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The first-ever IWGP Women’s champion will be a Stardom icon

The first-ever IWGP Women’s champion will be a big name with a lot of titles already on their resume.

Sunday (Oct. 23) at Stardom’s Goddess of Stardom Tag League Night One, the semi-finals of the tournament to determine who will win New Japan’s newest belt were held. In one, Mayu Iwatani outlasted younger rival Utami Hayashishita to advance. The last time Iwatani and Hayashishita faced off in singles action in 2020, Utami won the joshi promotion’s top prize (the World of Stardom title, aka the Red Belt) from her older opponent. This time, a steady diet of superkicks created an opening for the veteran, and Iwatani won after a Running Three and a pair of moonsaults.

On the other side of the bracket, KAIRI was overpowered for most of her match against Jazzy “Alpha Female” Gabert. By the Pirate Princess was able to spear her larger opponent into a turnbuckle Gabert exposed earlier in the match, which left the German wrestler & bodybuilder prone for an InSane Elbow from the former Kairi Sane.

That was KAIRI’s first match of the tournament, having received a bye in the International group. Iwatani defeated Momo Watanabe in round one.

It sets up a clash between two highly decorated joshi competitors. Both have held pretty much every belt in Stardom, including the Red Belt. They’ve also both achieved success outside Japan, with KAIRI a former WWE NXT Women’s and WWE Women’s Tag champion, and Mayu a one-time ROH Women of Honor champ. They’ve faced each other in singles action five times in the past, with Iwatani holding a 3-2 edge by virtue of her 2017 Wonder of Stardom title (aka the White Belt) victory.

Whoever wins their next match at Nov. 20’s NJPW x Stardom Historic X-Over show will not only earn the new New Japan belt, but a spot on the Wrestle Kingdom 17 card.

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