STARDOM: 2022 FIVE STAR Winner Decided at Mushashino Forest Sports Center

STARDOM closes their 2022 Five Star Grand Prix Tournament at Mushashino Forest Sports Complex. The Winner shoots their shot for the Stardom Dream Queendom main event at year's end.

Stardom Five Star GP Finals

DISCLOSURE: Karen Peterson is currently working with Bushiroad (parent company of New Japan and Stardom) on a limited basis on a series of articles on the history of Stardom leading into the Historic X-Over event in November that will appear on their website.

  • Show Availability: The event archive will be available until October 4th at 11:59 PM JST via Pia Livestream; to be added to STARDOM WORLD sometime after the archive period ends.
  • Japanese Commentary: Haruo Murata (play-by-play), Makoto Ohe (color commentary) with guest commentators, Razor Ramon HG & RG, popular comedians, and the hosts of Kirameku Marugoto STARDOM (available on Samurai TV).
  • English Commentary: Unavailable

The opening introduction was complete with the discussion of the block standings and the first match was streamed live and free on YouTube. They reviewed the Blue Stars block first, highlighting who the guests’ had picked to win HG (Saya Iida, but with 4 points, he hopes she plays spoiler) and RG (Starlight Kid). Then they moved to the Red Stars block. With a six-way tie at 14, it makes it really hard to figure out who could possibly win it. However, HG picked Syuri not just because she is World of Stardom Champion, but also because she was in Hustle with HG & RG over a decade ago. RG picked his favorite, Tam Nakano, who did some fun content for KMS together. Incidentally, this is RG’s first chance to experience STARDOM live and he gets to do so ringside at the commentary booth. HG went to STARDOM World Climax on March 26th & March 27th, and agreed that Tam is a stand-out performer, so his partner’s pick is a very solid one.

 Spoiler Warning: Includes Saya Iida vs. MIRAI as the opening match

“Syuri’s definitely one for the conversation because not only is she defending tournament winner, but she’s come into the tournament as World of Stardom Champion. She’s got the most to lose, but it’ll all come down to how other matches conclude.” – Makoto Ohe

Spoiler-Free Synopsis (including point totals going into today’s event)

  1. 5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): MIRAI [13] vs. Saya Iida [4] 
  2. 5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Natsupoi [12] vs. Mina Shirakawa [8]
  3. 5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Hazuki [14] vs. Momo Watanabe [10]
  4. 5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Saya Kamitani [13] vs. Ami Sohrei [10]
  5. 5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Mayu Iwatani [13] vs. Starlight Kid [14]
  6. 5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Giulia [15] vs. Suzu Suzuki [14]
  7. 5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Unagi Sayaka [2] vs. Momo Kohgo [4]
  8. 5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): AZM [14] vs. Saki Kashima [10]
  9. 5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Utami Hayashishita [14] vs. Koguma [12]
  10. 5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Tam Nakano [14] vs. SAKI [10]
  11. 5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Maika [14] vs. Himeka [14]
  12. 5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Syuri [14] vs. Risa Sera [13]
  13. 5★STAR GP 2022 FINALS (1/No Time Limit): RED STARS #1 vs. BLUE STARS #1

NOTES 

  • Hanan [4] (Blue Stars) and Mai Sakurai [9] (Red Stars) completed all of their tournament matches prior to the finals. They are not scheduled on today’s lineup.
  • Final GP win/loss records will be included in the individual match reviews below in the sections marked 5★GP22 Report Card. 

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Hanan (2-10) – What impressed me about the current Future of Stardom Champion is that she balanced tournament participation in addition to being a high school student. Most of her matches were on the weekends or on holidays, so I appreciate STARDOM affording her the opportunity to gain the experience without having to sacrifice her education. She is slated to meet Ami Sohrei at New Blood 5 to defend her Future of Stardom Championship.
  • Mai Sakurai (4-7-1) – Sakurai arrived in STARDOM during last year’s 5★GP, making her departure from ActWres GirlZ and quickly joining Cosmic Angels. She left CA earlier this year to join Donna del Mondo, and her skills have definitely improved as a result of sitting under Giulia’s learning tree and working with DDM. She had a solid tournament for a debutante. Though the tournament didn’t turn out as well as she may have hoped, it was certainly a good baseline for future years and tournaments. 

5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): MIRAI [15] defeated Saya Iida [4]Modified Back Breaker

This is a revisit to their Golden Generation special singles match earlier this year. MIRAI’s had an outstanding first year, including challenging Syuri for the World of Stardom Championship within a month of her arrival as well as winning the 2022 Cinderella Tournament, which led to her challenging Saya Kamitani for the Wonder of Stardom of Championship. Saya Iida has had a much more difficult road, including finally fighting her way back to the ring after her knee injury and subsequent surgery. MIRAI has had a standout tournament, while Iida has fought hard, but found herself at the bottom of the Blue Stars block alongside Hanan. 

After two months of battling their way through the GP, neither fought as if they were exhausted after two months. Instead, both were determined to open the show in a last woman standing match, with neither both fighting harder than ever. While Iida couldn’t make her way to the finals, she could certainly ruin MIRAI’s chances. After a fiery rolling cradle series between them, MIRAI managed to stop Iida, locking in a submission move akin to a modified Fujiwara Armbar. Iida’s petite stature worked against her as she was left to tap because her fingertips were just short of grabbing the bottom rope.

I stand by my assessment earlier this year, where I would love to see what sort of powerhouse tag would be possible with the combined power and strength of MIRAI and Iida. Until that day comes, I am slotting this rivalry into the Fight Forever Rivals category. Their exchange of smiles and mutual respect after the match may have started my crying over wrestling into my morning coffee.   

5★GP22 Report Card

  • MIRAI (7-4-1) – She’s had a stand-out tournament for a first-time entry in addition to the nine months she’s had in STARDOM. If she doesn’t win the block, I could easily see her being one of the prime candidates to finally stop Kamitani’s reign as Wonder of Stardom Champion. That could be the bookend to her Cinderella Tournament Journey earlier this year. 
  • Saya Iida (2-10-0) – With this being her first GP post-op and her first entry in two years, I am simply glad to see her back and in ridiculously great shape.  

5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Mina Shirakawa [10] defeated Natsupoi [12] – via submission; with the Figure-Four Leg Lock/Referee Stoppage

What immediately stood out to me was Shirakawa’s entrance video as Natsupoi was central in the video clips while she was relegated to the background! As one of the founding members of Cosmic Angels and Tam’s first tag partner for Goddesses Tag League as Dream-H, Mina has been with Tam every step of the way over the last two years from the addition of Unagi Sayaka, Mai Sakurai, and Waka Tsukiyama to the battle against SAKI and COLOR’S which bonded the groups together in an equal partnership. 

However, Natsupoi betraying DDM after her match series with Tam, including their brutal cage match has seemingly led to Tam focusing solely on her Goddess of Stardom Tag Partner, while paying a lot less attention to the rest of Cosmic Angels. Shirakawa’s tournament was over prior to the finals, but she could easily become one of the tournament spoilers. That being said, I expected Shirakawa’s alter ego, The Bloody Angel, to arrive for the finals, but she entered all smiles and was ready to powerbomb everyone’s hearts.

Natsupoi unleashed her new Fairy Goddess entrance jacket and costume, finally shedding any remnants of her DDM era. The focus of her entrance video was REVOLUTION… the tag phrase that she and Tam have exclusively used since their formation of TamPoi and winning the Goddess of Stardom belts. No sooner do they sit on the mat opposite one another and the bell rings, the camera immediately cuts to an over-the-shoulder view of Tam in the red/Natsupoi’s corner, which could lead to some very interesting consequences, especially with Unagi Sayaka, Shirakawa’s Pink Kabuki tag partner and Waka Tsukiyama seconding her in the blue corner. This All-Cosmic Angels match could either make or break everything Tam put together in the last few years. 

Shirakawa took all of her frustration out on Natsupoi, specifically targeting Natsupoi’s kneed, which she needs for many of her aerial and faster moves. Consistently a team player in Cosmic Angels, the question if Tam takes Mina for granted has reared its head before, especially when Mina challenged Tam for the Wonder of Stardom Championship in 2021. She’s been the glue that has held CA together, especially when Tam’s focus is elsewhere like on her singles defenses and now with Natsupoi. However, everyone has their limits, and Shirakawa punctuated her point with that gnarly Avalanche Dragon Screw, throwing Natsupoi halfway across the ring before locking in the figure four leg lock. Natsupoi wailed in agony, clawing at the ropes, but ultimately tapped, begging for mercy.

Afterward, Shirakawa went over to Natsupoi and reapplied the ice pack that Tam left. They exchanged a handshake and some words, but the biggest takeaway is that Shirakawa may have just put TamPoi on notice that she won’t be overlooked much longer, and that if Cosmic Angels is to remain strong, they might want to start supporting the rest of the members just as much. As Tam carried Natsupoi out on piggyback, they stopped in front of Mina who leaned in for some final choice words. It could be that before she goes after Kamitani, she and Unagi could have their teammates in their crosshairs for the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League starting later in the month.

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Natsupoi (6-6-0) – The Goddesses of Stardom Champion had a stellar tournament, and the push she’s received in the few months is evident in how much the company believes in her. She was definitely in the conversation for winning Blue Stars, and while she didn’t quite make it this year, her performance truly shows what a key player she will be in years to come. I hope her knee gets the TLC and care it needs because Natsupoi really dialed it up to twelve in this year’s tournament, and I want to see a long career for her. 
  • Mina Shirakawa (5-7-0) – For her second tournament, Mina did well. She secured significant wins which had ramifications, such as her opener against Momo Watanabe which immediately resulted in an Artists of Stardom Championship challenge at MidSummer Encounters in Nagoya. While I would have loved to see her get more wins in the tournament, there is a certain power in being the one who can manipulate the destinies and final outcomes purely based on the handful of key wins in their pocket. For those keeping score her other wins include victories over Wonder of Stardom Champion Saya Kamitani and now Goddesses of Stardom Champion, Natsupoi. She may not have been the Venus of Victories in this year’s tournament, but she definitely locked in wins that had gravity and consequence. Her road to a singles championship since she held the Future of Stardom could be a very scenic one. 

5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Momo Watanabe [12] defeated Hazuki [14] (:) – with Peach Thunder… and a little help from her friends

Though she is the last member to join OedoTai, the fallen former leader of Queen’s Quest has truly adapted to her new lifestyle. She came to the ring fully prepared for shenanigans with a black baseball bat and the omnipresent OedoTai steel chair. I do love that this is former OET versus new generation OET because even with a STARS coat of paint, there are many times I feel like Hazuki still digs deep into her HZK persona during her matches. Hazuki strolled in with an upgrade from her previous entrance kimono, which was a throwback to her time in OedoTai before her retirement. 

This single-sleeved, furisode (long-sleeve kimono) has complete oiran vibes with the obi large sashes tied in the front. I don’t know if the black, silver, and gold accents are intentionally how she used to wear her Goddesses of Stardom championship, but I wouldn’t put it past one half of Fukuoka Double Crazy. With the Five Star concluding, it’s worth noting that Hazuki and Koguma will go into the Goddesses Tag League as the defending champions, having won the belts twice since winning last year’s tournament. Of course, it was Momo and Starlight Kid as Black Desire, who slammed the breaks down on their first reign. I believe this robe made its debut in her High Speed Championship attempt last weekend, but how I wished she would have saved it for tonight. 

Watanabe had other plans as just as Hazuki prepared to enter the ring, she kicked her straight back off the ring apron. I’m just relieved Hazuki didn’t get her feet caught up on the ring steps. While they are fighting on the entrance ramp, the bell rings. This is one of the things I simply don’t understand is why non-falls count anywhere matches are being started without both competitors in the ring. I understand that it was a five-hour broadcast, but it really shouldn’t have started until Momo rolled Hazuki into the ring and entered herself. Without doing so, and allowing for the attack on the outside is pretty much giving Momo permission to cheat. It doesn’t make Hazuki look any stronger since she’s coming into the match with a stronger record to begin with. If anything, it makes it look like Momo’s fallen so far that she can’t win without cheating, which is something longtime fans know not to be the case.

If you’ve ever seen the violent and lavender flashes of lightning storm that is what I felt this entire match was. Not just because of the thunderous kicks, deafening slams or mat pounding support in the corners but because neither Hazuki nor Momo held back. Just when you think they had hit their limit they went stronger and further and a bit crazier in the ring. The moment Tora Natsuko pulled the referee out of the ring, my confidence for Hazuki winning parted like the clouds. Momo crushed Hazuki with a B-Driver on the apron and then dragged her back into the center to do it again. Surprisingly, Hazuki kicked out. The number game came into play, as Hanan cornered for Hazuki while Rina and Natsuko assisted Momo, resulting in a third B-Driver while his back was turned, slamming Hazuki head and shoulders first into a steel chair.

Momo closed Hazuki out with a gruesome throwing German, followed up with a Peach Thunder. Hazuki managed to survive ten minutes, but the numbers game and dirty tricks caught up with her. I would love to see them have a lumber yard match or at least one where OedoTai is banned from ringside. 

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Hazuki (7-5-0) – Hazuki went HARD out of the gate, so much so it was almost hard to believe she had only returned around this time last year. She made a lot of folks second and third guess their bracket picks and her hard work with STARS has truly shone through. Going into the Goddesses of Stardom Tournament, we’ll have to see if she and Koguma reunite, but I could definitely see FWC going to back-to-back wins. However, I wonder if a Hazuki singles run could also be on the books. 
  • Momo Watanabe (6-6-0) – Last year’s finalist had a decidedly different tournament this year, especially since her messy breakup with Queen’s Quest and turning over a spoiled Black Peach leaf by joining OedoTai. Much like last year, she’s a consistent hard worker and guaranteed to bring out good matches in just about everyone. If she would rely less on the wrench (a consistent complaint I have about SHO in NJPW who is running a parallel character flaw), and use the actual tools in her wrestling arsenal, I would love to see her get much further in the tournament and gloat her entire way back to the finals. I understand the purpose of the cheating, but neither Momo nor many of her opponents need that much protection. They’ll all be fine. Alongside her Artists of Stardom cohorts, she’ll have a few more losses to reconcile moving into the final three months of the year. 

5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Saya Kamitani [13] vs. Ami Sohrei [10] – Double Count Out

Sohrei and Kamitani are matched in height, but where Sohrei thrives as a power fighter, Kamitani excels as a high-flyer. Since her arrival in STARDOM, Sohrei had dropped minimal losses, most of which were in this year’s Grand Prix. Kamitani has been on phoenix fire since dethroning Tam Nakano last year at Dream Queendom to finally claim the Wonder of Stardom Championship. Sohrei turned Kamitani inside out more times than I can count, but Kamitani kept rallying. What surprised me is that both decided to take big risks outside the ring. 

Outside of the Five Star, Kamitani’s singles matches tend to run well over the fifteen mark, so I wondered how she would fare in such a crucial match where the time limit seemingly takes the role of a third opponent. I should have known better that the second time they headed outside, it would be the end… for both of them. In a surprising move, Sohrei elects to fall on her sword!! She slings Kamitani over her shoulder while the ring out count starts and stalks her way up the entrance ramp. Just when I thought she would drop her down and run back, she kept going further away before burying Kamitani on the ramp with a modified Death Valley Driver!? 

The count is still on and they start scrambling back toward the ring. Kamitani is desperate to get back because if she wins, she’d at least tie Giulia at 15, and then pray Giulia falls to Suzu Suzuki. However, with Giulia holding a win over Kamitani, even with 15 points, she’d still advance. Sohrei scrambled on Kamitani’s heels and tackled her again just short of the ring apron!! Kamitani barely grazed the mat before they were both counted out. While an unconventional “if I’m going down, I’m taking you with me” approach wasn’t what I had expected from Sohrei, it was surprisingly refreshing. It also mitigates adding another Wonder of Stardom defense for Kamitani who already has her dance card booking up quickly on the road to Queendom.

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Saya Kamitani (6-4-2) – For her third consecutive GP, Kamitani keeps improving and excelling. She may have one of the shorter careers in the company, she is working hard to make the most of every opportunity. I did like that her pride and occasional ego to go above and beyond is not without consequence. She’ll likely have to put her title where her mouth is and reconcile loses against: Mina Shirakawa and as Wonder of Stardom Champion.
  • Ami Sohrei (5-6-1) – For her GP debut, Sohrei has nothing to be disappointed in. She’s proving that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Very few can send Kamitani to the back angry, but I am so curious to see how she continues to evolve as a member of God’s Eye.   

5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Mayu Iwatani [15] defeated Starlight Kid [14] (13:09) – A very S-Tier Dragon Suplex

We have arrived at one of the matches I have looked forward to the most throughout this entire tournament. Will today be Starlight Kid’s big break where she finally topples her wall known as Mayu Iwatani? The pair begrudgingly reunited at Wrestle Kingdom 16 for the STARDOM featured match, but ever since Mayu lost SLK to OedoTai, the Tiger Shrouded in Darkness has only shone brighter and her star’s completely taken off. The biggest concern is her recent loss to Saya Kamitani, has she managed to get out of her own head in order to be in the right mindset for her former tag partner and leader. 

Typically Iwatani dictates the pace of matches, but for some reason, she was intentionally pacing SLK in a surprisingly fast, High Speed format. On top of that, Iwatani put the SEMPAI in S-Tier tough love because she was pushing SLK harder than I can remember in their recent match ups. Mayu put SLK  in a Dragon Sleeper mod and she repaid the favor with a very fluid Numero Dos. She followed up with a pair of moonsaults, neither of which did Mayu managed to avoid. She did escape the Star Suplex only to be tied back up in a Number Dos that transitioned into a choke. Again, just when Iwatani was fading, she grabbed the bottom rope. SLK followed up with Black Tiger Punishment, but Mayu kicked out. They climbed the turnbuckle for Eternal Foe, but Iwatani rallied with a Frankensteiner. 

The more SLK fought the finish off Iwatani, the Icon fought back to simply try to outlast her. However, without a win, Iwatani wouldn’t advance due to points deficit. With a tie, SLK could at least claim victory over her on total points, but with less than three minutes left, they kept fighting. With less than two minutes left, Iwatani plants SLK with a stalling Dragon Suplex. Tonight the Icon Wall remains unscaled, and The Darkness Tiger heads to the back to lick her wounds and regroup.   

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Mayu Iwatani (7-4-1) – At 15 points, Mayu has the top rank amongst the members of STARS, which makes me feel like she’s the likely candidate for the STARS berth in the IWGP Women’s Championship tournament, if it’s based on point total value The SWA Undisputed Women’s World Champion is also due to defend her championship, but short of Thekla having an imminent return, the current potential competitors that aren’t from outer space would be Syuri and Giulia. With travel opening up or the upcoming participation in international NJPW Strong shows, that might be the better opportunity for the SWA Champion to have defenses. 
  • Starlight Kid (7-5-0) – What I’ve loved about SLK’s tournament is that despite seemingly having the proverbial rocket strapped to her in the last year, they aren’t hitting the fast forward button and having all of her long-term rivalries become quick milestones. She still hasn’t managed to beat Iwatani or Kamitani, which gives her darkside journey some substance and delicious flavor. With the Goddesses of Stardom Tag Tournament on the horizon, I could easily see Black Desire running the table or at least causing a lot of trouble for a lot of people.

5★STAR GP 2022 Blue Stars (1/15): Giulia [16] vs. Suzu Suzuki [15] (15:00) – Time Limit Draw… and everyone’s crying.

We’ve waited. Oh, my stars and moon and glorious night skies how we have waited for this blood feud to finally arrive. Ever since Prominence arrived on the scene in January, opening up some very old wounds for Giulia, and possibly being the wedge that shattered parts of Donna del Mondo, we’ve waited for Giulia and Suzu. The past that Giulia thought she left behind when she joined STARDOM… managed to catch up with her and for nine months we’ve had teases here and there with tags and stipulation matches involving DDM and Prominence. However, the slowest burn and the spiciest course of the entire meal had been brewing for most of 2022. 

The one thing noticeably absent from both of their entrances is the usual proud showboating and arrogance both competitors usually have. They both seem to be fighting back their emotions, with neither smiling, which was jolting. Without even having the bell sound, one could easily tell it would be an emotional battle. If there was ever a pure, calm before the storm moment, this was it. Tears. The match hadn’t even started, but both of them wiped away tears. Giulia let Suzu have the first round of hits, welcoming them. Even though they spilled outside of the ring, Suzu rolled Giulia back in. 

This story goes beyond the nine months, but back into their time together in Ice Ribbon as roommates and training partners. Of all the matchups on today’s card, much like SLK vs. Iwatani, the pain and bad blood between Suzu and Giulia runs long and deep. Like tag partners who know their partner’s every move the best, I can genuinely say that the way Suzu fights Giulia reminds me of how Giulia fought Hana Kimura during their rivalry in 2019. The stakes are simply so high, on top of being the match that determines who advances to the tournament finals. 

After a super Glorious Buster from the second turnbuckle, Giulia tied up Suzu in Bianca, leaning in heavily to Suzu’s taped arms, neck, and shoulders. Suzu managed to crawl to the rope and force the break, but Giulia nailed her with a Glorious Driver. While Giulia could advance on a tie, Suzu needs a win in order to stop Giulia’s momentum. Suzu did a beautiful German Suplex into a rolling suplex, but Giulia still kicked out! Fighting to the very last minute, no sooner did the bell ring, did Giulia throw her arms around Suzu, hugging her tightly. Looking up at the lights together in the center of the ring, they both had tears in their eyes.

Is the hatchet buried? Are we ready to move on? Giulia extends her hand to Suzu, who slaps it away with a huge grin, informing her that she wants one more match, and Giulia looks more than willing to take it under advisement. 

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Giulia (7-3-2) – After dropping out of last year’s tournament, and missing the remainder of 2021, I was glad that Giulia could come back stronger than ever, even with the deck stacked against her. If this is Giulia’s year to add the Five Star to her list of accolades, it couldn’t have finished with a more emotional match. Should another singles match against Suzu be on the menu, I need them to give me a little more time to digest the main course before they pile on dessert. A matchup this special needs time to breathe and stew just a little bit longer.
  • Suzu Suzuki (PROMINENCE) (7-4-1) – Suzu had a delayed start in the tournament due to illness, but she quickly rallied and turned lemons into lemonade by the time she finally got to Giulia. She’s also been exceptionally busy outside her residence at STARDOM with winning championships and having her death match trial series as part of PROMINENCE. Yes, more than one.  

With that, all 2022 Five Star Grand Prix Blue Stars matches have concluded.

With sixteen points (seven wins, three losses, and two ties), Giulia wins the Blue Stars Block and advances to the Finals! Giulia is sitting on the floor waiting to hear the words she’s waited a long time to hear, before having to go to the back and regroup for the second half of the show. Mai Sakurai helps escort her to the back as the remaining participating members of DDM have unfinished business in the Red Stars block.

Before the start of the Red Stars block, STARDOM acknowledged the passing of Antonio Inoki with a ten-bell salute. Fans in attendance were asked to stand for the moment of silence. A single red towel was hung on the red corner behind the turnbuckle while the ring remained empty. 

Prior to the start of the second half, the intermission included cleaning and disinfecting the ring. Mina Shirakawa joined the commentary booth. Admitting that who they had seen earlier in the show in her match with Natsupoi was necessary, but she’s back to her cheerful self. She confessed she’s ready to become a champion again because ‘if not, what’s the point of becoming a pro-wrestler!’

5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Unagi Sayaka [4] defeated Momo Kohgo [4] – Taigi Deatta/pin

Last year, Unagi had nine points in her first Five Star, so coming into the last day with two points is a stark departure from her very strong debutante entry. However, I like that disparity for Unagi because it gives her a challenge as an underdog, something she excels at, when she isn’t “assessing” the incoming talent. Kohgo entered this year as an alternate when Thekla had to drop out due to medical clearance, yet surprised many with a passionate tournament, despite racking up multiple losses. 

I’m not looking at this match as “who doesn’t wind up in last place,” but more of which underdog thrives under pressure. They had a good match, but there wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary for either of them. Both Unagi and Kohgo look to be in peak condition despite the two-month-long tournament, and their match was quick, clean, and passionate. Complete with a handshake at the end. I think Kohgo’s finally upgraded her assessment standing with Unagi. 

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Unagi Sayaka (2-10-0) – With as wildly popular as Unagi is, I was very surprised to see her placed this low in the overall tournament standings. What makes up for it is that she’s also been allowed to work outside of STARDOM with Ganbare Pro-Wrestling and shortly after the completion of the tournament Just Tap Out and DIANA. My gut tells me that should she and Shirakawa team up as Pink Kabuki for Goddesses Tag League or challenge TamPoi the belts, that could be her next big step before a singles championship. 
  • Momo Kohgo (2-10-0) – Although Kohgo was a last-minute alternate for Thekla, she proved herself very competent and hard-working throughout the tournament. Additionally, between all the touring, she qualified as one of the finalists for the Mayu Iwatani Biopic film which will be released next year. For her first year in STARDOM and her first Grand Prix, she did better than I think many had expected.   

5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Saki Kashima [12] defeated AZM [14] (0:44) – Kishikaisei

I do love how Saki Kashima is one of the most unsuspecting wrestlers in STARDOM. Despite being one of the most veteran members of OedoTai, she’s got a cool air about her, and tends to let the bigger personalities do more of the heavy lifting. While she’s had a rather solid Grand Prix, she also has one of the most consistently protected finishing moves: The Kishikaisei (My Emblem). On a day where the crown of Queen of The Spoilers has a tight race, Kashima may have quickly cemented her place at the top in her swift and C-L-E-A-N defeat of AZM. AZM tried to best Kashima at her own game with her own move and it backfired rather quickly.

You want to talk about a heel move? Kashima just beat the High Speed Champion at her own game, denying her advancement into the finals, in brand new gear that she just debuted on her twentieth birthday… in forty-four seconds. Never underestimate the power of “My Emblem.” 

Also, Happy Birthday, AZM. Welcome to the adult world. It’s a vicious, cutthroat place. Hope Queen’s Quest bought you cake. 

5★GP22 Report Card

  • AZM (7-5-0) – Of AZM’s losses, I would definitely need Kashima to jump to the front of the line for a High Speed Championship match. Personally, I would also like to see AZM graduate from the High Speed division for a little while because I feel after nine years as a professional, she is more than ready to shoulder one of the company’s top singles championships. With Utami already slated for Historic X-Over in a mixed tag with Hiroshi Tanahashi, I could easily see the Queen’s Quest berth for the IWGP Women’s Tournament going to AZM. She more than deserves it.
  • Saki Kashima (6-6-0) – There is a comfort with Kashima as one of the Artists of Stardom Champions, but I would like to see her do more. The challenge is that with Natsuko Tora still out (at the time of writing), and SLK/Watanabe like to continue as Black Desire, Rina and Ruaka are the only other potential partners for Goddess Tag League. I would like to see her get a singles push, and the High Speed Champion with the Kishikaisei could be a great vaulting point for her. We’ll have to see what the future holds for her.

5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Koguma [14] defeated Utami Hayashishita  [14] (6:01) – Koguma Special Yoshitanikku

Continuing STARDOM Fashion Week, we have New Threads Koguma!!! I love the updated look to her costume, yet still keeping her orange and blue color palette. At the start, Hayashishita refused to fall prey into Koguma’s bear dance trap, but Utami surpassed cute bear pose to a straight up grizzly Utami Bear victory pose, firmly planting a single foot on Koguma’s chest to underscore her point.

Their match was shorter than expected, but they worked fast and fluidly throughout the match. I do love Koguma’s ring acumen, especially reversing moves on the apron and her planchas to the outside. I genuinely thought Utami was going to clinch it when she raised Koguma up in the Highjack Bomb position, but somehow Koguma pulled a Koala Challenge and flipped Utami into somewhere between a sit-out powerbomb and a Canadian Destroyer…and quickly pinning Utami in the process. No one was in more disbelief than Utami, but as both competitors struggled to regain their bearings… a shadowy figure loomed in the background. 

Up on the ramp, a Noh-masked Grim Reaper appeared! Of course, when one sees a wrestler with a Noh mask, imaginations immediately flood to WWE’s Asuka, which I am sure confused many folks just like it did on commentary! The Reaper gets down on one knee and extends a hand to Utami, which is a very start departure from the usual see target, lock on and attack. Utami makes quick work unmasking the reaper to reveal… Natsuko Tora! 

During Tora’s attempt against Utami for the World of Stardom Championship prior to the Five Star Grand Prix last year, she blew out her knee and has been on the shelf ever since. While she was transparent about the surgery, the leader of OedoTai has been rather coy about her return time table, despite having returned to PR engagements and ringside duties earlier this year. Tora wasted no time giving a weakened Utami a formal greeting with a Death Valley Driver before picking up the microphone.

“It’s been a long time since you’ve seen me in the ring with you, Utami… with seven wins… and five loses… how the mighty former Red Belt Champ’s fallen!! I’ve been watching you… this entire time with your fancy entrance music, acting like you own this place… and all the other nonsense you’ve been carrying on with. You lied to me. You said you’d protect the red belt until I came back… and you couldn’t even do that. I really hate people who can’t keep their promises. I wrecked my knee in that match with you and I’ve been on the shelf ever since, but you know what… I think it might be about time that I get back to work. I mean Tag League would be a good place, but I have unfinished business with you. Could it be… that when you stopped me, you also slam the brakes on your momentum as well? Hey [looking at Rossy Ogawa and the admin table], give me a match with Utami. [to Utami]I’ll make you a laughing stock by the end of it.” – Natsuko Tora, in-ring promo

Demanding that her return to action match be against Utami Hayashishita is fantastic and the perfect way to close the chapter of 2021 that was left open ended. I do hope that it doesn’t lead to another Momo Watanabe situation, where OedoTai tries to poach or turn another member against QQ, especially now that Utami is the leader. The most chilling part of Natsuko’s promo was that she intentionally chose to be less violent and aggressive, giving off a more calculated and icy presentation, which makes her appear far more terrifying. There may be a reckoning for Utami.  

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Utami Hayashishita (7-5-0) – She finishes her Five Star tied with AZM at 15 with matching 7-5-0 records. Again, since she’s already slated for the Mixed Tag Match at Historic X-Over, it’s likely that the QQ slot will go to AZM, especially if Utami’s next big project is going to be her potential rivalry with Natsuko Tora. With a recent drop of AphroditE tag merch with Saya Kamitani, they’re likely going into the Goddesses Tag League together as well.
  • Koguma (7-5-0) – Koguma is a sneaky and stealthy bear. While she may have had an above average tournament, she joins the ranks of tournament spoilers, like keeping Utami from advancing. She has wins over Saki Kashima, AZM and Syuri, so she could also have multiple potential championship attempts on her platter.

5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Tam Nakano [16] vs. SAKI [10] (7:36) – Violet Screwdriver

While Cosmic Angels and COLOR’S are in a friendly alliance, this battle of leader versus leader definitely has pride on the line. During her Goddesses defense, Tam apparently tweaked her elbow (as mentioned by Shirakawa on commentary). SAKI has been working all over Japan in multiple promotions and her right shoulder is also heavily taped. 

Tam brutalizes SAKI with a barrage of consecutive Violet Shootings, desperately trying to break SAKI down enough to keep her from stopping Tam advancing. Tam drills SAKI into the mat with a Violet Screwdriver. SAKI started out really, really strong and she had a great tournament, but I was surprised how condensed this match was. They could have easily cleared ten minutes, if not given SAKI more time to get more offense in.  

However, the short nature of the match makes me wonder if Tam’s going to be dancing with Giulia in the Finals, rekindling their amazing Hair vs. Hair match from STARDOM All-Star Cinderella (March 3, 2021). That’s the only reason I can figure why this match was so short and Tam came out looking exceptionally dominant when she and SAKI are evenly matched.

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Tam Nakano (8-4-0) – With her handful of losses in the tournament, Tam will likely be busy defending her Goddesses of Stardom Championship with Natsupoi until year’s end. However, she’s pretty much due to make it to the finals of a tournament if not win one all together, especially after long reign with the Wonder of Stardom Championship last year. 
  • SAKI (COLOR’S) (5-6-0) – Text SAKI holds several titles outside of STARDOM, including the COLOR’S Championship as well as Daily Sports Tag Team Champion (PURE-J) and WAVE Tag Champion. As a three-title champion, I am wondering if STARDOM and the associated promotions would allow for some crossover championship defenses! Honestly, I would love more than anything for it to be on GPU COLOR’S Yes, My Way series, so SAKI’s hard work alongside the other members of COLOR’S could have a little reciprocation. 

5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Maika [15] vs. Himeka [15] (9:57) – Double Knockout

You had better buckle your safety belts because The MaiHime Showdown might be one of the best matches of the entire tournament. You hit your friends and tag partners the hardest, and both Maika and Himeka threw everything they had at one another, pushing each other to the physical limit. I don’t even know where to start, but from the start it was very much anything you do I will repay you in double or triple. The former Goddesses of Stardom Tag Team Champions know each other so well, almost too well, that both of them whipped themselves into a fast-paced, dizzying speed that I’m not used to seeing either of them wrestle. 

Between damaging floor spots outside the ring to ballsy moves on the turnbuckles, with the wins and losses tied, only a win over the other could keep either of them alive. From Maika’s Avalanche Brain Busters to Himeka’s brazen Sunset Flip, Running Power Bomb, both fought hard to bring the best match out of their partner. While I am not surprised they end in a draw, I was thinking they were going to go the full fifteen minutes, not end with a double KO. I just hope this gives them time to rest and regroup for Goddesses Tag League because MaiHime could definitely be one of the top contenders in the tournament. 

Not me crying over them shaking hands, hugging and then walking up the entrance ramp together, batter, bruised and smiling. 

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Maika (7-4-1) – With wins over Syuri and AZM, things could get very interesting for Maika in the coming months. I could definitely see a World of Stardom Championship challenge on the horizon, especially with the abundance of big matches between now and Dream Queendom in December.
  • Himeka (7-4-1) – Unlike Maika, the 2020 Five Star Finalist only has one potential Championship contest in the bag with a win over Saki Kashima. However, without Natsupoi, she may need to scrounge up a third member of DDM if she can convince Maika to give the Artists belt another whirl.

5★STAR GP 2022 Red Stars (1/15): Risa Sera [15] defeated Syuri [14] (12:11) – Cradle Pin

While Risa Sera and Syuri left everything they had had on the mat in their previous crossing of paths over the World of Stardom Championship in May, at the time there was the glimmer of hope that they would meet again. It was a bold choice to close out the Red Stars block by revisiting their match, but one that could guarantee a solid precursor to the tournament finals. Defending Five Star Grand Prix Winner, Syuri, closed the first chapter on her journey to the Red Belt by winning last year’s GP and defeating Utami at Dream Queendom. However, the World of Stardom Champion has the potential to go back-to-back to the finals and potentially win consecutively!

Their match was gritty, aggressive, and largely grappling-based. It’s very easy to forget that Sera is a death match wrestler by preference when her technical wrestling is so sound. She and Syuri traded evenly throughout the match and she did get a little bit of payback in locking in that sleeper hold on Syuri – though the referee was rather generous with his count. At the center of this match was Syuri pushing Sera hard with a very submission-centric approach, including a hellacious Grounded Suzaku, which I thought was going to cause Risa to lose an arm. Sera engaged all of it spectacularly, so I can’t even be mad at Sera edging out Syuri at the end to sneak the win. 

What l love about Risa Sera beating Syuri clean is that they’re now tied one-to-one. In their previous meeting, her teammate threw in the towel for her, forcing a referee stoppage. Also, I do like that the story with Giulia that brought Prominence to STARDOM in January, is no longer carrying over into matches that don’t circulate around Giulia. Sera is able to parse the difference between an old foe and a respected rival. The mutual respect between them shows growth for both, and I am happy with it. If you love precise, technical wrestling blending some unmitigated violence, this match should definitely be your jam. 

Sera winning keeps both of them from advancing due to point tallies.

5★GP22 Report Card

  • Syuri (7-5-0) – Syuri may be booked solid on her Road to Dream Queendom if she plans on reconciling all five of her tournament losses as World of Stardom Champion. I would definitely love to see her get to walk into the final show of the year as Champion as either finalist could be a crash course of destiny for her.
  • Risa Sera (PROMINENCE) (7-4-1) – I had my reservations about Prominence when they showed up, but that was largely due to my lack of knowledge of their activities prior to showing up in January. Risa– in particular – has been a stand-out star and I would love to see her in another tournament in the future.

With that, all 2022 Five Star Grand Prix Red Stars matches have concluded.

Alone at sixteen points in the Red Stars Block, Tam Nakano advances to the finals to face one of her forever rivals in Giulia.

Prior to the start of the main event, the hosts of Kirameku Marugoto STARDOM go backstage to conduct pre-match interviews. RG starts with Giulia, asking if the damage she sustained against Suzu will hinder her performance.

“You think a little wear and tear is going to slow me down? I’ll be fine. Don’t you worry! …Tam, I’ve been waiting for you…” – Giulia

They then jumped to HG interviewing Tam, starting with her thoughts on her match with SAKI. 

“SAKI is powerful and passionate and she was absolutely incredible. That match was something special to me… when I think about everything we’ve endured the last few months, I know I am not alone in the aches and pains. Giulia, meeting you in the finals feels like destiny. On the biggest stage to close the summer, I’ll show everyone the most beautiful wrestling in the galaxy.” – Tam

5★STAR GP 2022 FINALS (NO TIME LIMIT): GIULIA [16; Blue Stars] defeated TAM NAKANO [16; Red Stars] (17:28) – Northern Lights Bomb/Pin 

Starting with Giulia, we get a parting screen, flames, a beautifully slow descent and a much cooler and collected Giulia compared to who we saw earlier in the evening. Tam would have the same under the Red Stars banner, but looking far more muted. With all of DDM and Cosmic Angels at ringside, this long overdue reunion is one that I am glad took this long. 

Giulia intentionally going after Tam’s taped elbow with the hammerlock toe hold combination is as smart as it is wicked. Knowing that Nakano uses a lot of lifts in her offense, taking that out could be problematic for the Goddesses of Stardom Champion. So much happened in this match that it’s hard to focus on any one particular thing other than the candle we thought had gone out with Giulia’s hair in March 2021, billowed into a raging fire. They fought all around the outside of the ring, and don’t even get me started on Tam’s entrance ramp Violet Shooting and the thunderous hammerlock DDT from Giulia in return, followed by them both scrambling to get back into the ring by eighteen!

Tam using the Glorious Driver and Giulia repaying the favor by using the Violet Screwdriver was *chefs kiss* delicious and please give me more. The follow-up with another Glorious Driver and finishing with a Northern Lights Bomb, opens up a new chapter for both Giulia and Tam. Giulia is now the 2022 Five Star Grand Prix Winner and is officially on a collision course with Syuri, provided they both keep their ends of the bargain up and hang onto their respective tickets to the biggest dance of the year. 

This is probably my favorite Giulia/Tam match, setting it on equal footing with their hair-versus-hair match in 2021. Watching this match made me want to revisit their previous singles matches, both at All-Star Cinderella and their feuding over the White Belt. It should definitely be in the conversation for top matches of 2022.

5★GP22 Report Card

  • RED STARS: TAM NAKANO (Finalist): This reignites Tam chasing Giulia, but she’ll have some more time with the Goddesses Belts and Natsupoi, which I prefer. I don’t like it when there are two-belt champions or people doing too much and not leaving much else for others, so this gives Tam something to bide her time with while Giulia chases Syuri for the World of Stardom Championship. 
  • BLUE STARS: GIULIA (Winner): On the road to STARDOM Dream Queendom, she’ll team up with Zack Sabre, Jr. against the pairing of Syuri and Tom Lawlor at Historic X-Over. Outside of that and Goddess Tag League, I could see them being kept far apart. Giulia needed something in 2022, especially since she had to drop out last year due to injury. With her short, but highly decorated history in STARDOM, winning the Five Star Grand Prix takes her closer to become a Grand Slam Champion. 

The 2022 Five Star Grand Prix Awards Ceremony

  • Technical Skill Award – MIRAI 
  • Fighting Spirit Award – AZM
  • Outstanding Performance Award – Saki Kashima
  • Red Stars Best Bout – Maika vs. Himeka (10/1; Musashino Sports Forest; Double Knockout)
  • Blue Stars Best Bout – Saya Kamitani vs. Suzu Suzuki (9/11; Yokohama Budoukan; Suzuki defeated Kamitani)
  • 2021 5*GP Finalist – Tam Nakano, Red Stars
  • 2021 5*GP Winner – Giulia, Blue Stars

2022 Victory Address: Giulia

“Everyone, thank you all so much for your support today during this very long, roughly 4 hours event, and joining us until the very end. Thank you very much. Is everyone… well… still hanging in there? Are your bottoms, backs, necks, etc. tired at all? Is everyone feeling alright? As a company, we’ve been going hard for about two months. We are all a little worse for wear at the moment, but thanks to all of you, we were able to fight through it. Myself included. I simply cannot thank you enough.

Now that I have conquered this super tough 5★GP, please, indulge me for a moment if you will. On December 29, our final event of the year will be held at Ryogoku Sumo Hall, and I want to compete in the main event. Naturally, with the [World of Stardom Championship] on the line. I would like to challenge the champion holding the red belt at that time, whomever that may be. This month marks the fifth anniversary since I debuted in wrestling, and it has been exactly three full years since I came to STARDOM, but I am only just getting started.

From now on, Giulia will not only stand at the top of STARDOM, but at the top of the women’s wrestling world, showing the world the best view possible! Join me if you wish! All of us at STARDOM will continue to work hard to pack every house, until each venue is overflowing, so please continue giving us your enthusiastic support! For all of you rabid Giulia fans who simply cannot get enough of me, thank you so much for your support today.

Arrivederci! See you soon!” – Giulia, 2022 Five Star Grand Prix Winner

Ringing in 2023 with STARDOM

2023 New Year’s Day Special – STARDOM will team up with Tokyo M/X to bring another special full of programming on New Year’s Day. While the details will be released at a later date. There will be some fav voting included in the programming. This year, the collaboration aired for free on STARDOM’s YouTube channel with various programs, interview shows, and Bushiroad-branded PR campaigns. It’s my hope that it will be available worldwide again at no additional cost. 

 

New Year’s Big Match Announcement (1/3/2023) Yokohama Budokan

In recent years, STARDOM closed the year either at Year-End Climax or at Dream Queendom, and their opening shows of the year were at smaller venues. It looks like there will be a show the night before Wrestle Kingdom 17. Additional details to be released on the company’s homepage and social media channels soon. In previous years, the first shows of the year were titled “NEW YEARS STARS.”

Stardom Big Match 2022 Calendar – Results included in Dream Slam Weekly unless otherwise indicated

  • New Blood 5 (10/19) – Shinjuku Sumitomo Hall 
  • Hiroshima Goddess Festival (11/3) – Hiroshima Sun Plaza
  • STARDOM Gold Rush 2022 (11/19) – Osaka Edion Arena
  • STARDOM x NJPW (11/20) – Ariake Arena – Full Event Report!
  • STARDOM in Showcase 3 (11/26) Todoroki Arena, Kawasaki City
  • STARDOM Dream Queendom 2022 (12/29) Ryogoku Sumo Hall Full Event Report!

My First STARDOM-aversary

Last week, I celebrated my one year anniversary with POST, and with today’s Finals, I celebrated one year of STARDOM coverage. I never thought covering last year’s finals would bring me to where I am. It means the world that I am able to cover wrestling that truly resonates with me, especially as a woman in the field of wrestling coverage and content creation. I wanted to thank the POST Family for affording me a seat at the table, where I can proudly wave my wrestling fan girl flag and help bring Japanese wrestling, especially Japanese women’s wrestling, to the wider global audience. 

My Favorite Matches of the Night – Gold Stars for Everyone!

  • Blue Stars: Mayu Iwatani/Starlight Kid; Giulia/Suzu Suzuki 
  • Red Stars: Maika/Himeka; Syuri/Risa Sera

While 2022 is winding down, I am already looking forward to a brilliantly sparkling 2023, and I hope you’ll join me. Thank you again. Arrrrrrrivederci! Mata, na!

About Karen Peterson 64 Articles
Occasionally drops by wrestling podcasts, but remains rather elusive. Joined the Japanese wrestling fan scene in summer 2017, and continues to work on bridging the language gap between fans. Outside of wrestling, she’s a dog mom, perpetual Japanese learner, and when conditions permit, world traveler. Never skips dessert.