Faction of the Month (January 2022)


We start our look at Prominence with a few words on Akane Fujita, a woman with one of the longest nicknames I've ever seen or heard. While she's yet to make a significant impact in Stardom as of writing, the "Juicy Tangerines Sent Directly From Ehime" is far from a minor player in the overall Joshi scene. Starting her career in May of 2013, Fujita has worked for several promotions in Japan, as well as some in the United States.


Just like the other members of Prominence, most of Fujita's success happened in the Ice Ribbon promotion. She was the Triangle Ribbon Champion for 137 days back in 2018, and she was constantly propped up as one of the more important upper mid-carders on the roster for many years.


The same year Fujita won her Triangle Ribbon belt, Fujita would also help create a new faction in Ice Ribbon called "The Frank Sisters" along with Hiragi Kurumi and Mochi Miyagi. This trio would find some success, notably the International Ribbon Tag belts, and would last until the beginning of 2021. This could be seen as a direct ancestor faction to Prominence.


A strong technical wrestler, Fujita utilizes her strong 5'5" frame to bully smaller wrestlers. Her "POM Juice" move, which is a modified cobra clutch, has remained a strong submission, just as her Falcon Arrow is her most powerful non-submission technique. For Stardom fans, think of her as a little bit like Maika for her freakish strength just with more submission grappling, and a penchant for doing insane death match stuff.


Now a member of Prominence, Akane Fujita continues to work pretty much everywhere. Besides working in Prominence-produced death match events, she's been seen in 11 other promotions, including Stardom, so far in 2022. Within Stardom, she's taken part in three matches as of writing, all of them multi-woman tags. In all, she sports a 1-1-1 record, with the last one being a 20-minute draw on February 21st. Luckily, with Risa Sera and Suzu Suzuki competing in the 5STAR, there's a strong chance that Fujita will receive more opportunities to compete in Stardom in the future.

GIF Credit: @narukiroy on Twitter

 

Hiragi Kurumi

Photo Credit: @kurumi.h41 on Instagram

Debut - 1/16/2010 vs. Chii Tomiya at "Ice Ribbon #149"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 2-time ICExInfinity Champion, 6-time International Ribbon Tag Team Champion, 2-time IW-19 Champion, 2012 19 O'Clock Girls Tournament Winner

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Faction of the Month (January 2022)


Next up is the powerhouse, Hiragi Kurumi. For several months following the creation of Prominence, Kurumi has been on the shelf with an injury. But luckily, she has since returned and even had a marquee match with Syuri at the "Stardom in Showcase" event back in July. The former two-time ICExInfinity Champion has had a long and surprisingly storied career so far, and will hopefully continue to build her resume as her career progresses.


Kurumi began her career way back in January of 2010, making her the most senior member of Prominence. Less than two years into her career, she would win her first of several championships, the IW-19 belt. Think of this title as the Future of Stardom belt except with an added stipulation where matches would end in a time limit draw after 19 minutes. Kurumi would hold the belt on two occassions.


The next year, in 2012, Kurumi would achieve another accolade in Ice Ribbon, winning her first International Ribbon Tag Team Championships, this time with Tsukushi. The duo would hold the belts for 98 days, only to lose to one the promotion's greatest tag teams of all time, Hikaru Shida and Tsukasa Fujimoto. Kurumi would go on to win the tag straps five more times during her Ice Ribbon career, which places her fourth all time.


Only a few years after achieving her first tag team title win, the technical powerhouse would defeat company ace Tsukasa Fujimoto to win the ICExInfinity Championship for the first time, and she would hold the title for 95 days. In 2017, she would beat Risa Sera to become the fifth woman to hold the top title more than once.


Kurumi would continue to be a main stay at the top of Ice Ribbon's card until she elected to leave the promotion along with the rest of Prominence in late 2021. She was injured at the time of the announcement, so she never got the proper send off the other members did, but her legacy in IR is that of success and longevity.


Looking into the future, Kurumi is only 22-years-old and hopefully years away from the prime of her career. I admit I haven't been too impressed with her work since she returned from her injury, but here's hoping that by the time all her ring rust is gone, she can go back to being the great wrestler she was for the better part of a decade.

GIF Credit: @tde_gif on Twitter

 

Mochi Natsumi

Photo Credit: @miyagimochi on Twitter

Debut - 12/25/2010 vs. Kazumi Shimouma at "Ice Ribbon #249"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 4-time International Ribbon Tag Team Champion

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Faction of the Month (January 2022)


The third and final member of the aforementioned "Frank Sisters", Mochi Natsumi, also known as "Mochi Miyagi", is another one of Prominence's members who has yet to fully establish herself in Stardom. She has only competed in two matches for the promotion, and has been spending most of her time wrestling in other promotions instead. Yet, just like with the two women we've already covered, Natsumi's connection with the unit could bring her more opportunities in Stardom in the future.


Mochi Natsumi began her career on Christmas Day, 2010, making her the second longest tenured wrestler in Prominence. Like every other member of Prominence, Ice Ribbon was her main home, where she was pushed hard as a tag team competitor. During her run, she won the International Tag Team Championships four times, three times with Hamuko Hoshi and once with Hiragi Kurumi.


In singles action, she challenged for Ice Ribbon's two major singles belts; the ICExInfinity and Triangle Ribbon titles, yet she would lose each match. It should be noted, however, that some of the champs she battled include some pretty big names including Hamuko Hoshi, Tsukasa Fujimoto, Risa Sera, and the legendary Manami Toyota.


Fast forward to 2022, Natsumi has spent much of her time doing everything from working comedy matches in DDT, serious clashes in GLEAT, and death matches in Prominence-produced shows. If you ask me, I'd recommend her more comedy-oriented matches, as I feel she best works in that arena. She's definitely not bad when working in other styles, but I feel like she shines brightest when there's more levity. Definitely check out her two matches from the "Gake No Fuchi" event on January 4th if you get the chance on Wrestle Universe.


Unfortunately, she has yet to do much of anything in Stardom as of writing, but here's hoping she can show what she can do whether that's on a future "New Blood" card, another "Stardom in Showcase" event, or maybe even the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League later this year.

GIF Credit: @tde_gif on Twitter

 

Risa Sera

Photo Credit: @Sera_Risa on Twitter

Debut - 11/10/2012 vs. Hamuko Hoshi at "Ice Ribbon #426"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 2-time ICExInfinity Champion, 5-time International Ribbon Tag Team Champion, 1-time FantastICE Champion, 1-time Blast Queen Champion, 2016 ICExInfinity Title Tournament Winner

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Faction of the Month (January 2022)


Known for her creative contraptions of destruction and pain, as well as her often underrated technical acumen, Risa Sera has long been thought of as one of the best Joshi wrestlers of the modern era. Since making her return to Stardom back in January, the de-facto leader of Prominence has been treated like a big deal, as she's already battled for the World of Stardom Championship and is currently competing in the 2022 5STAR Grand Prix.


Risa Sera began her career in late 2012, and over the first couple years in the business, she would gain experience working all over the place, including in Stardom. In fact, she and her tag partner, Maki Narumiya, took part in the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League in 2014 and they even challenged Kairi Hojo and Nanae Takahashi for the tag belts later that same year in a losing effort.


Also in 2014, that was the year where she would find her first bit of tangible success. She would win her first of five International Ribbon Tag Team Championships with Narumiya and subsequently hold the straps for a record 356 days, during which they would defend the belts eight times, tied for most all time.


About a year after losing the belts, Sera would beat Hamuko Hoshi to win her first of two ICExInfinity Championships. Just like Kurumi, she is one of nine women to hold the strap more than once, and her 469 combined days as champion places her third all time. Her second reign, which lasted 365 days, is also the second longest single reign in history. Suffice to say, Sera had become one of the biggest stars Ice Ribbon had ever had.


Similar to her Prominence teammates, Sera has also found success in the death match scene. While there are some wrestlers who don't fit in the niche sub-genre, Sera is able to do so with ease. As mentioned earlier, she crafts terrifying tools of destruction, including her light tube fan (pictured above), that she uses to completely destroy her enemies. Other times, she feels comfortable with using a good old fashioned kendo stick, sometimes wrapped in barbed wire.


Sera is currently the only member of Prominence to have competed for the World of Stardom Championship, as she took Syuri on in a really interesting match back on May 28th. While I didn't love the match, per se, I did enjoy the intensity and brutality the two put on display. Hopefully she'll have another shot down the road.


All in all, I believe Risa Sera is a terrific wrestler who's greatest strength is her versatility. She can put on great technical clashes, as evident in her strong matches against Maika and Utami Hayashishita in the 5STAR this year, but she can also believably switch things up and become a death match killer in the next match. I hope to see more from Sera moving forward.

GIF Credit: @tde_gif on Twitter

 

Suzu Suzuki

"Violent Prodigy"

Photo Credit: @suzuki_1231su on Twitter

Debut - 12/31/2018 vs. Asahi at "Ice Ribbon #930 - RibbonMania 2018"

Titles/Tournaments Won - 1-time ICExInfinity Champion, 1-time Princess Of Pro Wrestling Champion, 1-time Regina Di WAVE Champion, 2021 Women's Current Blast Princess Tournament Winner, 2022 Catch the WAVE Winner

Long Story Sport Accolade(s) - Faction of the Month (January 2022), Most Underrated Wrestler of the Year (Co-Winner 2021), Female Match of the Month (August 2022)


In my humble opinion, I think that Suzu Suzuki is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now. She's an absolute genius in just about every aspect of the sport, and the shocking thing is that she's been doing this for less than four years. One of the two leading members of Prominence, along with Risa Sera, Suzuki has received quite a few opportunities to showcase her incredible ability ever since she made her first appearance in a squared circle. If there's anyone in this stable who's primed for tremendous success, it's the "Violent Prodigy."


Just like all her teammates, Suzuki began her career with Ice Ribbon, making her debut on December 31st, 2018 against fellow rookie Asahi. She quickly established herself as a blue chip prospect on the rise, as she seemingly understood the physicality and psychology of pro wrestling almost immediately. For western wrestling fans, think of Suzu's rookie year as the Joshi equivalent to Kurt Angle.


During her short run so far, Suzuki has already held some prominent titles. She won the Princess of Pro Wrestling Championship over in the Pure-J promotion less than a year into her career. A little while later, she defeated Maya Yukihi to win the ICExInfinity Championship and would go on to hold the title for 167 days and successfully defend it four times. And in 2022, she defeated the great Miyuki Takase to win both the 2022 Catch of the WAVE tournament and the Reina Di WAVE title, the main championship over at Pro Wrestling WAVE. This latest title might be familiar to some AEW fans, as it's the one Hikaru Shida currently holds and has even defended on AEW television.


Around the time Suzuki lost her ICExInfinity championship in early-2021, she shifted her focus from that title to another, that being a death match legend. She said that she grew up a massive fan of the discipline, even stating that "Someday I’ll wear a wedding dress over a back full of scars". So in an effort to prove her worth in pro wrestling's most diabolical style, Suzuki would go on to compete in some of the most brutal death matches I've seen in years. She took on some of the Japanese death match scene's best including Yuko Miyomoto, Takashi Sasaki, Jun Kasai, and Abdullah Kobayashi, losing every single one but brilliantly showcasing her fighting spirit. Her goal to become a death match queen like Megumi Kudo was seemingly working. For a more in-depth dissection of this period of her career, and some additional background information, I highly recommend this post from the folks over at Wrestle Inn.


But of course, as this is a Stardom 101, we must end this section with a look at what Suzu has done in the greatest Joshi promotion of them all. As mentioned earlier, Prominence made their stunning debut in Stardom on January 29th, where they swiftly became embroiled in a feud with Donna Del Mondo, but more specifically, Giulia. And of all the members of Prominence, Suzu was easily the one with the greatest grudge against the leader of DDM. You see, back in the day Giulia and Suzu were good friends both working for Ice Ribbon, they even teamed up pretty often. However, when Giulia controversially left Ice Ribbon for Stardom in the end of 2019, Suzu felt betrayed. So fast forward a few years, and Suzu, who had become a star in her own right, was ready to obliterate her former friend. This rivalry has yet to materialize in an actual singles match as of writing, but they are scheduled to compete in the 5STAR Grand Prix on October 1st, the last day of the competition before the finals.


All in all, Suzu Suzuki has swiftly become not only one of the best wrestlers in the Joshi scene today, but possibly one of it's biggest stars. She's a machine when it comes to having great matches, as she proved in August 2022 against MIRAI, and she's a tremendous storyteller. I don't speak or understand a lick of Japanese, but you can feel the hatred she feels for people like Giulia and the other members of Donna Del Mondo. She was born to be a wrestler, and I hope she can do this for a long time.

GIF Credit: @tde_gif on Twitter

 

Past Stardom 101 Posts: 1. Queen's Quest 2. Donna Del Mondo

3. God's Eye

4. Cosmic Angels (+ COLOR's)

5. STARS

6. Oedo Tai

 

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 - Stardom Twitter

Facebook Instagram 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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