STARDOM
5STAR GRAND PRIX FINAL
SEPTEMBER 25, 2021
OTA WARD GYMNASIUM

Watch: Stardom World

After a long and arduous tournament for both the competitors and the viewers, the 5STAR GP comes to a close at Ota Ward with a fantastic lineup.  Despite Giulia’s injury denying us a Watanabe vs Giulia match, we will still see the dream match between Takumi Iroha and Syuri as well as the top two champions of Stardom colliding as Utami Hayashishita takes on Tam Nakano.  Let’s not waste any time!

RED STARS
MINA SHIRAKAWA (6) DEF. NATSUPOI (9)

Nice opener for the PPV with Shirakawa and Natsupoi clashing ahead of their upcoming Artist of Stardom Championship match.  Shirakawa winning via count-out was a smart choice as she gets to get one over on Poi without hurting the former High Speed champion. ***1/4

RED STARS
FUKIGEN DEATH (10) DEF. SAKI KASHIMA (4)

This lasted all of 2 minutes but was filled with High Speed goodness from Oedo Tai’s high speed merchants.  It’s impossible to hate a match this action-packed. ***

RED STARS
KOGUMA (11) DEF. HIMEKA (10)

We continue to fly through matches as this only went six minutes and ultimately never got going.  Himeka entered this show with a shot of getting into the final but this defeat eliminates her from contention.  They didn’t really play into that drama too much and instead just had Koguma get the roll-up win. ***

RED STARS
MAYU IWATANI (11) DEF. STARLIGHT KID (11)

This was really good despite also lasting just under 10 minutes.  Given this is the first singles match between Kid and Iwatani since Kid decided to stay with Oedo Tai I expected this to get some time to really showcase the history between the two competitors.  Turns out they didn’t really need that because they went for the kill right from the word go and managed to showcase the intensity their story deserved in just 9 minutes.

Starlight Kid winning would have sent her through to the finals but on this day her former mentor Mayu eliminated her from the tournament, proving that Kid still has a ways to go before she can surpass Iwatani.  ***3/4

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BLUE STARS
AZM (8) DEF. RUAKA (0)

Another solid match and a decent restart after the Iwatani vs Kid match.  Ruaka ends the tournament with 0 points which might be a first for the GP. **1/2

BLUE STARS
UNAGI SAYAKA (9) DEF. SAYA KAMITANI (11)

We’re into the business end of the card now where every result matters.  Kamitani winning would have kept her alive in the block but she fell to Sayaka who gets her win back over the “golden phoenix” from their PPV match earlier this year. Sayaka bookending her tournament with big wins is yet another sign to me of Stardom’s faith in her and honestly taking 9 points from her stacked block is a huge accomplishment for the Future of Stardom Champion. I’ve seen really high praise for this match but I don’t think it was anything spectacular, in fact, these two probably have bad chemistry based on how well Kamitani works with literally everyone else on the roster. ***1/4

BLUE STARS
MAIKA (9) DEF. KONAMI (10)

Maika eliminates Konami in a quick match that didn’t really do much.  This was 6 minutes and they essentially got in, did their stuff, and got out.  The pacing of the show has been really, really fast but it hopefully means the final three matches can get the time they need to knock it out of the park. ***

BLUE STARS
SYURI (12) VS TAKUMI IROHA (11) – TIME LIMIT DRAW

For the first time ever Syuri and Takumi Iroha squared off one on one and boy did it ever live up to the hype.  The chemistry these two have stylistically was on full display as the opening grappling lead way to some disrespectful striking and eventually lead into a great finishing stretch.  I’ve waited a long time to see a singles match between these two and I can safely say it was worth the wait. ****3/4

The draw finish eliminated Iroha from the tournament and put Syuri on the brink of going through. All Syuri needed was Tam Nakano to deliver.

BLUE STARS
TAM NAKANO (10) DEF. UTAMI HAYASHISHITA (10)

The top two champions of Stardom went at it with everything to play for as Hayashishita knew a win would keep her alive.  Following up Takumi vs Syuri was always going to be difficult but Nakano and Hayashishita made it work by having a match filled with big spots.  I was kind of worried these two wouldn’t work well together in-ring but I’m pleasantly surprised to say I was wrong. I still think this match suffered from being sandwiched between two massive matches and in a vacuum may even get a higher rating. ****

5STAR GRAND PRIX 2021 FINAL
SYURI DEF. MOMO WATANABE

From the moment she made her entrance this felt like Momo Watanabe’s time.  Throughout this tournament, the feeling has grown in me that Watanabe would finally rediscover the form that made her a record-breaking Wonder of Stardom Champion and as she made her way to the ring for this final I felt like I was watching 2018 Momo re-emerge from her slumber.  Her performance in the match backed that up as she put on a ruthless display against a weakened Syuri with the two trading wince-inducing kicks throughout the match. And then, Momo lost.  And yes, that’s upsetting I was convinced that it was her time and that I’d see her dawn the crown and gown of the GP winner. But, I came away with the sense that this isn’t the end for Watanabe, in fact, this felt like the beginning.  I don’t know when, and I don’t know how, but Stardom made it clear that Watanabe will eventually ascend the mountain and stand atop the company again sometime soon.

Syuri can walk away as the deserved winner.  She has been by far Stardom’s MVP of 2021 and has taken her own game to a level we haven’t seen from her in some time.  This tournament win sets us firmly on the path for a Syuri vs Utami Hayashishita rematch at Ryogoku Sumo Hall and if Stardom has any common sense we’ll see Syuri walk out of Ryogoku as the new World Of Stardom Champion. Despite being an upset Momo fan I can’t deny Syuri winning this tournament was a great decision on Stardom’s part, Syuri dedicating the win to her mother who passed away during last year’s Grand Prix also makes it tough to hate the move.

Now, for the match itself.  It’s a match that I’ve gone back and forth on ever since I first saw it.  At the moment I lived and died by every near fall, I was on the edge of my seat desperate to see Watanabe win as she and Syuri waged an absolute war filled with ridiculous kicks.  At the same time, can I give this match 5 stars if it requires that level of investment to be fully enjoyed? I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, yes I can, so this one will go down as one of my favorite matches of the year and Stardom’s second 5-star outing of the year for me. *****

FINAL THOUGHTS

The final three matches of this show were in a league of their own and it’s obvious that the rest of the show was designed to speed by before giving Syuri/Takumi, Tam/Utami, and Syuri/Momo the time they needed to deliver on their potential.  Despite the matches being short the undercard still had some very fun matches with Mayu vs Starlight Kid standing out as a match that you should definitely go out of your way to see.  I’m starting to sound like a broken record but every time Stardom runs these PPVs they blow me away and absolutely knock it out of the park. This may be their best effort yet given how great the last three matches were but the scary thing is, I’m pretty sure Osaka Jo-Hall will surpass even this with Utami vs Takumi, Mayu vs Tam, Syuri vs Konami, and the in-ring return of Hazuki scheduled for the 10th Anniversary Osaka event.