AUGUST 11, 2022
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan


Blue Stars Block
Ami Sourei (4) def. Hanan (0)

The opening match of STARDOM’s 5STAR Grand Prix event in Korakuen Hall saw Ami Sourei defeat the Future of Stardom Champion Hanan. The battle would be the first between these two and it showed chemistry that maybe no one knew existed. Hanan seemed her most comfortable in there with a fellow Future of Stardom division member as they traded forearms and chops in the early going. Credit should also go to Hanan for trying to cut down the powerful Sourei, utilizing a Leg Bar and her new submission she’s recently debuted that also attacks the leg. Sourei’s power was eventually what got her the win in the end as a Spinning Brainbuster was all she wrote for Hanan. A good opener reminiscent of Hanan’s Future of Stardom Championship matches. **¾

Red Stars Block
Himeka (6) def. Momo Kohgo (0)

Momo Kohgo was squashed. She tried, but the STARS member had little success at moving or stopping “The Jumbo Princess.” Himeka has been a woman on a mission since the beginning of this tournament as she opened it up with a win over Utami Hayashishita after all. A loss to Tam Nakano has seemingly pissed her off as her wins over Koguma and now Kohgo have been very convincing. To be honest, this was a great change of pace. And after Himeka’s arm was raised, she was out of there. All business right now. We love to see it. **½

Red Stars Block
Mai Sakurai (4) def. Saki Kashima (0)

3 minutes and 50 seconds. That’s how long this match lasted as it was Mai Sakurai, not Saki Kashima, who won with the surprise pin. Kashima was in control and just watched two points slip through her fingers. The reaction after the pinfall by Kashima was the best part of it all! **

Red Stars Block
SAKI (4) def. Koguma (4)

Heading into SAKI vs. Koguma, the main question was who would control the pace of play. Would it be SAKI keeping a bit more physical and slowing down STARDOM’s resident bear? Or would the high-speed Koguma keep the pace going from start to finish? Somehow the answer may be both. These two were going back and forth, trading reversals and trying to figure out how to walk away with the win. Before you knew it, Koguma looked to have gotten her patented Kuma Roll for the win before SAKI managed to pull off the shock and score a surprising pinfall. Best way to describe this match was that it was a lot of fun. **½

Blue Stars Block
Mayu Iwatani (4) def. Saya Iida (0)

No one may believe me… what am I kidding? This is Mayu Iwatani after all. If we were to break this show into two halves with this being the end of the first, this was easily the best of that half. We never complain about getting to watch Mayu Iwatani go all out in singles matches, but seeing her go from her STARS stablemates Hanan to Saya Iida opened our eyes to how much this tournament means to her. She loves them but “The Icon” wants glory and nothing more. These two worked incredibly well together and if they had more time, this may have been in the consideration for darkhorse matches when it was all said and done. Just loads of fun and enjoyment with this. ***½

Red Stars Block
Syuri (4) def. Unagi Sayaka (0)

Syuri and Unagi Sayaka are such a unique pairing. On one side, it’s the World of Stardom Champion and perhaps the most dominant wrestler in STARDOM since Io Shirai. On the other side is Unagi Sayaka, who loses her major singles matches a lot more than she wins but has that underdog charm and fire you want. When you enter these two into a match together, you often get really good results. This was no exception. Sayaka looked the best she’s looked in quite some time as she gave everything back to Syuri and more. Maybe it’s a case of knowing Syuri is going to give her everything she’s got so why hold back when someone is willing to bring the best out of you?

There were a number of great near falls in this match where Sayaka seemed she may steal it but in the end, it was death by Buzzsaw Kick as Syuri walked out victorious. This match and the one prior is where this show picked up and wouldn’t fall the rest of the way. Really good match here. ***½

Red Stars Block
AZM (4) def. Tam Nakano (2)

What could we expect out of AZM and Tam Nakano after the two matches before them arguably over-delivered? Ah, glad you asked. A fast-paced, nonstop battle between two of the very best. AZM did all she could to use her high-speed shenanigans to outclass Nakano, who obviously went in as the favorite. The best way to avoid Nakano’s offense is to keep her on the move and unable to slow down the pace to control and tell her side of the story but rather join in on the opposite style. It would work in the favor of AZM as she’d pick up the win but that wasn’t without taking a gnarly Cutter from Nakano off the apron and down to the floor. It was beautiful. There were some minor slip-ups in here but not enough to derail the match in any way.

If you were looking for something next level on this show, this kicked it off nicely. AZM stealing the win and being the potential spoiler in Nakano’s path to winning the 5STAR Grand Prix is a story worth telling. ***¾

Blue Stars Block
Momo Watanabe (2) def. Starlight Kid (2)

There was really no way to know how this match would go heading into it. After all, you have the faces of Oedo Tai, a faction that does anything and everything to try and win, going one-on-one. Would they embrace their heelish nature? Maybe even hurt the match with the kind of overplayed heel faction member vs. heel faction member that you can see in NJPW at any time (shoutout Bullet Club)? Or would two of the best wrestlers on the roster go out there and just do what they do best? Let’s go with that one.

Momo Watanabe and Starlight Kid really highlighted the best of both wrestlers. Watanabe plays a phenomenal heel when her goal is to not only win but to beat up her opponent until they have no more left. It’s better than leaning on the heel tactics of cheating every minute of every match. Sure, she’d bring her signature wrench into this but her ability to embrace what made her such a good heel in the first place as part of Queen’s Quest is why this worked. And on the other side, Starlight Kid being able to play the babyface, a role she is maybe the best at in wrestling, brought this match to the heights it could reach. Watanabe brutalized her tag team partner with the one goal of winning, kicking her head off via the wrench before hitting the Peach Thunder and getting her first win. Must-see match here. ****¼

Blue Stars Block
Hazuki (6) def. Natsupoi (4)

The two most consistent wrestlers in STARDOM go head-to-head. What do you get as a result? An excellent match. Combining this with the Momo/Kid battle, this is the best back-to-back we have seen in this tournament. You would have thought Hazuki and Natsupoi were forever rivals looking to only destroy each other but in reality, they just wanted those two points and to get a leg up heading into the tag title match this coming weekend at STARDOM x STARDOM. At times it was difficult to stay in my seat because of the energy they had going from start to finish. Even if you knew the results before getting to watch these two go at it, you had to feel some sort of excitement each and every time they exchanged offense.

Maybe the best part was getting to see some of the old school Hazuki in there as she repeatedly brushed the face of Natsupoi with her foot as if she was trying to get the dirt off her boots. It was violent, it was physical, and it was really everything I was looking for out of these two. Hazuki and Natsupoi are having themselves fantastic years and there’s no doubt this should be remembered as a shining moment for both women. ****¼

Red Stars Block
Utami Hayashishita (6) def. Risa Sera (4)

Somewhere along this ride, there was going to be a spot where we had to slow down just a bit. Utami Hayashishita vs. Risa Sera was that in a way that this match was very good but a step or two below the previous two matches which hurts it any other time. If we put this match on another show or in another spot, it probably benefits from not having to follow what it did because this was violent, showed how great Risa Sera is and allowed you to witness the survival and ability to rebound as Hayashishita ultimately did in the end.

Sera may have suffered an injury to her nose towards the end but there was no blood so we can’t be too sure but that should explain to you that they had intentions of destroying each other. Maybe the best way to describe this match is that if the World of Stardom Championship was on the line and they got five more minutes, it would have reached levels of the match Sera had with Syuri earlier this year. Again, still very good and kept up the pace of the second half of this show. ***¾

Blue Stars Block
MIRAI (6) def. Suzu Suzuki (0)

MIRAI and Suzu Suzuki were born to be rivals. And before we even get to the match, let’s just think about this matchup. Their stories leading up to this point couldn’t be more opposite but have enough similarities to talk about it. Suzu Suzuki was the prodigy and chosen one of Ice Ribbon. She won the ICExInfinity Championship and represented the promotion when she was just 17 years old. Suzuki had everything she could ever need with being the ace of the promotion the moment Tsukasa Fujimoto stepped aside. Instead, she left because she wanted to do her own thing as part of Prominence. She stepped into STARDOM with all the fanfare and while not signed, she feels like a big part of their future.

Now let’s discuss MIRAI. It couldn’t be more opposite. She was low on the totem pole in TJPW and wanted so much more out of wrestling and in her career. So she took a chance on herself and left, heading to STARDOM in the process. Since joining the promotion, she’s won the Cinderella Tournament, challenged for the World and Wonder of Stardom Championships, and wouldn’t surprise anyone if she won the 5STAR Grand Prix too. There’s no one doubting she is a major part of STARDOM moving forward and within two matches, she’s found her forever rival in Suzu Suzuki.

So you see the differences in how we got to this main event but there’s something about betting on yourself while also believing in who you are as a pro wrestler. And I can admit I’ve been someone both incredibly high on MIRAI and at times low too, but this match is the very best of her career. The way these two work against one another really tells the story of who they are. Suzuki, the rebellious yet confident killer, and MIRAI, the genuine babyface who has the crowd behind her every step of the way. And maybe it was the way Suzuki played off of those claps as the crowd cheered MIRAI on that made this work even more than their first match at NEW BLOOD. The Prominence star played her part to perfection, mocking MIRAI and the crowd any chance she got.

But MIRAI, she had zero problems going right back. She’s the “Soul Fighter” after all, so it shouldn’t be too shocking she not only fought back but did so in a fashion maybe no one knew MIRAI had in her. Suzuki wanted to get physical so what did MIRAI do? She got physical right back. Heck, they traded headbutts in the middle of the ring. But the most beautiful part of this match was using Suzuki’s one disadvantage against her. It’s pretty well documented that Suzuki hurt her shoulder prior to the beginning of the tournament and with it all taped up, it’s a target like no other. MIRAI attacked and attacked and attacked, bringing the match down to if Suzuki’s shoulder could hold up — which the referee might have made sure it did.

By referee’s decision, the match was ended as MIRAI locked on a devastating Kimura Lock, wrenching the arm until Suzuki had no way of getting out of it. The referee called for the stoppage and while Suzuki was pissed, it was a move to see her fight another day. I can praise Watanabe vs. Kid and Hazuki vs. Natsupoi all I want (and I did), but this match takes the cake as one of the best in the tournament. For me, it’s only behind Giulia vs. Hazuki. Tremendous match you’ll need to go see. ****½

This is the best night of tournament action so far. Yes, better than both live shows. Korakuen Hall was rocking and honestly, watch every match. The 5STAR Grand Prix is the tournament in wrestling right now.

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