Originally published at Stardom 5* Grand Prix Finals Report: 2021 Winner Crowned
Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix is a round-robin tournament, in which participants are divided into two blocks. For a complete rundown of the 2021 Entrants, check out WH Park’s 2021 Stardom 5★GP Primer! The tournament started on July 31, 2021, and concluded on September 25, 2021. For those unfamiliar with Stardom, the 5★GP is often compared in likeness to sibling promotion New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s annual G1 Climax Tournament. The greatest challenge of the 5★GP, is unlike NJPW who live stream their entire tournament, the bulk of the Stardom 5★GP is on tape delay, making fans not in attendance wait until the matches are uploaded to Stardom World. Fans had a minefield to navigate if they wanted to avoid spoilers or results.
This year’s 5★GP was the first time I tried actively watching along on Stardom World. It reminded me of pre-pandemic G1 shows with tag matches and non-league matches, stretched out over two months.
Prior to the start of the matches, the Japanese commentary team lead by Haruo Murata reviewed the current tournament standing of both blocks. He was joined on commentary with Yuzuki “Yuzupon” Aikawa, the inaugural 5★GP winner. There was no English language translation of the tournament blocks tables or separate English commentary at this time; only soft echoes of the Japanese commentary from the venue. If they had a separate English preshow available on their YouTube channel prior or the ability to toggle between Japanese and English, I think it would be very beneficial to the inbound fans watching from around the world. When it comes to a roughly $40 US per PPV event, a certain level of additional production value could make all the difference.
English Commentary with Stewart Fulton and Mina Shirakawa!
Shortly after her final Red Stars Block Match of the 5*GP against Natsupoi, Mina Shirakawa joined Stewart Fulton on commentary for most of the show. Mina did her utmost to be positive about every match and complimented Fulton’s play-by-play with her color commentary. She became quiet at times during the broadcast, but her love for wrestling and the respect she has for her peers in Stardom is very apparent. I sincerely hope they give her more opportunities to contribute to English commentary in the future.
Two matches were advertised for the show but were not aired during the PPV or the free live stream on YouTube. I hope that both matches will be uploaded into Stardom World when they add the event stream to the archive.
- Triple Threat Match! A three-way battle featuring Momo Watanabe vs. Hanan vs. Hina resulted in Hanan picking up a victory when she pinned Hina. Watanabe was originally scheduled to face Giulia in a Red Stars League Match but was awarded two points by forfeit when Giulia dropped out due to injury. Poised at the top of the Red Stars Block before the matches commenced for the evening, it felt like many wrote her off before the show even started, knowing that Starlight Kid could possibly have a career-defining match later in the night when she faced the woman she wished to surpass– Mayu Iwatani. (3:34)
- Stardom Double Challenge! The other match was a special double Stardom Challenge Match between Mai Sakurai and Waka Tsukiyama. Both women announced their decisions to join Stardom during the summer, both coming over from Actwres Girl’Z. Throughout the 5*GP, both started their Stardom entrances with fighting efforts against the Future of Stardom Champion, Unagi Sayaka. Afterward, each would compete in a series of single matches, testing their skills against the mainstays of Stardom throughout the 5*GP in non-league matches. Sakurai secured a victory over Tsukiyama with a diving elbow. (5:24)
I think many were expecting to watch the matches during the live stream, but with a ten-match main event card, including all remaining league matches, the finals, and the award ceremony, I can understand why it may have been initially limited to those in attendance.
2021 5*GP Official League Matches
Card placement doesn’t guarantee success because there are bracket busting matches from start to finish. My only qualm with the way the final matches were presented is that all remaining Red Stars matches went first, followed by all remaining Blue Star matches. It would have been a little less predictable if they alternated between block matches. Here are the quick and spoiler-free notes:
9/25 Red Stars Official Matches
- Mina Shirakawa vs. Natsupoi – short and sweet, but a fun watch
- Saki Kashima vs. Fukigen Death – an all OedoTai match up
- Koguma vs. Himeka – High Speed versus Raw Power balance one another, so it comes down to ring psychology
- Mayu Iwatani vs. Starlight Kid – Will The Darkness Shrouded Sky Tiger finally surpass The Stardom Icon?!
9/25 Blue Stars Official Matches
- AZM vs. Ruaka – very quick, should have been earlier on the card.
- Unagi Sayaka vs. Saya Kamitani – The Future of Stardom Kabukimono looks to topple the Golden Pheonix
- Maika vs. Konami – Strength versus Submission Tactician; could not get enough!!
- Syuri vs. Takumi Iroha – – (Get those 5* Ratings ready, Gang!)
- Utami Hayashishita vs. Tam Nakano – World of Stardom Champion versus Wonder of Stardom Champion does not disappoint at all!
News Flash!! Stardom Dream Queendom?!
Just when we thought the final event of 2021 was Stardom’s Year-End Climax on Christmas Day (December 25th), a surprise event was announced! On December 29th at Ryogoku Sumo Hall, Stardom will close out 2021 with Stardom Dream Queendom, just over a week before Wrestle Kingdom 16! Start time, PPV details, and more to be announced!
Down to the Wire Bracket Busting
I went in circles about my picks throughout the entire tournament. Just when I think I had every possible result mapped out, the upsets started flowing in quickly and heavily.
Red Stars League Matches
- Mina Shirakawa defeats Natsupoi – Knowing that Mina would be joining English commentary for the majority of the show, I was rather confident the Fighting Spirit H-Cup Gravure Idol would put up a valiant fight, but ultimately the High-Speed Fairy would be the one taking home the win. Their fight spilled out onto the entrance ramp area, where the count down started. Mina dropped Natsupoi on the ring apron with an Implant DDT, leading to a count-out victory for Mina who snuck back into the ring at 19.
- Fukigen Death defeats Saki Kashima – Fukigen is critically underrated. There is an art to her ability to seamlessly wave character work, comedy, and fast-paced wrestling. Throughout the tournament, she racked up wins against Iwatani, Koguma, Himeka, and a forfeit from Giulia. In Natsuko Tora’s absence, I was curious to see if the de facto leader, Kashima was going to pull rank, but the two of them had a fun, light-hearted match instead. Afterward, even the OedoTai baddies hugged it out– or had pantomime cigarettes together before heading to the back arm-in-arm. (1:52)
- Koguma defeats Himeka – Koguma’s fast pace and Himeka’s power fighting perfectly canceled each other out, so control of the match came down to ring psychology. Himeka arrived with a lot of swagger as the defending 2020 5★GP Finalist. Koguma managed to convince Himeka to play along and do her bear pose, a distraction that cost Himeka as it gave the High-Speed Genius the early advantage over the Jumbo Princess. This match was just long enough to leave me wanting to see more, especially if the cocky Himeka can avenge the loss in the future. (7:05)
- Mayu Iwatani defeats Starlight Kid – Another match I wished had gone just a bit longer before coming to a close. The transformation of Starlight Kid from being Mayu’s tag team partner and STARS mainstay into being forced to join OedoTai on a bet her faithful leader lost has been one of the stories I’ve been most invested in throughout 2021. When SLK chose to stay in OedoTai despite being given the chance to return to the light, Kid opted to embrace the darkness that has consumed her and begin her campaign to finally defeat Stardom’s precious Icon. Mayu had an answer for everything that Kid threw at her, and even in victory, she still wanted to hug Kid after the match. I was relieved that Kid didn’t beat Iwatani because I think it could drive her further into The Darkness and continue their story together a bit longer. (9:16)
Blue Stars League Matches
- AZM defeats Ruaka – This match went by very quickly with the entrances being nearly as long as the match. AZM swiftly beats Ruaka, but not without OedoTai trying to help a fair bit. Azumi Sushi (3:39)
- Unagi Sayaka defeats Saya Kamitani – When it comes to bracket busters, Unagi took the cake. Kamitani was one of my favorites to win the Red Stars, more so when Fulton mentioned the only person to win both the Cinderella Tournament and the 5★GP in the same year was Toni Storm (in 2017). Between two exhibition matches representing Stardom at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom and Wrestle Grand Slam in 2021, I was confident that she would be the one to win both tournaments in the same year. However, Unagi staged one of the largest upsets on the night, toppling one of the tournament favorites. (11:53)
- Maika defeats Konami – When the blocks were announced, Maika and Konami were both at the top of my picks to make it to the finals, and I had Konami winning the entire block. Over the last four years, Konami has shuffled from unit to unit but finally found her ground in OedoTai. She is long overdue for a tournament win and a singles title run, but Maika snuffed out her chances of making it to the end with the Michinoku Driver II. Genuinely felt like Konami was going to snap off both of Maika’s arms, bear her with them and then take them home after. I do wish this match went a little longer because it felt like they were just getting started. I hope they have a rematch again soon. (6:11)
- Syuri versus Takumi Iroha – Throughout the tournament, both Syuri and Takumi have been two of my favorites to watch. When it comes to a balance of speed, power, wrestling acumen, and versatility they are near the top in every single category. With both being so well-rounded, their match was an absolute nail-biter! I’ve watched it back three times already and “in awe” doesn’t even begin to describe this match. I doubt I could even give this match enough glowing praise but all you ratings analysts out there, strap in and hold on because good grief!! (20:00 Time Limit Draw)
- Tam Nakano defeats Utami Hayashishita – In a battle of The Wonder and The World of Stardom, Tam reminded Utami that she refuses to play second fiddle to anyone. Their match is solid from start to finish, and it is transparent as to why both are currently leading the company as champions. Tam caught Utami off guard and planted her with the Twilight Dream. (13:55)
5★GP Finals: Syuri (Blue Stars) defeats Momo Watanabe (Red Stars) – No Time Limit
After wrestling the match of the night against Takumi Iroha, Syuri only had one match to rest after her hard-hitting twenty-minute belter. Despite the short rest period, Syuri went for eighteen minutes and thirty-six seconds against Momo Watanabe without showing any signs of exhaustion. Everything was hard-hitting from bell to bell. There was no wasted movement, unnecessary inference, and bless the referee that kept getting thrown out of the way when Momo and Syuri starting laying into one another outside the ring. Momo threw everything in her diverse arsenal at Syuri, but was unable to hit her latest secret weapon, Peach Thunder. If anyone doubted either woman’s progression to the films of this year’s 5★GP finals, then I would highly encourage a rewatch of all of their matches to clear up any unresolved doubts.
There wasn’t a big deal made about it, but seeing all of Donna Del Mondo (DDM), including Giulia, Syuri’s Goddesses of Stardom Tag Team partner banging her hand on the mat with the rest of DDM made me get all choked up. Knowing she had the full force of her stable behind her, and celebrating her victory together really made me emotional. The two-month journey of the 5★GP, including two weeks where shows were canceled due to the pandemic, made this a long, winding road to the finals absolutely worth it.
Syuri wrestled for a total of thirty-eight minutes and thirty-six seconds in less than 90 minutes with less than a twenty-minute break during Nakano/Hayashishita. Just let that sink in. Pair that with her tournament draw against Utami and their unforgettable World of Stardom five and a half-star match that ended in a double knockout after forty-three minutes and nineteen seconds from Tokyo Dream Cinderella in June. Syuri’s outstanding physical conditioning and stamina set her apart as one of the best wrestlers in the world. Hands down. (Yes, I said what I said.)
As I mentioned earlier, it would have been better to alternate between the Red and Blue Stars matches because it was slightly jarring to go from a heated rivalry like Iwatani/SLK to a quick squash match AZM/Ruaka. Not that sticking the less than ten-minute Iwatani/SLK match in between Syuri/Takumi and Utami/Tam would have done much in the rest department, but with as hard as Syuri went in her match with Iroha, I was tired for her knowing how little rest she had between matches.
Addressing the crowd, many expected Syuri to immediately stake her claim to a match for the World of Stardom Championship against Utami at Osaka Dream Cinderella. However, Syuri wants to close out 2021 at the biggest stage possible: Stardom Dream Queendom at Ryogoku Sumo Hall on December 29th.
“I didn’t win the 5*GP, but…”
Syuri’s celebration with DDM was cut short in the ring as before she could catcher her breath to speak, Takumi and Utami both entered the ring, interrupting her with, “(we) know (neither) of us won the 5★GP, but…” and proceeded to set up a single match for the October 9th between themselves for the World of Stardom Championship. Syuri resumed her post-match comments, stating she didn’t care who she would face, but she would challenge the holder of the red belt at Stardom Dream Queendom on December 29th. She prepared to address her own plans for the October 9th show, when Tam Nakano entered the ring.
Tam acknowledged that she also wasn’t able to win the 5★GP, and proceeded to call out the person she wished to defend the Wonder of Stardom (white belt) Championship against– her former ally in STARS before leaving to lead Cosmic Angels: Mayu Iwatani. Iwatani accepted the invitation to challenge, admitting had she won the 5*GP that the white belt would have been her next target. Accepting the match-up, Iwatani said that she would see Tam at The Ota Gymnasium on October 9th– to which Tam quickly reminded her that the venue was Osaka-jo Hall.
While well-intentioned, these challenges could have been made into an in-ring segment before the 5★GP Finals. It would have given Momo and Syuri (who had a considerably longer match), a few more minutes of rest, and it wouldn’t have felt so chaotic and disorganized. It was slightly frustrating watching Syuri trying to enjoy her moment of winning, but having a rather comedic series of interruptions to set up the card for Osaka. Despite her exhaustion as that evening’s Iron Woman of Ota Gymnasium, Syuri took the interruptions in stride but was also cut off when she began to declare that she wanted to avenge her 5★GP loss to Konami in Osaka on 10/9. Had there been better direction from ringside, there wouldn’t have been the need to cut off Syuri midsentence, telling her to save it for her victory address after the awards ceremony.
It was a little unfortunate that the English Broadcast team signed off before the awards ceremony because it would be been helpful to non-Japanese speaking fans to know which awards were being given. With Stardom’s continual push toward an international audience, they could have also put the names of the awards in English underneath the award titling for brevity as well.
- Technical Skill Award – Starlight Kid
- Fighting Spirit Award – Unagi Sayaka
- Oustanding Performance Award – AZM
- Red Stars Best Bout – Mayu Iwatani vs. Giulia (8/1; Yokohama Budoukan; Giulia def. Mayu)
- Blue Stars Best Bout – Syuri vs. Takumi Iroha (9/25; Ota Gymmnasium; 20-minute Time Limit Draw)
- 2021 5*GP Finalist – Momo Watanabe (Red Stars Block Winner)
- 2021 5*GP Winner – Syuri (Blue Stars Block Winner)
Syuri’s Victory Address
I started crying when all the members of Donna del Mondo swarmed Syuri in the wake of her victory over Momo immediately after the match, so when Syuri dedicated her win to her mom up in heaven, who she lost in September 2020, absolute ugly crying began. Throughout the last year, Syuri has been a force of nature, consistently elevating the level of competition in Stardom. Even those newer to Stardom or those unfamiliar Syuri’s long journey to this moment could feel the raw emotion in her remarks. There isn’t a single doubt in my mind that Syuri’s mom is beaming with pride for her daughter.
If I was a betting woman, I would bank on Syuri securing that 2021 Tokyo Sports Women’s Wrestler of the Year Award because she is without a doubt “a woman who is something else”!
10th Anniversary Grand Final Osaka Dream Cinderella 2021 ~Osaka Super Stardom~
Date: October 9, 2021 13:00 JST
Location: Osaka-jo Hall
Live stream details TBA
- World of Stardom Championship – Utami Hayashishita versus Takumi Iroha
- Wonder of Stardom Championship – Tam Nakano versus Mayu Iwatani
- Special Single Match – Syuri versus Konami
- Reunion of Destiny Hazuki’s Return from Retirement Match – Hazuki versus Koguma