Event: Stardom 5★Star Grand Prix Final
Date: September 22nd, 2016
Location: Tokyo Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan
Announced Attendance: 980
And now we are jumping ahead to the final day of the tournament! I mentioned in my last review there was no way I was going to be able to review every show, just too much going on with the website and I don’t want Joshi City to become Stardom City. Still, I wasn’t going to skip this one, not only because it has the finals of the tournament but also has Io Shirai vs. Kay Lee Ray, two of my favorite female wrestlers. Yoko Bito and Tessa Blanchard won their blocks and will be battling for the tournament crown, here is the full card:
- Arisu Nanase and Natsumi Maki vs. Saori Anou and Azumi
- Kaori Yoneyama vs. Kris Wolf
- Hiromi Mimura vs. Kairi Hojo
- Kyoko Kimura, Kagetsu, and X vs. Mayu Iwatani, Momo Watanabe, and Jungle Kyouna
- SWA World Championship: Toni Storm vs. Blue Nikita
- World of Stardom Championship: Io Shirai vs. Kay Lee Ray
- 5★Star Grand Prix Final: Tessa Blanchard vs. Yoko Bito
This aired live, so no clipping! Let’s get to the action.
Arisu Nanase and Natsumi Maki vs. Saori Anou and Azumi
We start with the babies, I haven’t watched this style of match in awhile but I am sure nothing has changed. Arisu is the newest Stardom wrestler and is 15, while Azumi has been around for years but is even younger than Arisu. Natsumi and Saori both hail from Actress girl’Z but have been around Stardom for the whole year, getting valuable experience as they are still early in their careers.
Natsumi and Azumi start the match, they both go off the ropes and Natsumi dropkicks Azumi. Natsumi poses too much however and Azumi attacks her from behind and throws Natsumi into her career so she can tag in Arisu. Arisu and Azumi trade elbows, DDT by Azumi and she tags in Saori. Saori tries to slam Arisu but Arisu blocks it before putting Anou in a crab hold. She gets into the ropes but Arisu had already let her go by then and she stops the rookie in the back. Shoulderblocks by Anou and she applies a leg submission, she goes for a suplex but Arisu blocks it and applies a cross-leg submission hold. Arisu tags in Natsumi, Natsumi goes up top and she hits a diving crossbody on Anou. Dropkick by Arisu, swinging neckbreaker by Natsumi and she covers Anou for a two count. Elbows by Natsumi but Anou applies a backslide with a bridge, but that gets two as well. Azumi is tagged back in and she dropkicks Natsumi, Natsumi cartwheels away however and hits a body press. Monkey flip by Azumi and she kicks Natsumi in the back, vertical suplex by Azumi and she gets a two count. Azumi gets on the second turnbuckle but Natsumi tosses her off, she gets on the turnbuckle but Anou hits a Fisherman Suplex. DDT by Azumi, but Natsumi rolls out of the cover. Back Crash by Natsumi, and she picks up the three count! Arisu Nanase and Natsumi Maki are the winners.
This was a much more… ‘real’ match than I am used to seeing from the opener. By that I mean there was less goofiness or playing around, everyone acted like winning the match was their priority. Natsumi continues to improve, she already has the moves but just needs some experience to put it all together. A solid way to kick off the show.
Kaori Yoneyama vs. Kris Wolf
This is an interesting match, as while they have faced off before in opening matches its unusual to see Kaori and Kris in singles action against each other. Yoneyama is the veteran mom of the undercard, keeping all the kids in check while helping them grow their skills. Kris isn’t a kid in the traditional sense of the word, but does play around a lot and doesn’t always take things seriously. So Kaori still has a thing or two that she can teach her.
Kris actually shakes hands, which is unusual for her, but she attacks Yoneyama anyway and hits a flying headscissors. Yoneyama bites Kris on the arm and hits Mongolian Chops, she goes for a German suplex but Kris gets out of it. Yoneyama gets Kris by the tail and twists it in the ropes, cross-leg hold by Yoneyama but Kris gets to the ropes. Yoneyama ties Kris to the bottom rope by her tail, she unties her and scoop slams Kris. Chinlock by Yoneyama but Kris gets to the ropes, Irish whip by Yoneyama but Kris hits a springboard crossbody for a two count. Kicks by Kris and she knees Yoneyama in the corner, high knee by Kris and she kicks Yoneyama in the back. Kris gets on the second turnbuckle and hits a diving double kneedrop, but Yoneyama barely kicks out of the cover. Kris goes all the way up this time but Yoneyama moves out of the way, knee to the back by Yoneyama and she hits a running senton. Yoneyama picks up Kris but Kris reverses the suplex attempt into a roll-up. Yoneyama picks up Kris and she nails the Chaos Theory, getting the three count cover! Kaori Yoneyama wins the match.
This was fun, Kris is a bundle of excitement and Yoneyama is a long time veteran that knows how to put on a good match. It was too short to recommend but for a five minute match it did about all it could. Yoneyama biting Kris showed that the veteran could do anything Kris could do, plus more, which is why she didn’t have too much difficulty winning. Always a pleasure to see Kris, never can go too wrong watching one of her matches.
Hiromi Mimura vs. Kairi Hojo
I am not sure why Kairi chose to have her return match against one of her tag team partners, but it is still a good opportunity for Hiromi to show her growth over the last year. Plus it gets Kairi an easy match to ease back onto the show, after suffering a concussion on September 3rd when Io Shirai piledrove her head into the floor from the apron. But this certainly won’t be a hateful match since deep down they like each other.
Hiromi is all business in her big chance against her friend, normally they are fun and games together but not today. They trade wristlocks to start, Kairi gets Hiromi to the mat but Hiromi gets away from her and they take turns having the advantage. Hiromi drives Kairi into the corner and hits a flurry of elbows, dropkick by Hiromi but Kairi stays on her feet. More dropkicks still can’t knock the champion over, and Kairi hits a double chop. Chops by Kairi in the corner and she hits a running shoulder tackle, she gets on the top turnbuckle and she hits a diving forearm smash for a two count. Hiromi and Kairi trade elbows, Kairi goes off the ropes but Hiromi dropkicks her to the mat. Dropkicks by Hiromi in the corner and she rolls Kairi to the mat before applying a kneelock, but Kairi crawls to the ropes and forces the break. Hiromi goes off the ropes but Kairi levels her with a spear, spinning chop by Kairi and she covers Hiromi for two. Crab hold by Kairi, but Hiromi gets out of it and goes for a few flash pins with no success. Hiromi goes up top and hits a diving elbow strike, she goes up again but Kairi joins her this time and the two trade elbows while on the second rope. Kairi chops Hiromi in the throat and tosses her to the mat, Sliding D by Kairi and she nails the diving elbow drop for the three count! Kairi Hojo wins!
The reason that everyone loves Kairi Hojo isn’t because she is the best wrestler in Stardom (that’s Io) or the best striker (Yoko) or the best bumper (Mayu), but because she always shows so much emotion and passion while wrestling. On paper this is a pretty simple mid-ard match, but Kairi wrestles at 100% regardless of the situation and its easy to get sucked into her matches. It helped that these two have solid chemistry, not only do they tag together but I am sure they train together too, and this was Hiromi’s best singles match since debuting. It wasn’t technically a high-end match, but Kairi’s natural charisma and intensity made it seem more special than it probably was even though the action itself was mostly simple. Mildly Recommended
Kyoko Kimura, Kagetsu, and Hana Kimura vs. Iwatani, Momo Watanabe, and Kyouna
It turns out that “X” is Hana Kimura, Kyoko’s adorable but now apparently evil daughter! A good addition for Oedo Tai if she is sticking around, since Kyoko is retiring at the end of the year and the faction could use a feisty new wrestler. They are up against three young Stardom wrestlers, with the champion Iwatani teaming with the rookie Kyouna and the teenager Momo. Expect some cheating in this one, Oedo Tai isn’t known for fighting fair.
As predicted, Oedo Tai attacks before the match starts and while Mayu is still wrapped in streamers (she really should stop doing that), the action immediately spills out to the floor and Oedo Tai tosses their opponents around the stands. Things settle back down with Hana in the ring with Momo, Hana drags Momo around the ring before tagging in Kagetsu. Momo plays the Face in Peril while Oedo Tai takes turns attacking her, Momo finally hits a dropkick on Kyoko and make the hot tag to Mayu. Mayu clears the apron but kicks Kyouna in the head by accident, Kagetsu and Hana come in the ring but Mayu slides out of the ring and Kyouna hits a diving crossbody on all three. Missile dropkick by Mayu on Kyoko, then Kyouna slams Mayu into Kyoko. She does it again, cover by Mayu but it gets two. Momo wants to be tagged back in so Mayu tags her, but she promptly misses a missile dropkick. Kyoko tags Kagetsu, kicks by Kagetsu but Momo returns fire with kicks of her own. Momo hits a missile dropkick, cover by Momo but it gets two. She tags Mayu, armdrag by Mayu but Kagetsu hits an armdrag of her own and they reach a stalemate. Mayu gets Kagetsu’s arm and hits a triple jump split legged armdrag, dropkick by Mayu but Kagetsu kicks her in the head.
Iwatani comes back with a superkick, Kagetsu rolls to her corner and tags in Hana while Kyouna is also tagged in. Shoulderblock by Kyouna but Hana chokes her with a scarf, Kyoko and Kagetsu come in and everyone chokes Kyouna together. Kicks by Hana and Kyoko, and Hana covers Kyouna for two. Hana goes for a suplex but Kyouna reverses it, she tries to tag out but Hana schoolboys her and hits a vertical suplex. Hana tags her mom, Mayu and Momo run in and they both attack Kyoko. Kyoko kicks all three of them in the head repeatedly but when she goes off the ropes she eats a triple dropkick. Superkick by Mayu, knee by Momo and Kyouna ends with a diving body press, but Kris Wolf runs in and grabs the referee so he can’t count. Kagetsu gets a parking sign but the referee stops her from using it, Hana hits Kagetsu by accident as does Kyoko, but Hana dropkicks Mayu and Momo. Kagetsu dropkicks Kyouna and Mayu, spear by Kagetsu to Kyouna and Kyoko kicks her in the head for a two count. Kyoko picks up Kyouna but Kyouna slides away, Kagetsu hits Kyouna from the apron but Kyouna lariats Kyoko anyway for a two count. Kyoko blocks the gutwrench suplex and Kagetsu hits Kyouna with a sign, but Momo breaks up the cover. Assisted Gory Special by Kimura to Kyouna, and she picks up the three count! Oedo Tai wins!
I wouldn’t say I loved this match, it was a bit too ‘all over the place’ and it took about ten minutes before it really heated up. I do like Hana Kimura being in Oedo Tai, I think she has shown a lot of promise as a rookie and being with her mom will likely help her progress since Kyoko has a lot she can offer. None of the other wrestlers got much of a chance to shine since there was a lot of in-and-out, but no one looked bad. The Kagetsu/Mayu section was great though, they work really well together. An above average match, but overall not very memorable.
Toni Storm vs. Blue Nikita
SWA World Championship
We have reached the first of the two title matches of the night, as Storm takes on the German veteran Blue Nikita. Nikita beat Storm in the tournament to help justify the match, although it wasn’t really necessary since the SWA World Championship is defended randomly. Storm looks to retain here in her third defense of the belt.
After some polite trading of holds and mat work, the tide turns a bit when Storm hits Nikita a hard slap and kicks her in the head. More strikes by Storm but Nikita starts returning fire with elbows. Snapmare by Nikita and she kicks Storm before rolling her up in a crucifix for a two count. Scoop slam by Nikita and she hits a running senton, she knocks Storm into the corner and chokes her against the ropes. Nikita applies a bodyscissors but Storm gets into the ropes to force a break. Nikita chops Storm but Storm moves when Nikita charges in and Nikita falls out of the ring. Storm quickly sails out onto her with a tope suicida, she tries to throw Nikita into the ring post but Nikita reverses it. Nikita picks up Storm on the apron but Storm wiggles away, kick to the chest by Nikita but Storm drops her with a piledriver. Storm gets back in the ring first with Nikita slowly following, Storm charges Nikita in the corner but Nikita moves and hits a dropkick. Cannonball by Nikita, and she covers Storm for two. Big boots by Nikita and she dropkicks Storm, covering her for another two count. Nikita picks up Storm but Storm gets away, elbow by Nikita but Storm hits the Backstabber. Running butt smash by Storm, and she delivers a fisherman suplex hold for a two count. Storm goes up top but Nikita has recovered and joins, Storm headbutts her but Nikita grabs her and hits a Death Valley Bomb. Nikita picks up Storm and hits two more Death Valley Bombs, but Storm kicks out of the cover at one and hits a release German. I can’t really justify that, and I am more lenient than most. Piledriver by Storm, and she hits the diving leg drop for the three count! Storm is still your champion.
There isn’t any way I could recommend a match that ended like that. Did they lose track of time and the referee told them they had to finish immediately? The Death Valley Bomb is Nikita’s finisher, not only did Storm practically no-sell being hit by three of them but she never returned the favor, she then quickly hit her three finishing moves and won the match. One of the worst finishing stretches I’ve seen. Course after being piledrove on the apron, Nikita hit the first offensive move back in the ring so maybe there were just trying to do crazy shit. Some fun moments but the action was just way too off, I like my pro wres at least 5% realistic.
Io Shirai vs. Kay Lee Ray
World of Stardom Championship
This is the match that I was most hyped for tonight. Io Shirai is the best woman wrestler in the world as far as I am concerned but Kay Lee Ray isn’t too far behind, both bring so much passion and viciousness to their wrestling that I just find it captivating. Io has held the title since last December and this is her 6th defense, she last defended the title in May so its been awhile as she missed some time due to injury. Kay Lee Ray hasn’t won any gold yet in Stardom but almost reached the finals of the FIVE STAR GP and is a worthy challenger for Io.
Io and Kay Lee Ray feel each other out to begin, they trade elbows until Kay Lee Ray hits rolling Northern Light Suplexes for a two count. Io rolls out of the ring to re-group, Kay Lee Ray goes off the far ropes and sails out onto Io with a tope suicida. She goes for a second one but Io elbows her before she can dive out and pulls Kay Lee Ray back out of the ring. Io tries to throw Kay Lee Ray into the apron but Kay Lee Ray rebounds off of it with an attack on Io. Back in the ring, cover by Kay Lee Ray but it gets a two count. Kay Lee Ray puts Io in a stretch hold, she picks her up and kicks Io a few times before covering her for another two. Io and Kay Lee Ray trade elbows, cartwheel by Io and she dropkicks Kay Lee Ray near the corner. Running double knee by Io, she sits up Kay Lee Ray and dropkicks her in the head for two. Io goes up top and hits a diving crossbody, Kay Lee Ray kicks out but Io immediately puts her in an armtrap crossface. Kay Lee Ray gets to the ropes, Io charges her but Kay Lee Ray hits a pair of superkicks. Io falls out of the ring, Kay Lee Ray runs up the corner and she flips out of the ring onto Io and her friends. Io gets her arm sprayed, Kay Lee Ray rolls her back in but Io avoids the Gory Special. Io rolls to the apron and snaps Kay Lee Ray’s neck on the ropes, swandive missile dropkick by Io and she covers Kay Lee Ray for two. Io charges Kay Lee Ray but Kay Lee Ray slides out to the apron and hits a swandive missile dropkick. Io elbows Kay Lee Ray but Kay Lee Ray kicks her back and hits the Gory Special for a two count cover. Kay Lee Ray goes up top but Io gets her knees up on the Swanton Bomb attempt, Io and Kay Lee Ray trade elbows on their knees and continue on their feet, Kay Lee Ray goes for a springboard off the ropes but Io catches her in midair with a German suplex. Swinging kick to the head by Io, package German by Io but Kay Lee Ray barely gets a shoulder up. Io goes up top and nails the moonsault, picking up the three count pinfall! Io Shirai wins and keeps her championship title.
While I wish they had gotten more time, they did the best they could under the constraints and it was a great match. Kay Lee Ray is only 24 years old but is so good, I love her high flying and she is crisp with her kicks. They had great chemistry considering they don’t have a lot of experience against each other, with some well done reversals and fluid exchanges. They also combined the high spots with based offense pretty well, although they were a bit rushed at times due to the time issues. Overall a really fun match though, definitely worth tracking down. Recommended
Tessa Blanchard vs. Yoko Bito
5★Star Grand Prix Final
It is time for the tournament final! This is Tessa Blanchard’s first tour with Stardom and has already done well for herself, as she beat out Io Shirai and Momo Watanabe to win the Red Block. Yoko Bito didn’t have an easy path either, as she had to catch Toni Storm to win Blue Block and defeated Kay Lee Ray to secure her spot in the Finals. A win here would be big for either of course, either for Tessa to establish herself in Stardom going forward or for Yoko to reclaim her place at the top of the card where she feels she belongs.
The match starts slow as they look for leverage, Tessa misses a dropkick but she avoids Bito’s kicks and hides in the corner. Dragon screw by Tessa and she twists Bito’s leg around the bottom rope, elbows by Tessa and she hits a running elbow in the corner. Tessa applies a headscissors but Bito gets to the ropes, elbows by Tessa and she knees Bito but comes back with a hard lariat for a two count cover. Tessa immediately takes back over and attacks Bito while she is in the ropes, she goes out to the apron with Bito and goes for a piledriver, but Bito blocks it. Tessa tosses Bito to the floor but Bito drags her down with her and kicks her against the apron. Tessa throws Bito into a chair at ringside before finally returning to the ring, and the pair trade elbows. Reverse STO by Tessa, but Bito gets a shoulder up. Vertical suplex by Bito and she kicks Tessa in the back, missile dropkick by Bito and she covers Tessa for two. Bito goes for a crossbody but Tessa moves, landing Bito hanging over the second rope. Tessa kicks Bito out of the ring but then brings her up onto the apron, elbows by Tessa until Bito nails a high kick. Bito goes for another kick but Tessa catches it and rams Bito’s leg into the apron. Both wrestlers slowly roll back in before the 20 Count, Tessa goes for the Tessa Attack but Bito blocks it and hits a German suplex hold for two. B-Driver by Bito, but Tessa barely gets a shoulder up, Bito goes for another one but Tessa reverses it with a Yoshi Tonic for a two count. High kick by Bito, she picks up Tessa and she hits a second B-Driver for another two count. Doll B by Bito, she picks up Tessa and hits a second Doll B for the three count! Yoko Bito is the winner of the FIVE STAR GP!
I really wanted to like this since I love tournaments and want to see Bito do well, but it was a really flat final. There were a number of issues with it, first with just who they picked to be in the final as the Tokyo crowd had virtually no idea who Tessa was which hurt the reactions. Then Tessa was in control most of the match, doing offense that wasn’t too captivating, which led to the place being pretty dead. Then they had some miscommunications, and the offense wasn’t very snug. This may have worked as an eight minute tournament match, but as the final on one of their biggest shows of the year it was just disappointing. The right person won for sure, it just wasn’t a great journey to get there.
On paper, this event had a lot of potential, but it didn't fully deliver. The undercard was fun as most Stardom undercards are, but nothing too memorable. Hana Kimura was a nice surprise, it was good to see her join Oedo Tai, but the match itself was pretty average. The SWA Championship match was short with a shady ending stretch (to put it nicely), but I did really enjoy Io Shirai vs. KLR. The main event was underwhelming, Tessa just felt out of her element and the crowd wasn't buying it. Kairi Hojo fans should seek out her match against Hiromi Mimura, it had passion if nothing else, and Io vs. Kay Lee Ray was great. Nothing else really popped out though, not the level you'd hope for from one of Stardom's top shows of the year.