5STAR GRAND PRIX DAY 19
SEPTEMBER 24, 2022
BELLE SALLE TAKADANOBABA
It is FINALLY here. The penultimate week of the 5STAR Grand Prix. It has been a grueling tournament for participants and viewers alike but we head towards the final day with a stop off in the Belle Salle Takadanobaba which promises to deliver.
HANAN (2) DEF. MINA SHIRAKAWA (8)
A lot to unpack here but most importantly, Hanan gets her first win of the tournament!! I don’t think it’s any coincidence that she got her first tournament win AFTER her stellar performance in the Artist of Stardom Championship match. A match that I wrote extensively about in my review because I knew it would serve as an important elevation of Hanan.
I don’t know when it happened but Mina Shirakawa being reinvented as a serious limb-targeting, kick-throwing wrestler has been a treat. That style was the perfect one to go with against an underdog like Hanan and allowed both women to shine. ***1/4
MOMO KOHGO (4) DEF. MAIKA (14)
A big upset for Momo Kohgo that also had massive implications on the Red Stars block. Kohgo beating Maika prevented the DDM member from going clear at the top of the block with 16 points, instead dooming her to the final day shoot-out with the other block leaders. ***
STARLIGHT KID (14) def. SAYA IIDA (4)
This was way better than I was expecting it to be. Right off the bat they went at it like old rivals. Which makes sense as Iida was also a member of STARS when Kid defected and likely had a bone to pick with her opponent. Kid winning was the obvious choice but Iida gave a really good account of herself against one of the block leaders. ***1/2
SUZU SUZUKI (12) DEF. AMI SOREI (10)
A strong match that did what it could to follow up Kid vs Saya. Sorei’s chops are always great but she definitely needs to add more to her game if she wants to keep up with someone like Suzuki. ***1/4
HIMEKA (12) DEF. UNAGI SAYAKA (2)
A complete miss in every regard. I completely understand the aim of selling Unagi’s desperation to win but neither she nor Himeka put in a performance in the ring to live up to the story. The crowd was polite but clearly not fully into what was happening. Having half the match be a forearm battle seems great until 95% of the forearms have no impact, especially when both of them can do much better. **1/2
MOMO WATANABE (10) DEF. MAYU IWATANI (13)
At this point, Momo and Mayu could sleepwalk to a great match together, especially now that Watanabe is doing such great work as a heel. What surprised me about this one is how easily Watanabe won. For a match that essentially put Mayu’s tournament on the line, she didn’t get a chance to put up much of a fight. Watanabe has lost a lot in this tournament so I like her getting such a definitive win towards the end of the tournament. ****1/4
UTAMI HAYASHISHITA (14) DEF. TAM NAKANO (14)
Much like Momo and Mayu I’m convinced that these two could sleepwalk to a great match together. Every time they step in the ring their chemistry is on full display. My only issue with this is they didn’t really sell the fact that this was a match with massive implications nearly enough. A Tam win would have eliminated Utami and sent her top of the block but they didn’t play into the potential drama all that much. Still, it was a great outing as usual. ****
GIULIA (15) DEF. SAYA KAMITANI (13)
Unlike the last two matches this definitely played into the drama of being an important match at the top of the block. They were right up against the time limit which would have been an ok finish but instead, Giulia pulled the win out of the bag with a submission after a headbutt that left Kamitani vulnerable to the submission. ****1/4
HIGH SPEED CHAMPIONSHIP
AZM (C) DEF. HAZUKI & FUKIGEN DEATH
When people talk about High Speed wrestling this should be one of the matches used as a reference point. Nonstop action, lots of creativity, and a strong finish. Despite not wrestling the high speed style in about 3 years Hazuki hasn’t missed a step and could easily step back into the division if she pleased.
What I loved most was this match did one thing and one thing only. AZM got to lay two of her past demons to bed. This same match happened in 2019 and Death pinned AZM to take Hazuki’s belt; roller on three years and AZM pinned Death to make the seventh defense of her title. This reign is a definitive moment in AZM’s career and she’s been established as the true “ace” of the division with this win. ****1/2
The High Speed Championship match totally stole the show but it shouldn’t overshadow how good the final three GP matches were on this show, While the earlier stuff dragged a little the show closed with a bang. Stardom is heading into the last day of the 5STAR with a head of steam built up, if all goes well we could be looking at an excellent finale to one of the best tournaments in Joshi history.