Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix (6/9/20) Review

Credit: Stardom

Stardom’s first trip to Sendai in a fair while saw them still on catch-up duty for the 5STAR. I don’t have much more to say than that… em, enjoy?

STARS (Mayu Iwatani and Hanan) defeated Rina and Hina

Rina declared she had no interest in her big sis as her goal was to take out the champ. That lass is going to rule the world one day. Mayu, meanwhile, admitted to being nervous as she hadn’t wrestled an opener in a while and wanted to do well for Hanan which was very sweet. They even matched up on gear, Mayu donning a gi for her entrance and Hanan sporting a Poti tail.

Rina would be true to her word as the twins went straight after Mayu, ganging up to isolate her. The champ being worked over by a pair of thirteen year olds while a returning rookie stands on the apron might draw complaints from some, but I’ve got to say, I love Mayu for her willingness to do that.

And Hanan would get her chance to put the twins in their place, clearing the way for Mayu to put Hina away with a Dragon Sleeper. I’m a sucker for this kind of opener, and it was a treat to see Mayu down working with the twins while looking to be having a blast pairing up with Hanan. It gets two thumbs up from me.

Verdict: A Delight

Blue Stars: Jungle Kyona (2-1) defeated Saya Iida (0-3)

Jungle and Giant Saya go back a long way (well, a year and a half or so), with Iida having joined Jungle’s JAN when she first debuted. They also have great chemistry, a shared love of running into people meaning that I always look forward to their matches.

That physicality took over the second the bell rang, Iida flying across the ring to fire off some stiff Dropkicks. They then proceeded to have the exact match you’d want them to, as they got down to beating on each other. There was nothing complex about it, but it was hella fun and was easily the most offence Saya has dished out to Jungle yet. I’ve always got the impression Kyona has a soft spot for Iida, and she wrestled this match like someone who wanted to make her look good.

Of course, she also damn near Lariated her head off, setting up the finish as Iida’s first 5STAR continues to be pointless. However, the performances she’s dishing up are further proof that Giant Saya is as good as we all say she is even if Stardom are unwilling to reward her for it. Hm, I wonder why Jungle might have taken a shine to her?

Verdict: Exactly What I Wanted

Red Stars: Jumbo (3-0-1) and Saya Kamitani (0-2-1) fought to a time-limit draw

Stardom’s booking is baffling at the best of times, but I would be fascinated to hear what thought process led to this going twenty minutes. I mean, I get it in theory. It gets Himeka to drop a point while giving Saya a big upset without actually pinning anyone. However, you’re asking a wrestler who has still worked only a handful of big singles matches to work a draw, and that’s a risky move. I came into this knowing the result and was honestly dreading it.

Thankfully, dread was probably too strong an emotion, but I’m still not sure you can rave about this performance. They worked the opening like two people who knew they were going the distance and, honestly, not much happened till about eight minutes in when Saya started going after Himeka’s arm on the outside. Until then, I found myself zoning out, the action occuring in front of me, but with little emotional connection.

After that, it did begin to pick-up a bit, but I am baffled by the structure they settled on. Weirdly, Tall Saya was the one taking control, at one point raining elbows down on Himeka in the ropes, pushing away Daichi when he tried to stop her. It was a set-up that felt ass backwards. She’s the rookie and Jumbo the unbeatable force, so to have Kamitani on the front foot felt like a mistake. She’s shown hints of being a great underdog babyface, so I’d have preferred to see her hanging on, surviving the Himeka onslaught.

I feel like I’ve harsh on Tall Saya recently, and I do think she’s an exceptional talent, but I’ve been worried for a while that Stardom is doing too much with her too soon. That’s what this match felt like. She was pushed into a role that doesn’t suit her. For the stage of her career and with what she’d been asked to do, she did as well as can be expected, but she shouldn’t have needed to.

Verdict: Weird Ass Booking

Momo Watanabe defeated Saki Kashima by DQ

This was meant to be Momo vs Syuri, but sadly Syuri’s mum passed away, and she was unable to make the show. With Stardom working on a ridiculously tight schedule, Momo was handed the points, but that’s not the important part. I pass all my best onto Syuri and her family.

Normally, Saki is in the 5STAR to play spoiler, bundling people up within seconds to help the maths figure itself out. Sadly, she’s unable to do that this year. However, she could stay play her part as she spent this match working over the leg of Momo. I’m not sure if that will play into the rest of her tournament, but it certainly felt like something that could as she was selling the hell out of it.

The finish also didn’t go Momo’s way as Oedo Tai decided to fuck it and beat her with a chair. Tora is apparently not content to have beaten Watanabe herself; she wants to make it easier for everyone else too. Meanwhile, the more obstacles being stacked in front of Momo the more hope I have that my girl is still going to come from behind to win the whole thing. C’mon Momo!

Verdict: Some Quick Storytelling

Red Stars: Tam Nakano (3-1) defeated Starlight Kid (1-3)

Poor slow speed Tam followed up one match with a speedy wrestler (Death Yama-san) with another. Still, at least she was getting them all out the way.

Kid did give her some trouble too. Her young STARS pal might not be picking up the points, but she’s having a great in-ring tournament and looked to catch Nakano off-guard. For parts of this match, she was a step ahead, leaping up the turnbuckles to throw Tam off the top and managing to connect with a Moonsault from the second rope.

Sadly for Kid, she wasn’t quite able to finish the job. Every time she went for that big match closing move, Tam was able to stop it, getting her knees up on the Frog Splash and slipping away from the Ki-Bomb. In contrast, when Kid blocked the Tiger Suplex, Tam adjusted, planting her forward with a Facebuster instead. That was enough to loosen her up for attempt number two and the three.

I don’t mean this to sound condescending, but that was a really pleasant match. It went a bit under ten minutes, had plenty of good action and gave me everything I needed. Thumbs up!

Verdict: Made Me Happy

Blue Stars: Natsuko Tora (2-2) defeated Maika (2-1)

If you hadn’t any doubts about how this was going to go, Saki walking out ahead of Natsuko wielding a chair should have put them to bed.

Maika’s response to Tora’s nonsense was to try and fight it head-on. This particular rookie is a badass, so she seemed determined to try and go through Tora and her chain. She escaped from being choked by pulling Natsuko off the top rope before going to town with those judo throws.

The problem is that while you have your eyes on Tora, Saki is plotting away in the background. Maika threw a lot at Natusko, attacking her arm and looking like she could force the submission, but a quick distraction of the ref and a chain in the right spot allowed Kashima to turn things in her boss’s favour. Poor Maika fought hard, but she ate chain and, well, there’s no coming back from that.

There was a time when I would found these matches being shenanigan laden frustrating, but it’s surprisingly not bothering me. Tora is cool in the role, and it’s a unique act in Stardom. My worry isn’t with the performance, but that Stardom will give her enough to make it work. Still, that has nothing to do with this match which did what it set out to do.

Verdict: What You’d Expect

Red Stars: Konami (3-1) defeated Giulia (2-2)

Konami’s tournament has been really cool. She’s gone into each match with a clear gameplan as she’s slowed things down and forced people to wrestle her style. It’s a simple thing, but it’s nice to watch a wrestler and feel like they have, I guess, tactics.

It also felt like a challenge that Giulia couldn’t resist. Her arrogance is being set-up as her weakness, and it got her into trouble here. Time after time, she seemed to dance into Konami’s traps, running into submissions or being out-wrestled on the ground. It was like she wanted to beat Konami at her own game, and she was ultimately punished for that.

That made for a methodical match, but not in the way people usually use that word which is as a synonym for boring. These two weren’t working fast, but everything made sense and looked like it hurt. Then, in the final seconds when Giulia seemed like she’d finally got control, Konami slipped through and grabbed that arm, bringing her plan to completion.

Verdict: Smart Wrestling

Blue Stars: Utami Hayashishita (3-0) defeated AZM (1-3)

AZM getting the main event spot is fucking cool. Her and Utami should be a big match, but it would have been the easiest thing in the world to slot Konami and Giulia above them. I’m glad they didn’t fall for that temptation.

To the surprise of no-one, she would prove to be worthy of the spot. AZM was merciless in her attacking of Utami, going for roll-ups out of the handshake and later kicking her in the head as she entered the ring. There was no concession for friendship here, AZM wanted to win.

Unfortunately, Utami also wanted to win and had that good old-fashioned fallback of brute force. AZM and Starlight Kid seem to be running on parallel paths in this tournament, both putting on some great performances, but not quite able to get the job done. In the final act, AZM came close, slipping into that Arm Bar and countless flash pins, but Utami just had that little bit more. In the key moments, the ability to pluck your opponent into the air and throw them about makes all the difference.

In the aftermath, they laid on the mat with their heads next to each other, exchanging a few words. Who knows what was said, but I hope they were congratulating themselves on a job well done.

Verdict: Good Stuff

Overall Show

That weird draw aside, the 5STAR continues to be an incredibly enjoyable tournament. Even the draw didn’t suck and is probably worth a watch. In fact, I’d be intrigued to know other people’s opinions on it to find out whether I’m being a bastard or not. Anyway, it was a damn good show even with that, so well done, Stardom.

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