30 July 2022
Venue: Ota City General Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan
Here we go! Opening round of the 5STAR Grand Prix (5*GP) and I’m aiming to review every single match. The rules for the tournament are 2 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 for a loss. Each match has a 15-minute time limit. The tie breaker is the outcome of the previous head-to-head match and if that ends in a tie, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what they do.
On every show there will be some non 5*GP matches and I’ll only review them if they are interesting or stand out in any particular way. The first show is a PPV and because I’ve got enthusiasm on my side, I’m going to review everything; this won’t last as my sanity starts to leak out of my ears and I get fed up of multi-woman tags.
My plan is not to repeat verbatim what happens during each match because that would become incredibly boring incredibly quickly, and you may as well just watch the match instead of me stringing together moves that I’ll struggle to remember how to spell. Overall, I’m just hoping that it will be an enjoyable read and encourage you to check out Stardom afterwards and all that it offers.
Pre show Gauntlet Tag Team Match: Cosmic Angels (Natsupoi & Tam Nakano) vs Oedo Tai (Fukigen Death & Starlight Kid) vs Oedo Tai (Momo Watanabe & Saki Kashima) vs Oedo Tai (Rina & Ruaka) vs Queen’s Quest (Hina & Miyu Amasaki) vs STARS (Hanan & Koguma)
Rina is 15. This fact still blows my mind. I think back many, many years to what I was doing at 15 and it’s shameful how cool she is. How do you stay grounded when your schoolmates are worried about homework and you’re worried about Syuri kicking your head in? Miyu Amasaki is improving every time I see her, although she does do the absolutely terrible cartwheel into elbow spot that has infected women’s matches in WWE. It also looks just as bad, with absolutely no weight or power behind it.
- Natsupoi still hasn’t got the Cosmic Angels dance down
- Koguma and Hanan uncharacteristically jump Tam and Natsupoi whilst on the ramp
- The depth of the roster is amazing. Tam was main-eventing the last PPV and here she is in a dark match before the PPV starts and it is not even being done as a form of punishment
- Tam and Natsupoi win three consecutive falls which was probably done so none of Oedo Tai had to fight each other.
- Nothing of note happens. No big bumps, purely to put people on the show who don’t have a 5*GP match and to keep the crowd happy.
All of the contestants are introduced unit by unit and then individually called out where they then stand in their respective blocks. The leader of each unit is announced last as is befitting their standing. Most of the entrants were dressed in traditional Japanese wear apart from Cosmic Angels, who wore hot pants, and Oedo Tai, who wore their wrestling gear and a black and purple top.
It really did make the tournament look a big deal and elevated every single wrestler taking part. It was a shame that Suzu Suzuki had to miss the show due to Covid, but she will get her chance to shine down the line I’m sure.
Block B: Momo Kohgo – 0 points – (Stars) vs Mai Sakurai – 0 points (DDM)
Prediction: Mai Sakurai
Momo is a last minute replacement for the injured Thekla. It will be interesting to see if they change the booking for her as Thekla looked poised to have a decent tournament and is much higher up the pecking order than Momo. Mai Sakurai seems to be a bit of a polarising figure online but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt considering her in ring experience is only 2 years, the majority of which has been done during Covid.
After a bit of a 50/50 split on offence Mai finally took over and won after hitting an inverted Michinoku driver. This was an OK opener and probably what was expected from these two and their experience. After the bell however Momo jumped Mai who quickly booted her out of the ring straight onto her back. Honestly this made Momo look a bit of a chump. Rather than just eating the pin and finishing the match, she lost and got kicked around after the loss and she didn’t look threatening at all.
Winner: Mai Sakurai – 2 points
Momo Kohgo – 0 points
Block A: Ami Sourei – 0 points (God’s Eye) vs Saya Iida – 0 points (Cosmic Angels)
Prediction: Ami Sourei
Ami Sourei is God’s Eye’s bodyguard and she definitely looks the part. She is tall and she is stacked. Saya Iida on the other hand is trying to be the bodyguard of Stars. There is no doubt that she is strong and she has muscles on muscles but her height works against her and in matches like this it is extremely magnified. The pair start off with a chop exchange before trading suplexes and both powering out of them. Then we have a running shoulder blocks exchange and this match wouldn’t look out of place on a Big Japan card in the strong division alongside Sekimoto and Okabayashi.
Some incredible power spots where Sourei just deadlifts Iida and chucks her straight to the mat. The win comes after a powerbomb and then a huge suplex. It was an OK watch. Sourei can look a bit overshadowed in a faction with Syuri and MIRAI, but she might go deep into this tournament.
Winner: Ami Sourei – 2 points
Saya Iida: 0 points
Block B: Unagi Sayaka – 0 points – (Cosmic Angels) vs SAKI – 0 points (Cosmic Angels)
Prediction: Unagi Sayaka
Inter-faction fights are always interesting in companies that operate with clearly defined stables. SAKI is an honoury member of Cosmic Angels as she is currently part of COLOR’s outside of Stardom. Unagi is a huge fan favourite and is constantly improving. Like Mai Sakurai she’s only got a few years of active wrestling under her belt and most of it being through Covid.
Unagi starts off by turning down SAKI’s offer of a handshake, and then offers her own and instantly tries to get the jump on her. It ultimately fails as SAKI shows her craftiness. This started off really nice and fast paced compared to the previous two matches and then just slowed right down. All that momentum is lost as we get an overly long exchange of kicks to the head. At one point I thought I was watching a Stewart Lee joke which just keeps going and going and going to the point of absurdity. We get a few other moves and then straight back to kicks to the head.
Saki wins after a spinning suplex. This should have been better but the initial exchange just took everything out of me after starting so promising. Unagi accepted the post-fight handshake before pushing SAKI away. This seems in keeping with her petulant character who has a lot to learn and grow.
Winner: SAKI – 2 points
Unagi Sayaka: 0 points
Block B: Risa Sera – 0 points (Prominence) vs Maika – 0 points (DDM)
Prediction: Risa Sera
Risa Sera always looks amazing. She has a few different outfits depending on what type of match she is having. I’d love for her to turn up in her deathmatch gear just to scare the living crap out of whoever she is facing. Match starts with a bit of hair pulling and ends up on the outside where nothing really happens before they get back in the ring. Bit of a strange moment, as if Risa Sera is used to brawling but no spots were planned so they went straight back into the ring.
We’ve had chop exchanges, we’ve had kick exchanges, now we’ve got elbow exchanges! Thankfully much, much shorter than the last match. Sera shows some tremendous strength by picking up Maika from a Boston Crab positon into a powerbomb and just chucks her straight into the ring post.
Some excellent power moves at a blistering pace, with both kicking out at 1 to show their tenacity. After the exchange Risa Sera was able to do a diving double knee drop from the top rope for the win. Easily the best match so far. We also get a nice bit of respect at the end – and by respect I mean Risa Sera standing on Maika’s head and messing her hair up.
Winner: Risa Sera – 2 points
Maika: 0 points
Verdict: Really Good
Block B: AZM – 0 points (Queen’s Quest) vs Syuri – 0 points (God’s Eye)
I predicted AZM to win, primarily because she is awesome but mostly because if AZM could work a high speed match, I thought Syuri would struggle to keep pace. And that’s exactly how it starts out. AZM was running all over the show catching Syuri off guard. Suyri has to try and slow AZM down by applying a sleeper and then a submission-style move on the ropes.
There’s a really cool spot where AZM trips Syuri on the apron, spins her around and then just kicks her straight in the head. She falls to the ground and AZM follows up with a diving foot stomp from the top turnbuckle to the floor. And to keep the insanity going she then hits a headscissors DDT-style move where Syuri just face plants into the ring and it lookd like death. If that had been the finish I’d have totally bought into it. It looked absolutely devastating.
AZM showed her absolute disregard for her seniors by just booting the crap out of Syuri. Syuri looked confused and shellshocked by the speed and pace of the match and looked incredibly vulnerable. AZM started to get frustrated and that led to her downfall. It is easy to forget her age when you think about her years of in-ring experience. After two failed rollups she rushes and tries too much and Syuri is able to kick her in the head. Soon after Syuri has her rolled up and tied into a submission which AZM just cannot escape from, and it’s all over.
What a match. Breathtaking and tells a clear story. A nearly flawlessly executed game plan by AZM was overcome by the sheer skill of Syuri. It is clear why she is the red belt champion but this was the first time in a while where little holes in her armour are showing. Can others take AZM’s lead and push Syuri as far as she did?
Winner: Syuri – 2 points
AZM: 0 points
Tag match – KAIRI & Nanae Takahashi vs Lady C & Saya Kamitani (Queen’s Quest)
Prediction: KAIRI & Nanae Takahashi
KAIRI’s old tag partner has returned in Takahashi, one of the founding members of Stardom along with Rossy and Fuka. She left in 2015 and formed SEAdLINNNG soon after. Recently she has stepped away from SEAdLINNNG and is now a freelancer.
Lady C finally has a Queen’s Quest robe and looks amazing in it. It looked like at times it was hard for her to hide her smile, especially during the introductory pose.
Nanae looked really good here which was nice to see, especially after reading stories of how she stepped away from SEAdLINNNG. KAIRI also looked like she was having a lot of fun. The predicted outcome based on puro hierarchy happened with Nanae pinning Lady C. Afterwards Takahashi challenged Syuri for the red belt. That should be a hard hitting match but I give Takahashi absolutely zero chance in taking the belt off Syuri.
Winners: KAIRI & Nanae Takahashi
Block A: MIRAI – 0 points (God’s Eye) vs Mayu Iwatani – 0 points (Stars)
This was going nicely with a fair amount of offence on both sides: a nice submission applied by MIRAI which was wrenching the neck, followed up by Mayu getting back on top. What followed is one of the craziest bumps I’ve seen in a while. MIRAI was on the outside and Mayu did a suicide dive to no one and just went splat onto her back. It looked disgusting and it sounded disgusting. Complete disregard for her neck. MIRAI was able to follow this up by another nasty move by dropping Mayu onto her back outside of the ring. Mayu is one of the best sellers currently working. These two moves led to a near count-out and I honestly thought this was the finish of the match. Mayu just managed to beat the count to get back into the ring. She is so good at what she does.
From here MIRAI smelt blood and blasted her straight away with a Razer’s Edge-style move followed by some solid elbows to the neck. Some of the offence to Mayu’s neck looked gross. It wasn’t completely one-sided, as MIRAI also sold well for Mayu’s various kicks. MIRAI got the win though and looked incredibly strong in pinning the icon clean in the middle of the ring, to continue her very strong run of recent results.
This was a hard-hitting match with some nasty bumps and nasty strikes. It could have ended at multiple points.
Winner: MIRAI – 2 points
Mayu Iwatani: 0 points
Block B: Himeka – 0 points (DDM) vs Utami Hayashishita – 0 points (Queen’s Quest)
Prediction: Utami Hayashishita
A very simple hoss battle. Himeka, the big hoss of DDM vs Utami the Power of QQ. Lots of strike exchanges, lots and lots of lariats. However unlike the Unagi match, this was interesting and felt like it was leading to a logical conclusion.
Himeka wins after a running powerbomb that sends Utami into the shadow realm.
I’d consider this an upset just because it is Utami, but Himeka is great in her own right. She is a legit hoss and I don’t think it should be a surprise that she could get the win here.
Winner: Himeka – 2 points
Utami Hayashishita: 0 points
Block A: Hazuki – 0 points (Stars) vs Giulia – 0 points (DDM)
This starts off fast and just keeps going. Giulia has one of the best elbows in wrestling. It sounds like a gun shot. They end up on the ramp with the ref being shoved down and Giulia uses him as a springboard in an inventive spot. Unfortunately Hazuki recovers quickly and ends up kicking Giulia down the stairs for a nasty bump and then follows up with a huge diving cross body.
Giulia misses a headbutt which lets Hazuki build up a head of steam and is able to hit a nice suicide dive. It is not a proper Hazuki match unless she gets to do the foot wash spot and then running boot to the face. Ohtani would be proud.
Absolutely disgusting headbutt by Hazuki, a michinoku driver and then an absolutely beautiful brainbuster gives Hazuki the win. I’d call this an upset even though Hazuki is a storied Stardom wrestler: Giulia has been constantly pushed since joining the company.
This was a really good ten-minute match which packed a lot into that small time frame. Just shows that you don’t need to use 25-30 mins in order to have a good match.
Winner: Hazuki – 2 points
Giulia: 0 points
I was slightly disappointed with this show overall, especially hot on the heels of some really excellent PPVs. Variety helps shows to be great and unfortunately a tournament setting makes that very difficult, especially with every match on the card bar one being a tournament match. It is up to the wrestlers to really do something different with each match that compensates for that lack of variety. The first few matches were easily skippable and I was really unimpressed with SAKI vs Unagi.
The show picked up after that and became much more entertaining. Match of the night was a very close call between AZM vs Syuri or Hazuki vs Giulia. Syuri looked incredibly vulnerable to AZM’s high speed attack and only just survived. Hazuki and Giulia went all out with some crazy dives, falls down stairs and some disgusting headbutts that Abdullah Kobayashi would be incredibly proud of.
Match of the night: AZM vs Syuri