Stardom 5 ★ STAR GP 2015 #1
A Review by Kevin Wilson
Date: August 23rd, 2015
The FIVE STAR GP for Stardom has begun! The FIVE STAR GP is a round-robin block tournament, similar to the G1 Climax but spread over a lot more time (and with far less wrestlers). But it is the standard method of each wrestler facing off against everyone in their Block, and then the two Block winners facing each other to crown the tournament champion. Io Shirai won the tournament last year, so she is the defending champion. All tournament matches have a 15 minute time limit. Here are the Blocks:
- Azumi vs. Momo Watanabe
Let's hop to the action.
Azumi vs. Momo Watanabe
This is labeled as a kid's fight, and it is exactly as it sounds as they are literally children. Azumi is 12 years old, while Watanabe is only 15 even though she has 'graduated' to the main roster. It is not unusual in Joshi for wrestlers to start before they are 18, never has been, with Ice Ribbon in the past being the best known for using underage wrestlers. They may be young but I can assure you they are well-trained, Azumi is better than a lot of wrestlers I can think of off the top of my head. This is the only non-tournament match on the card and is just a way to warm up the crowd.
They start off with some arm work, Watanabe gets the cross armbreaker applied but Azumi gets to the ropes. Back up, strikes by Azumi and she hits a tilt-a-whirl into a standing submission. Snap vertical suplex by Azumi and she covers Watanabe for two. Dropkick by Watanabe and she hits rolling vertical suplexes with the last having a bridge for a two count. Somato attempt by Watanabe but Azumi reverses the cover into her own two count. Watanabe hits another Somato, and this time she holds down Azumi for three!
This was not only clipped but short in the first place, so this was a non-match. Maybe interesting if you want to see the future potential stars of Stardom face off but that is about it.
Kris Wolf vs. La Rosa Negra
This is the first match in the 5 STAR GP! Wolf debuted in Stardom about a year ago, and since then has seen moderate success although she has yet to win any titles. This is Negra's first match in Stardom, and is a veteran of the American indy scene. In the past few years as she has wrestled in SHINE, RPW, and NWA as well as in Puerto Rico. Remember the rest of the matches on this card have a 15 minute time limit.
They tussle around to begin things and end up on the mat, Negra gets a headlock applied and she hits a shoulderblock. Wolf hits a tilt-a-whirl slam and dropkicks Negra before kicking her in the chest. Wolf boots Negra in the face but Negra returns the favor and rams Wolf's head into the turnbuckle. Negra chops Wolf in the chest but Wolf chops her back. Negra picks up Wolf and drives her into the corner multiple times before slamming her to the mat for a two count. Irish whip by Negra and she hits a Samoan Drop, they get back on their feet and go off the ropes, colliding into each other. Wolf and Negra trade slaps, Wolf throws Negra into the corner and she hits a jumping knee. Face crusher by Wolf, she goes to the second turnbuckle and hits a diving double knee for a two count. Powerslam by Negra, she goes up top and delivers a Frog Splash for a three count! Negra gets two points in the Grand Prix.
This was a decent undercard match and a good introduction for Negra for the Stardom crowd. It was very slightly clipped here and there which may explain some of the shady transitions. Wolf has a lot of spunk so she rarely has a bad match and Negra hit her moves smoothly. Nothing earth shattering but perfectly acceptable wrestling.
Haruka Kato vs. Queen Maya
This match is part of the 5 STAR GP. Queen Maya is unknown to most fans in the United States and Japan, however she has had a long and successful career in Italian Championship Wrestling where she has held multiple titles. Kato on the other hand was not scheduled for the tournament at all, but Reo Hazuki had to pull out at the last minute due to a personal issue. Which means poor little Kato steps right into the fire with a match against a 6'3" wrestler, which doesn't sound like an ideal situation for her.
After Maya unfairly requests a knuckle lock, Maya kicks Kato and clubs her to the mat. Body avalanche by Maya in the corner and she hits a sidewalk slam for a two count cover. Kato tries to fight back but gets planted with a Black Hole Slam for her trouble, Maya picks up Kato but Kato gets on her shoulders before transitioning into a cross armbreaker. Maya slams Kato to get out of the hold, Maya throws Kato into the corner but Kato applies a hanging armbar over the top rope. Kato goes up top and goes for a diving crossbody, but Maya catches her and tosses Kato to the mat. Maya hits a big boot in the corner before going off the ropes and killing Kato with a lariat. Chokeslam by Maya, and she picks up the three count! Maya gets two points in the Grand Prix.
Maya is limited, but if they keep her matches to something like this (they don't have to be this short of course), they can still be effective. Maya is a monster, which I mean as a compliment, so she doesn't have to be quick or smooth to tell a believable story in the ring. Kato got in two good hope spots, which is all you can ask for, and overall I thought it worked well. Too short to get excited about (less than four minutes), but in a tournament setting while introducing a new wrestler to the crowd it accomplished its goals.
Hudson Envy vs. Kaori Yoneyama
Hudson Envy for me went from a wrestler I had never heard of (I don't really follow the American indies) to one of my favorites to watch. Envy is only 24 years old, and began her career wrestling in the California area. She has several hardcore matches under her belt as well, and she wrestled in the 2014 Queen of the Death Match Tournament in IWA:MS. Currently in Stardom, Envy wrestles in the 'heel' stable of Oedo Tai, led by Kyoko Kimura and Act Yasukawa. Yoneyama is a freelancer that mostly wrestles in Stardom these days, and she is a respected veteran. Twice she has held the Artist of Stardom Championship, last losing it in December, so she is not a pushover for Envy.
They start with armlock, Yoneyama tries to shoulderblock Envy over but she has no luck. Yoneyama grabs Envy from behind and rolls her up for two, but Envy rakes her eyes and boots Yoneyama in the face. Envy chokes Yoneyama against the ropes but Yoneyama fights back with elbows and hits a jumping crossbody for two. Yoneyama chokes Envy with her boot in the corner and knees her multiple times, Irish whip by Yoneyama but Envy reverses it and hits a lariat. Shoulderblock by Envy but Yoneyama fires back with a jumping knee. Yoneyama goes up top and she hits a missile dropkick, cover by Yoneyama but it gets two. Yoneyama goes up top again but Envy elbows Yoneyama and joins her. Yoneyama pushes Envy off but Envy grabs Yoneyama and hits a Samoan Drop. Envy goes for the Air Raid Crash but Yoneyama gets out of it and hits a big boot. Knee to the back of the head by Yoneyama and she hits a German suplex hold for two. Yoneyama goes for the Yoshi Tonic but Envy shrugs her off and hits a lariat. Roll-up by Yoneyama but Envy kicks out at two and hits another lariat. Air Raid Crash by Envy, and she picks up the three count! Envy gets two points in the Grand Prix.
Yoneyama sometimes wrestles a comedic style, but she wasn't here, this was 'serious' Yoneyama which helped the match a lot. There were bits that were sloppy but the action was constant and Envy looked good as usual. I won't complain about the time as it went long enough for a midcard tournament match, they tend to not be very long anyway, and both wrestlers came out looking strong. Solid effort by both wrestlers. Mildly Recommended
KAORU vs. Starfire
Newer Joshi fans may not know who KAORU is, but she is a long time veteran of Joshi as she debuted back in 1986. Since that time she has wrestled in many promotions, including CMLL, JWP, Oz Academy, ZERO1, GAEA, WAVE, and just about everywhere else with female wrestling. Oddly she had never wrestled in Stardom before, so it was a surprise when she was announced as part of the tournament. It will give a lot of fresh matches though, and even at age 46 I can assure you that KAORU can still go. Starfire hails from Mexico and started wrestling in Stardom on a regular basis starting last summer. In fact, last year's 5 STAR GP was her first tour with the company, and since then she has seen a fair amount of success as she holds the High Speed Championship coming into the tournament.
KAORU kicks Starfire before the match starts (she doesn't always fight fair) and chokes Starfire with her jacket. KAORU works over Starfire for the first few minutes and stomps on both her hands while Act Yasukawa looks concerned from the floor. Starfire finally fights back with a double knee, and she dropkicks KAORU in the back. Starfire twists on KAORU's arm in the ropes before dropkicking it and applying a short armbar. Irish whip by Starfire but KAORU hits a big boot, Starfire charges KAORU and she lariats her over the top rope to the floor. Starfire goes out after her and she hits KAORU repeatedly with a chair, Wolf tries to help but KAORU grabs her and throws Wolf into the stands. KAORU then throws Starfire into the ring post and into the chairs at ringside before sliding her back into the ring, delayed vertical suplex by KAORU and she covers Starfire for a two count when Wolf breaks it up. Big boot by KAORU to Starfire, she covers Starfire but Wolf breaks it up again. Starfire connects with a back kick to KAORU and she springboards off the ropes with a Codebreaker. Starfire goes for the Package Piledriver but KAORU blocks it. Sunset flip by Starfire for a two count, she goes off the ropes and she hits a hurricanrana. Starfire gets KAORU up and hits a double underhook into her knees, cover by Starfire but KAORU barely kicks out. Starfire hits a lariat but KAORU bridges out of the cover, and KAORU hits Starfire twice with a piece of table. KAORU suplexes Starfire onto the piece of table but the referee tosses it out of the ring. KAORU gets on the second turnbuckle with the board, but Starfire rolls away. Wolf gets in the ring but KAORU hits them both with the table piece. Samoan Driver by KAORU, she goes up to the top turnbuckle and nails the moonsault for the three count! KAORU gets two points in the Grand Prix.
Like the last match it was a bit sloppy at times, likely due to the fact Starfire and KAORU don't have any experience against each other, but what I liked about it is that it felt different. When every match has outside the ring brawling it gets old but on this show it felt fresh, and it was fun that both in essence wrestled like heels so you never felt bad for either one when a wrestler cheated. KAORU has lost a step from her youth but she is still non-stop, she doesn't wrestle like a typical 46 year old and can still fly around the ring when needed. Not particularly smooth at times but still enjoyable. Mildly Recommended
Io Shirai vs. Mayu Iwatani
Very little introduction is needed for these wrestlers, as they are two of the cornerstones of Stardom. Io Shirai is the ace, she has held every Stardom title and currently holds two (Wonder of Stardom and Goddess of Stardom). The Goddesses of Stardom Championship she holds with Iwatani, who is younger but has been wrestling in Stardom since debuting in 2011. Shirai and Iwatani are close friends (very close) but they have faced off before and they will not be holding anything back to get those precious two points in the FIVE STAR GP.
Shirai begins the match taking control, but Iwatani throws Shirai to the apron before dropkicking her to the floor. Shirai gets back in and goes off the ropes and both spring around before Iwatani hits an armdrag. They trade pin attempts with no luck, and Iwatani kicks Shirai in the head. Back up they trade elbows, Shirai kicks at Iwatani and goes for a dropkick, but Iwatani moves out of the way and hits a heel drop. Iwatani takes Shirai to the apron but Shirai picks up Iwatani and scoop slams her onto it. Back in the ring Shirai slams Iwatani and she hits a Space Rolling Elbow. Dropkick to the head by Shirai and she covers Iwatani for only a two count, so Shirai transitions into an armtrap crossface. Tiger Feint Kick by Shirai but Iwatani avoids the swandive missile dropkick. Iwatani kicks Shirai against the ropes and she nails a dropkick on her friend and teammate. Shirai falls out of the ring, Iwatani goes up to the top turnbuckle and takes off Shirai's head with a diving plancha. Iwatani picks up Shirai and kicks her repeatedly, Iwatani grabs Shirai and drops her on the floor with a dragon suplex.
Iwatani gets back in the apron with Shirai slowly following, Iwatani jumps on the second turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick. Iwatani connects with a second one, she goes up top again and delivers a third. Iwatani kicks Shirai in the back of the head, she goes up top but Shirai jumps up and dropkicks Iwatani in the head, sending Iwatani crashing to the floor. Shirai then gets a running start and moonsaults off the top turnbuckle to the floor onto Iwatani. Back in the ring Shirai hits a double knee strike, and covers Iwatani for two. Shirai picks up Iwatani but Iwatani slaps her and they trade elbows. Kick by Iwatani and she goes for a powerbomb, but Shirai kicks out of it and nails a reverse piledriver. Shirai picks up Iwatani and delivers a package German, but Iwatani kicks out. Shirai goes up top but Iwatani gets her knees up on the moonsault attempt. Superkick by Iwatani and she nails the dragon suplex hold, but Shirai barely gets a shoulder up. Iwatani picks up Shirai and drops her on her head with a piledriver, Iwatani hits a triple jump reverse hurricanrana out of the corner but Shirai kicks out again. She goes to the apron but the bell rings, signifying the match is a Draw. Iwatani and Shirai both get one point in the Grand Prix.
This match started slow and then became mind-blowingly good. I almost feel like wrestlers that are friends wrestle even harder and stiffer, as if its a friendly competition beyond just being a scripted match to see which is better. I watch tons of Stardom and Iwatani was hitting stuff I hadn't seen her hit before, the triple jump reverse hurricanrana was perfectly hit and even before that they were just busting out everything to get two points. Draws are fine in tournaments, they annoy me sometimes in random tag matches that the winner doesn't really matter, but in a tournament setting they make sense and can just add more to the story as now we will never know if Iwatani had Shirai beaten if she had time for just one more move. Exciting and awesome, Iwatani has grown so much in-ring in the last year and it will be fun down the road to see her try to take the crown of "ace" from Shirai. Highly Recommended
Chelsea vs. Kairi Hojo
The story of Chelsea is an interesting one, I hope she writes a book one day or gives me a really in-depth interview. Just six months ago, Chelsea was an unknown wrestler, almost literally. When she first appeared in Stardom I looked around and I could only find one profile on her anywhere on the Internet (it had no useful information), and I had to wait until Stardom added her profile before I could get some information. But somehow, within a month Chelsea was one of the most popular wrestlers in Stardom. How did she do it? It wasn't her wrestling ability, as while she is a perfectly fine wrestler she is only 21 and still learning. No, Chelsea is really cute, really energetic, and really photogenic. Stardom was made for her as Stardom is 77% awesome wrestling and 23% beautiful wrestlers posing on beaches. So Chelsea is in Stardom to stay and she fits right in. Hojo of course is the rising star of Stardom, famous both for her elbow drop and the cute faces she makes. These two are actually a tag team, called Candy Crush, so like the last match this is two friends facing off. Don't worry, they won't hold back either, gotta get those two points.
They both go for dropkicks to start and then trade elbows, Hojo gets the better of it but Chelsea avoids her dropkick. They trade pin attempts with no luck, and both wrestlers return to their feet. Chelsea and Hojo lock knuckles, Chelsea gets Hojo to the mat and applies an armlock but Hojo gets out of it. Leg drop by Chelsea and she hits a vertical suplex, but Hojo levels her with a spear. Hojo stomps on Chelsea's back and chops her into the corner, Irish whip by Hojo and she hits a shoulder tackle. Sliding D in the corner by Hojo, she goes up top and hits a diving elbow smash for a two count. Hojo applies a crab hold but Chelsea crawls to the ropes and forces a break. Hojo charges Chelsea but Chelsea moves out of the way and snaps Hojo's arm over the top rope. Chelsea knees Hojo in the arm and applies a wristlock, she then twists Hojo's arm in the rope and drops a few more knees on it. Scoop slam by Chelsea, she goes up top but Hojo gets her knees up when she jumps off. Hojo and Chelsea trade elbows back and forth until Chelsea delivers a heel kick to send Hojo to the mat. Chelsea goes for a kick, Hojo catches it but Chelsea kicks her anyway. Short-range spear by Hojo, she gets Chelsea on her back and hits an Alabama Slam. Hojo goes to the second turnbuckle and hits a diving elbow drop to Chelsea's back, Hojo applies the cross-leg crab hold but releases it after a moment. Hojo goes up top again but Chelsea hits her and joins her, Hojo pushes Chelsea off but Chelsea hits a heel drop. Chelsea throws Hojo to the mat, she goes to the top turnbuckle and she hits a diving crossbody for two. Chelsea goes for a diving bodypress but Hojo moves out of the way, Hojo knees Chelsea in the back and then hits a running elbow to the chest for a two count. Hojo goes for a Sliding D but Chelsea blocks it and rolls up Hojo for two. Keylock by Chelsea but Hojo gets a foot on the ropes. Double underhook suplex by Chelsea and she covers Hojo for a two count. Elbows by Hojo but Chelsea grabs her, modified backslide by Chelsea and she gets the three count! Chelsea gets two points in the Grand Prix.
Hojo hugs Chelsea afterwards so all is well. This was a good match but didn't really go beyond that. It was slower paced than the other matches on the card, and for a nearly 15 minute match there were very few memorable moments in it. Hojo's short-range spear was well done and Chelsea's focus on the arm was well-worked, but I wouldn't call the match exciting. This was a big upset of course and it gives Chelsea an early jump in the tournament, although I have a feeling that Hojo will still end up doing just fine. I am surprised Iwatani/Shirai didn't end the event, that does a lot to show how popular Chelsea has gotten, but this was still a solid way to end the show. Mildly Recommended
From top to bottom this was an excellent way to start off the tournament as really everyone looked good. Maya made a memorable first impression, which is always the goal with wrestlers debuting in a new promotion. Envy/Yoneyama was solid as Yoneyama was actually serious, then KAORU/Starfire was a fun brawl. I can't say enough about Iwatani/Shirai, one of the best Stardom matches of the year as both looked fantastic. Then we ended with a solid (although non-spectacular) main event that was a bit slower but still enjoyed by the crowd as Hojo and Chelsea are two of the most popular wrestlers in the promotion. All in all a really good event and worth watching, nothing was missing and it was a good effort by all. One of the best Joshi events so far this year.