STARDOM
STARDOM 5 STAR GRAND PRIX OPENING ROUND DAY 1
JULY 31, 2021
YOKOHAMA BUDOKAN
YOKOHAMA, KANAGAWA, JAPAN

Watch: Pia 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for Stardom fans as the 5STAR Grand Prix kicks off with a massive event at the Yokohama Budokan.  Day 1 features a number of big matches including Syuri vs Saya Kamitani, Mayu Iwatani vs Momo Watanabe, and Maika vs Utami Hayashishita.  Let’s not waste any time and dive right into block action.

RED STARS
MINA SHIRAKAWA (2) DEF. FUKIGEN DEATH (0)

This was a decent opener featuring two of the wrestlers that will no doubt finish middle of the pack.  Shirakawa outsmarting Death and rolling her up was a clever way to get Shirakawa a (likely rare) win. **1/2

RED STARS
KOGUMA (2) DEF. NATSUPOI (0)

This was a match I was excited to see from the second the blocks were announced and I’m glad to say these two delivered an enjoyable match.  The “high-speed genius” and “high-speed fairy” predictably delivered a lot of high-paced action that wouldn’t have looked out of place in an actual High Speed title match.  They added in some comedy with Koguma hiding under the ring at points to confuse Natsupoi but that didn’t detract much from the match.  Koguma winning likely sets her up as a future High Speed Championship challenger which will be a treat to see when it happens. ***1/2

RED STARS
GIULIA (2) DEF. STARLIGHT KID (0)

Giulia and Kid have a history of delivering very intense and hard-hitting performances against one another but this time around they focused more on limb work and likely paced themselves given the long tournament they’re about to endure.  They still delivered the goods towards the end of the match but this was one of their weaker matches, although a rewatch may admittedly change my feelings on this one.  Giulia put Kid away with the Northern Lights Bomb to get her tournament off to a hot start. ***1/4

BLUE STARS
UNAGI SAYAKA (2) DEF. TAM NAKANO (0)

We have our first massive upset of the tournament as the Future Of Stardom Champion Unagi Sayaka beat her faction leader and white belt champ Tam Nakano.  You’ll never accuse me of being an Unagi Sayaka fan but it’s hard not to appreciate her performance here.  She sold for Nakano incredibly well and really put herself into the underdog role by selling Nakano’s strikes as well as she did.  The passion Sayaka brought to her comeback was also enough to get even the most jaded fan invested as she was giving it her all to get any foothold against Nakano.  While I had actually predicted Sayaka winning, both on my podcast Stardom Quest and on Twitter, I was still surprised to actually see Stardom go through with it.  The slow and steady build-up of Unagi Sayaka is something to keep an eye on as they’re giving her a lot of marquee moments for someone in the midcard. When she puts it all together in the ring I wouldn’t be shocked if Stardom rushed her to the top. ***1/2

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BLUE STARS
SYURI (2) DEF. SAYA KAMITANI (0)

Going into this I wasn’t too sure what to expect from a Saya Kamitani vs Syuri match, mostly because Saya is still a bit of an anomaly who works to her opponent in these big singles matches.  What we got was a standout bout that was equal parts intense and stiff with an insane slap exchange to cap things off that both women will be feeling in the morning.  Kamitani looked fantastic against Syuri despite never really getting to showcase her high flying, here’s hoping these two can wrestle again soon when Kamitani is pushed as an equal threat to Syuri. ****

RED STARS
MOMO WATANABE DEF. MAYU IWATANI

Momo Watanabe and Mayu Iwatani had a great match.  In other news water is wet.  This was an incredible match that had me grinning like a weirdo as I watched, to steal Ice Ribbon’s slogan I was happy with pro wrestling watching these two do their thing.  The back and forth, unload your arsenal style war is one that these two excel at and this was no different from their previous matches.

What this match drove home to me is that Watanabe is a contender in this tournament, she not only survived everything Iwatani threw at her but she was an absolute murderer towards the end of the match, she was absolutely ruthless and put Iwtaani down with a Peach Bomb after already connecting with a Peach Sunrise.  Watanabe was willing to do whatever it took to get the win, something that is reminiscent of her record-breaking Wonder of Stardom Championship reign. ****3/4

BLUE STARS
MAIKA (2) DEF. UTAMI HAYASHISHITA (0)

For the second year in a row, Maika has beaten Utami Hayashishita in the 5STAR Grand Prix.  For better or worse Maika and Hayashishita will always be connected at this point.  Their early similarities have given way to a series of matches that showcase an excellent chemistry between the pair.  Giving Maika occasional wins over Hayashishita is a great way to keep their dynamic interesting as it plants that seed of doubt every time they wrestle that Maika could pull off the upset.  This match didn’t stray too far from the usual level these two perform at and served to give us a second upset on Day 1. ***3/4

Final Thoughts

Day 1 of the GP kicked things off about as well as it could have.  Momo and Mayu had an early contender for match of the tournament, Syuri and Saya Kamitani had a great match, Unagi Sayaka delivered the kind of upset that makes these tournaments so interesting, and to cap it all off the tournament can only get better with names like Konami, Himeka, and Takumi Iroha yet to enter the fray.