The 2022 Stardom Five Star Grand Prix was magnificent. Absolutely magnificent. For over two months the promotion put on quality match after quality match and delivered fascinating intrigue as the competition reached its dramatic climax.
There were moments of comedy, moments of bone-crunching violence and surprises a plenty, and that was only in the first few nights. People will argue about who put on the greatest selection of matches throughout the tournament but the fact that there are so many legitimate options says it all.
So who left the Grand Prix as the top dog in Stardom? What does the future hold for those currently at the top table? Before the Tag League kicks into full gear, we will look at who is setting the pace based on both statistics (available at Stardom 2022.xlsx) and my own fantastically correct opinion.
There was no room for Hazuki. No space for Utami Hayashishita. Not even a place for Starlight Kid, Natsupoi and the terrifically impressive Risa Sera.
Who did make the cut? On we go to find out!
Syuri suffered a feeling during the Five Star Grand Prix that she hadn't felt before in 2022. The feeling of defeat. Going into the tournament Syuri hadn't been defeated once in singles competition this year but coming out the other side she was beaten on five separate occasions. She also finds herself with a very powerful and very familiar threat to her Red Belt on the horizon in Giulia. Nonetheless Syuri is still the one to beat in Stardom as she nears one year as World of Stardom Champion, and it remains incredibly hard to imagine a world where she isn't the top champ.
Two matches into the Grand Prix and sitting on two defeats from two it looked like Giulia's underwhelming 2022 was set to continue. Yet here we are at the conclusion of it all looking at the new owner of Stardom's most important crown. Only defeated one more time in the rest of the tournament, Giulia stormed to the top of the Blue Stars block and cemented her glory by defeating long term foe Tam Nakano in the final. Will she go on to strip former ally Syuri of her long-held Red Belt? The general consensus appears to very much be yes.
As with Syuri, Saya Kamitani tasted more defeats than she might have expected during the Five Star Grand Prix. Saya felt like a potential block winner in the early stages but five matches in a row without a win in the closing stretch meant Saya slipped to joint 5th. Also as with Syuri though, the White Belt holder is closing in on a year as champion and she still looks as if she will be very difficult to dislodge from her Wonder of Stardom throne. Starlight Kid will likely be top of Kamitani's list of concerns, but for now she rightly still flying high in the power rankings.
For a while there it looked like the High Speed Champion might be heading to the Five Star Grand Prix final. Two defeats in her final two matches ended that dream, but it didn't stop AZM completing yet another defence of her belt against Hazuki and Fukigen Death. It really feels as if AZM has conquered the High Speed division and there seem few likely contenders that she hasn't already beaten. So is it time to move on towards the White Belt? Few would begrudge her that opportunity after an excellent 2022 so far.
So near but yet so far for Tam Nakano. Picking up more wins than any other competitor in Stardom, Tam swept to the top of the Red Stars block and into the final. Unfortunately she came up against Giulia who was in no mood to be defeated in a superb conclusion to the competition. Yet Tam can take huge pride in her performance and she of course remains one half of the current Goddesses of Stardom Champions. This could have been Tam's last shot at the big-one, but she is far from done in the world of Stardom generally.
Not many people would have had Mayu coming in joint second in the Blue Stars block but that's exactly what she delivered. Big wins over Suzu Suzuki, Hazuki and nemesis Starlight Kid almost pushed Mayu over the line, but in the end she was just edged out by Giulia. Still, it was a message to all in Stardom that the Ace is still a force to be reckoned with. In addition she remains the SWA Champion and even found time to survive falling down a large set of stairs at Stardom in Showcase. In summary...Mayu remains the absolute best.
Suzu Suzuki entered the Five Star Grand Prix as an outsider, but left the tournament feeling like an integral part of the promotion. Melding technical quality with a remarkable propensity for violence Suzu was one match away from winning her block. And you can bet that she won't easily forgive Giulia for taking that away from her. As a result, if Giulia is to rise to World of Stardom Champion, she may well need to go through Suzu to get there.
Joint second in the Red Stars block, Himeka continued her impressive record in the Five Star Grand Prix. Only a draw with stable-mate Maika in the final match stopped Himeka reaching the final and she has been rewarded for her performances with a place in the tournament to crown the first IWGP Womens Champion. She may not be the most likely winner, but after recent big wins over the likes of Utami Hayashishita, Risa Sera and Koguma, the Jumbo Princess has to be considered a serious contender.
It almost seems harsh to have Maika sitting below Himeka in this list considering how equal they were right up until their battling draw in the final match of the Five Star Grand Prix. But one singles defeat to Momo Kohgo before that stalemate derailed Maika's bid for glory after an excellent run which included wins over Utami Hayashishita, AZM and even Syuri. The question for Maika then is how does she convert these performances into titles, because as with Himeka that is the only thing that is missing.
Mayu Iwatani. Giulia. Suzu Suzuki. Momo Watanabe. All names that can now be added to the list of people that MIRAI has defeated in 2022. And what a year it continues to be for MIRAI after her victory in the Cinderella Tournament earlier in 2022. She will rue the defeat against fellow God's Eye member Ami Sohrei that probably cost her the chance to win the Blue Stars block, but there is no doubt that MIRAI is quickly climbing the Stardom ladder.