I had a lovely time reviewing the 5STAR for the first time and was only kept from going straight into this show by the need to wait for it to be uploaded (no complaints, Stardom are going a good job in getting them up). Day one gave us a great match and a handful of very good ones, so day two has a lot to live up to. Can they do it? Why not?
Rina and Saya Kamitani defeated Queen’s Quest (Leo Onozaki and Hina)
Poor Kamitani completely blanked on her pre-match promo when Rina queried whether she was trying to sneakily form a team with her. I’ve said it before, but I love that Stardom is willing to let wrestlers muck up in these situations rather than scripting it or re-shooting it. That promo was not important, so letting Kamitani learn from her mistakes is great and, at the same time, makes her ten times more relatable.
Meanwhile, Onozaki and Hina continue to be paired up and prove themselves a decent little team. It was funny to watch them play the veteran role in this match-up, taking control and using that experience. It was particularly needed when Kamitani lost her way, forgetting what she was supposed to be doing before they all managed to guide her back onto track to put together a fine match.
That Hina and Leo are now a regular pairing made the result surprising as Rina bridged over on a Backslide (after Kamitani connected with a Dropkick) to pin her sister. I did not see that coming, as Saya got herself on the winning team in only her third match, good for her.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Tokyo Cyber Squad (Jungle Kyona and Ruaka) and Riho defeated STARS (Saki Kashima, Starlight Kid and Saya Iida)
Riho dealt with TCS’s attempts to indoctrinate her a bit better than Kamitani did, acting shocked, but agreeing to do the salute. It was also Iida’s first time wrestling Jungle (who Kashima described as being loud and noisy) while it was Starlight’s birthday, so all the fun was going down in the pre-match promos.
In the ring, there was some good stuff with Starlight and Riho having strong chemistry, dancing through moves together while Ruaka continues to climb my list of favourite rookies. Finally, Jungle vs Saya saw Kyona give her former stablemate a lot to work with before flying off the top with a Splash for the three.
It was a solid trios match that won’t go down in history but passed the time nicely.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Red Stars: Momo Watanabe (1-1) defeated Avary (0-1)
Avary’s first one on one match-up already saw her put in an improved performance from the previous day. She went out with the intent of fighting Momo, trading strikes and going toe to toe with one of Stardom’s best. It might not have been the best tactic, she got kicked in the head very hard, but it gave us a chance to see what she could do, and on the whole, it was positive. Her strikes weren’t on the level of someone like her opponent, but that’s a high bar to clear, and they were far from awful at the same time.
Despite that, she did look green. Cagematch has her down as having only wrestled 79 matches since 2016 (in comparison, Saya Iida debuted in January and has already wrestled 52), but I don’t know how accurate it is for smaller Australian promotions. Either way, she still has the exaggerated movements of someone who is thinking through everything they do. If she can tone that down, and find a more natural rhythm in the ring, then there is potential there. A month wrestling some of the best wrestlers on the planet won’t do her any harm, that’s for sure.
Although, if this is any indication, it looks like the matches she’ll be having with them won’t be going long. They went around five minutes before Momo dropped Avary on the back of her head with Peach Sunrise to bounce back from her defeat to Hazuki. It was a solid match, nothing you’ll remember in a week, but a decent intro for the Aussie.
Verdict: Three Stars
Red Stars: Hana Kimura (2-0) defeated Natsu Sumire (0-2)
Natsu was fired up coming into this one, booting Hana from her perch on the top rope before her entrance music had even stopped playing. It quickly became apparent that these two do not like each other, as they went at it hard.
And it was another straight-up match for Sumire, who Hana had dismissed as a comedy act beforehand. That might be the case usually, but none of that was on display here as she traded forearms with the TCS leader. It was a strong performance from her, as she showed some real intensity in her attempts to take Kimura out.
Sadly for Natsu, it wasn’t to be. Hana’s Hydrangea is becoming a death move, and when she locked it on, Natsu had no choice but to tap. Still, this was further proof that Natsu Sumire is improving as a wrestler and it looks like we can expect her to play it seriously throughout this tournament.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Blue Stars: Jamie Hayter (2-0) defeated Andras Miyagi (0-2)
The vast majority of Andras vs Jamie was worked around holds, the two of them battling in and out of headlocks and Sleepers as they tried to maintain control. By my count, there were only two actual moves in the entire thing, the Tombstone that turned the tide in Hayter’s favour and the Falcon Arrow Backbreaker that got the win (I’ve probably missed something, but certainly not a lot).
Which is an interesting way to structure a wrestling match, as it sells the idea that big moves do change matches. While that seems rather obvious, it’s something that you could claim is missing from modern wrestling as everyone focuses on getting their shit in. Instead, this was an equal contest that changed the second Hayter was able to connect with that one game-changing Tombstone.
And it’s not a way I’d want every match to be wrestled, the headlock battles would get a bit boring, but it was a cool switch up from everything around it. Hayter and Andras went out and did something different, which is rarely a bad thing.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Blue Stars: Kagetsu (1-1) defeated Natsuko Tora (0-1)
Jamie and Miyagi had a wrestling match, so their Oedo Tai teammates followed up by having a straight fight. Natsuko beat the shit out of Kagetsu in this match, dragging her around the arena, putting a bucket on her head before hitting it with an umbrella and hanging her off part of the stands by a sash. It was a beatdown, and towards the end, it looked like a certainty that she would win.
Until she didn’t, after coming crashing down with a Leg Drop Kagetsu might not have kicked out, but she did spray the mist into Tora’s face, showing that there is always a plan whirring away in the Oedo Tai leader’s head. It was enough of a distraction to fire her up, and a Death Valley Driver was allowed Kagetsu to steal the victory from under Tora’s nose.
Afterwards, Kagetsu got on the mic to put Natsuko over, telling her that she’d changed since she joined Oedo Tai and that winning isn’t everything before thanking her for the match. They shook hands and hugged, showing that even if you attempt to hang your boss, you can still be treated with respect. There’s a lesson in there for everyone.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Red Stars: Mayu Iwatani (1-1) defeated AZM (1-1)
AZM flew out of the gates, trying to use her speed to blow Mayu away, but (as Mayu pointed out in her pre-match promo) Iwatani is no stranger to the High Speed style and had no problem keeping up with the youngster.
In fact, it would be a touch of the old High Speed that got Iwatani the win as the final few seconds of this match was flash pin after flash pin, both women desperately trying to steal away with the three. One good thing about the fast-paced short matches in this tournament is that you know the finish can come at any time, so the crowd bit on every near fall and when Iwatani finally managed to pin AZM’s shoulders to the mat, they were there with her.
AZM and Mayu only had around five minutes to work with, but it was as entertaining a five-minutes as you’ll see. Two great workers having a fun sprint and seeing who comes out on top. This time it was Mayu who got her hand raised, but one suspects we’ll see this match a few more times in the years ahead.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Red Stars: Tam Nakano (1-1) defeated Hazuki (1-1)
Tam has been in an enthusiastic mood so far in the 5STAR as she’s being overwhelmed with her love of wrestling. She also joked about being the slow speed representative of Japan, and I suspect it’s physically impossible to watch Stardom and not be slightly in love with Tam Nakano.
And to get the win Tam needed to stay away from the speedy aspects of the game. Hazuki was faster than her, and there were times when that allowed her to dominate this ridiculously fun sprint. She was able to chain moves together, putting Nakano on the backfoot and punishing her for being a bit slower off the mark.
It was when Nakano went back to basics, that she was able to get involved in the action. Hazuki might be quicker than her, but if you’re being kicked in the face, it doesn’t matter how fast you are. Tam packs a punch, and it was one of those lethal blows that turned the tide, setting her up for the Tiger Suplex and the three.
I’m saying this a lot about the 5STAR, but this is another roughly five-minute match that is a joy to watch. It speeds by in a flurry of action, and while I would happily watch more, I still come out the other side smiling.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Blue Stars: Bea Priestley (2-0) defeated Konami (1-1)
Bea and Konami have a bit of history, having teamed together regularly when Konami was in Queen’s Quest. Since the split, it’s safe to say that Bea hasn’t been thrilled with Konami’s new attitude and they’re no longer friends. A relationship status cemented by Priestley giving Konami the finger during her introduction (an introduction that saw her get a grand total of zero streamers, which always makes me cringe with pity).
Having not loved Priestley’s first match, this was a massive step-up. Right from the start, Konami went after her leg, as she alternated between twisting and laying into it with kicks. Bea’s selling wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough, and having that simple tale run through the match blunted her weaknesses. She wasn’t required to carry the brunt of the action, as Konami played the aggressor and was perfect in that role.
And where Priestley’s awesome offence is at its best is when it’s changing matches. I may have complained that she just throws random cool moves out there, but they are still cool moves and having her turn the tide with two great V-Triggers was a perfect use of that move. I buy that stuff more when it’s coming from underneath, fighting through the pain to get one over an aggressive attacker and seal the win. If we get more of this Bea going forward, I might start to warm to her yet.
Verdict: Four Stars
Blue Stars: Utami Hayashishita (2-0) defeated Arisa Hoshiki (0-2)
I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again, few things give me as much pleasure as watching Arisa Hoshiki kick people’s head off with a massive grin on her face. It’s so joyously violent, and I am always down for a bit of joyful aggression.
A feeling that was for the best because Arisa and Utami had one hell of a violent match. This was Arisa’s speedy kicks vs Utami’s power, as the White Belt champion flew around the ring chipping away at The Big Rookie. However, Utami knew that if she could get her hands on Hoshiki, and put her on the ground, she could keep her there. At every opportunity, she looked to grab Arisa, throw her around and get down to choking her out.
It was the choking her out that eventually did it. With her arms locked around the Wonder of Stardom champions neck, she was able to repeatedly Judo Throw before hoisting her up into the Torture Rack. The spinout into the Powerbomb was then all that was needed to continue a rough start to the 5STAR for Arisa Hoshiki.
Although, what’s not rough is her continued ability to put on great matches. Hoshiki and Utami turned out to be perfect opponents, playing to each other’s strengths perfectly and putting on one hell of a main event. It’s two outstanding wrestlers doing their thing, and if you don’t want to watch that, you’re probably in the wrong place.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
Another awesome 5STAR show from Stardom. A lot of these matches are super quick, making them ridiculously easy to watch as talented wrestlers throw everything at the wall in five-minute sprints. When you throw in the final two delivering big, I have literally no complaints. Lovely stuff all around.
Top Three 5STAR Grand Prix Matches So Far
- Jungle Kyona vs Utami Hayashishita (17/8/19) – Four And A Quarter Stars
- Arisa Hoshiki vs Utami Hayashishita (18/8/19) – Four And A Quarter Stars
- Konami vs Bea Priestley (18/8/19) – Four Stars
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