Do you love round-robin tournaments like New Japan’s G1 Climax? Are you interested in getting into Joshi wrestling? Well, Stardom has just the thing for you: the 5☆STAR GP 2020.
Every year since 2012, Stardom’s best wrestlers get together for a six-week round-robin tournament to crown the best (literally… the winner gets a crown and cape). Past winners include a who’s who of women’s wrestling over the past decade: Mayu Iwatani, Io Shirai, Kairi Hojo (Kairi Sane in WWE), Toni Storm, the late Hana Kimura, and others have all etched their names into the record books as 5☆STAR GP champions.
Similar to New Japan’s G1 Climax, the 5☆STAR GP (Grand Prix) is just as important of an opportunity for young wrestlers to make their mark, to create and continue rivalries, and for everyone to put on their working shoes to provide some of the best matches of the year.
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If you’ve watched most round-robin tournaments in Japan, you’re pretty familiar with the format. This year’s 5☆STAR GP runs from August 8 to September 19 and will feature 16 participants. They will be split into two blocks of eight, the Red Stars Block and the Blue Stars Block. Each wrestler will face everyone else in her block for a total of seven matches each to score points:
- A win is worth 2 points
- A draw is worth 1 point
- A loss is worth 0 points
There will be a twenty-minute time limit for each block match (up from fifteen minutes in previous years… but it still brings a possible draw into play for just about any match). Whoever has the most points in each block at the end of the round-robin will move on to the finals, which will have no time limit. If there is a tie for first place in a block, the tiebreaker will go to whoever scored the win during the block play match between the tied wrestlers. Whoever wins the finals on September 19 will be crowned the winner of this year’s 5☆STAR GP and receive the opportunity to challenge for any belt of her choice.
Stardom’s roster has gone through a fair amount of turnover in the past year, but a strong core remains and some impressive additions promise many fresh and exciting matchups.
Nine of the 16 wrestlers in this year’s tournament competed in last year’s tournament, six wrestlers will make their 5☆STAR GP debut, and one returns after a 5-year absence. Despite the roster turnover, it could be argued that Stardom is as strong as it’s ever been from top to bottom, with little to no filler on its cards these days.
Let’s take a look at the field!
RED STARS BLOCK
The Icon, the Ace, and the only wrestler who has been with Stardom since day one. She’s competed at MSG and the Tokyo Dome. Now in the middle of her second reign as Stardom’s top champion, Iwatani looks to etch her name into the record books as the greatest wrestler in the promotion’s history. She finally broke through to win the 5☆STAR GP in 2018, and now has the chance to become the only person to win it twice, and the first while champion.
Giulia has taken Stardom by storm since joining the promotion in December. She’s yet to lose a singles match, her new faction Donna Del Mondo has bulldozed everyone in its path, and she has taken home her fair share of accolades – winning Stardom’s Cinderella Tournament in March, and winning the vacant White Belt just a few weeks ago at Korakuen Hall. Nobody comes into the 5☆STAR GP on more of a hot streak than Giulia. Who can stop her?
There’s a lot more to Tam Nakano than meets the eye: Former idol, dance choreographer, deathmatch wrestler, kung fu practitioner, and pyrotechnician. Having just celebrated four years in pro wrestling, Tam has come a long way since joining Stardom. Very few are better at storytelling and bringing out emotion in important matches, and for this reason “Big Match Tam” is a favorite among fans. Nakano has been on a mission to win the White Belt for almost two years now, highlighted by her rivalry turned friendship with former tag team partner Arisa Hoshiki. Sadly, Hoshiki had to retire in May due to injuries while still champion. Tam promised to win the belt in her honor, but has been unsuccessful so far. Could the 5☆STAR GP be her chance?
A former protege of WWE’s Asuka, it won’t take long to see the similarities between Konami and her mentor. With plenty of strikes and submissions, Konami might be the most technically gifted competitor in the entire tournament. She’s had tournament success in the past – one year ago she went to the finals of both the 5☆STAR GP and Stardom’s Cinderella Tournament. Is this the year she finally breaks through and wins it all?
One of Stardom’s most promising young talents, Starlight Kid enters her first 5☆STAR GP this year. She’ll be sure to have the crowd on her side as a speedy, high flying underdog in nearly every match. In Kid’s case, this is a big opportunity to prove that she’s ready to take the next step and join the top tiers of the roster. It might not be how many points she gets, but rather who she gets them against.
Still a rookie, Saya Kamitani might be advancing quicker than anyone on Stardom’s roster. She’s had an interesting path to wrestling – a former gymnast, idol, and 2nd place finisher at the World Dance Championships in Las Vegas. Kamitani possesses a rare combination of height and athleticism rarely seen in Stardom. She enjoys adding dramatic flair to her moves, often comes up with new acrobatic techniques – some landing, some not so much, but she’s always on to her next piece of creative offense. More than her flashy moves, Kamitani has quickly made a name for herself by showing incredible fire and passion in all of her matches. Just over a week ago, she won tag team gold with Utami Hayashishita to claim her first championship. Now she has the chance to make her mark in her first 5☆STAR GP.
20+ year veteran Kaori Yoneyama returns to the 5☆STAR GP in 2020 after a 5-year absence, only this time with her DEATH Yama-san gimmick. Although she’s generally used as a comedy character, don’t let DEATH fool you – she can still go in the ring and has scored clean victories over nearly everyone on Stardom’s roster. She is the ultimate spoiler, and matches against Mayu Iwatani and Giulia in the final week loom large. If you’re doing a pick ’em, she is your worst nightmare.
Like many others on Stardom’s roster, Himeka took a unique path to pro wrestling. Formerly in an idol group that performed with All Japan Pro Wrestling, Himeka fell in love with the sport and decided to begin training – even getting Jun Akiyama’s blessing to take on the nickname “Jumbo” along with Jumbo Tsuruta’s jumping knee attack. She joined Stardom and the Donna Del Mondo faction a little over a month ago and has quickly made a mark. Easily the tallest and largest member of the roster, she brings a physicality that others will find difficult to match. Still early in her career, it appears that the sky’s the limit for Himeka – and her first 5☆STAR GP could be the launching pad to get her there.
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BLUE STARS BLOCK
As far as 20-year-old pro wrestlers go, Momo Watanabe is probably the best in the world. If you enjoy wrestlers like KENTA and Katsuyori Shibata, Momo will probably be one of your favorites. A former protege of Io Shirai, at age 18 Momo beat Stardom’s Ace in her final days in the company to take the baton as one of the promotion’s top stars. She followed that up with a record-breaking year-long reign with Stardom’s White Belt – a reign with countless classic matches that many have considered one of the best in all of wrestling over the past few years. But as quickly and effortlessly as her reign with the White Belt went, Momo can’t seem to break through to the top and take Stardom’s top prize – the Red Belt. She unsuccessfully challenged Mayu Iwatani back in January and ever since has shown a borderline obsession with chasing Stardom’s top champion and becoming the new ace. Her first5☆STAR GP victory could be an important step on that path.
Dubbed the “Super Rookie” in 2018, and for good reason – she entered the 5☆STAR GP one match after her debut, and proceeded to win her block and advance all the way to the finals. She followed that up by winning just about every midcard belt Stardom has, all in her first year. But the Red & White belts have eluded her, as she’s come up short every time she has challenged for them. Last year she was in position to make another run in the 5☆STAR GP, and was arguably the tournament’s MVP through her first 4 matches before suffering a broken finger and having to withdraw. Look for her to come back with a vengeance in 2020, and possibly take the next step to becoming one of the company’s top stars.
The sentimental favorite of many. One of Stardom’s most popular wrestlers among Western fans, Jungle Kyona has drawn many comparisons to NJPW’s Tomohiro Ishii – both for her hard hitting power style that results in numerous barn burners, and for her inability to win the big one. Kyona has an interesting backstory of spending 2 years as a humanitarian aid in Senegal (hence her name), and immediately joined Stardom after coming home to Japan. Always a fan favorite, Kyona has drawn even more support this year with tributes to her late friend, Hana Kimura. Can that emotion and energy propel the fan favorite to finally win the big one?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a wrestler anywhere in the world who has a greater talent to age quotient than AZM (pronounced “Azumi”). The teenager brings a dynamic wrestling style that combines hard strikes with blazing fast speed and high flying. Last year she was a late substitution into the Grand Prix (her first), and went on to score eight points – just two behind the block winner. Ever since Stardom has returned from its shut down, AZM has had a more serious and focused demeanor. She brings a lot of momentum into this year’s tournament, having just won Stardom’s High Speed Belt from AEW’s Riho for her first singles title. Many predict that she’ll be a future star in the company, and this GP could be the liftoff.
Natsuko Tora has seen a big shift over the past year. Formerly a plucky midcarder with a chip on her shoulder, Natsuko has embraced her evil side since joining Oedo Tai. Her matches now feature plenty of weapons, interference, and ref bumps. After the retirements of Kagetsu and Hazuki, Natsuko has been tasked with leading Stardom’s heel unit, but is still looking to make a big impact. Will this year’s 5☆STAR GP be that breakthrough, or will she settle for playing spoiler?
Another wrestler who has embraced her evil side, Saki Kashima turned on her longtime tag partner Mayu Iwatani and joined Oedo Tai in January. Like DEATH Yama-san in the Red Block, Saki has victories over nearly everyone on Stardom’s roster. Her offense features countless reversals and flash pins, and her matches always have the feeling that they could end in an instant (she beat 2019 GP champion Hana Kimura in 8 seconds last year). Saki is the Blue Block’s landmine that will undoubtedly ruin the tournament hopes of many serious contenders, and many fans playing pick ’ems.
One of the most experienced and decorated competitors in the field, Syuri brings over ten years of experience into her first 5☆STAR GP. After taking a 2-year break from pro wrestling to pursue an MMA career in 2017-2019 (including matches in UFC), Syuri shocked the world by showing up in Stardom with Giulia’s Donna Del Mondo faction in January. Expect plenty of hard strikes and submissions in her matches, and in a block with a fair share of bruisers, plenty of classics.
One of the most impressive rookies in pro wrestling, Maika is the first high profile signing from Taka Michinoku’s Just Tap Out promotion (she signed full time with Stardom just over a week ago). She only has 33 matches in her entire career, but already looks like a veteran in and out of the ring. As a long time judo competitor, she blends judo throws with submissions for a dynamic wrestling style. In a block full of big names, she certainly has a lot of challenges in front of her. But expect Maika to have a number of great showings to prove why she is one to watch in the future.
With a field this talented, just about every show of the tournament has multiple matches to get excited about.
Here are some highlights:
- Mayu Iwatani vs Giulia (8/8) – Not only are they two of the company’s top stars meeting for the first time on opening day… they’re currently the top two belt holders, making for a rare champion vs champion match. Talk about opening with a bang.
- Jungle Kyona vs Syuri (8/9) – Power vs MMA. What’s not to love?
- Momo Watanabe vs Syuri (9/6) – Two of the best strikers in the business have had electric exchanges in a few multi-tags. This is their first singles match.
- Mayu Iwatani vs Himeka (9/12) – Stardom’s ace with a penchant for wild bumps meets its newest physical force in an interesting contrast of styles.
Unlike many past tournaments, this year’s edition sees many factions grouped together in the same block, giving an opportunity to see matches that don’t normally occur.
- Momo Watanabe vs AZM (8/9) – High on experience but short on age (20 & 17 years old respectively), good friends & tag partners meet again after having one of the tournament’s best matches last year.
- Giulia vs Himeka (8/9) – Giulia has taken Stardom by storm over the past 6 months, but Himeka might literally be her biggest challenge yet.
- Momo Watanabe vs Utami Hayashishita (8/15) – Stardom’s two ascending young aces stole the show in NYC during Wrestlemania Weekend 2019 at their only match to date… until now.
- Utami Hayashishita vs AZM (9/5) – Two of Stardom’s brightest young stars meet for the first time in another Queen’s Quest showdown. Power vs Speed.
Rivalries & Rematches
- Utami Hayashishita vs Jungle Kyona (8/8) – One of Stardom’s hottest rivalries of the past few years, which began with a surprising draw between the two in Utami’s debut match two years ago.
- Jungle Kyona vs Natsuko Tora (8/15) – Former tag champions went through a bitter breakup in 2019. Their rivalry reignites here.
- Giulia vs Konami (8/29) – These two met in the semifinals of the White Belt Tournament, with Giulia prevailing in a very technical match. Can Konami get her revenge?
- Tam Nakano vs Saya Kamitani (8/30) – Tam mentored Saya through her training and early days, only for Saya to leave STARS and join Queen’s Quest a few months into her career. This is their first meeting since.
- Mayu Iwatani vs Konami (9/5) – These two had a great title match for Ring of Honor’s Women of Honor Championship in 2019, and always have great chemistry in the ring.
- Himeka vs Saya Kamitani (9/6) A rematch from an impressive encounter a few weeks ago. The two young stars will renew a budding rivalry in a match that Stardom CEO Rossy Ogawa said he could envision being for Stardom’s Red Belt in the future. High Praise.
- Utami Hayashishita vs Maika (9/13) – Ever since her debut, Maika has drawn comparisons to Utami for her quick rise and physical judo style. Through two matches in 2020, Utami has a 1-0-1 advantage. Both hail from the Fukuoka region where this match takes place, adding another layer to an already hot rivalry.
- Giulia vs Tam Nakano (9/13) – These two went to war for Stardom’s vacant White Belt just over a week ago, with Giulia coming out on top after 28 minutes. Tam looks for revenge, and possibly a future opportunity at the White Belt to fulfil a promise to her retired tag partner, Arisa Hoshiki.
Final Day Showdowns
- Utami Hayashishita vs Syuri (9/19) – A first time meeting between two of the most physical competitors in the tournament.
- Momo Watanabe vs Jungle Kyona (9/19) – Former tag partners have had a storied rivalry with many classics. Many consider their White Belt title match in 2019 to be one of the best matches in Stardom history.
- Himeka vs Konami (9/19) – Size vs technique. Himeka looks to make her mark in her first Grand Prix, while Konami looks to make the finals for the second consecutive year.
- Mayu Iwatani vs Tam Nakano (9/19) – Faction mates and friends… but Tam has always been in Mayu’s shadow. Can she win her friend’s respect, and take another step closer to a White Belt challenge? Can Mayu cement herself as the greatest in Stardom history by becoming the first two time Grand Prix winner, and the first Red Belt champion to win it?
The opening shows of the 5☆STAR GP will take place at Korakuen Hall on August 8th and 9th. The tournament will travel across Japan over the next month before concluding back at Korakuen Hall on September 19.
All shows will be uploaded on demand to Stardom World. Usually, several matches are uploaded each day following an event, with the best and most important matches being uploaded first.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 8 @ KORAKUEN HALL, TOKYO
- RED STARS BLOCK: Starlight Kid vs DEATH Yama-san
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: AZM vs Saki Kashima
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Momo Watanabe vs Maika
- RED STARS BLOCK: Konami vs Saya Kamitani
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Natsuko Tora vs Syuri
- RED STARS BLOCK: Tam Nakano vs Himeka
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Utami Hayashishita vs Jungle Kyona
- RED STARS BLOCK: Mayu Iwatani vs Giulia
SUNDAY, AUGUST 9 @ KORAKUEN HALL, TOKYO
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Saki Kashima vs Maika
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Utami Hayashishita vs Natsuko Tora
- RED STARS BLOCK: Mayu Iwatani vs Starlight Kid
- RED STARS BLOCK: Tam Nakano vs Konami
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Jungle Kyona vs Syuri
- RED STARS BLOCK: Giulia vs Himeka
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Momo Watanabe vs AZM
SATURDAY, AUGUST 15 @ EDION ARENA #2, OSAKA
- RED STARS BLOCK: Saya Kamitani vs DEATH Yama-san
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Syuri vs Maika
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Jungle Kyona vs Natsuko Tora
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Momo Watanabe vs Utami Hayashishita
SATURDAY, AUGUST 29 @ NIIGATA CITY PLAZA HOTEL, NIIGATA
- RED STARS BLOCK: Himeka vs DEATH Yama-san
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Natsuko Tora vs Maika
- RED STARS BLOCK: Mayu Iwatani vs Saya Kamitani
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Jungle Kyona vs AZM
- RED STARS BLOCK: Giulia vs Konami
SUNDAY, AUGUST 30 @ TAKAOKA ECOEUR, TOYAMA
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Momo Watanabe vs Saki Kashima
- RED STARS BLOCK: Konami vs Starlight Kid
- RED STARS BLOCK: Tam Nakano vs Saya Kamitani
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 5 @ SHINKIBA 1ST RING, TOKYO
- RED STARS BLOCK: Tam Nakano vs DEATH Yama-san
- RED STARS BLOCK: Giulia vs Saya Kamitani
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Momo Watanabe vs Natsuko Tora
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Utami Hayashishita vs AZM
- RED STARS BLOCK: Mayu Iwatani vs Konami
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 6 @ SENDAI PIT, SENDAI
- RED STARS BLOCK: Himeka vs Saya Kamitani
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Jungle Kyona vs Saki Kashima
- RED STARS BLOCK: Tam Nakano vs Starlight Kid
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Momo Watanabe vs Syuri
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 (AFTERNOON SHOW) @ NISHITETSU HALL, FUKUOKA
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Utami Hayashishita vs Saki Kashima
- RED STARS BLOCK: Mayu Iwatani vs DEATH Yama-san
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: AZM vs Syuri
- RED STARS BLOCK: Giulia vs Starlight Kid
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 (EVENING SHOW) @ NISHITETSU HALL, FUKUOKA
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Syuri vs Saki Kashima
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Jungle Kyona vs Maika
- RED STARS BLOCK: Mayu Iwatani vs Himeka
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13 @ NISHITETSU HALL, FUKUOKA
- RED STARS BLOCK: Konami vs DEATH Yama-san
- RED STARS BLOCK: Himeka vs Starlight Kid
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: AZM vs Natsuko Tora
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Utami Hayashishita vs Maika
- RED STARS BLOCK: Giulia vs Tam Nakano
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19 @ KORAKUEN HALL, TOKYO
- RED STARS BLOCK: Starlight Kid vs Saya Kamitani
- RED STARS BLOCK: Giulia vs DEATH Yama-san
- RED STARS BLOCK: Konami vs Himeka
- RED STARS BLOCK: Mayu Iwatani vs Tam Nakano
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Saki Kashima vs Natsuko Tora
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: AZM vs Maika
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Utami Hayashishita vs Syuri
- BLUE STARS BLOCK: Momo Watanabe vs Jungle Kyona
- BLUE STARS BLOCK WINNER vs RED STARS BLOCK WINNER