Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix 2018 Preview

Tournaments and women’s wrestling are both hot topics this summer, and they are combined in Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix, which begins on August 18th and runs until September 24th.  Currently the winner of the Grand Prix gets a title shot at Stardom’s top championship, the World of Stardom title.  The 5 Star Grand Prix was inaugurated in 2013 as a twelve woman tournament, and expanded to fourteen women in 2016, then the current sixteen woman format as of 2017.  The previous winners were Toni Storm, Yoko Bito, Kairi Hojo, Io Shirai, Nanae Takahashi, and Yuzuki Aikawa.  Each previous tournament has had a first-time winner, and all previous winners are no longer part of Stardom’s roster, so this year we are guaranteed another new champion.

The field this year is made up of a lot of first time entrants – fully half of the competitors are taking part in their first 5 Star Grand Prix.  All four of Stardom’s major factions – Queen’s Quest, Stars, Oedo Tai, and Jungle Assault Nation – are represented in the tournament, and both blocks present some intriguing inter-faction matchups.  There are five foreign participants in this year’s tournament, representing Women of Honor, Shimmer, and Rev Pro.  In past tournaments foreign wrestlers have done well, notably Toni Storm who won the tournament in 2017, so it wouldn’t be surprising if there are some strong showings from the foreign contingent this year.  The tournament is divided into two blocks – Red Stars and Blue Stars – and each wrestler faces each other in a round robin format, with two points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss.  The matches have a fifteen minute time limit, which makes for fast paced matches with exciting finishes as both competitors want to win before a time-limit draw.

Red Stars

red stars.jpg

Kagetsu – The current World of Stardom Champion and leader of Oedo Tai, Kagetsu makes her second 5 Star Grand Prix appearance this year.  Kagetsu just recently celebrated her tenth anniversary in wrestling, which makes her one of the most senior wrestlers in Stardom now that Io Shirai has left.  She is a very skilful wrestler in her own right, but is usually helped out during matches by the other members of Oedo Tai, who are quite happy to bend the rules when it suits them.  The World of Stardom Champion going into the tournament has yet to win a 5 Star Grand Prix, which could suggest that Kagetsu won’t be winning this year, but expect her to do well in terms of points.  Last year she finished with ten points, but lost to Viper and Yoko Bito, which stopped her from reaching the final.

5 Star GP History: 2017 – 10 pts.

 

Jungle Kyona – Kyona is the leader of Jungle Assault Nation and one-third of the current Artist of Stardom Champions.  This is her third 5 Star Grand Prix, having finished with a respectable eight points last year.  Kyona is a power wrestler, who is known for hitting hard, and is having an excellent year match-quality wise, although she’s flying slightly under the radar by not being a singles Champion.  Her match with Momo Watanabe for the Wonder of Stardom title at Io Shirai’s last show was notably very good.  She also beat Kagetsu in the opening round of the Cinderella Tournament earlier this year, which should lend their match some added weight.  I’d expect her to pick up a good points total, and make her an outside shot to win the block.

5 Star GP History: 2017 – 8 pts.; 2016 – 4 pts.

 

Tam Nakano – Tam is a very popular member of Stars, a former idol who made the transition to wrestler but still carries some of her sweet persona with her, at least until she gets into the ring.  This is her second appearance in the 5 Star Grand Prix, and last year she finished with only one win over Konami.  This year she’s probably been best known for her exploding baseball bat match against Oedo Tai, and she also won the Dream Come True Tournament between Stardom wrestlers and wrestlers from US promotion Rise.  Tam is unlikely to win the block, but she’ll probably improve on last year’s showing.

5 Star GP History: 2017 – 2 pts.

 

Konami – Konami is a protégé of WWE’s Asuka, and joined Queen’s Quest this year in the draft.  She’s a favourite of many of the foreign fans of Stardom due to her style of combining stiff kicks with an array of submissions, which is relatively rare to see in Stardom.  This is her second 5 Star Grand Prix, and like Tam she finished last year with just one win, over Women of Honor’s Mandy Leon.  This year has seen the departure of Queen’s Quest leader Io Shirai, and the sense that Konami may have fallen behind her Queen’s Quest partner Momo Watanabe who won the Wonder of Stardom Championship earlier this year.  A good showing in the 5 Star Grand Prix could go some way to changing that view.

5 Star GP History: 2017 – 2 pts.

 

Natsuko Tora – Another member of Jungle Assault Nation and another third of the Artist of Stardom Champions, Natsuko makes her debut in the 5 Star Grand Prix this year.  She has found success in trios matches along with her fellow JAN members, but as a singles wrestler Natsuko hasn’t been in too many high profile matches, generally taking on the more junior wrestlers on the roster.  The match against Jungle Kyona on the final night of the tournament could be important for both of their prospects.  Hopefully Natsuko will deliver some good matches now that she has the chance to show what she can do, but points may be hard to come by.

5 Star GP History: First time entrant

 

Utami Hayashishita – Utami is another wrestler making her debut in the 5 Star Grand Prix, although what is even more noteworthy is that she only just made her debut in Stardom on August 12th, in a match against Jungle Kyona that garnered almost universal praise.  She is the daughter of a minor-celebrity in Japan, which has brought some extra media coverage to Stardom, but her wrestling ability is much higher than you would expect from a complete rookie.  I doubt that she will win many matches this year, but she has the potential to impress everyone watching.

5 Star GP History: First time entrant

 

Rachel Ellering – Ellering is the daughter of WWE legend Paul Ellering, and this will be her second tour with Stardom, and her first 5 Star Grand Prix appearance.  She had success in tag matches on her last tour, but found singles victories harder to come by, losing to Mayu Iwatani and Io Shirai.  However, foreign wrestlers tend to do well in the 5 Star Grand Prix – and have made the final for the last two years in a row, with Toni Storm winning in 2017 – so it wouldn’t surprise me if Ellering has a good run this year.  Her power-based style could match up well against Jungle Kyona and Kagetsu.

5 Star GP History: First time entrant

 

Kimber Lee – Rounding out the block is indy star Kimber Lee, who is making her Stardom debut in this tournament.  As previously mentioned, foreign wrestlers tend to get a good push, so Kimber could well score highly in this block.  Since leaving the WWE earlier this year, Lee has appeared in a lot of different promotions, and hopefully she’ll add to her list of high quality matches in this tournament.  She has the technical ability and the character to get over with the fans in Japan too.

5 Star GP History: First time entrant

Blue Stars

blue stars

Mayu Iwatani ­– The leader of Stars, Mayu is a veteran of 5 Star Grand Prixes, making her fifth appearance this year.  However, she has yet to win a tournament, unlike her former Threedom partners Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo, but this could be her year to finally do it. Mayu is currently one half of the Goddess of Stardom Tag Team Champions along with Saki Kashima, and their match should be one to watch.  She recently lost a title challenge against Kagetsu, so Stardom might be reluctant to give her another shot again so soon, but she’s a good bet to win her block at least.  Her match against Momo on the final night could be decisive.

5 Star GP History: 2017 – 10 pts.; 2016 – 8 pts.; 2015 – 5 pts.; 2014 – 6 pts.

 

Momo Watanabe – Momo is a member of Queen’s Quest and the current Wonder of Stardom Champion, and has been touted as the Ace-in-waiting after the departure of Io Shirai.  Momo has been putting on some excellent matches this year, notably her title defences against Jungle Kyona, Deonna Purazzo, and Hazuki.  Momo also won the Cinderella Tournament earlier this year, so if she wins the 5 Star Grand Prix she’d emulate last year’s winner Toni Storm by winning both tournaments in the same year.  This is Momo’s second 5 Star Grand Prix entry, the last coming in 2016 after injury kept her out of the tournament last year.  I don’t think that Momo will win the 5 Star Grand Prix this year, but expect a strong showing in the block.

5 Star GP History: 2016 – 8 pts.

 

Saki Kashima – Saki is a member of Stars and the other half of the Goddess of Stardom Champions, as well as being the only entrant from the first 5 Star Grand Prix in 2013 left on the roster.  Saki took a lengthy layoff from wrestling from 2013 until earlier this year, but she has fit back in to the roster very smoothly, and her innovative style incorporates elements from lucha libre that makes her an exciting wrestler to watch.  I expect her to improve on her 2013 points total, but probably not be in contention for the final by the end of the tournament.

5 Star GP History: 2013 – 3 pts.

 

Hazuki – Hazuki used to be a member of Queen’s Quest, but in the draft this year she joined Oedo Tai, and has thrived as a member of her new faction.  She has been involved in a particularly fierce rivalry with Momo Watanabe this year, since they were both fellow members of Queen’s Quest, and although she lost a title challenge to Momo she promised to stop her winning the 5 Star Grand Prix.  Last year Hazuki took Io Shirai to a time-limit draw on the last day, which stopped Io advancing to the final, and she could play spoiler again when she faces Momo on September 9th.

5 Star GP History: 2017 – 7 pts.

 

Natsu Sumire – The third member of Oedo Tai in the tournament, Natsu has become a fan favourite due to her excellent character work and willingness to make her opponents look good by taking lots of bumps.  She’s quite adept at using any means necessary to win, both legal and illegal, and often uses her whip as a weapon against her opponents.  Although she works a lot for Stardom, technically Natsu isn’t signed with them, so this is her first 5 Star Grand Prix appearance and I would expect her to take quite a few losses.  Her match with Hazuki on the final show is one to look forward to.

5 Star GP History: First time entrant

 

Kelly Klein – Klein makes her return to Stardom after her first tour last year, which saw her win the Tag League with Bea Priestley.  Their challenge for the tag team titles was unsuccessful, as well as her title match with Io Shirai, but based on last year she could be in for some big things in this year’s 5 Star Grand Prix.  Last year Women of Honor representative Mandy Leon scored an infamous victory over Io Shirai, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Klein notched up a victory over someone like Mayu or Momo.

5 Star GP History: First time entrant

 

Nicole Savoy – Nicole Savoy makes her debut in the 5 Star Grand Prix after her first Stardom tour earlier this year.  She’s the current Shimmer Champion, and in February successfully defended her Shimmer title against Jungle Kyona.  Savoy’s suplex based offence should fit in well in the 5 Star Grand Prix, and her matches against Mayu and Momo will hopefully be good.  As the Shimmer Champion I could see Nicole doing well, and her final match against Kelly Klein could be important in sorting out the final standings.

5 Star GP History: First time entrant

 

Jamie Hayter – Just like Kimber Lee, Jamie Hayter makes her Stardom debut in the 5 Star Grand Prix this year.  At 23 years old Hayter is the youngest foreign wrestler in the tournament this year, but she is the current Rev Pro Women’s Champion and has had some good matches in Rev Pro and Pro Wrestling EVE recently.  Hopefully she can show off her skill in matches with Mayu, Momo, and Hazuki – on balance the Blue Stars block looks more stacked with talent than Red Stars so Hayter has the opportunity to impress in this tournament.

5 Star GP History: First time entrant

 

Shows

18/8 Shinkiba 1st Ring

Red Stars

Kagetsu vs Konami

Jungle Kyona vs Rachael Ellering

Tam Nakano vs Utami Hyashishita

Natsuko Tora vs Kimber Lee

Blue Stars

Mayu Iwatani vs Kelly Klein

Momo Watanabe vs Nicole Savoy

Saki Kashima vs Hazuki

Natsu Sumire vs Jamie Hayter

19/8 Shinkiba 1st Ring

Red Stars

Kagetsu vs Rachael Ellering

Jungle Kyona vs Kimber Lee

Konami vs Tam Nakano

Natsuko Tora vs Utami Hayashishita

Blue Stars

Mayu Iwatani vs Saki Kashima

Momo Watanabe vs Jamie Hayter

Hazuki vs Kelly Klein

Natsu Sumire vs Nicole Savoy

26/8 Osaka Sekaikan 12:00 PM

Red Stars

Jungle Kyona vs Tam Nakano

Konami vs Natsuko Tora

Blue Stars

Mayu Iwatani vs Jamie Hayter

Momo Watanabe vs. Natsu Sumire

Nicole Savoy vs Saki Kashima

26/8 Osaka Sekaikan 5:00 PM

Red Stars

Kagetsu vs Natsuko Tora

Jungle Kyona vs Konami

Blue Stars

Mayu Iwatani vs Natsu Sumire

Saki Kashima vs Kelly Klein

Nicole Savoy vs Jamie Hayter

9/1 Yokohama Radiant Hall

Red Stars

Kagetsu vs Utami Hayashishita

Konami vs Rachael Ellering

Blue Stars

Momo Watanabe vs Kelly Klein

Hazuki vs Nicole Savoy

9/8 Shinkiba 1st Ring

Red Stars

Kagetsu vs Jungle Kyona

Natsuko Tora vs Rachael Ellering

Kimber Lee vs Utami Hayashishita

Blue Stars

Mayu Iwatani vs Nicole Savoy

Momo Watanabe vs Saki Kashima

Hazuki vs Jamie Hayter

9/9 Shinkiba 1st Ring

Red Stars

Tam Nakano vs Natsuko Tora

Jungle Kyona vs Utami Hayashishita

Konami vs Kimber Lee

Blue Stars

Momo Watanabe vs Hazuki

Saki Kashima vs Natsu Sumire

Kelly Klein vs Jamie Hayter

15/9 Takaoka Ekuru

Red Stars

Kagetsu vs Kimber Lee

Tam Nakano vs Rachael Ellering

16/9 Osaka City Community Centre

Red Stars

Tam Nakano vs Kimber Lee

Rachael Ellering vs Utami Hayashishita

Blue Stars

Mayu Iwatani vs Hazuki

Natsu Sumire vs Kelly Klein

24/9 Korakuen Hall

Red Stars

Kagetsu vs Tam Nakano

Jungle Kyona vs Natsuko Tora

Rachael Ellering vs Kimber Lee

Konami vs Utami Hayashishita

Blue Stars

Mayu Iwatani vs Momo Watanabe

Saki Kashima vs Jamie Hayter

Hazuki vs Natsu Sumire

Kelly Klein vs Nicole Savoy

Finals

Red Star Winner Vs Blue Star Winner

 

By @twf87

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Picture Credit: wwr-stardom.com

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