5STAR Grand Prix Day 2
July 29, 2023
Saku City, Nagano

Watch: Stardom World

Blue Stars
Giulia (3) def. Hanan (0)

The 5STAR Grand Prix has kicked into full gear as Day 2 of tournament action was led off by Giulia vs. Hanan.

Based on the first night, we learned quickly that this isn’t going to be a tournament where Giulia sits back and is happy with the two titles she holds. She isn’t going to settle on winning the 5STAR Grand Prix last year. No, instead she’s going to go all out to try and get back to the top of STARDOM once again.

Hanan is in a completely different spot from Giulia. She’s simply trying to prove she belongs. The 18-year-old is the youngest wrestler in the 5STAR for a second-straight year and while she should be proud of what she accomplished last year, this year is all about building upon that. A match against Giulia is how you do it.

The violence was unsurprisingly there on the Giulia side of things but Hanan was able to continuously match her with her judo-style offense, keeping Giulia on her heels at times and coming close to pulling off the upset of all upsets. It shouldn’t come as too much of a shock that it was the STRONG Women’s Champion who walked out with the victory in the end via Glorious Driver.

Like the Maika loss, it’s a match for Hanan to keep building off of as she’s showing she has what it takes to get these big wins. Sooner than later, she’ll start to get them too. It’s her best of the tournament after three days of action. ***¼

Blue Stars
Saori Anou (3) def. Mariah May (2)

A match highlighting the two breakout additions of STARDOM’s year was obviously going to be one to watch and it should come as no shock that it was an exciting one. From the opening bell, this match was competitive with May faking the handshake to hit Saori Anou with a devastating Saito Suplex. She’d follow it up with her Sunset Flip Powerbomb onto the floor, absolutely devastating Anou early and leaving her looking for answers early.

But what turned it all around for Anou was attacking the leg of May. Once she hit that first Dragon Screw, it became the story of the match. May tried over and over to get stop Anou’s attack but she is a violent wrestler and violently made May pay. At times the match was uncomfortable with May screaming in agony but she was able to fight back. The offense of the “Foreign Ace” included a picture-perfect Sling Blade and continued back and forth from there.

Anou would lock in a hybrid Arm Breaker, wrapping up May’s leg before ripping down on the arm and forcing the Club Venus member to give up. This was right there with the AZM match for May in terms of breakout singles performances and while she didn’t win, she’s well on her way to more success in STARDOM. This is well worth the watch as Anou is blazing through this tournament with great performances. ***¾

Blue Stars
Mina Shirakawa (2) def. MIRAI (0)

What was once going to be a huge Wonder of Stardom Championship match was instead the main event of a taped 5STAR Grand Prix show but it certainly lived up to the hopes I had. MIRAI has been back to the elite level that we saw her find in last year’s tournament since winning the White Belt. Mina Shirakawa has been on the top of her game all year as STARDOM’s MVP. This was simply great.

Shirakawa is hitting hard and hitting often. You could feel her determination in this match after she lost the Wonder of Stardom Title and had a chance to beat the reigning champ. The Spinning Backfists were on point but as MIRAI often does, she can take you out with a Lariat at any moment — which she did a number of times.

The closing moments included clean slaps to the face of MIRAI, slaps that were reminiscent of ones you’d see in a New Japan NEVER Openweight Title match from back in the day. They were stiff and ROCKED MIRAI. Shirakawa managed to capture the victory when she hit the Figure-Four Driver MINA to pin MIRAI and send the Wonder of Stardom Champion to a shocking 0-2.

Now that Saya Kamitani is out of the tournament, the reported winner is also out. If there were someone to win and face Tam Nakano at the year-end event that makes sense, few make more sense than Shirakawa. She’s going to get a title match out of this tournament one way or another after this win — so why not both? If you’re looking for a match to go out of your way to see from this past weekend of 5STAR action, this is the one. ****

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