wrestling / TV Reports

Pantoja’s STARDOM 5STAR Grand Prix 2023 Finals Review

October 1, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
STARDOM 5STAR Grand Prix Finals Image Credit: STARDOM
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Pantoja’s STARDOM 5STAR Grand Prix 2023 Finals Review  

STARDOM 5STAR Grand Prix Finals

September 30th, 2023 | Yokohama Budokan in Yokohama, Kanagawa | Attendance: 2,507

We’ve finally reached the end. For two months, this tournament has gone on and I’ve basically loved every second of it. If this final show delivers, it’ll go down as the best tournament I’ve ever seen. Move over G1 24 and G1 27.

Of note, this tournament has seen some unfortunate injuries. Three matches here are canceled due to them. Suzu Suzuki gets two points over Saya Kamitani, Giulia gets two over Utami Hayashishita, and Mayu Iwatani gets two over Starlight Kid. All three of those matches would’ve been welcome additions to the event and both Kamitani and Hayashishita were favorites to win it all so it’ll be interesting to see how they pivot overall.

Entering these matches, Suzu Suzuki has 12 points, Mayu Iwatani has 11, and Giulia has 11. Suzu needs Natsuko Tora, Syuri, and Tam Nakano to lose for her to make the finals. Mayu is eliminated and Giulia is out since whoever wins MIRAI vs. Maika is in.

Blue Stars: Hanan [4] vs. Mariah May [6]

I guess the stream I purchased didn’t have the pre-show battle royal. Ah well. This is likely Mariah’s send-off as she’s reportedly headed to AEW’s poorly booked/handled women’s division. These two were also partners at the Dream Tag Festival. You could see Mariah was basically in tears before the bell even rang. Both women had impressive tournament performances and that continued here. Their growth was evident in the smoothness of some of their back and forth exchanges and neither held serve for too long, showing that they were somewhat evenly matched. The crowd was into all of Mariah’s moves from her Slingblade to her rapid-fire chops. In just nine months, she’s really found a home for herself. Late, they traded back suplexes, taking turns dropping one another on their heads. I thought Mariah had it when she hit Angel’s Wings but Hanan survived and took it home with seventeen after 8:47. The future is bright for these two and that was a good way to start the show. [***½]

Post-match, Hanan said something to Mariah on the mic. Mariah took over to speak in Japanese and thank Mina Shirakawa. That led to an ovation for Mariah who was in tears, as was Waka Tsukiyama on commentary and Hanan in the ring. She confirmed this was her last match apparently and got an emotional sendoff.

Dream Queendom was confirmed for 12/29 at Sumo Hall. Last year’s show featured the all-time classic between Giulia and Syuri (*****).

Blue Stars: AZM [8] vs. Momo Watanabe [8]

A classic bout of speed against strength. Nothing on the line but bragging rights. That said, AZM leaves the Grand Prix with a 55 second win over Giulia and Momo beat MIRAI so they should have shots at the Strong and Wonder of Stardom Titles, respectively. AZM carried out the Queen’s Quest flag in honor of Utami Hayashishita. Momo attacked during entrances because THAT’S WHAT SHE DO. Now I want her to do a World’s Strongest Slam. Anyway, that sparked a brawl outside which AZM withstood enough to get back to the ring and look to chop down Momo to size. AZM bumped like crazy throughout, snapping back hard whenever she took a kick (outside of one poorly timed instance) and making Momo’s already impressive offense look better. There were a handful of close calls late that I bit on, including one on the Azumi Sushi. Considering how well it has worked for her in the past, they’ve done a great job of making that an effective finisher. Alas, it was Momo who got to 10 points with Peach Sunrise in 8:13. A hard hitting sprint that played into both of their strengths. [***½]

Blue Stars: Mina Shirakawa [9] vs. Saori Anou [8]

It feels like Saori hasn’t competed in this tournament in forever. Again, nothing but bragging rights on the line but these are also two women connected by their history with Cosmic Angels, Tam Nakano, and Natsupoi. The name of the game in this match was leg work as both targeted it. That’s par for the course with Mina but was interesting to see from Saori. It meant a different layout than I’m used to with her, which I liked. Fun change of pace. Mina’s leg work was sharper and whenever she got into too much trouble, she was able to go back to things like the Dragon Screw. I will say that some of what Saori did was more innovative or interesting, with some of it looking really painful for Mina. We got the big Figure Four spot in the middle of the ring but Saori survived. She came close to winning with a great pinning combination only for Mina to drop her with a spinning back fist. Mina went to the well once too often though, having her next Figure Four attempt countered into an inside cradle, giving Saori the win in 11:07. Yeah, that rocked. [***¾]

Blue Stars: Maika [10] vs. MIRAI [10]

The Blue block comes down to this. Two women who are on a ROLL this year. I loved that they opened this by just doing repeated shoulder blocks. These are two powerhouses who weren’t about to budge at all. When someone finally went down, it was both of them, hammering home their level playing field. That opening exchange set the tone for a good old fashioned HOSS FIGHT. Two strong women trading blows, throwing bombs, and just waging a war. BUMPING MEAT. Likely realizing that a win means they need to wrestle again, Maika slowed the pace and wore down MIRAI with a rear naked choke. The spot where they laid into each other with lariats and MIRAI won out was great, plus it made sense since that’s a MIRAI special. Maika would not be denied though, kicking out of that and a DVD that made for one hell of a near fall. Then, from seemingly out of nowhere, Maika hit the Michinoku Driver to advance to the finals at the 11:00 mark. A fantastic, hard hitting NEVER Openweight style match and I loved that the finish was kind of abrupt, showing the right big move from either could end it at any moment. [****]

All three matches on the Red Stars side are important. Syuri can take the lead with a win over Ami Sourei, Hazuki can keep Natsuko Tora out of the finals by beating her, and Tam Nakano is one point off the lead. If Syuri, Natsuko, and Tam all lose, Suzu Suzuki advances.

Red Stars: Ami Sourei [6] vs. Syuri [11]

Syuri has arguably been the best performer of the tournament. Ami Sourei is very likely at the bottom of that list. Could putting them together result in greatness? The early exchanges were pretty solid with Ami bringing the fire as she lit up Syuri with chops and looked like someone who was determined to pick up a big win. Unfortunately, it kind of lost that energy soon after and what we got was more of a simple, straightforward match. The most interesting thing was seeing Ami try to get one over on her stable leader and maybe probe that she was on her level. It’s just that as with a lot of what Ami does, it wasn’t really clicking with me. One thing I did love was the finish. Syuri had gotten going and then applied a pretty great looking arm submission. She seemed to get too cocky though and when she tried to roll through into something else, Ami countered and held her down in a pin, eliminating her in 9:14. That was good (as is 98% of this tournament), just not on the level of what a lot of these girls are doing. It’s a big win for Ami ahead of her title shot at Giulia the following night. [***]

Red Stars: Hazuki [8] vs. Natsuko Tora [12]

Hazuki seemed pumped to possibly play spoiler, attacking quickly and trying to keep the pressure on Tora. Her aggression spilled over outside where she was the one throwing Tora into a sea of chairs, turning the tables on what we normally see from Oedo Tai members. Despite that hot start, all it took was one well-timed lariat from Tora and Hazuki was down. She wasn’t down for long, busting out things like hitting a superplex. Tora wasn’t getting the chance to really be the bully she’s been all tournament because Hazuki was relentless. Even so, her tope suicida and senton off the top couldn’t keep the seemingly unstoppable Tora down. Desperate at this point, Tora spit the mist at Hazuki and nailed her Swanton Bomb. It looked like it was all over but then Hazuki pulled her into La Magistral cradle in 9:41 to score the win. Another really good match boosted by the cool mist spot and a red hot crowd. I do think they over did some of the flash pin finishes tonight though, even if it’s something STARDOM does kind of often. Anyway, the shot of a shocked, misted Hazuki celebrating was great. [***¾]

Red Stars: Natsupoi [9] vs. Tam Nakano [11]

A win by Natsupoi sends Suzu Suzuki to the Finals and a Tam win puts her there instead. Former Goddess of Stardom Champions meltear collide in their first meeting since Natsupoi joined Cosmic Angels. I have gone back and watched their brutal cage match from last year (****¾). These two know each other so well that everything they tried early was countered and it wasn’t until Natsupoi went for something unorthodox that she got a small upper hand. When one took control, the other found an answer. Tam hit a dive outside, Natsupoi responds with a German suplex on there. It was well laid out. The intensity picked up as they traded strikes and kicks in the center of the ring before moving on to bigger and better offense. The drama picked up then too and Natsupoi nearly winning with Tam’s Tiger Suplex was a cool moment. When that didn’t work, Natsupoi opted for Fairy Train, getting a huge victory over her former rival in 10:54. I loved that and since I love both women, I might be ranking it higher than most but I don’t care. Great action, a lot of drama, and high emotion. On top of that, Suzu Suzuki has made the finals! [****]

5STAR Grand Prix Finals: Maika vs. Suzu Suzuki

I know I haven’t followed this company for long but even I can tell that this feels like a fresh finals. Two women who are on the cusp of being major stars getting a chance to deliver on a big stage. These two have also had a kind of sibling-like rivalry as partners of sorts in recent months. Suzu looked for the traditional feeling out process to start but Maika simply dumped her over the top in a show of strength. I loved how each got tossed into chairs at ringside only to pop right up and get in their opponent’s face again. Neither was going to show any sign of weakness if they could avoid it. That was kind of the trend of this match. A lariat by Maika mean Suzu popped up and nailed a German, which mean Maika popped up and then they leveled each other with forearms. It was that kind of match. There were some truly memorable exchanges between them here and the crowd was on the edge of their seats for the near falls. Some may scoff at the back to back kickouts at one but it fit the theme of the match. They were trying to one up and outduel the other. When Maika survived the Tequila Shot and Germans, Suzu busted out the Sky Twister Press to win the tournament in 14:03, capping a fantastic match and Grand Prix. I will say, the crowd was very behind Maika and were kind of silent for the Suzu win, which isn’t great. The match itself was pretty much everything I wanted from these two. [****¼]

So, I think that’s indeed the best/my favorite tournament ever. The best G1s may have had higher highs but they often have bottom feeder matches. Nothing in this Grand Prix was bad which is a wild thing to consider. They do likely have to do something to fix the schedule as having this last two months and having major shows in between might be part of why there were major injuries.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Of course this show was great. As usual, nothing bad on the card and several matches that I’d recommend, culminating in a finals that was the best thing on the show. STARDOM really is best wrestling promotion of 2023 and I say that as someone who is really enjoying WWE and AEW.

article topics :

STARDOM, Kevin Pantoja