WORLD WONDER RING STARDOM
STARDOM 5STAR GRAND PRIX 2023 FINAL
SEPTEMBER 30, 2023
After a long and gruelling tournament, the final night of STARDOM’s 5STAR GP is upon us, but it’s not without its casualties. Due to various injuries, this card is missing three huge matches in the form of Suzu Suzuki vs. Saya Kamitani, Utami Hayashishita vs. Giulia, and Mayu Iwatani vs. Starlight Kid. Despite that, we still have some amazing matches on tap, so let’s get into this historic tournament’s final day of action.
HANAN (6) DEF. MARIAH MAY (6)
Solid start to the show with Hanan getting a big final day win over the departing Mariah May. May did the honors for the ‘future ace’ before announcing that her tour with STARDOM had finished. May did a good job of building this match-up with her playful teases of wanting Hanan to join Club Venus establishing an on-screen relationship between the two. That added some weight to the finish and post-match promo. ***1/4
MOMO WATANABE (10) DEF. AZM (8)
This suffered due to both women being out of contention. It didn’t have the added fire of some of their previous meetings but was carried by the grudge they hold over Momo’s betrayal. If you’ve seen a Watanabe/AZM match before then you know what this was as Momo wailed away on her former teammate who tried to win with her high speed trickery.
Watanabe got the rightful win ahead of her Wonder title match next week and has a lot of momentum heading into that particular showdown with MIRAI. ***1/2
SAORI ANOU (10) DEF. MINA SHIRAKAWA (9)
This was our first important match of the night as Mina Shirakawa needed a win to stay in contention. Sadly for me, she lost to Anou and got eliminated, making MIRAI vs. Maika into a winner-take-all scenario. This was really good Shirakawa did some excellent technical work to try and wear down Anou who just proved to be too much for her on the night. They really played up the drama with one of the final near falls on a Pottering roll-up, having my heart in my mouth briefly. ***3/4
MAIKA (12) DEF. MIRAI (10)
GREAT hoss stuff here as these two just threw shots at each other in an attempt to progress to the 5STAR Grand Prix 2023 Final. They laid it out perfectly with the tension rising as the time calls went on, edging MIRAI closer to a spot in the final. The finishing sequence was fantastic as MIRAI looked to have the match won, with her setting up the Miramare Shock only for Maika to reverse it and hit an out of nowhere Michinoku Driver to steal the win and secure her spot in the final. An absolute nail-biter to watch live with some excellent power wrestler action thrown into the mix.
With this win, Maika made her way to the final, which I considered a surprise move as I expected them to run back Suzu Suzuki vs. MIRAI, a match that has been fantastic every time we’ve seen it. That said, Maika has just as much to gain from being in the final as she too has had a long-running story with Suzuki and could have paired up well with Syuri or Tam if they were the ones who went through. ****
AMI SOREI (8) DEF. SYURI (11)
The faction leader gets upset by their stablemate on the final day. A tale as old as time. Syuri basically had to lose this one as 13 points would have made for some interesting tournament math but instead, Ami got a big win ahead of her NJPW Strong Women’s Championship match with Giulia. ***1/2
HAZUKI (10) DEF. NATSUKO TORA (12)
Another big match, this time with Tora needing a win to secure her spot in the 5STAR Grand Prix 2023 Final. The Oedo Tai leader pulled out every trick in the book to try and get the win over her former stablemate, a woman she retired back in 2019, but it was Hazuki who came away with the win to blow the block wide open and take Tora out of contention. ***3/4
NATSUPOI (11) DEF. TAM NAKANO (11)
An excellent match here between the former rivals turned tag team partners. Nakano needed a win to send herself through to the 5STAR Grand Prix Final and she almost killed Natsupoi in order to get that spot, but it was Poi once again showing the babyface vigor that earned her so many points to grit out a win. These two absolutely went ham on one another, proving once again that nobody in Joshi will hit you harder than your own teammate.
With this result, Suzu Suzuki progressed to the final of the 5STAR Grand Prix as she earned 2 points from Saya Kamitani forfeiting their match on this show. ****1/2
5STAR GRAND PRIX FINAL
SUZU SUZUKI DEF. MAIKA
First things first, this was a great match.
They started off hot and only went up from there for the 15-minute runtime. It’s the kind of match that didn’t need the standard easing in grappling, instead starting with both women desperate to get the win and being willing to do anything to get it. The finish was excellent, with Suzu Suzuki shocking just about everyone to pull out a Skytwister Press, something not seen in Joshi circles since the innovative Chaparita ASARI, to get the win.
The only problem is the 2,500-strong crowd wanted Maika to win. This was the loudest I’ve heard a STARDOM crowd for a match in some time, and they were in full voice of wanting Maika to win almost from the second the bell rang. Even as Suzuki was gearing up to get the win, you could feel the energy of the crowd willing Maika on to get the win, so when the three was counted, it was almost like the air was let out of the balloon. It’s not that people hate Suzu or her winning. It’s just that they clearly wanted Maika to win.
Based on the booking this year and some reports from Dave Meltzer, Suzuki winning was Plan B, as Saya Kamitani was reportedly supposed to win this year’s tournament, and well, I’d buy it. Kamitani was just coming off a record-breaking run as white belt champion and was in the most high-profile story of the summer, compare that to Suzuki, who hasn’t even joined a faction since jumping to STARDOM or consistently had something to work with, and you have a tale of two very different women. Suzuki was a Plan B, and that’s going to be a hard label to shake as she isn’t even getting her title shot at the year-end show in Sumo Hall. She’s challenging in November, a match I expected she’d be getting anyway after beating Nakano in the GP.
All in all, Suzu Suzuki is an excellent wrestler, a prodigy, and a star who will take over Joshi wrestling someday. But on this day, with this story, in this venue, she felt like the wrong choice. They really had a chance to capture something with a Maika win, even if it would’ve disrupted their plans to do Kamitani vs Nakano. Instead, we have a GP winner seemingly being overlooked for someone who may not even be healthy by the time the Sumo HaLl comes around, and to me, that’s just a waste of such a huge accolade. ****1/2
I feel for STARDOM here. They lost their tournament favorite, the most likely replacement to the tournament favorite, and had three huge matches taken off the final day due to injury. By the end, it felt like everything was working against them heading into this show, but they still put together a fantastic outing. While this doesn’t hit the heights of previous 5STAR Grand Prix Final days, it was a deserving finale to what I consider one of the greatest tournaments in Joshi history.
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