Originally published at WH Park's 2021 Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Primer
2021 Stardom 5Star Grand Prix Primer
By WH Park
Stardom has been riding a wave of growing popularity among Western audiences since the early part of the year with their very successful 10th Anniversary show on March 3 titled All-Star Cinderella that drew 3,318 fans to Budokan Hall in Tokyo.
This momentum continued a month later into their Yokohama Dream Cinderella show on April 4 at the Yokohama Budokan and then through their Cinderella tournament which culminated at the Tokyo Dream Cinderella at the Ota City General Gymnasium show on June 12. This is the event that featured English commentary for the first time and the universally praised World of Stardom match between champion, Utami Hayashishita, and challenger, Syuri.
Most recently, Stardom held their Yokohama Dream Cinderella in Summer on July 4. It was at this show that the promotion announced the participants of their annual round-robin tournament, The 5Star Grand Prix.
The 5Star GP is the Stardom equivalent of New Japan’s G-1 Climax and All Japan’s Champion Carnival and this year looks like a very stacked lineup that has the potential to expand Stardom’s popularity in the West even more.
We’ll take a look at the participants in the respective blocks (Red Stars/Blue Stars) and some of the more intriguing matchups that will occur during the course of the tournament.
Giulia – One of Stardom’s top stars and proven commodities as a draw. She is the leader of Donna del Mundo and one-half of the Goddesses of Stardom Tag Team Champions with Syuri.
Mayu Iwatani – The Icon of Stardom. If you were to compare Mayu’s position in the company to anyone else it would be to Hiroshi Tanahashi in New Japan. She is the top babyface and the leader of the home army unit, STARS.
Momo Watanabe – A founding member of Queen’s Quest and learned under Io Shirai. One of the toughest wrestlers on the roster with a deadly arsenal of kicks. A former Wonder of Stardom titleholder with 13 successful defenses of that belt.
Fukigen Death – Real name Kaori Yoneyama. She is replacing the injured Natsuko Tora who is also the leader of her unit, Oedo Tai. A veteran wrestler with a wide array of technical and flying experience, Yoneyama’s current gimmick is more of a comedy gimmick gone dark. I wouldn’t expect her to get that many wins but play the spoiler for other members of her block.
Saki Kashima – Oedo Tai’s second in command. A long-time Stardom member who is capable of having decent matches but is unlikely to break out from the pack.
Starlight Kid – The newest addition to the heel Oedo Tai unit, she recently embraced the dark side completely. This new version of SLK presents some intriguing matchups in this block, in particular her matchup with her former mentor, friend, and tag partner, Mayu Iwatani.
Himeka – The powerhouse member of Donna del Mundo and former Goddesses tag champion with Maika. Larger and more powerful than nearly everyone else on the roster, the Jumbo Princess will present a challenge for everyone else in her block.
Natsupoi – The current High-Speed Champion and member of Donna del Mundo. Natsupoi is a very accomplished high flyer who meshes very well with just about anyone else in Stardom and especially in her block.
Koguma – An original Stardom wrestler who has recently returned after a 6-year hiatus. As Mayu’s current tag team partner, Koguma has shown that those years away from wrestling haven’t affected her that much as she’s had excellent showings in matches against Giulia and Syuri. A definite dark horse and spoiler in this block.
Mina Shirakawa – One-third of the Artist of Stardom Trios Champions, Cosmic Angels (with Tam Nakano and Unagi Sayaka). Mina won the Future of Stardom Champion in a good match against her teammate, Sayaka but then lost it to her a couple of weeks later. A solid all-rounder, she’ll provide some good matchups with other members of her block.
Utami Hayashishita – The current World of Stardom Champion and one of the best wrestlers active today. She is a member of Queen’s Quest and the person with the biggest target on them. Even if someone doesn’t win the entire GP they can still earn a title shot if they beat Utami during the block portion of the tournament. She has some mouthwatering matchups in this block including the highly anticipated rematch with Syuri.
Syuri – The SWA Undisputed World Women’s Champion and one-half of the Goddesses Tag Champions with Giulia (Alto Livello KABALIWAN) Syuri is one of the best wrestlers in the entirety of Stardom. Trained by Tajiri and Hajime Ohara, she also has a very impressive and legit martial arts background having had fights in both Pancrase and the UFC. One of the leading candidates to win the whole thing and challenge Utami for the world title in a money-drawing rematch. She is number two in Donna del Mundo.
Tam Nakano – The current Wonder of Stardom and Artists of Stardom champion, Tam is a great success story in Stardom. She started off as an idol wrestler in Actwres girl’Z and freelancing in different promotions until landing in Stardom in 2017 and making it her home promotion in 2018. A solid striker, especially with kicks, and an underrated high-flyer, Tam is capable of having a great match and beating anyone in Stardom. A definite favorite to win the whole thing. She is the leader of Cosmic Angels.
Saya Kamitani – As a former tag champion with Utami and the 2021 Cinderella tournament winner, it’s hard to believe Saya is only in her third year as a professional wrestler. She is a risk-taking high-flyer who is strong in the grappling and striking departments as well. It’s unlikely she’ll be the ultimate winner but should point very high overall. A valued member of Queen’s Quest.
Maika – Trained by TAKA Michinoku and started off in his Just Tap Out company before jumping over to Stardom and joining Giulia in DDM. Former Future of, Artist of, and Goddess of Stardom Champion. A great submission artist and striker, she matches well with other wrestlers stylistically similar to her like Syuri, Konami, and Tam. She’s also proven a good match with high-flyers like Saya Kamitani and AZM.
AZM – At the age of 18 she is a 7-year veteran of Stardom and one of the future main eventers in this company (along with Starlight Kid). One of the most accomplished flyers and Lucha-based talents, AZM is capable of confounding and beating anyone in her block and should do quite well for herself.
Konami – A multiple tag and trios champion in Stardom, 2021 could be the year Konami breaks out as a singles star. Trained by WWE’s Asuka and Minoru Tanaka, she is an excellent striker and submission wrestler. The standout member of Oedo Tai, she is a dangerous opponent for anyone in the Blue block and is my personal dark horse to win the whole thing.
Ruaka – A Stardom lower-card wrestler who was heading nowhere until going heel and joining Oedo Tai and finding some personality. A power wrestler who uses her size advantage to various degrees of success. Still a work in progress and low on the Stardom totem pole, Ruaka will unlikely point high or at all.
Unagi Sayaka – Current Artist of Stardom trios champion with Tam and Mina in Cosmic Angels and recently won the Future of Stardom title from Shirakawa. She is in her third year as a wrestler having migrated over from TJPW like her teammate Mina. Recently Sayaka and Shirakawa have been trading the Future of Stardom between themselves. Still rough around the edges, Unagi is likely to challenge some of the other wrestlers but won’t likely beat too many of them.
Takumi Iroha (Marvelous) – The Ace of Marvelous who just recently came back to in-ring action after recovering from a broken leg for almost a year. Originally a member of Stardom at the beginning of her career from 2013 to 2015, she left to join Chigusa Nagayo in her Marvelous promotion where she rose to become that company’s top star. A fantastic wrestler, Iroha adds more depth with intriguing matchups with nearly everyone else in her block, especially with Utami Hayashishita.
All tournament matches are one fall to a finish with a 20-minute time limit.
The finals have no time limit.
2 points for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss.
My top 5 anticipated matches for each block are:
Giulia v Mayu Iwatani
Mayu v Starlight Kid
Mayu v Momo Watanabe
Momo v SLK
SLK v Natsupoi
Utami Hayashishita v Syuri
Syuri v Konami
Konami v Maika
Utami v Takumi
Syuri v Takumi
The first two cards of the 5*GP have been announced and they are:
July 31st, Day 1 – Yokohama Budokan
– AZM (QQ), Hina (QQ), Hanan (STARS) and Lady C (Rookie) vs Saki Kashima, Konami, Rina and Ruaka (OT) – 4v4 “Allied Forces vs Oedotai Special Match”
– Syuri (DDM) vs Saya Kamitani (QQ) – 5★STAR GP Blue Stars Block
– Tam Nakano (CA) vs Unagi Sayaka (CA) – 5★STAR GP Blue Stars Block
– Utami Hayashishita (QQ) vs Maika (DDM) – 5★STAR GP Blue Stars Block
– Mina Shirakawa (CA) vs Fukigen Death (OT) – 5★STAR GP Red Stars Block
– Natsupoi (DDM) vs Koguma (STARS) – 5★STAR GP Red Stars Block
– MayuIwatani (STARS) vs Momo Watanabe (QQ) – 5★STAR GP Red Stars Block
– Giulia (DDM) vs Starlight Kid (OT) – 5★STAR GP Red Stars Block
August 1st, Day 2 – Yokohama Budokan
– Koguma and Hanan (STARS) vs Ruaka and Rina (OT) vs Mina Shirakawa (CA) and Lady C (Rookie) – 3WAY tag match
– AZM (QQ) vs Unagi Sayaka (CA) – 5★STAR GP Blue Stars Block
– Tam Nakano (CA) vs Konami (OT) – 5★STAR GP Blue Stars Block
– Syuri (DDM) vs Maika (DDM) – 5★STAR GP Blue Stars Block
– Utami Hayashishita (QQ) vs Saya Kamitani (QQ) – 5★STAR GP Blue Stars Block
– Saki Kashima (OT) vs Starlight Kid (OT) – 5★STAR GP Red Stars Block
– Momo Watanabe (QQ) vs Natsupoi (DDM) – 5★STAR GP Red Stars Block
– Mayu Iwatani (STARS) vs Giulia (DDM) – 5★STAR GP Red Stars Block
This is the perfect time for those who aren’t familiar with Stardom to jump on board and get familiar with the promotion and the talent. The great thing about this tournament is that it will be spaced out over a couple of months with plenty of time for fans to catch up on shows and matches.
I think Stardom is the most consistently well-booked promotion up and down the roster in all of Japanese wrestling and I believe people who give it an honest chance will become fans of it as well.
WH Park is the host of The Long & Winding Royal, POST Puroresu, and MCU L8R on the site.