By this point in a tournament, I’ve completely exhausted ways to introduce the shows. It’s another day in the 5STAR, whoop whoop.
Momo Watanabe defeated Hanan
Stardom has surrounded Hanan with talented wrestlers since her return, haven’t they? It’s almost like they want her to look good.
If they have decided Hanan is someone they should be investing in, then I don’t blame them. She’s been great since coming back, slipping into the swing of things like she’d never been away. Momo, unsurprisingly, gave her a bit of a beating in this one, but the rookie took it well. It was structured to ask when she’d lose rather than if, but she showed fire, and I believed Hanan at least thought she stood a chance.
Towards the end, Momo was raining kicks into Hanan’s back, but the youngster kept asking for more, refusing to show weakness. Sure, it was dumb as hell, but you gotta love it. Hanan was kicked from ring post to ring post, yet she came out of it looking better than when she came in. If you can do that, you’re going to be just fine.
Verdict: Hanan Got Good
Red Stars: Himeka (4-0-1) defeated Death Yama-san (0-4)
In a twist, we got a slightly ‘serious’ performance from Death Yama-san. There was still plenty of shtick, and it went under five minutes, but it felt closer to Kaori Yoneyama than we’re used to this from this persona.
Of course, that took the form of a classic big vs little battle. Death was trying to sneak past Himeka and steal away with the victory. There was a moment where she resorted to playground tactics, crouching behind Jumbo, forcing her to stumble into a roll-up.
Sadly, in the end, Himeka was too big and too strong, getting Death up into a Torture Rack for the submission. However, this should hopefully serve as a nice reminder to Stardom fans that there is a brilliant wrestler under that corpse paint.
Blue Stars: Utami Hayashishita (4-0) defeated Saya Iida (0-4)
Iida may not be getting much time (or points) to do her stuff in the 5STAR, but she is grabbing the minutes she does have. Giant Saya is becoming a master at the physical sprint, as her matches always have a real bite to them.
In this one, she even went after a limb, not only teeing off with Dropkicks and strikes but also ragging on Utami’s arm. It seemed to be an attempt to take those vicious Lariats out of the game, and it almost worked, Utami grabbing at it in agony whenever she had to use it.
Unfortunately, there is more to Utami’s game than a Lariat, and she would still come on victorious. However, this was yet another example of the canny wee worker that Iida is turning into. She maximises her time, always coming up with a way to stand out. It was enough to earn Utami’s respect, as she offered a handshake afterwards only for Iida to slap it away. Respect ain’t enough for our Gori-chan.
Maika defeated Saki Kashima, Konami and Riho in a four-way
I’m enjoying how (removed from the stress of the 5STAR) Saki is hanging around these shows not giving a solitary fuck. She kicked this one off chilling out on the top rope, leaving the rest to fight. Then, when Maika tried to drag her down, she slipped into a Head Scissors, taking control of her. Not giving a shit is powerful (or it was until she lost).
It would be the least experienced wrestler who stole the show, though. Maika is a badass, and I enjoy the hell out of her tossing people about the place with those Judo Throws. This tournament is morphing my opinion on her as I grow from thinking she has a lot of potential to being convinced she’s pretty much there. In a frantic four-way with some brilliant wrestlers, she’s the one who caught the eye.
Verdict: Badass Maika
Red Stars: Tam Nakano (3-2) defeated Saya Kamitani (1-2-1)
In a frustrating twist, Tall Saya had the match with Tam that I wanted her to have with Himeka. Kamitani morphed into the role of the underdog, facing off with her former mentor who it is safe to say was not impressed when she chose Queen’s Quest over STARS.
And yet, this was an incredibly focused performance from Nakano. She’s usually a wrestler who flies on emotion, but facing off with Tall Saya she had a plan and stuck to it. Tam zeroed in on Saya’s leg, working it over and wrestling in a style that suggested she wanted to show the rookie up. It was so professional it was almost a dismissal.
Saya, meanwhile, wasn’t perfect with her selling. It’s all very good grabbing your leg after a kip-up, but if you’ve been doing handsprings and cartwheels seconds before, it’s probably not enough. Then, towards the end, she completely forgot about it, reverting to normal for the home stretch.
However, I still think this was my favourite of her tournament performances so far. Tall Saya was in the role she should be in, working as an underdog against a more experienced opponent before executing the finish to perfection. Tam took just a second to gloat to the crowd only to be pulled into a pin, her shoulders trapped to the mat for the three. That’s the Tall Saya that’s gonna be a star.
Verdict: That’s More Like It!
Blue Stars: Jungle Kyona (2-2) defeated Natsuko Tora (2-3) by disqualification
Every teacher will recognise the commanding way that Jungle told Natsuko to put her chain away before this match.
Unfortunately, another lesson most teachers pick-up is that just because something gets put away at the start of the day, doesn’t mean it won’t appear again towards the end. Jungle and Tora were having a good hoss battle, Kyona putting an end to Tora’s attempts at shenanigans to drag her into a fight. However, Natsuko couldn’t resist and eventually that chain made a reappearance leading to the DQ.
With TCS set to face off with Oedo Tai before the end of the month, this was a nice little taster of what we’re going to get and let Natsuko make her point even if she was disqualified. She feels like someone who is floating above the 5STAR at the moment, on her own little mission. Let’s just hope it goes somewhere.
Verdict: Don’t Strangle Your Teachers With Chains
Afterwards, Tora promised Jungle that Oedo Tai has a surprise for her. I suspect that’s going to be the return of Bea Priestley, so we can all look forward to that shit show.
Red Stars: Giulia (3-2) defeated Starlight Kid (1-4)
Giulia is brilliant at portraying arrogance. She has this measured, haughty approach that gives off the impression she doesn’t believe her opponent is worth her time. It’s the perfect way to face off with someone with the innate likeability of Starlight Kid.
As I have opined on multiple occasions, few people do underdog babyface like Kid. She’s made for that role, so having her trying desperately to get away from Giulia and scramble her way to victory was perfect. It’s, in many ways, wrestling 101, behind maybe only a big bloke beating up a little bloke, but there is a reason for that. A put upon hero trying to overcome the odds is hard not to support.
This time, Kid would be unsuccessful, Giulia ultimately picking up a commanding victory with a hold the post-match graphic called Bianca. It added up to something that you might not need to see, but gave me exactly what I wanted from it.
Verdict: Well Done
Red Stars: Mayu Iwatani (2-2) defeated Death Yama-san (0-5)
I had no idea Death was pulling double-duty on this show. Sure, she gets in and out fast, but Yone has been wrestling for twenty-one years! I assume that everything must hurt all the time, comedy sprints or not. It’s a theory that was backed up by Konami wheeling her out on a trolley before she stumbled into the ring, grasping her back and falling off the ropes when she tried to hang there.
Seeing her opponent unable to walk was probably a bit of a relief for Mayu. She’s not having a good tournament and is so frazzled she needed the camera person to whisper the name of Fukuoka to her because she didn’t have a clue where they were. The Red Belt champ was in need of an easy day.
Not that it ended up being that. Death might have been complaining about her back, but she came to life the second the bell went, going for flash pin after flash pin. She made it up to Mayu, though, by throwing in some advertising for her new book, even giving Iwatani the chance to do a live reading for our enjoyment.
All of this was very much a bit of me. You’ve got Death Yama-san, Mayu Iwatani and a big old sprinkling of nonsense. I laughed throughout and had a lovely time. Perhaps I’ll even buy the book although it will take a hell of a lot more Japanese lessons before I can read the thing.
Blue Stars: AZM (2-3) defeated Syuri (2-2)
Syuri was, understandably, subdued in her promo beforehand having lost her mum a mere week before. All the best to her.
It’s weird to go from that to reviewing wrestling, but that’s what I’m here to do. AZM pointed out pre-match that she rarely gets to face wrestlers who are senior to her (a ridiculous statement for a seventeen-year-old to be able to make) and that because of that, she was nervous. It was also her second main event in a row as Stardom is valuing her highly.
She was right to be nervous too. Having spent most of her tournament attacking people’s arms, AZM was now up against the leader of Joint Army, someone who knows a thing or two about taking limbs. On top of that, Syuri was a constant flurry of kicks and suplexes, leaving AZM grasping for opens. There was a couple of moments where she slipped into submissions, but Syuri always found a way out and looked like she was in control.
So, AZM fell back on her other talent, the old flash pin. With Syuri teeing up for a big old kick, AZM slipped underneath her flying foot, bundled her up in the AZM Sushi and stole away with the three. It was timed to perfection and has to go down as an upset victory, especially as Syuri is still the number one contender.
The match was great too, as AZM comes out looking smart while Syuri doesn’t lose anything for being caught off-guard once. When you throw in that Syuri must have had a fucking rotten week, I think this is one you have to applaud.
Verdict: The Grizzled Vet Wins
Is it bad that Death vs Mayu might have been my favourite match on this show? The answer to that question, by the way, is no because it ruled. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad show, but there was nothing particularly remarkable about the collection of good matches on the rest of the card. Yama-san and Iwatani, meanwhile, made me laugh, which is more than enough to keep me happy.
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