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

Taking the Queen’s Quest thing to the next level. Credit: Stardom

We’re here! It perhaps didn’t take the route it intended, but the 5STAR has reached its conclusion. Now, Stardom merely needs to power through the last group matches and the final. I’m sure that will be an easy day at the office.

Blue Stars: Syuri (4-2) defeated Maika (4-2)

Back in your box, rookie. Credit: Stardom

Thanks to scheduling kerfuffles, Syuri and Maika had two matches left in their block. It meant they were both still in contention to make the final, but with the tough spot of having to kick off this show with the knowledge that they were going to be wrestling again later.

With that in mind, it was no surprise to see this worked at a slower pace. That shouldn’t be mistaken for boring, though. These two went at each other, Syuri throwing kicks and trying to tie Maika up while she responded with those trusty judo throws. They worked a hell of a lot harder than they needed to, pushing themselves despite their busy nights.

In the end, though, it felt a bit like Syuri reminding Maika of her spot in DDM. Yea, she’s had a good tournament, but with all signs pointing to the indie veteran coming into Stardom full-time, she needed to know she’s still below her in the pecking order. A Buzzsaw Kick was the perfect reminder.

Verdict: They Went Hard

Red Stars: Saya Kamitani (2-4-1) defeated Starlight Kid (1-6)

I think Kid might be about to be Dropkicked. Credit: Stardom

Tall Saya declared that despite being unable to reach the final she was going to mercilessly crush Kid. I know what she’s trying to do, but I ain’t buying it. Kamitani is going to have to do a lot of work to convince me she’s some ruthless killer.

Especially when these two kicked things off by flipping and kipping up all over the place. There wasn’t much crushing going on. It was also a tad too performative for my tastes, but not egregious enough to annoy me. They’re both good at that stuff, and I can’t hold it against them if they want to show off now and then.

The rest of it was decent if somewhat rushed (unsurprising with how much is on this show). Kamitani was, on the whole, painted as dominant and picked up a win with a slightly strange looking Ki Krusher. I’m not sure what made it look strange, but it did. Anyway, that’s not important, solid match.

Verdict: Alright

Red Stars: Giulia (4-3) defeated Death Yama-san (2-5)

That’s one way to shut her up. Credit: Stardom

I’d have bet my house on Death playing spoiler on this show. Thankfully, I don’t have a house, so that wasn’t possible. Instead, Giulia was already out of contention, leaving her free to pick up the win.

And having come in as an ultra series faction, it feels like Stardom has slowly allowed DDM to show off their goofiness. This was Giulia’s first chance to go full comedy as she opened the match by interrupting Death’s posing with a dramatic chop to the throat. From there, we slipped into shenanigans galore.

It not only lead to a fun match but also felt like a positive move for Giulia. She’s slowly been turning people around from the negativity of her entrance into the company and making them laugh will only aid that. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Korakuen crowd had a lovely time, and that’s the main thing.

Nothing about it was essential, and if you want your wrestling super serious, give it a skip, but it made me smile.

Verdict: It Was Fun

Afterwards, Giulia announced that XXXX will be arriving on October 3rd. The obvious bet is Mina or Poi (with Mina the favourite), but we’ll have to wait and see. While I can’t quite picture either of them in DDM, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and usually, the most likely answer is indeed the answer.

Red Stars: Mayu Iwatani (5-2) defeated Tam Nakano (4-3)

Everyone’s bendy. Credit: Stardom

Big fan of Mayu not even attempting to figure out the maths of how she could still go through. I feel you, champ.

Like most matches on this show, Tam and Mayu didn’t have much time, but they were determined to pack a lot into what they did have. The first move was Tam firing off a German, and it wouldn’t be the last. Mayu might be her favourite person, but she was determined to hurt her. There was a spot where she was perched on the top rope, holding Mayu in a Dragon Sleeper before somehow bundling her over the top rope, Iwatani hitting the apron on her way to the floor.

And, truth be told, they probably crammed this match full of a bit too much. They went under ten minutes, but it almost felt longer because there was no room to breathe. A second or two to sell the impact of what they were doing would have helped a lot, especially when so much of it looked great.

Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a lovely time. Tam and Mayu wrestled a grizzly bear into a sleeping bag, and while it was at times a bit silly, you were never going to look away.

Verdict: A Blast

Mayu picked Tam up afterwards, the pair bowing to the crowd before attempting to leave together (they fell over), so it’s safe to say there were no hard feelings.

Red Stars: Jumbo (5-1-1) defeated Konami (4-3)

Being big has its uses. Credit: Stardom

For all my moaning about maths, the Red Block kept it simple. The winner of this match would be heading to the final.

Konami’s tournament has revolved around her slowing people down and forcing them to work her style. Her strategy in her final match was no different as she went after Himeka’s arm and tried to neutralise that power. It was a strong plan, one that for long stretches, seemed to be working. Jumbo wasn’t able to get things moving, and Konami was laser-focused on offence. Even a Jumbo kick-out saw her moving her arm into place for it to be grabbed hold of.

All it took was one moment, though. Where Konami chips, Jumbo destroys and when she was able to hoist Konami up from a submission, slamming her back down, the whole match turned. A Running Powerbomb saw her off, and while Konami kicked out a millisecond after the three, it was too late. Jumbo might have been favouring one arm, but she was also in the final.

Verdict: Even The Best Plans Can Fall Apart

Blue Stars: AZM (3-4) defeated Maika (4-3)

Veteran moves. Credit: Stardom

Despite losing the opener, Maika could still make the final. A win here would have put her through if Syuri and Utami drew (which, spoiler, they did).

Unfortunately, Stardom’s grizzled vet had another plan. Maika is a brute force wrestler, simple moves executed in a way that fucking hurts. AZM, meanwhile, has a touch more flair. While Maika will grab that arm and shove you to the ground, AZM twists and turns, finding her way into holds from all angles.

In the end, that slippery nature made the difference. Maika started to build up steam, but AZM bundled her into a Sushi, trapping her to the mat for the three and killing her chance of advancing. This was a good wee match, nothing earth-shattering or incredible, but with enough to hint that they could easily top it down the line.

Verdict: Twisty AZM

Blue Stars: Saya Iida (1-6) defeated Natsuko Tora (3-4)

She had her on the back foot. Credit: Stardom

Giant Saya has been paying attention. She wasn’t going to wait around, giving Tora a chance to start her shit. Iida charged straight into the fight, Dropkicking her from behind and keeping the pressure up. It was a smart, well-planned attack by Gori-chan and one that made all the sense in the world.

For a bit, it was also working towards a great match. Tora was brilliant here, selling her shock at Iida continually coming forward and timing her kick-outs on the flurry of roll-ups to perfection. She was making Giant Saya look fantastic.

And then, Bea Priestley turned up, leading to the DQ finish. Look, I’ll talk about her beneath the verdict because I don’t want to take away from Saya’s praise. Iida and Tora were great in the short burst of wrestling that we got, and I think Giant Saya has had an enjoyable tournament. Well done, Gori-chan.

Verdict: Iida Does Good

Right, Priestley. I’m sure by now everyone is aware of her alleged role in the bullying and blackballing of Pollyanna after she spoke up about being sexually assaulted. If you’re not, the information is all out there, and easy enough to find. I am disappointed that Stardom is continuing to book her after those accusations and, personally, have absolutely no time for either her or Will Ospreay (who was also involved). However, I am going to continue to cover Stardom. The wrestlers within that company mean a lot to me, so I don’t want to give it up. Is that hypocritical after speaking out about things like WWE? Yea, 100%. I am willing, and deserve to be, called out on that.

As for how I am going to deal with Priestley, I don’t know yet. I need to have a think. It’s no secret that I’ve never clicked with her as a wrestler, and with a new real-world dislike mixed in, I’m unlikely to now. Perhaps I will simply pretend she’s not there, but how possible that is will depend on the level of her push. Fucking hell, it would be a lot easier if wrestling companies didn’t book horrible people, wouldn’t it?

Blue Stars: Momo Watanabe (3-2-2) and Jungle Kyona fought (3-3-1) to a no contest

It was shaping up real good. Credit: Stardom

After the previous match, Oedo Tai continued to beat down Saya while holding STARS on the outside. It was left to Jungle to clear the ring, coming to Saya’s aid and making sure she was okay. That also meant she was already out for the start of this match.

Unfortunately, what was shaping up to be another damn good Momo and Jungle war was sacrificed to Oedo Tai. They went hard for the five minutes they did have, making sure the fans at least got a taste, but Oedo Tai hit the ring and beat them down in a kind of pathetic manner. It ended with everyone rolling around in the middle of the mat, so it wasn’t quite the badass statement they might have been aiming for.

In the aftermath of that nonsense, Jungle and Tora faced off, and Momo challenged Priestley. Bea has not improved her promos during her time away. Anyway, they made it for the SWA Title, a belt that I forgot existed. Didn’t Jamie win it? Did they take it off her? Rude.

Verdict: Was Good Till The Shit Run-In

Blue Stars: Utami Hayashishita (4-1-2) and Syuri (4-2-1) fought to a time-limit draw

Stop kicking me! Credit: Stardom

It’s funny how the maths in these blocks nearly always work out to it all coming down to the final match, isn’t it?

For that last match, booking a draw was a bit of a shit move by Stardom. Syuri had already wrestled once while Utami knew she had the final straight after, so there was no way they were going to be able to go all out. I went in spoiled, but I suspect that you could sense where this was going from the start. They were taking their time, slowly working around each other and letting the clock tick away.

Thankfully, all those criticisms vanished in the second half. Around the ten minute call, these two suddenly sparked into life, all reticence vanishing as they went at it. It was flurries of kicks and suplexes, both women being dumped again and again on their head. When they did go to submissions, it never felt like rest holds, but fights, a real grapple to try and force it through.

They still couldn’t be separated. In the final seconds, Utami spun out from the Torture Rack into a Powerbomb, but the bell rang before she could cover, so we’ll never know if it would have got the three. I still think it was a dick move to put Utami in a draw just before the final, but the match got damn good, and they did protect Syuri ahead of her title challenge, so I guess I can’t blame them.

Verdict: It Got Good

5STAR Grand Prix Final: Utami Hayashishita defeated Jumbo

She got those crazy eyes. Credit: Stardom

I assume in the arena there was a gap between these two matches because Utami was carried out and it would have been cruel to make her turn around and walk straight down the ramp again. She even came out first!

Utami’s exhaustion was the focal point of this match. She’s one of the few people who can match-up with Jumbo physically, so she went straight for the kill, trying to batter Himeka down before she could get started. However, there were moments where she would flag. Where pulling herself up again would take that little bit of extra effort, and it would give Jumbo a open.

Sometimes, though, it’s just someone’s year. Utami was beaten down and tired, but she wouldn’t lose. Jumbo hit a Lariat and pinned a crumpled up Utami where the kick-out wasn’t so much a kick-out as it was Jumbo pushing her too far over, her shoulder rising from the momentum. There are times when you are watching a team or a person, and you can sense it’s their time. This match, this tournament, it suddenly felt like Utami couldn’t lose.

That would prove to be the case. As Jumbo bent to pull Utami off the mat, it would turn out she was playing possum, dragging her opponent into a Sleeper. It was the switch she needed, as while it wouldn’t get the win, it would weaken Jumbo enough for Utami to push home.

You’d have had to be insane to expect this to be incredible. It was decent, telling its stories, but with two tired wrestlers in there, no-one is going to remember it beyond it being the match where Utami won the 5STAR. There were also enough hints there to suggest that one-day Utami and Jumbo will run into each other when one of them hasn’t already wrestled a draw, and it will be sweet.

Verdict: As Good As You Could Expect

Utami was presented with her cape and crown, looking fucking badass even in such a ridiculous get-up. We then got the umpteen awards that Stardom hands out. Konami got Outstanding Performance, AZM Best Technique, Maika Fighting Spirit, Tam and Giulia Best Match for Red Stars (they bickered over who got the trophy) and Utami and Syuri for Blue Stars (Utami was gracious enough to give it to Syuri).

Once they were done taking photos, Utami finally got a chance to speak. She got emotional, calling 2020 the best summer (she’s alone in that feeling) and challenging the winner of Syuri vs Mayu. They both cut promos accepting that challenge, Mayu sadly complaining that she didn’t get an award. It was a weird situation, but the moving of their title match to after the 5STAR couldn’t be helped. Either way, while I was rooting for Momo, there is no denying that Utami is a worthy winner, and I’m looking forward to her title match.

Overall Show

All in all, that was a great way to close out the 5STAR, it’s just unfortunate that there was a dollop of disappointment in the middle. It’s been a good tournament all things said, especially when you consider they had to move it all-around to deal with cancelled shows. A lot of people are down on Stardom at the moment, and I get it, but it still gives me what I want. Perhaps that will change, but right now I’d find it hard to give-up.

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