Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix (9/8/20) Review

Credit: Stardom

The 5STAR rolled into day two as it appears that Stardom have basically set up camp in Korakuen. I guess having Bushiroad bankroll you brings with it certain advantages, eh? Anyway, enough of my blabbing, onto the matches.

Queen’s Quest (Saya Kamitani and Hina) defeated Tokyo Cyber Squad (Death Yama-san and Rina)

Rina and Hina got some company in their customary opener spot, Death and Tall Saya getting the chance to play with the twins. With those two set to face off in in the 5STAR, it was at least partly building to their match, Kamitani getting an early glimpse of Yama-san’s antics.

My main takeaway was that it was fun to see Tall Saya playing the more experienced member of her team (although technically Hina has been doing this a fair bit longer). Being tagged up with Utami has helped smooth her rough edges as she looks less erratic and more confident. She’s certainly improved her hit rate on the Running Shooting Star, connecting with it perfectly for the three.

As usual, this was a solid wee match that those in a rush could breeze on past without worrying about missing anything.

Verdict: Solid

Blue Stars: Maika (2-0) defeated Saya Iida (0-2)

Maika and Giant Saya were out there to dish up a slab of beef, charging into each other from the bell before going forehead to forehead. Having already battled over the Future Title, they’ve laid the roots for a long-running feud, and they were in no mood to mess around.

That led to what was basically a no-nonsense slugfest. These two are a perfect stylistic match, as they both work hard and fast. They bounced off each other nicely while Stardom treated us to the lovely shot of Jushin Liger, dressed in his casual gear of a flowery shirt and shorts, nodding his approval when Maika locked on the Romero Special.

Sadly for us Gori-chan lovers, it appears Maika is the latest person to have stepped over her in the queue. This was, rather incredibly, the 35th match of her career, yet she’s slotted into the roster like she’s been doing this for years. Not that it’s undeserved, the lass is great, but where was that love for Gori-chan, Stardom? Still, good showing!

Verdict: Beef!

Red Stars: Mayu Iwatani (1-1) defeated Starlight Kid (1-1)

Mayu must have been busier earlier in the day because she did her pre-match interview seconds before heading out (you could head Kid’s music in the background). She pointed out that she’d forgotten her tail the day before, which explains why she lost to Giulia.

In the ring, this was a good old-fashioned student vs teacher showdown. Early on Mayu took control, almost seeming to delight in torturing her young protege. There were moments in this match where she was testing Kid, inviting her to trade strikes. If the idea was to fire the youngster up, it worked, Starlight bringing the heat in a way that we don’t often see from her.

It made for a fascinating contest as Kid got a rare chance to show her unit leader what she can do. Mayu went from dominating to finding herself on the back foot, Kid even planting her on the apron with a DDT before leaping from the top. It looked like Iwatani was out there expecting to breeze through in second gear, but her young protege was having none of that, pushing her to go that bit further in order to get the win.

I’ve been saying for ages now that Starlight Kid needs to be a star and performances like this will do nothing to change my mind.

Verdict: The Teacher Prevails!

Blue Stars: Momo Watanabe (1-1) defeated AZM (1-1)

AZM is setting high goals for herself as she proclaimed that she was going to beat all five opponents and get twelve points. You do the maths on that.

If Kid and Mayu weren’t going to go easy on each other, you could bet every penny you had AZM and Momo weren’t. These two have been wrestling together for a long old time, and it showed. Not only do they have great chemistry, but they were quite happy to kick the living shit out of each other. There was a moment where Momo met AZM coming off the top with a boot to the head that nearly decapitated me!

Somehow AZM survived that and came incredibly close to beating her unit leader, wrenching back on that arm in an attempt to repeat her victory over Iida. Unfortunately for the High Speed champ, Momo is made of slightly sterner stuff, and while she tried to sneak out with a flurry of pinning combinations, another kick to the head and a choke left AZM with no choice but to tap.

That’s two for two in these unit battles delivering.

Verdict: Kicks For All

Red Stars: Tam Nakano (1-1) defeated Konami (1-1)

Having threatened to go for Tall Saya’s neck, Konami second match saw her set her sights on busting Tam’s face. The fact she says it all with a smile is what makes it scary.

Unlike the Kamitani match, Konami didn’t follow through on her promise, but she did deliver a kick from the apron that sounded like it broke every rib in Tam’s body. She put so much force into it that she lost her footing and ended up sitting, a rather unsettling grin on her face.

These two were clearly aiming for a big match feel, going all out despite the limited run time. It certainly made this entertaining as the action was pretty non-stop, but they would have benefited from pulling it back a little. There was a lot of stuff packed in there, some of which needed time to breathe. Plus, Konami no-selling repeated kicks to the head in the final act got a little bit silly, even if she did eventually lose.

Despite that flaw, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Tam and Konami went hard, and when two talented wrestlers do that, it’s hard not to have a good time.

Verdict: Enjoyable

Blue Stars: Utami Hayashishita (2-0) defeated Natsuko Tora (0-2) by disqualification

Ugh, this match pulled a bunch of annoying bullshit.

First, Tora continued her recent trend by attacking Utami when she stupidly turned her back on her during her entrance, showing that Utami apparently didn’t bother to check out any of Tora’s previous matches before this one. Still, I’ll forgive it as plenty of companies do that, and it’s not that big a deal, is it?

Plus, the action that followed was quite enjoyable. Tora and Utami are two women who hit hard, and that’s what they gave us. There was nothing particularly complex about it, but they did it well, and Tora’s Senton off the apron to an Utami with several chairs piled on top of her looked awesome.

Then, just as it looked like Tora might be in the right position to pick up the big win she desperately needs, she decided it was the perfect time to choke Utami with her chain right in front of the ref. And, well, why? He obviously called for the DQ and what the fuck are we supposed to believe Tora was thinking? Is she an idiot? Did she just want to hurt Utami? If she just wanted to hurt her she probably shouldn’t have bothered wrestling the other ten minutes of the match, should she? Grab Natsu, jump her at the bell and be done with it.

I know a lot of people will dismiss my complaints as ‘just wrestling stuff’, but that’s almost as dumb as the trope itself. It’s nae hard to have a character’s actions make sense, and Tora’s didn’t.

Verdict: Dumb

Blue Stars: Syuri (2-0) defeated Jungle Kyona (0-2)

We got a shot of Mayu watching on from the crowd, scouting out her next opponent. That’s what I to see! A lovely wee touch that suggests these wrestlers are sensible people who bother to do research.

Anyway, I should stop blabbing on about that because Jungle and Syuri were in the ring, which is a guaranteed good time. It became a battle of power vs precision, Jungle looking to bulldoze her way through Syuri who fired back by going after Kyona’s strapped up arm. Every attack saw her eventually work her way around to that limb, even a Running Knee into the corner going crashing into poor Jungle’s damaged shoulder.

As the match went on, that shifted to become a contest of wills. Jungle’s power moves were chipping away at Syuri, getting closer and closer to putting her down, but at key moments Syuri would get right back on that injury, finding an opening and exploiting it. Eventually, those exploits would add up. Syuri locked on one Armbar too many, and when she twisted round to tie both Jungle’s arms up and offer her no means of escape, Kyona was fucked.

I still think it’s weird that Syuri is building to a title shot during a tournament, meaning she can’t really lose many of these early matches, but if it’s going to produce action like this, I shan’t complain too much.

Verdict: Thank You Very Much

Red Stars: Jumbo (2-0) defeated Giulia (1-1)

Early on, it seemed as if Giulia’s approach to this match was working. Jumbo’s massive power advantage was kept largely at bay as they proved equals when exchanging strikes and Giulia was able to take the steam out of the match on multiple occasions by locking on a submission. Himeka had a couple of moments, including launching Giulia into the corner so hard that she bounced off it, but she was facing frustration more that success.

Unfortunately for those that love, love, love Giulia, it did eventually begin to turn. She couldn’t keep Jumbo away for too long, and when she was lifted into the Torture Rack, it may not have been the actual end, but it set up for it. The cracks had been opened up, so Jumbo barged her way into them, finally hitting a Running Powerbomb for the three.

That was a nice tactical battle between two wrestlers who have faced off in multi-women and tag matches before, but never one on one. It also marked Giulia first singles defeat in Stardom which Jumbo was more than happy to point out in her post-match promo as the theme of DDM pricking their leader’s ego continues. It led to a bit of tension between the two, but one suspects that was a momentary thing. DDM’s strong start to the tournament continues even if Giulia’s impossible dream of them all winning every match is over.

Verdict: Nicely Done

Overall Show

A show that was heavy on inter-unit battles and saw them all deliver. Natsuko vs Utami was a disappointment, but that was more down to booking than the actual wrestlers (although it does leave me worried for how Tora’s tournament is going to shape up). Still, the 5STAR’s strong start goes on, long may it continue.

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