SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
STARDOM 5STAR GRAND PRIX
SEPTEMBER 19, 2020
TOKYO, JAPAN AT KORAKUEN HALL
AIRED ON STARDOM WORLD
REPORT BY HARLEY R. PAGEOT, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Maika wasn’t worried about potentially having to wrestle three times tonight and she wasn’t saving her strength for later. Syuri vowed to win all of her remaining tournament matches, then the finals, and become the ultimate red belt challenger.
(1) FUTURE OF STARDOM & ARTIST OF STARDOM CHAMPION MAIKA vs. ARTIST OF STARDOM CHAMPION SYURI – BLUE STARS BLOCK
Maika had an early lead. The crowd rallied behind Syuri and she played to them in response. Syuri with some kicks and knee strikes. Maika with a judo throw as Syuri came off the ropes. Maika went after Syuri’s arm again. Syuri returned the favor. Syuri tied up the rookie but she made it to a rope break. More kicks from Syuri. They traded forearm strikes. Still more kicks from Syuri. Bridging German suplex for the first two-count of the match. Maika with a spinebuster. Buzzsaw kick for the win.
WINNER: Syuri in 9:20.
(Pageot’s Perspective: If you like kicks and people pulling on each other’s arms, this was the match for you. Me? I have zero interest in MMA because I find stuff like this monotonous.
Would you believe we’re at the final show of the 2020 Grand Prix already? Last year featured 12 shows total and this is only #8 this time around but the smaller number of participants and the month of COVID cancellations right after the tournament started means we’ve sped to the end already. It’s still not wholly obvious who will win the tournament but it feels like either Konami or Hayashishita are being positioned to overcome all of the DDM crew and win it.)
-Kamitani said she would mercilessly crush Kid. Kid also felt like the tournament was over in the blink of an eye. She didn’t want to finish last place in the Red Stars.
(2) GODDESS OF STARDOM CHAMPION SAYA KAMITANI vs. STARLIGHT KID – RED STARS BLOCK
Kid drew from her standard move set with a standing moonsault early on. Kamitani went for a single-leg crab. Rope break. Kamitani went up top but Kid caught her with an arm drag off the turnbuckle. Twisting splash for a two-count. Kamitani with a dropkick. Spinning heel kick. Kid avoided the shooting star press and rolled her up for two. Codebreaker. High crossbody but Kamitani (sort of) hit her with a dropkick as she came down. Missile dropkick from Kamitani for a two-count. Pele kick to the back of Kid. Ki Krusher for the three.
WINNER: Saya Kamitani in 6:31.
(Pageot’s Perspective: Sorry, Kid, last place it is. I think my issue with Kamitani, aside from her betraying Saya Iida and joining Queen’s Quest to become a cop, is that it feels like she’s trying too hard. Obviously she has to try hard with Stardom putting in her such a high-profile spot barely a year into her career but her facial expressions and actions in particular come across as overacting. Also her running shooting star press always looks a little sloppy and scary.)
-Death, Death, last match Death. Giulia admitted she couldn’t make it to the finals but she would beat Death decisively.
(3) WONDER OF STARDOM & ARTIST OF STARDOM CHAMPION GIULIA vs. DEATH YAMA-SAN – RED STARS BLOCK
A throat punch from Giulia left Death dead on the mat. As she inspected the body Death caught her with a roll-up for two. Giulia scurried to ringside. She returned with a Stardom t-shirt and tried to blindfold Death but the referee took it instead. Death pulled off her shirt, revealing she was wearing another one underneath, and blindfolded Giulia. Giulia swung wildly at the chanting Death but missed. The referee eventually freed Giulia of the darkness. Giulia blindfolded Death now and knotted the shirt at the back so it wouldn’t come loose. Death ducked a big boot from Giulia, then a clothesline, and caught Giulia with another roll-up even while blind. Giulia freed her and Death hit a throat punch of her own. Octopus from Giulia. Jumping boot. Glorious Driver countered into another roll-up from Death. Giulia rolled up Death instead for the three.
WINNER: Giulia in 4:59.
-Death celebrated before the referee informed her that she actually lost. Giulia announced that Donna Del Mondo was adding another new member on October 3 in Yokohama.
(Pageot’s Perspective: Who expected Giulia in a comedy match for her final tournament bout? Or an impromptu blindfold match? Not bad and a welcome change of pace from the rest of the card. I suspect the new DDM member will be Konami following the break-up of Tokyo Cyber Squad. So far each DDM member has come from a different promotion with no Stardom originals yet. Konami would fill that role and her wrestling style and personality deficiency make her fit well with DDM.)
-Nakano was building a bridge of dreams. Iwatani was scatterbrained as usual but touched on the fact that, even if she won here, it would take a draw in our next match for her to win the Red Stars block.
(4) WORLD OF STARDOM CHAMPION MAYU IWATANI vs. TAM NAKANO – RED STARS BLOCK
Nakano immediately dropped the champ on the back of her head with a big German suplex for two. Iwatani caught her with a backslide for two of her own. Corkscrew dragonwhip from Iwatani. She wrapped Nakano’s knee around the bottom rope and wrenched away at it. Iwatani up top but Nakano cut her off. Dragon sleeper from Nakano seated on the top rope. A high crossbody took out Iwatani and all her own stable mates at ringside. Back in the ring they traded forearms. Superkick from Iwatani, spin kick from Nakano, and they both went down. Top rope hurricanrana from Iwatani. Shotgun dropkick from the second rope. Top rope frog-splash for two. German from Nakano for two. Iwatani kicked out but she held on and hit another. Rinse and repeat. Iwatani kicked out three times and Nakano let go from exhaustion. Tiger suplex blocked by Iwatani. Tombstone! Iwatani was too tired to make the cover, though. They traded forearms again. Vicious superkick from Iwatani right to the bridge of the nose. Nakano collapsed backward but powered back up. Another kick flattened her. Iwatani with a top rope moonsault but Nakano kicked out to shock from the champ. Dragon sleeper from Iwatani! Nakano squirmed free but the champ held on and threw her backwards into a dragon suplex for the pin.
WINNER: Mayu Iwatani in 9:21.
(Pageot’s Perspective: Well! The match of the tournament so far and the best Stardom match in two months. That was really fun and matches like this are when you truly see how great Iwatani is and how far above everyone else she is. I don’t want her to leave Stardom and I definitely don’t want her to sign with WWE but can we get her on some sort of American tour post-pandemic? Just a 2021 summer filled with matches against Mercedes Martinez, Kimber Lee, Hyan, Jordynne Grace, et al. What a crime if we never get to see any of those.
Nakano is now out of the tournament and the next match is our final Red Stars bout. If either woman wins this match, they win the block. If they go to a draw, Iwatani takes the block.)
-Himeka was confident she was going to the finals. Konami said, “Only win!”
(5) KONAMI vs. HIMEKA – RED STARS BLOCK
Konami outwrestled Himeka to start. The jumbo princess rolled to the floor but Konami ran the apron and took her out with a kick. She beckoned for her to get back in the ring but Himeka shooed her away. Konami with a legscissors on the ropes before dropkicking her back to the floor. Konami chipped away at her with more kicks but Himeka powered up and ran her over with a shoulder tackle. Boston crab to Konami. Rope break. Armbar from Konami but Himeka’s foot was on the rope. Another arm submission and another quick rope break. Clotheslines from Himeka. Torture rack into a torture rack slam but Konami kicked out. Another arm submission from Konami and another rope break. Release German suplex. More kicks. Konami continued to target the right arm of Himeka. Himeka slammed her to the mat. JBL clotheline from hell. Running powerbomb. Konami kicked out on three but the referee awarded it to Himeka.
WINNER: Himeka in 10:02.
(Pageot’s Perspective: Fine match. Konami remains the queen of second place finishes. Himeka wins the Red Stars and is headed to the finals against either Utami Hayashishita or a DDM stable mate in Syuri or Maika.)
-AZM was still reminding people that she pinned Syuri. No pre-match words from Maika.
(Pageot’s Perspective: AZM is well out of tournament contention by this point but a win here would eliminate Maika and lend an assist to AZM’s stable mate Utami Hayashishita. That’s a nice little story that I wish they had told.)
(6) FUTURE OF STARDOM & ARTIST OF STARDOM CHAMPION MAIKA vs. HIGH SPEED CHAMPION AZM – BLUE STARS BLOCK
High speed action from AZM. Boston crab from Maika. Tilt-a-whirl octopus from AZM. Suplex. Maika wanted a superplex but AZM hit a leg lariat into an armbar instead. Top rope double-stomp. Spinebuster from Maika. Guillotine choke from AZM. Maika powered her up and over with a suplex. AZM Sushi out of nowhere.
WINNER: AZM in 6:56.
(Pageot’s Perspective: The winner of Hayashishita vs. Syuri will now take the Blue Stars block, but first a couple leftover matches.)
-Iida said she wouldn’t lose to Tora’s chain.
Tora entered first. She was drinking from a water bottle in the corner when Iida entered. Iida immediately ran over and dropkicked her in the back before the lights even came up or the music stopped. The crowd roared.
(7) NATSUKO TORA vs. SAYA IIDA – BLUE STARS BLOCK
Iida unloaded with forearms on Tora in the corner. Tora tried to swat her away but Iida chopped her, then told Tora to bring it on. They traded chops. Shoulder block from Tora. Forearms back and forth. Iida was staggered and Tora dropped her with a clothesline for the first pinfall attempt. Body slam. Iida rolled out of the way of a top rope frog-splash. Iida wanted a missile dropkick but Sydaled (slipped and fell off the top). Tora immediately went for a body slam to take advantage but a dazed Iida half-managed to roll her up for two instead. Iida powered up with gorilla strength and bodyslammed Tora. She went back up top to the same turnbuckle and managed to land the missile dropkick this time. Northern lights suplex for two. Iida with a series of roll-ups. Iidabashi! Tora kicked out at two and a half, though. Nakano and Hanan pounded on the mat for her.
Iida charged in the corner but Tora dodged out of the way and grabbed the referee by the face. Saki Kashima ran across the ring and hit Iida with a back elbow. Then Bea Priestley suddenly appeared, nailing Iida with a high knee. Suplex from Priestley. Tora wrapped her chain around Iida’s throat while Kashima occupied the ref. Tora hanged Iida over the top rope but the ref returned and called for the bell.
WINNER: Saya Iida in 4:56 via disqualification.
-Priestley attacked Iida again. Stars tried to make the save but Priestley shoved Iwatani to the mat and clubbed away at Hanan. Kashima joined in and all of Stars were tossed from the ring. Immediately Jungle Kyona hit the ring. Tora bailed instantly while Kashima and Priestley laughed and walked off. Kyona checked on Iida and was the one to finally remove the chain from around her neck. Kyona helped her over to the rest of Stars and passed Iida over.
(Pageot’s Perspective: The slip on the top rope was heartbreaking because they definitely lost some momentum after that but it happens. Everything else about this I loved. Iida looked determined and smart by taking the fight to Tora right away instead of waiting for Oedo Tai to break the rules like they always do. Tora being willing to go blow for blow against her showed respect from Tora, which calls back nicely to the fact that Tora was Iida’s very first opponent in her debut match. The post-match also ties into the Jungle Assault Nation history between Kyona, Tora, and Iida. I had no idea the UK travel ban had been lifted or that Priestley was returning for the first time in six and a half months so her appearance here was a big surprise and the audience reacted in kind. Fingers crossed that Jamie Hayter is coming close behind. Iida doesn’t finish the tournament with zero points, even if her only win was a DQ victory. And Kyona, Iida’s former JAN leader, being the one to symbolically free Iida from the chain at the end before passing her over to her current stable mates in Stars was very emotional. If Oedo Tai succeeds in breaking up TCS at the next Korakuen show on the 28th I could see Kyona joining Stars to fill the void left by the retirement of Arisa Hoshiki.)
-Kyona said she couldn’t go to the finals but she’d try to live up to the expectations of a Kyona-Watanabe singles match. Watanabe also just wanted to go out and give a good match.
(8) JUNGLE KYONA vs. MOMO WATANABE – BLUE STARS BLOCK
They basically started at the halfway mark of a main event match, full speed and power out of the gate. Both women wound up battling on the apron with Watanabe deliving a B Driver. Double knees off the top rope for a two-count. A series of clotheslines from Kyona battered at Watanabe. Big vertical suplex. A diving splash connected but Natsuko Tora pulled the referee out of the ring to stop the pin.
Kashima and Priestley jumped Kyona and Watanabe. AZM, Konami, Death, and Kamitani jumped into the fray.
DECISION: No contest in 4:53.
-Everyone else ended up calming down and backing off except for Kyona and Tora. They had to be physically separated. Kyona grabbed a mic and got in her face. She wouldn’t forgive her for ruining this match that she had been looking forward to. She insisted that TCS won’t disband, Oedo Tai will. Tora said everyone knew she was going to lose to Watanabe anyway. TCS only has ten days left. Tough luck.
Watanabe grabbed the mic. She didn’t care about any of that and instead turned her attention to former QQ member Priestley. She challenged her to a match in Yokohama. Priestley suggested they make it for the SWA Championship.
(Pageot’s Perspective: …so Priestley is going to defend Jamie Hayter’s championship against Watanabe? What? Hayter isn’t listed on the roster page on the official Stardom website. Is she not returning? I know she was never a full-time member but neither is Natsu Sumire and she’s there. Kyona’s comment to Tora seemed to be her challenging Oedo Tai to also break up if they lose, which would make a lot more sense than this one-sided stipulation they’ve had on the Sep.28 match thus far. It probably doesn’t matter either way, though. With Hana Kimura gone and her mother fighting with Ogawa it seems like a certainty that TCS will be gone by the end of this month.)
-Hayashishita said she had been running away with it but now it’s close. She just has to get by Syuri. No pre-match words from Syuri.
(9) GODDESS OF STARDOM CHAMPION UTAMI HAYASHISHITA vs. ARTIST OF STARDOM CHAMPION SYURI – BLUE STARS BLOCK
Even back and forth through the opening minutes. At 5:00 Syuri was clotheslined to the floor. Syuri locked an armbar on draped across the top rope until the referee forced her to let go. They traded forearms. Syuri with a series of kicks. Armbar. Rope break. Hip tosses from Hayashishita and an STO for a two-count. Rear naked choke. Rope break. Release German suplex from Syuri. Clotheline from Hayashishita.
Hayashishita wanted a torture rack at 10:00 but Syuri slipped out. Air raid crash but Syuri no-sold. Running knee strike to Hayashishita. They traded forearms again. More kicks from Syuri. Bridging German from Hayashishita. Syuri avoided a torture rack again and got an arm submission of her own. Rope break. Still more kicks.
At 15:00 Syuri hit a running knee strike for two. Buzzsaw kick but the ref slowed his count so that Hayashishita could grab the bottom rope in time. Syuri with another arm submission. Release German from Hayashishita. Torture rack slam but Syuri was under the ropes to prevent a pinfall. They traded forearms again from a kneeling position. Another buzzsaw kick from Syuri but Hayashishita kicked out again. Bridging German but Hayashishita rolled slightly up and off the mat. Rear naked choke from Hayashishita. Another torture rack slam and the time expired, awarding Hayashishita the Blue Stars block.
DECISION: Time limit draw in 20:00.
-Hayashishita was helped to the back by the rest of QQ for presumably a brief intermission and a chance to drink some water before the main event.
(Pageot’s Perspective: It’s always an odd decision to force the heels to wrestle twice in one night while the babyface only has to wrestle once. I suppose it was just another effort to protect the DDM members in defeat. Hayashishita only lost one match during the tournament and that was against Maika. Beating Syuri avenges that loss to an extent and when she defeats Himeka in a moment that will cement it. And yes, it’s obvious she’s winning the finals now. It would be insane to bring Himeka into the promotion and have her win the GP three months later.)
-Both women made their full entrances again.
(10) GODDESS OF STARDOM CHAMPION UTAMI HAYASHISHITA vs. HIMEKA – FINALS
They traded the obligatory forearm strikes out of the gate. Himeka with a shoulder tackle. Lion-tamer into a single-leg crab. Rope break. Dropkick from Hayashishita. A series of STOs. Missile dropkick from the second rope. Air raid crash. Both women looked for a torture rack but both avoided it. Clotheslines left them both down. Rear naked choke from Hayashishita. Another clothesline from Himeka. Torture rack slam to Hayashishita but she kicked out. Back to the rear naked choke. Hayashishita with a pair of German suplexes but Himeka kicked out. Torture rack bomb to Himeka for the pin.
WINNER: Utami Hayashishita in 10:19 to win the 2020 5Star Grand Prix.
-Stardom president Rossy Ogawa presented Hayashishita with the royal robe and crown as well as the tournament trophy. Himeka received a runner-up trophy. More awards were presented with the winners coming out to claim them:
Outstanding Performance – Konami
Best Technique – AZM
Fighting Spirit – Maika
Red Stars Best Match – Tam Nakano vs. Giulia, Sep.13 in Fukuoka
Blue Stars Best Match – Utami Hayashishita vs. Syuri, Sep.19 in Korakuen Hall
(Pageot’s Perspective: That’s 3 for Queen’s Quest, 3 for Donna Del Mondo, 1 for Stars, 1 for Tokyo Cyber Squad, and 0 for Oedo Tai. Also worth noting that Giulia is the only one of the five faction leaders to win an award.)
-Hayashishita celebrated her victory. She made it to the finals of the 2018 GP and was pulled from the tournament due to injury in 2019. She was disappointed then but she just had the best summer of 2020. She put herself over and called out whomever leaves Oct.3 with the red belt: Mayu Iwatani or Syuri. Both women came to ringside.
Syuri congratulated her on her win and accepted a potential defense against her if she beats Iwatani for the red belt next month. Iwatani bemoaned not winning any awards but had the red belt as a consolation prize. She’ll beat Syuri on Oct.3 and asked Hayashishita to wait a bit for her title shot after that. They left and Hayashishita closed the show with Queen’s Quest.
(Pageot’s Perspective: This year definitely won’t go down in the history books as one of the great Grand Prixs but the pandemic played the biggest role in that and DDM mania also meant that there wasn’t much room for any other stories or meaningful moments. We’ve got four shows before the annual Goddess Of Stardom tag tournament kicks off on October 10. The status of COVID remains wait and see on a daily basis but hopefully things improve enough that that tournament isn’t affected too severely.
Between now and then we’ve got Iwatani, Nakano, & Kid challenging for the trios titles on Sep.22; Itsuki Hoshino’s retirement on Sep.28; the end of Tokyo Cyber Squad on Sep.28; and Iwatani vs. Syuri for the red belt, Giulia vs. Nakano for the white belt, Hayashishita & Kamitani vs. Maika & Himeka for the tag titles, and AZM vs. Kid for the high speed title, all on Oct.3 in Yokohama. Giulia has also promised the debut of a new DDM member on October 3.
Tournament victories over Iwatani mean that Giulia and Konami are both owed matches for the red belt at some point while tournament victories over Giulia mean that Himeka and Konami are both owed matches for the white belt as well. So the remainder of 2020 is pretty booked up at this point.)
Final Red Stars standings:
Himeka – 11
Mayu Iwatani – 10
Giulia – 8
Konami – 8
Tam Nakano – 8
Saya Kamitani – 5
Death Yama-san – 4
Starlight Kid – 2
Final Blue Stars standings:
Utami Hayashishita – 10 *winner*
Syuri – 9
Maika – 8
Momo Watanabe – 8
Jungle Kyona – 7
AZM – 6
Natsuko Tora – 6
Saya Iida – 2