Event: Stardom 5★Star Grand Prix Day 1
Date: August 21st, 2016
Location: Shin-Kiba 1st RING in Tokyo, Japan
Announced Attendance: 385
I finally bit the bullet and got the new Stardom World, so now I can review the the Stardom FIVE STAR GP. We have a very interesting assortment of wrestlers this year, with only eight of the wrestlers being part of Stardom’s regular roster (nine if you count Natsumi). The other five are foreigners, some of which have never wrestled in Stardom before so we are getting our first look at them in the big annual tournament. Here are the Blocks:
Kay Lee Ray
Here are the matches we will be watching today:
- Blue Block: Blue Nikita vs. Maki Natsumi
- Red Block: Courtney Stewart vs. Jungle Kyouna
- Red Block: Momo Watanabe vs. Tessa Blanchard
- Blue Block: Toni Storm vs. Yoko Bito
- Red Block: Kairi Hojo vs. Kris Wolf
- Blue Block: Kay Lee Ray vs. Mayu Iwatani
I am only reviewing the tournament matches, so no Azumi for us today. On the plus side, all the matches are shown in full which is one of the advantages of Stardom World. All matches in the tournament have a 15 minute time limit.
Blue Nikita vs. Natsumi Maki
This is my first time seeing Blue Nikita, she is a German veteran that wrestles all around Europe and has held the Women’s Championship in four different promotions. Going into the match, Nikita is the RQW European Women’s Championship, so she isn’t coming into Stardom just to look cute and gain prestige – she is a legitimate threat. Natsumi has been a regular in Stardom all year, she is affiliated with the smaller promotion Actress girl’Z. She is ten years younger than Nikita and equally inexperienced, it would be a big upset if she picked up the win here.
Nikita promptly spins Natsumi around by her head before tossing her to the mat, Natsumi charges back at Nikita but Nikita pushes her into the corner and rakes her in the eyes. Armdrag by Natsumi and she goes for a few quick pins, but the veteran Nikita isn’t falling for it and knocks Natsumi back to the mat. Nikita hits a cartwheel kick (I am assuming on purpose) before hitting a side Russian leg sweep. Nikita goes off the ropes and hits a kneelift, Northern Lights Suplex by Nikita but it gets a two count. Nikita picks up Natsumi but Natsumi ducks her lariat and hits a flipping armdrag, sunset flip by Natsumi but it gets a two count. Nikita positions Natsumi and applies a stretch hold but Natsumi gets out of it, big boot by Nikita but Natsumi grabs the ropes. Nikita picks up Natsumi, Natsumi gets away but Nikita catches her with a back elbow. Running senton by Nikita, Nikita chokes Natsumi with her knee before hitting a trio of boots for a two count. Natsumi wiggles away and hits a series of elbows, dropkick by Natsumi and she hits her swinging slam with a bridge for a two count. Natsumi picks up Nikita and goes to the second turnbuckle, but Nikita catches her on her shoulders when she jumps off and hits a Death Valley Bomb for the three count! Blue Nikita wins and gets two points in the tournament.
Talk about rough around the edges. I give consideration of course to the fact that Natsumi has limited experience and these two had never wrestled before, but in a vacuum this wasn’t a good match. There were several noticeable miscommunications, they just weren’t always on the same page, and not everything made sense. I did love the ending, Nikita showed how strong she was and her heel tactics were fine as it will give her matches a little something different in Stardom. It just wasn’t long enough to overcome the mistakes, a few bright moments but overall disappointing.
Courtney Stewart vs. Jungle Kyouna
Hopefully this one will be a touch better. Another new wrestler for me as I have never seen Courtney before, she is a young UK wrestler in just her third year of professional wrestling and no major title wins. Kyouna is the top rookie in Stardom, having already shown a lot of ability since debuting almost a year ago.
They lock up to start and trade holds, Kyouna gets Courtney into the corner and hits a series of shoulderblocks. Elbows by Kyouna but Courtney elbows her back, body avalanche by Kyouna and she hits a face crusher for a two count. Big knee by Courtney and she kicks Kyouna into the corner, Courtney gets Kyouna’s back and she applies a stretch hold. Courtney knees Kyouna against the ropes but Kyouna pulls her down by the hair and hits a series of hard shoulderblocks for a two count. Courtney quickly gets out of the crab hold but Kyouna hits a lariat, another lariat by Kyouna and she goes up top, but Courtney recovers and tosses her off. Kyouna picks up Courtney but Courtney slides away, elbows by Kyouna but Courtney deliver a kick combination before hitting a fisherman suplex hold for a two count. Courtney goes for a suplex but Kyouna elbows her off, she goes off the ropes but Courtney catches her with a high kick. Half nelson suplex hold by Courtney, and she gets the three count! Courtney Stewart is the winner and gets two points in the tournament.
I did like this one a touch better than the last match. There were still a few miscommunications but they were covered better, some shaky transitions but that isn’t unusual in a short match. Courtney generally hit her kicks well and Kyouna always looks solid. Not a long match and not overly fluid, average overall but watchable.
Momo Watanabe vs. Tessa Blanchard
Another new foreigner versus young Stardom wrestler, a theme perhaps? A good way to debut new wrestlers, giving them a win against the rookies/children of the promotion. Blanchard is probably the best known of the debuting wrestlers to fans in the United States, as she is the daughter of the great Tully Blanchard, but has only been wrestling for two years and is still honing her craft. Momo is 16 years old and continues to move up the card in Stardom, she has had competitive matches with the bigger stars in the promotion and is no push-over.
Momo and Tessa go right into a Test of Strength, Tessa gets the better of it but Momo gains the advantage and snapmares Tessa to the mat. Kicks by Momo and she hits a few dropkicks, she goes for another one but Tessa bails out of the ring. Tessa elbows Momo from the apron and snaps her neck on the top rope, cover by Tessa but it gets two. Vertical suplex by Tessa and she hits a sliding elbow to Momo’s back, Tessa applies a stretch hold before letting go so she can knee Momo in the stomach. Momo gets away and kicks her in the midsection, they trade elbows on their knees until Momo hits a dropkick. Momo dropkicks Tessa in the corner, she gets on the second turnbuckle and hits…. a dropkick for a two count. Lots of dropkicks. Kicks by Momo but Tessa ducks a punch and hits a hammerlock DDT for two. Tessa picks up Momo but Momo elbows her off and hits a vertical suplex. Momo charges Tessa but Tessa trips her and hits a Slingshot Backdrop Suplex for the three count! Tessa Blanchard wins and gets two points in the tournament.
It is going to sound like I don’t like the new gaijins, and that isn’t the case at all. On this show thus far they paired them up against rookies/young wrestlers to give them an easy win in front of a new crowd, but the sacrifice here was match quality as there were going to be some issues. Like the previous matches it just wasn’t smooth, there were a few noticeable times that they weren’t on the same page and instead of looking fluid it was choppy. When a match is this short these things are more memorable, and it was just inconsistent. Tessa looked fine, I like her moves and have hope for her in the tournament, this just wasn’t a great match.
Toni Storm vs. Yoko Bito
I am realizing as I go along that every match on this card is foreigner vs. native, which is interesting. Storm has been in Stardom for a few tours and is the SWA Undisputed Women’s Champion coming into the match, which she won from Io Shirai in July. Bito recently returned to Stardom after four years out of wrestling, she is still getting back into it but is always a force to be reckoned with as she has some killer kicks.
Storm and Bito trade holds to begin, takedown by Storm but Bito applies a headscissors. Storm gets out of it as they return to their feet, they go back to holds before trading shoulderblocks. Bito wins the shoulderblock battle, kicks by Bito to the back and she covers Storm for two. Dropkick by Bito but Storm uppercuts her and hits a jumping knee. Storm starts on Bito’s arm and hits a few hip attacks, Bito crawls to the corner and Storm goes for a running butt smash, but Bito blocks it. Bito hip attacks Storm into the corner, she goes up top and she hits a missile dropkick for a two count cover. They trade high kick attempts, lariat by Bito and she covers Storm for two. Knee by Bito and she puts Storm in a stretch hold, more kicks by Bito and she applies a single leg crab hold. Storm gets into the ropes, elbow by Storm but Bito delivers a high kick. Kicks by Bito in the corner but Storm avoids one and hits a Backstabber. Running butt smash by Storm and she hits a fisherman suplex hold for a two count. Storm goes off the ropes but Bito nails a high kick, Bito picks up Storm but Storm wiggles away. Heel drops by Bito, she picks up Storm but Storm ducks her high kick and hits a release German. Bito comes right back with her own German suplex, she picks up Storm but Storm hits a piledriver. Storm goes up top and she nails the diving leg drop, picking up the three count pinfall! Toni Storm wins the match and gets two points in the tournament.
I enjoyed this match the most of the ones we have seen so far. It wasn’t perfectly executed but they had the best chemistry that we have seen thus far and both are solid wrestlers. A little shaky in parts but overall a good match between the two, hopefully the show is now on an upswing. Mildly Recommended
Kairi Hojo vs. Kris Wolf
For the sake of my ‘native vs. foreigner’ theme I am putting Wolf in the ‘foreigner’ category, even though she has lived in Japan for years and has been a Stardom wrestler for two years. Wolf was a last minute replacement for Ivelisse (which would have fit the theme as well) but a pleasant surprise, few wrestlers have as much fun as Wolf and it is infectious when watching her matches. Hojo of course is one of the most popular wrestlers in Stardom and holds the Wonder of Stardom Championship going into the match.
Wolf locks up Kairi’s knuckles during the handshake in typical Wolf fashion, Wolf bites Kairi into the corner and kicks her in the chest repeatedly. Wolf mocks Kairi’s march but Kairi moves when she charges in and chops Wolf in the chest. Kairi goes for a spear but Wolf moves out of the way, she takes Kairi to the mat but Kairi quickly takes back control. Kairi ties up Wolf in the ropes and hits several elbows, dropkick by Kairi but Wolf snaps Kairi’s leg on the second rope. Wolf pulls Kairi down onto the apron and hits a running double knee, Kairi falls down to the floor while Wolf puts a chair on the apron. Wolf then stands on the chair and jumps down onto Kairi with a double kneedrop. Back in the ring, Wolf pours water onto Kairi and puts her in the Tree of Woe, kicks by Wolf but Kairi spears her when she charges in towards the corner.
Leg submission by Kairi but Wolf gets into the ropes, running shoulderblock by Kairi and she follows with a Sliding D. Kairi goes up top, Wolf is too far away so she jumps off the turnbuckle and elbows Wolf into the corner. Scoop slam by Kairi, she goes up to the top turnbuckle again but Wolf rolls too far away. Kairi jumps off and chops Wolf into the corner, double chop by Kairi and she hits an elbow drop for two. Wolf fights back with elbows, kick to the stomach by Wolf and she covers Kairi for a two count. Jumping knee by Wolf in the corner and she kicks Kairi in the back, cover by Wolf but Kairi kicks out. Wolf goes up to the second turnbuckle and hits a diving double kneedrop, she goes all the way up but Kairi moves this time and goes for a roll-up, but Wolf reverses it for her own quick cover. Wolf goes off the ropes but Kairi does too and she hits a big spear. Spinning backfist by Kairi and she hits an elbow Final Cut, she goes up to the top turnbuckle and she nails the diving elbow drop for the three count! Kairi Hojo wins the match and gets two points in the tournament.
This is the first match on the card with two wrestlers that are familar with each other, and you could tell. Crisp action, no miscommunications and everything was fluid. It had a few seemingly out of place comedy spots, not that I mind them generally but in a tournament like this one it felt a bit out of place. But Wolf had a few convincing nearfalls and in these situations really anyone can win, so they kept up the suspense. Overall a solid tournament match. Mildly Recommended
Kay Lee Ray vs. Mayu Iwatani
Now we have reached the match I was most looking forward to. Kay Lee Ray spent some time in Stardom earlier this year and had a great match with Iwatani, which Iwatani won. So she is back for her revenge. I’ve only seen Kay Lee Ray a few times but I love her, she is a great wrestler so its a pleasure to see her back in Stardom. This match is a real toss-up, Iwatani still holds several titles in Stardom but Kay Lee Ray is looking to make a splash in her return to Stardom.
As the picture above implies, the match didn’t start with a handshake, but with Kay Lee Ray kicking Iwatani in the head. Kay Lee Ray goes off the ropes but so does Iwatani, armdrag by Iwatani but Kay Lee Ray trips her back and both wrestlers return to their feet. Iwatani dropkicks Kay Lee Ray but Kay Lee Ray moves when she goes for a second one and Iwatani tumbles out of the ring. Kay Lee Ray goes to dive out after her but Iwatani grabs her by the end and pulls Kay Lee Ray out of the ring with her. Kay Lee Ray takes back over on the floor, she sits Iwatani in a chair but Iwatani moves when Kay Lee Ray charges in and Kay Lee Ray goes tumbling into a row of chairs. Kay Lee Ray comes back with a kick to Iwatani’s midsection and she kicks her around the ring post. Iwatani suplexes Kay Lee Ray into more chairs as they refuse to return to the ring, Iwatani pours water on Kay Lee Ray before finally rolling her back in. Irish whip by Iwatani but Kay Lee Ray moves when she charges her, Iwatani hits a high kick anyway and she dropkicks Kay Lee Ray against the ropes. Another dropkick by Iwatani, she gets on the second turnbuckle but Kay Lee Ray moves when she dives off. Kay Lee Ray rolls Iwatani to the mat and kicks her in the chest, back up Iwatani elbows Kay Lee Ray but Kay Lee Ray rolls her to the mat and applies a grounded necklock. Iwatani gets into the ropes, Kay Lee Ray picks her up and throws Iwatani into the corner.
Elbow by Kay Lee Ray and she applies a bodyscissors, she releases the hold but Iwatani knocks her down with a Sling Blade. Iwatani goes up top but Kay Lee Ray delivers a high kick, she then joins Iwatani but Iwatani slides off and suplexes Kay Lee Ray to the mat. Iwatani gets on the second turnbuckle and hits a diving footstomp, she then goes all the way up top and hits another diving footstomp for a two count cover. Iwatani throws Kay Lee Ray in to the corner and hits a body avalanche, she charges her again but Kay Lee Ray drops her over the top rope onto the floor. Kay Lee Ray gets a running start in the ring and sails out onto Iwatani with a tope suicida. Kay Lee Ray goes up to the top turnbuckle and dives out onto her and everyone standing at ringside with a Swanton Bomb, crushing everyone. Kay Lee Ray slides Iwatani back in, cover by Kay Lee Ray but it gets a two count. Kay Lee Ray picks up Iwatani but Iwatani wiggles away, she goes for a dragon suplex but Kay Lee Ray blocks it. Irish whip by Kay Lee Ray but Iwatani snaps off a hurricanrana for a two count. Iwatani goes for a kick to the stomach but Kay Lee Ray catches it and hits a Gory Bomb. Kay Lee Ray goes up top and she nails the Swanton Bomb, picking up the three count! Kay Lee Ray wins the match and gets two points in the tournament.
So I am on record as loving Kay Lee Ray. I love her look, her wrestling abilities, her personality… just a total package. And of course Iwatani is great, she is the best bumper in wrestling right now as far as I am concerned, it may shorten her life but its fun to watch. So these two were going to have a good match even if they weren’t trying, they were a bit limited by the time constraints and the outside brawling went longer than I’d have preferred but it was still really entertaining. Kay Lee Ray does all her moves with controlled recklessness, she was flying over the ropes or into chairs every few minutes and it gave the match a feeling of importance. Great effort by both, not quite as good as their last match as there were some restrictions with the setting but still it was a high end main event. Recommended
This was an interesting show that was more designed to show off the new wrestlers than put on great matches. Every match was designed as native vs. gaijin (Wolf was a last minute replacement for Ivelisse), so the chemistry wasn't top notch until you reached the last two matches. The main event was great, but no match was longer than 12 minutes so none really got the chance to really reach the next level. Not a bad show, but it had more average to below average matches than you'd expect from Stardom. Unless you really want to check out the wrestlers that Stardom brought in for the tournament, you can safely just watch the last three matches and skip the first half of the card.