Updated: May 4
On April 23rd, Tam Nakano shocked the world when she ended Giulia's reign as World of Stardom Champion and became the 14th woman to hold the greatest prize in all of women's wrestling. This came in the main event of Stardom's biggest event of all time, All Star Grand Queendom, a show that featured five title changes in total. Nakano will now be expected to lead the promotion into it's next chapter, one with new title holders and new faces both on the main roster, but also coming from the outside.
So just like how I did with Giulia, I'm going to list seven competitors I'd like to see challenge Nakano for the Red Star belt. Some of these wrestlers have a lengthy history with the newest champion, while others are included because I think they would give Nakano a great match. Just like with my previous list, the seven will be mentioned in alphabetical order.
Singles Record vs. Tam Nakano (0-2)
Most of the people you'll find on this list are here because they either have a big singles win over Tam Nakano or they have an established story with her. Maika checks neither of those boxes. Instead, Maika is included for two main reasons. First, she's has had a long friendship with Giulia, the woman Tam Nakano beat for the World of Stardom championship. In fact, Maika was the first person to join Giulia when she started the Donna Del Mondo faction, a crew that has long had issues with Tam Nakano. As others have come and gone from Giulia's life, Maika is the only one of the original DDM quintet to have never wavered as Giulia's friend.
The other reason I wanted to include Maika here is that I think it would be wise for Stardom to boost more people up to the Red Belt's level. While Maika has already had a few attempts for the World of Stardom championship, twice against career rival Utami Hayashishita and once against former DDM teammate Syuri, I think it's high time to allow Maika to go for the top prize in Stardom against someone with whom she has yet to start a rivalry. Call it a match without much suspense because Tam Nakano wouldn't lose this title match, but a bout between the powerhouse Maika vs. the incredible all-arounder Nakano could be a show-stealer and a potential match of the year candidate in Stardom.
Singles Record vs. Tam Nakano (3-0-2)
If you've read my previous list where I named seven wrestlers I'd like to see compete against Giulia for the Red Belt, then you'll know that Mayu Iwatani is the only person to appear on both. That's not only because Mayu is my favorite women's wrestler of all time and a certified GOAT, but it's also because the current IWGP Women's Champion has a historically significant rivalry with Tam Nakano.
The rivalry between Nakano and Iwatani began in late 2020 when Nakano announced that she was ready to leave Iwatani and the STARS faction and make Cosmic Angels an officially independent faction. This move kickstarted a bit of a down period for Iwatani and STARS, during which they lost Ruaka, Gokigen Death, and Starlight Kid to Oedo Tai and Jungle Kyona to the freelance Joshi scene.
Nakano may have left STARS peacefully, but her feelings for Iwatani are anything but friendly. Barring a few times when the two have teamed up out of necessity, Nakano and Iwatani are not friends. Nakano views Iwatani as the woman she wants to emulate the most. Not only that, but she wants to finish her career with a more legendary run than the Icon herself. So what better way than to elevate her reign with the top prize in the company than to take on and beat Iwatani.
I think that this has a high chance of happening, as it could prove to be the match that finally puts a bow on one of the best stories Stardom has ever told.
Singles Record vs. Tam Nakano (0-2)
I know she just won the Wonder of Stardom Championship back on the 23rd, thus killing her white whale and finishing her own story, unlike that guy named Cody, but I genuinely think that Mina Shirakawa has all the tools and tangibles to one day challenge for the World of Stardom belt. I admit she has the lowest chance of all the women listed here, but Tam Nakano's red belt reign could feel a little incomplete if this match doesn't happen.
That's because you can't tell Tam Nakano's Stardom story without constantly referring to Mina Shirakawa. Nakano brought Shirakawa in as her tag team partner for the 2020 Tag League after no one in the STARS faction picked her. Nakano and Shirakawa, along with Unagi Sayaka, then created the Cosmic Angels sub-unit within STARS before finally leaving STARS to become their own separate entity in December 2020.
Two years later, Shirakawa felt as if she was being pushed aside as Nakano's main tag partner by new Cosmic Angel, Natsupoi, so she created her own sub-unit within Cosmic Angels called "Club Venus." They would float around for a few months before finally seceding from CA themselves to make Club Venus it's own independent stable. So in summary, Mina Shirakawa was once Tam Nakano's best friend, but after Nakano found a new tag partner in Natsupoi, she did what Tam Nakano did two years earlier and create a crew of her own.
While it appears that the split was amicable for the most part, wrestling faction alliances can prove to be broken for any reason. Donna Del Mondo and God's Eye had this very issue last year. So if Cosmic Angels and Club Venus do go to war at some point in the future, I think a battle between faction leaders for the richest prize in Joshi would be a money match, even if it was to happen at a major Korakuen Hall show and not a full blown pay-per-view inside the Nippon Budokan.
Singles Record vs. Tam Nakano (6-2)
If I was ranking the competitors on this list based off who I think has the best chance to end Tam Nakano's reign, then Saya Kamitani would be my pick. The now former Wonder of Stardom Champion just lost her belt to Mina Shirakawa back on April 23rd, so it's safe to say that she will take some time to to regroup before challenging for a major title again, but by the time she's ready to do so, Nakano better be prepared or her reign will stop after a Phoenix Splash.
Kamitani's claim for a World of Stardom title show might be the strongest out of everyone here because to put it lightly, Kamitani has completely figured out and dominated Tam Nakano over the past couple years. After starting her singles series with Nakano with a 2-2 record, she has since won every one of her last four clashes against her since August 8th, 2021.
And while the most recent of those matches was only a normal singles bout, the other three are far more important to the ongoing history of Stardom. One of those matches, the first one in this streak, saw Kamitani beat Nakano during the group stage of the 5STAR Grand Prix. Nakano was unable to recover and she was unable to reach of the finals of the competition.
But it was the second of these four bouts that was by far the most important. For it was the match that saw Saya Kamitani do the impossible and beat Tam Nakano for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, otherwise known as the "White Belt." Kamitani would go on to have the single greatest White Belt reign in history, during which she would beat many top stars including Tam Nakano on her way to 15 successful title defenses.
All of this is to say that if Nakano wants to exercise all of her past demons and become the undisputed greatest champion she can possibly be, than a win over Kamitani for the World of Stardom title is paramount to that goal. If she is able to beat her, Nakano will erase all the doubt some fans have that Kamitani has Nakano's number. But if she was to lose, than it will prove that for how dominant Nakano has been during her career, Kamitani will always be one step ahead of her.
So get to booking that, Ogawa!
Singles Record vs. Tam Nakano (0-0)
I'm writing this on the same week when Suzu Suzuki announced that she is leaving the Prominence faction. This puts her future working anywhere in limbo right now, but I think it would be asinine for Stardom to not do everything within their power to lock her into a contract or some other agreement to continue working for the promotion. She is far too talented and she can only get better.
With that being said, if she was to continue working regularly for Stardom, another shot at the World of Stardom title would be a treat for all involved. It would be a great confidence boost for Suzu, it would be an awesome match for Tam's reign, and it would be a thrill for me as a massive Suzu Suzuki fan.
While most of the people on this list are on here because they have a deep story or connection with Tam Nakano, Suzu Suzuki is on this list purely for my selfish needs. Suzu Suzuki is one of the best wrestlers in the business, full stop, and she deserves to be given as many opportunities to show that to as many fans as possible.
Singles Record vs. Tam Nakano (3-0)
Another wrestler who seemingly has Tam Nakano's number, Syuri definitely deserves a spot on the list. While I've noticed some fans have kind of forgotten somehow, Syuri's run as World of Stardom champion was one of the greatest times that belt has ever seen. Her reign was one of only six to have reached the one year mark, and she became one of only two women to reach double digit title defenses, the other being Io Shirai who did it twice.
During her mythic run, Syuri shook off some terrific challengers including MIRAI, Giulia, Mayu Iwatani, Himeka, Utami Hayashishita, and of course Tam Nakano. Her win over the leader of Cosmic Angels bumped her career record to 2-0 over Nakano at the time, a record that moved up to 3-0 two months later during the 5STAR Grand Prix.
Just like with Mayu Iwatani or Saya Kamitani, albeit without the major storyline beats, Tam Nakano's World of Stardom championship reign can only benefit with a victory over the leader of God's Eye. It would prove that Red Belt Tam is now at a different level than she was before, and it would strengthen how fans view her as champ.
But aside from all of that, I think a big match between these two would be a certified banger. So why not give us a title bout between these two during the summer?
Singles Record vs. Tam Nakano (2-1-1)
We're going to finish things up today with a quick shoutout to my first ever World of Stardom champion, Utami Hayashishita. She was Stardom's top dog back in 2021, and her reign with the Red Belt was absolutely outstanding. Hayashishita defeated some of the biggest names in the promotion at the time including Momo Watanabe, Bea Priestley, Maika two times, and of course Syuri, who would later go on to end Utami's run over a year after it started.
Since her title run, Hayashishita has spent most of her time in Stardom's upper mid-card, allowing others to shine in the spotlight. With that being said, Utami did become the official leader of Queen's Quest and oversaw the unit's expansion after bringing in Lady C and Miyu Amasaki. She also vastly improved her character work, which was highlighted best when she faced Tam Nakano. Every Stardom fan from 2022 will remember Utami Nakano, right?
But the reason she finds herself on this list is that she beat Tam Nakano the last time they met up in a one on one match. Utami was able to take out Nakano on night 19 of the 5STAR Grand Prix, a tournament she finished with a 7-5 record and 14 points, just two points behind block winner, Nakano, who would eventually lose in the finals to Giulia.
As I said earlier, I see the theme of Nakano's run as one where old, long-lasting stories end, and other new ones take their place. As you've seen with these competitors listed, most of them cover the former, but most of those are pretty dramatic. So why not throw in a fun little title defense where Tam Nakano can take out "Utami Nakano" once and for all.
Featured Image Credit - Stardom
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