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I’ll come right out and say it – I am brand new to STARDOM. STARDOM has been around since 2010 with their streaming service, STARDOM World, having been launched in early 2016. It’s always been something that has been on my radar but not something that I’ve devoted time to actually dive into. That’s all about to change with the 5 Star Grand Prix.
This month I signed up for STARDOM World which offers a backlog of events going back to 2011 as well as others series and one-off matches. It comes in at 750 yen, so around $6.50 US as of this writing. Their shows are uploaded match-by-match and, as I understand it, begin showing up on the site the day after the event. There isn’t any live streaming of events like you’ll get with NJPW World, unfortunately. As an added bonus, though, STARDOM subtitles their uploads so if there are any promos or important details pre- or post-match you’re able to get a grasp on what’s going on without a ton of extra effort to track down translations. The reason I waited to sign up until August 1 is that the STARDOM 5 Star Grand Prix will be kicking off August 18.
The 5*GP runs similarly to NJPW’s G1 – it features two blocks of eight wrestlers who will compete in a round robin tournament. The winners of each block will then face each other with the winner of that match becoming the winner of the Grand Prix and earning a shot at the World of STARDOM Championship. I’m going to do my best to profile and feature the participants in the 5*GP below but, as I said, I’m a STARDOM newcomer and will be learning as I go. It’s a bit hard to come by details on everybody so some information below may be sparse, but we’re all learning here together.
The tournament is separated into two blocks – Blue Stars Block and Red Stars Block.
Blue Stars Block
Iwatani has been wrestling since 2011 and is the only wrestler still active in STARDOM who was there when the promotion started. She is the leader of the STARS faction which, as I understand it, is a bit of a makeshift group of babyfaces fighting for all that is good and pure in the world. Mayu defeated Io Shirai in 2017 to become the first woman to hold the World of STARDOM and Wonder of STARDOM Championships simultaneously. She lost the Wonder of STARDOM Title to Yoko Bito and the World of STARDOM Title to Toni Storm one day apart from each other. In the match with Storm, Iwatani dislocated her elbow which led to the referee stopping the match and awarding the title to Storm. She has been working to regain the title since coming back from injury and a win in the 5*GP would put her in contention against the current World of STARDOM Champion Kagetsu. She also does this thing where she twirls in the ring when fans throw their streamers turning her into a blue and white mummy requiring the help of her ringside seconds and the referee to free her. It’s the best.
Another member of STARS, Kashima is one half of the Goddess of STARDOM Tag Team Champions with Mayu Iwatani after having defeated Kagetsu and Hana Kimura of Oedo Tai on June 3, 2018. She returned to STARDOM after a 5-year absence in February 0f 2018. She was a member of the first Artist of STARDOM Champions (STARDOM’s six-woman tag team title) along with Act Yasukawa and Natsuki Taiyo defeating Kellie Skater, Portia Perez, and Tomoka Nakagawa in the finals of a four-team tournament. Coming off of her five-year retirement, Kashima is going to be continuing to stake her claim in STARDOM with the opportunity to set herself up for a World of STARDOM title shot in addition to holding the Goddess of STARDOM Tag Team Titles.
A member of Queen’s Quest, Momo Watanabe is the current is the current Wonder of STARDOM Champion as of May 23, 2018, after defeating Io Shirai – the former leader of the group who has recently signed with WWE/NXT. She just turned 18 but has already carved out a spot for herself by winning the Cinderella Tournament 2018 and the Artist of STARDOM Titles alongside HZK and Io in addition to her current Wonder of STARDOM reign. At only 18, there’s seemingly no limit on how far she can go.
Previously a member of Queen’s Quest but not aligned with heel group Oedo Tai, HZK has turned a corner attitude-wise to better fit with her new stablemates. She’s a former 4-time Artist of STARDOM Champion though she is yet to have held a title since switching factions. With an updated in-ring style, though, that may not be far off. I mean, just look at how happy she is to facewash her opponents!
渡辺桃＆小波 vs 葉月＆夏すみれ vs ステファニー・バッケル＆ダスト
— スターダム/STARDOM (@wwr_stardom) August 6, 2018
Natsu rounds out Oedo Tai as the resident coward of the group who is big on personality. She has yet to hold a title in STARDOM but winning the 5*GP would put her on track for a World of STARDOM title shot against stablemate Kagetsu.
Klein has been wrestling since 2007 with, perhaps, Ring of Honor being the biggest stage of her career so far. She has competed in ROH since 2015 and made it to the finals of the first-ever Women of Honor Championship tournament which concluded in April 2018. Klein lost to Sumie Sakai at Supercard of Honor XII. She has held titles in Covey Promotions, EMERGE, Mega Championship Wrestling, and Vicious Outcast Wrestling. She returns to STARDOM for her second tour after having competed in the Goddess of STARDOM Tag League 2017 with Bea Priestley.
Nicole Savoy may be familiar to more casual fans for her presence in the 2017 Mae Young Classic where she made it to the second round before being eliminated by Candice LeRae. She is a former Heart of SHIMMER Champion and is the current SHIMMER Champion after defeating Mercedes Martinez on November 12, 2017. This is Savoy’s second STARDOM tour and will look to use her MMA-style and an array of suplexes to power her way through the tournament.
Hayter became the Revolution Pro Wrestling British Women’s Champion by upending Jinny on June 3, 2018, and the Big League Wrestling Women’s Champion on November 26, 2017. She’s a regular in the UK’s Pro-Wrestling EVE. This will be Hayter’s Japanese wrestling debut as she looks to make her mark in the 5*GP.
Red Stars Block
Kagetsu is the current World of STARDOM Champion and the leader of Oedo Tai. In addition to holding the red belt, she’s also a former Goddess of STARDOM and Artist of STARDOM Champion. She mixes power, striking, and high-flying in her matches with a couple of aces in her back pocket – Oedo Tai is never far behind to lend a hand, and if the situation calls for it she’ll blind her opponent with a blue mist.
The leader of the Jungle Assault Nation, Kyona is a former Goddess of STARDOM Champion and one-third of the current Artist of STARDOM Champions with stablemates Kaori Yoneyama and Natsuko Tora. Jungle Assault Nation was born out of the faction wars within STARDOM – they were initially a part of Mayu Iwatani’s STARS as Team Jungle but felt slighted and disrespected within the group causing them to splinter into a fully-formed fourth group to compete with Oedo Tai, Queen’s Quest, and STARS.
Tam was a member of Oedo Tai until a 5-on-5 elimination match in which the final person eliminated would have to leave their group. She entered last for Oedo Tai and was defeated by Momo Watanabe to seal her fate. Since parting ways with Oedo Tai she has become tag team partners with STARS leader Mayu Iwatani. Tam came up with just a single win in last year’s tournament and will undoubtedly be looking to improve on that record this year.
Konami, trained by Kana/Asuka, officially joined the STARDOM roster full-time in May of this year. She comes to the 5*GP as a former Artist of STARDOM Champion alongside Hiromi Mimura and Kairi Hojo (Sane). Konami brings a strong striking and submission presence to the tournament as she looks to plant the Queen’s Quest flag at the top of the mountain when all is said and done.
Natsuko comes to the tournament with two years of pro experience and as a member of the Jungle Assault Nation. She is currently one-third of the Artist of STARDOM Champions with Jungle Kyona and Kaori Yoneyama. She’ll meet her JAN ally Jungle Kyona at some point in this block while JAN has no presence in the Blue Stars Block whatsoever.
Daughter of legendary manager Paul Ellering, Rachael has stamped a place of her own on the US indie scene from coast to coast. She competed in last year’s inaugural Mae Young Classic and is back for that tournament’s second installment this year while also competing in her first-ever 5*GP. This isn’t her first tour with STARDOM so she’ll be familiar with some of the talent, though it will be a test to see if she can withstand the grueling round-robin schedule to become the second foreigner to win the tournament.
Some fans may know Kimber Lee as Abbey Laith from the first Mae Young Classic and a smattering of appearances in NXT. She is the first, and as of this writing the only, woman to hold the Chikara Grand Championship having defeated Hallowicked to kick off a nearly 200-day reign. Kimber Lee is back on the indies after her brief stint with NXT and looking to make her mark in STARDOM. She was always impressive and fun to watch in Chikara but never seemed to be allowed to get into gear in NXT, so here’s hoping she can stretch her legs and show us the Kimber Lee of old in the 5*GP.
Utami is a fresh face in the 5*GP with her debut match having happened just one day ago – August 12, 2018! In her debut, Utami wrestled block-mate Jungle Kyona to a 15-minute time limit draw. Her professional wrestling test video can be seen in full on STARDOM World with a snippet here on Reddit and her in-ring debut against Kyona has been made speedily available as well on STARDOM World. It will be interesting to see what she can bring to the table as a complete newcomer to not only STARDOM but to the sport as a whole.
So there you have it – the sixteen women who will take part in the 2018 STARDOM 5 Star Grand Prix. The tournament spans 11 shows from August 18 to September 30. Again, unlike NJPW World you won’t be able to live stream the events but you will see the matches uploaded in the days following each event so you can follow along. I’m super excited for my first real dive into STARDOM. I’ve been doing some digging through the STARDOM World archives over the past couple of weeks and I already know that A) I’m going to like what I see and B) I’m a dope for not signing up earlier. As soon as SENDAI Girls has a bit more content up on their service I’ll be signing up there as well.
Who’s your pick to take each block and the tournament as a whole? Let me know in the comments below!