The final day of STARDOM’s 5 Star Grand Prix is here and MY HEART IS BREAKING. This tournament has been my introduction into STARDOM and regularly following any form of joshi; I’ve always checked out matches here and there online, but I’ve never dedicated myself to actually strictly following a promotion. At the end of this tournament, all I can say is that I’m a big ole dope for not having signed up for STARDOM World months and months and months ago. That being said – let’s get on with it!

I’m going to run down the show from start to finish rather than calling out and writing about my favorite matches at the top to keep the allure of the tournament finals alive.

In the opening battle royal, Hana Kimura came out on top in a field that included Starlight Kid, Shiki Shibusawa, Ruaka, Leo Onozaki, Hanan, and AZM. The battle royal in Japan is a bit different than their US counterparts (at least, as far as this one and the ones I’ve seen in NJPW go) in that you can be eliminated by pinfall or submission as well. This was a fun, wild, and short car wreck of bodies flying around as you would expect. Starlight Kid, who had to be a favorite in the match, was eliminated by Hanan, AZM, and Hana all pinning her at the same time. Hana’s form of “pinning” was placing a foot on the back of Hanan and posing, but she takes full credit for the elimination and I think she’s deserving of that claim. With Hana, AZM, and Hanan as the final three women in the match, Hana hit a stalling vertical suplex on AZM dropping her onto a prone Hanan. She picked up the three count to walk away the winner as she posed with Oedo Tai. It appears that things have been smoothed over with Kagetsu as the group leaves the ring.

Saki Kashima and Jamie Hayter locked up in a match that wasn’t without its problems. Both wrestlers sit at 4 points, so neither is a threat to the top of the block and this one was simply for bragging rights. There was a bit of confusion as Hayter dropped down on top of Saki in a crucifix; the referee counted a one count for Hayter before Saki rolled her onto her shoulders for a two count. Because of the quick counting in succession, the bell rang without the referee calling for it. The bell continued and Hayter was eventually able to pick up a victory in Korakuen with her Falcon Arrow backstabber.

Nicole Savoy earned more points with a submission victory over Kelly Klein in a match that was just okay. It had the standard Klein stuff, which is to say it was a bit uninspired and unexciting but nothing terrible. Klein could have bumped herself up to 10 points here, but with Savoy’s win the SHIMMER Champion ends at 8 points currently tied with Mayu Iwatani.

What else can be said about Hazuki and Natsu Sumire that hasn’t been said already? They are both so god damn good at what they do, and what they do individually is so far on the other side of the wrestling spectrum that it could blow your mind a bit that they could have such a fun match together. During the Oedo Tai pre-match dance, Sumire started choking out Hazuki to try and get a jump on things. The gasps from the crowd and the reactions of the other Oedo Tai members in the ring were priceless. Sumire was able to control Hazuki for the first chunk of the match, though Hazuki’s speed and power would see her gain the advantage later on. Hazuki was able to roll through Sumire’s rebound small package to take the victory with her Hazukistral Cradle which, by the way, has a 100% winning percentage. Despite a small post-match tantrum from Sumire, the two reconciled with the group leaving together. A win for Hazuki puts her at 9 points and makes her the leader of Blue Stars Block!

Of course, things can change in an instant and they did just that as Mayu Iwatani battled Momo Watanabe. Mayu’s left arm came into place again as Momo focused her attack on the previously injured limb. Despite that, and despite some soul-crushing kicks from Momo, Mayu was able to turn things around with attacks on Momo’s right knee. The advantage would be short-lived as Momo would catch Mayu on the top rope and superplex her back into the ring, the two sprawling across the canvas in agony. Mayu found herself in position to lock Momo up for a dragon suplex but as she bridged for the pin the bell rang to end the match in a time-limit draw! Mayu winds up with 9 points and ties Hazuki at the top of the block – however, because Mayu beat Hazuki in their block match she goes on to become the Blue Stars Block winner and moves onto the final round!

I’ll be honest with you. Rachael Ellering fought Kimber Lee and I can’t lie to you – I barely watched the match. I had it on because it’s a part of the show, but these two are so bland and have been so unimpressive in this tournament that I really couldn’t care less how this one turned out. Had I not already known the match we get in the finals I may have been more intrigued as a win for Ellering would have all but secured her a spot as Red Stars Block winner. Nonetheless, Kimber picks up the win and 2 points.

Utami Hayashishita and Konami had a good match but it wasn’t my favorite match of either wrestler throughout this tournament. There may just be a higher standard for each of them at this point (for me, at least) based on their performances earlier on in the 5*GP, and it’s hard to always top yourself in that way. That being said, the match was good and would be instrumental in determining the winner of Red Stars Block. With a win, Utami boosts up to 10 points which means Kagetsu has to win her match against Tam Nakano to take the entire block. Konami can only play spoiler here as she sits at 6 points. After punishing the spine of Konami over and over, Utami taps her out with her Torture Rack to pick up those much-needed points and put herself in position to possibly move onto the finals!

In another match featuring a potential spoiler, Jungle Kyona faced JAN partner Natsuko Tora. Kyona sits at 8 points and Natsuko at 2, so the best Kyona can do is to tie Utami. In the case of a draw, the person who won block match between the tied individuals moves onto the finals, but Kyona and Utami went to a time-limit draw – so what happens there? Fortunately for Utami, but unfortunately for Kyona, we don’t have to try and found out the answer to that question. Kyona is poised here to face her junior of whom she is “most fond.” Natsuko is able to pick up what has to be considered an upset with after a trio of frog splashes leaves Kyona gasping for air on the canvas and vulnerable to the three count. Post-match, the partners kneel in the ring as they recover before Kyona gives Natsuko a smile and nod which is basically the sweetest thing as Kyona appears to be giving Natsuko her approval and gratitude for the match. Really good stuff here.

In the last of the block matches, Tam Nakano and Kagetsu fight to answer the question of who will face Mayu in the finals. Tam has earned just 2 points throughout the tournament, but a win for Kagetsu would put her at 11 points ahead of Utami at 10 and move her into the final match. These two have history as Tam was a part of Oedo Tai until a QQ/Oedo Tai elimination match at the 7th Anniversary Show in which the person taking the final fall was forced to leave the group. That fate fell upon Tam. Despite the problematic history between the two, the match was straight up and down until the very end – at no fault of either woman. As Kagetsu hit the ropes to deliver a running knee to Tam, Hana Kimura nailed the leader of Oedo Tai in the back with a steel chair. This allowed Tam to pick up the win and keep Kagetsu out of the finals.

After the match, Hana lays into both Hauzki and Sumire with the chair before officially declaring her independence from Oedo Tai. Hana claims that STARDOM has made Kagetsu soft before leaving all of the battered corpses in the ring and walking to the back with her steel chair dragging behind her. Once recovered in the ring, Tam pulls Kagetsu to her feet and the pair share a handshake and some meaningful glances before we get a backstage pickup of Kagetsu promising to never forgive Hana for taking away her shot at the 5*GP finals.

And with that, the finals are set – Mayu will face Utami to crowd the 5*GP Champion! Can the rookie sensation win the 5*GP faster than anyone has from the time they debuted to the end of the tournament, or will the former champion punch her ticket to try and get back to the top of the mountain?

In a tournament filled with great matches, it’s hard to top what you or others have already done but these two set out to do it in a match which saw neither wrestler hold anything back. Things start off slow with a bit of mat wrestling before Mayu dropkicks a prone Utami against the bottom rope. The rookie falls out of the ring and Mayu prepares to dive from the top rope but is caught. Utami grabs Mayu in a fireman’s carry on her shoulders and things go south quickly for Mayu as Utami hurls her overhead and onto the arena floor with a horrific splat!

Back in the ring, Utami picks apart the body of Mayu with a focus on the bandaged left arm that has plagued Mayu the entire tournament. Mayu is able to find herself a reprieve with a stunning double jump missile dropkick from the top before battering the fallen rookie with more dropkicks to the chest. Utami uses a judo throw, however, to put Mayu back on the defensive as she locks her opponent in a rear naked choke.

These two just absolutely batter one another for the length of the match with the advantage turning on a dime. After a top rope hurricanrana from Mayu, she peppers Utami with kicks to the chest and head which Utami barely kicks out of. Utami again narrowly escapes a pinfall after a picture-perfect frog splash from Mayu, but her body is too broken down to roll out of Mayu’s bridging dragon suplex as Iwatani picks up the win in a hard-fought match to become the 2018 5*GP Champion!

This entire tournament was star-making for Utami who shined in the main event despite taking the loss to Mayu. Mayu speaks afterward, trying to balance a comically large crown on her head, and lays out a challenge for next month in Korakuen to the winner of the looming title vs title match between Kagetsu and Momo Watanabe. Before leaving, Mayu introduces Arisa Hoshiki who announces her return to STARDOM after a near 7-year absence. I’m not familiar with Hoshiki, but STARDOM World just added a show from 2011 featuring her in the main event against Yuzuki Aikawa so it looks like I’ve got some homework to do.

And that’s a wrap – Mayu Iwatani will go on to face whoever is the double champion after Nagoya on September 30! One last time, let’s check out the standings and see how everything played out on the final day.

Red Stars Block

  • Utami Hayashishita: 10
  • Kagetsu: 9
  • Rachael Ellering: 9
  • Jungle Kyona: 8
  • Konami: 6
  • Kimber Lee: 6
  • Tam Nakano: 4
  • Natsuko Tora: 4

Blue Stars Block

  • Mayu Iwatani: 10
  • Hazuki: 9
  • Kelly Klein: 8
  • Nicole Savoy: 8
  • Momo Watanabe: 7
  • Jamie Hayter: 6
  • Saki Kashima: 4
  • Natsu Sumire: 4

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