• Dan H

Stardom 5 Star Grand Prix Preview Roundtable

On 31st July 2021, Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix begins, and boy are we in for a couple of months of superb wrestling. Here at Pro Wrestling Musings we have already collated the full schedule (prowrestlingmusings.com/post/stardom-5star-grand-prix-2021-blocks-and-full-schedule-english) and details of all the competitors and their form/chances of winning the illustrious tournament (prowrestlingmusings.com/post/stardom-5-star-grand-prix-2021-competitor-profiles)(correct as of 16th July 2021).

So now it’s time to get the view of the experts…and associated hangers on….as to what they think about the tournament, what they are looking forward to, and who will be lifting the crown come December.

The contributors to this Joshi Jamboree are:

-Dan Humphrey @WrestlingRhymes [DH]

-Craig William @CraigPWMusings [CW]

-Scott Edwards @ScottEWrestling [SE]

-JPQ @bigpawsonapup [JPQ]

-Ziggy @ZiggyWrestling [Z]

-Ryan Gorneault @RyanGorneault [RG]

1) What is it that makes you look forward to the 5 Star Grand Prix and what are your fondest memories of the tournament?

[CW] I’ve only actually watched one, being a Stardom newbie last year. That being said, Japanese wrestling’s 2 block, round robin tournament is the best thing in wrestling. Add that to the fact that Stardom is currently my favourite Japanese wrestling promotion and we are on to a winner.

My fondest memories of the tournament last year were getting to see multiple Mayu Iwatani singles matches against a slew of top Stardom wrestlers as well as getting introduced to the wider Stardom roster; Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita and Giulia were wrestlers that particularly shone for me in last year’s tournament.

[SE] The beauty of the 5 STAR Grand Prix is that you put what I think is the best promotion today together to create a tournament unlike any other. While many like to compare this to NJPW’s G1 Climax, I think the 5 STAR Grand Prix appreciates the stories at hand and the surprise factor more than any tournament in professional wrestling. For example, high speed wrestlers have this wonderful knack of pinning some of the favorites because they are able to shock them, surprise them, and simply out smart them. Then when it comes to the story or long-term relationships between these wrestlers, they never seem to fail to utilize it in the match.

When it comes to my fondest memories of the tournament, I think the 2019 version very well be one of their best as the star-making run of Hana Kimura is one to behold. The cockiness she has in her first couple of matches almost disappears after a six second loss to Saki Kashima, forcing her to build it back up and at one point go through the terrifying gauntlet of Mayu Iwatani and Momo Watanabe with the necessary need to pull a win out of at least one of those to have a chance come the last day. Her final match before the final against Hazuki is what makes professional wrestling great as they used their past history from Oedo Tai to tell the story further which is lovely. When Kimura defeats Tokyo Cyber Squad stablemate Konami in the finals, you very much know that Kimura is an absolute star.

[JPQ] I look forward to all the different types of stories that can be told during (and after) the 5 STAR GP. STARDOM is so schedule heavy that sometimes you can find yourself lost with the stories they’re trying to tell. The 5 Star allows the promotion to fortify their active storylines, getting the fans on the same page. Additionally, we’ll see continuations of 5 STAR storylines from the past ie Saki Kashima picking up upset victories vs Mayu Iwatani & Momo Watanabe and all being slated in the Red Block again this year sets up nicely for another unexpected upset. Finally, stories that start and conclude within the tournament, especially in-faction one up-womenship, are always welcomed as it brings depth to the tournament.

One of my fondest memories, in more recent years, was Konami vs Kagetsu on night 1 of the 2019 5 STAR GP. STARDOM has always done a nice job getting fans ready for the 5 STAR by stacking nights 1 & 2, and 2019 was no different. Hazuki vs Momo Watanabe, Arisa Hoshiki vs Jamie Hayter, Hana Kimura v Tam Nakano all were showcased on opening night but it was Goddess Champion Konami v Artist Champion Kagetsu that received the call to close the show and they tore the house down in one of Konami’s best singles performances, just awesome.

[Z] At this point the company is so much on fire it would take special booking talent to not have a great tournament. Other than a lot of really good matches that could main event some bigger shows in short period of time we have some interesting stories with rivals thrown into the same block. And of course, it's also easy way to (re)built someone up in quick fashion, so we can hope our favorites that are not in that top tier mix can get some time to shine.

And as far as my fondest memory goes, I’m actually not sure if I can pick one specific match or moment. Probably I’d have to go with first time seeing that many really good matches one after the other, and not once in a while.

[DH] I love tournament wrestling generally and I adore the round-robin format that Japanese companies use. The tournament structure allows companies to weave tournament-long story-arcs, give mini-pushes to certain wrestlers before bringing them down to earth, and at times creating incredible underdog stories. When you add that to the sheer amount of talent currently in Stardom, it’s hard not to be excited about the next couple of months’ worth of 5 Star GP action which I think will be breathless, unpredictable and dramatic.

My fondest memory of the 5 Star GP is also tinged with sadness as it is the run to the final of Hana Kimura in 2019. Singing her ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ song in the build up to each match she was without doubt the personality of the tournament. But it was also in this setting that we saw Hana really step up her in-ring work and as Scott points out above more eloquently than I can, she had some absolute bangers on her way to the final. And that final was brutal. As Hana so eloquently put it herself, Konami ‘killed her leg’ but Hana fought through to win. It was a tournament-long star-making performance.

[RG] I truly believe that Stardom has some of the best wrestlers in the world, but my inconsistent viewing habits mean that I have yet to watch a 5 Star Grand Prix in full. This year’s viewing schedule seems a bit more manageable, considering how the tournament is being spread over the course of two months. It’s pretty much a guarantee that this tournament will produce a few match of the year candidates (though it will be hard to beat that excellent Syuri versus Utami Hayashishita match), but the thing I am looking forward to the most is the short runtime per match. If this year’s tournament is set to operate like last year’s, then each match will have a twenty-minute time limit, which is perfect, because it almost always means matches will never drag. Plus, time limit draws do wonders to protect the competitors along the way. At this point, if any of the matches end up as good as Io Shirai and Mayu Iwatani’s 2015 5 Star Grand Prix match, then I’ll consider this whole tournament a success.

2015 Winner Kairi Hojo

2) Which matches are you looking forward to the most from the Red Stars Block and the Blue Stars Block? No more than two from each block otherwise we’ll be here all day.

[CW] For the Red Stars, I am very excited to see Mayu Iwatani and Starlight Kid clash. It’s scheduled for the last day, so it seems like that will be a spotlighted match in that block. Another match I am looking forward to in the Red block is Giulia vs Mayu, this opened the Red Stars last year and was an excellent match; Mayu will be looking for retribution this time around. As you can see I’m a huge Mayu Iwatani fan!

Similarly to the Red Stars, I’m highlighting two matches from one wrestler in the Blue Stars. One of these is Takumi Iroha (who I am beyond delighted to see included) vs Utami Hayashishita. How will the World of Stardom Champion measure up to one of the very best wrestlers in the world, and non-Stardom wrestler? The other match I am most looking forward to seeing is the rematch between Utami Hayashishita and Syuri, following up their buzz-creating match earlier this year. This one has an Okada/Omega 3 feel to it with a lot of people expecting a similar outcome.

[SE] Wrestling can be a lovely thing and there are more than a dozen matches that I am excited to see in this year’s tournament. The first one in the Red Stars Block is Momo Watanabe versus Giulia on the final day of the tournament. Not only should this match carry loads of significance with these two likely being among the final true contenders to win the Red Stars Block, but this will be their first legitimate singles match. The only time these two have ever faced off against one another in a singles match was the 2020 Cinderella Tournament, which lasted a minimal 4 minutes and 37 seconds. Yeah, doesn’t count. These two have so much dislike and hatred for each other that with the likelihood of winning the block coming down to this one, it should be nothing short of fantastic.

The second match in the Red Stars Block that intrigues me is Mayu Iwatani versus Starlight Kid, which is also on the final day. Despite not initially being a fan of when Kid was forced to head over to Oedo Tai, this match has some of the best story in the entire tournament. Let’s get this out of the way. I am willing to say that Mayu Iwatani is the greatest of all time when her career concludes and there’s a reason for that. She does not miss ever. Everything she does not only has you believing but wondering if she can pull it off. When the final day of the tournament comes and she is forced to face her former pupil who has turned into an absolute star away from her, it will have all of us anticipating something amazing. Kid will have the potential to eliminate Iwatani from contention and she could indeed do that, furthering their story that much more.

The Blue Stars Block is possibly the most stacked block any tournament has seen in some time. So, let’s start this off by saying that any match with Takumi Iroha is at the top of my list. Between her and Syuri, there may not be a more intriguing schedule of nine matches for one participant in this entire tournament. That being said, my clear choice is Iroha vs. Syuri which also happens to be on the final day. These two are the favorites on the Blue Stars side in my opinion and should be. To add on to the intrigue here, this will be the first-ever singles match between the two. With the physicality and hard-hitting strikes they bring forward, this could be the match of the tournament.

When looking at the Blue Stars Block match and thinking of the final bout to be most excited for, I believe that the credit has to go to Iroha facing off with World of Stardom Champion, Utami Hayashishita. The champion has become a certified star since winning last year’s 5 STAR, putting on all-time performance after all-time performance. This should be the same as not do I only believe it should be a perfect clash of styles, but will be the first of two matches between these two this year. Iroha will win this match and get a shot at the World of Stardom Championship, mark my words.

[JPQ] First and foremost in the Red Block I’m down right invested in what they decide to do with Momo Watanabe. She’s been riding the pine in a lot of ways since the back half of 2019 – never losing her position in the upper-mid/lower main event position – however she hasn’t had that marquee win either that made you say, ‘WOW! That’s your next world champion’. I think that changes this tournament. Queen’s Quest vs Donna Del Mondo is as hot a feud as you’ll find in professional wrestling today and Queen’s Quest Leader, Momo Watanabe, will have to motor through High Speed Champion Natsupoi, 2020 5STAR GP Block Winner Himeka, & current Goddess of STARDOM Champion & DDM Leader Giulia to ensure Red Block victory. Look for Momo Watanabe vs Giulia to try and steal MOTT.

A fun match to keep an eye on in the Red Block as well is Giulia vs Saki Kashima. Saki is celebrating 10 years in STARDOM and the crafty veteran has come close a couple times to taking down Giulia one on one. Saki handed Giulia her first defeat in STARDOM during a trios match and as recently as earlier this month found herself in the driver's seat of a singles match that got away from her at the end. Saki is known for her flash pins in the 5 STAR GP, can Giulia keep her wits about her and not get trapped in the kinshiekasa? We’ll find out.

In the Blue Block, Tam Nakano vs Konami stands off the page as a can't miss match up. These two had a banger in the 2020 5 STAR GP as well as a super solid match at the beginning of July. Tam is having the best matches of her career during this Wonder of STARDOM run while Konami has been heating up since Natsuko Tora’s unfortunate injury. Look for these two to show up and put together one heck of a wrestling match.

Another match to keep an eye on is Takumi Iroha, the Ace of Marvelous Pro vs Saya Kamitani. Takumi vs Utami/Syuri (heck, really anyone) is worth our attention but I think this is a good bar to see where Saya is on her journey to the top. They’ll be a lot of tests in this Block for Zoom Zoom but if she can pull out a victory against someone as formidable as Takumi Iroha then she really is the future of STARDOM and the confidences Rossy and Fuka hav