If New Japan Pro Wrestling is the king of men's wrestling in Japan, then Stardom is the queen of women's wrestling. Plenty of NXT and WWE's current and future women stars are being poached directly from Stardom's talented roster. But just like NJPW's lack of women, and respect for the few there are, Stardom has a glaring problem.
Stardom let's their all female roster shine whenever they put on the show. Each woman has an over-the-top character who often resembles some familiar tropes and themes from Japanese culture. Some wrestlers are shy, but fierce, schoolgirls who seemingly power up as matches go on. Others are tough as nails prize fighters who are constantly looking for fights. This diverse lineup of personalities is what makes Stardom so much fun to watch. However if you dig just under the surface of Stardom's all women presentation they are a few worrying aspects.
Even with a tough as nails attitude, Stardom doesn't shy away from the fact that their wrestlers must be attractive. It's not much of a hidden secret among wrestling that performers must look the part, as well as act and perform it. Women, as well as men sometimes, must be "on display" for the audience. It doesn't take much to find years of disgusting portrayals of women in wrestling, outside and inside of Japan or anywhere else. But Stardom is an all women promotion, so you'd hope they'd give their performers more of a leeway.
Instead Stardom leans into it. Not only are wrestlers expected to be attractive, their outfits are often sexualized and emphasized for a male gaze. Worse though is their emphasis on photo shoots. Several times a year Stardom releases calendars and photo books of their performers. The photos are often suggestive or downright pornographic, including nude and skimpy outfits. I wouldn't decry a woman empowering herself, or her profession, by choosing to pose nude. But to seemingly require, or at least emphasize, this portion of your company as a key part of your product is sad.
Every company, from small to large, wants to have women be the star of their show. WWE keeps calling it their "women's revolution" and most other promotions are trying to keep up with them. Stardom should easily be able to capture this new women's wrestling fever, and just might with the level of talent they have. Instead they're land-mining their efforts and undermining the meaning of empowerment. Women deserve to be the stars of the show, but they shouldn't be on display.