Ladies and Gentlemen, the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals are officially in the books with your winner this year Syuri. She joins the likes of Mayu Iwatani, Io Shirai, Kairi Hojo, Toni Storm, Utami Hayashishita and Hana Kimura as winners of this annual tournament. While I am not surprised by Syuri winning it this year, I am slightly disappointed. The way the blocks shaped up down the stretch, we could have had a younger main event between two of the future stars of the company. I’m not gonna complain though, Syuri more than deserves it after the year she has had. So today I am going to take a look at each participant, name their best match and at the end of it all I’ll give out my own awards for the tournament. Let’s get into it and we will start with the Blue Block as the winner, Syuri, was in the Blue Block.
5★STAR Grand Prix Finals
Syuri (Donna del Mondo) – 12 Points, 5-2-2
We’ll kick it off with the official winner of this year’s GP, Syuri. Syuri had a tough road to the finals this year, I’m not gonna say that she didn’t. She defeated Tam Nakano, Saya Kamitani, Maika, Ruaka and Unagi Sayaka with losses to Azumi (AZM) and Konami and two draws against Takumi Iroha and Utami Hayashishita within her block. At the end of the day, however, her 12 points (and defeating Momo Watanabe), is what won her the tournament and earned her a future shot at the World of Stardom Championship, which she will take on December 29th.
Syuri came into the tournament as the betting favourite of the Blue Block and she is the one who stands tall after 17 nights of gruelling competition.
Syuri had a few really good matches this year but to me, her match of the tournament was against Takumi Iroha on the final night of action. It went to a 20-minute draw which I would have loved to seen extended to get a true winner between the two. I can hope for more in the future though.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Takumi Iroha
September 25th 2021 (20 Minute Time Limit Draw)
5★STAR Grand Prix Finals
Saya Kamitani (Queen’s Quest) – 11 Points, 5-3-1
Saya Kamitani was so close to winning her second tournament this year and it just wasn’t meant to be. She drew against Takumi Iroha, lost to Syuri, Utami Hayashishita and Unagi Sayaka and defeated Tam Nakano, Maika, Konami, AZM and Ruaka. Coming into the final match, all she had to do was find a way to defeat Unagi Sayaka, however she couldn’t do it. That loss sealed her fate and ensured that she didn’t win the Grand Prix this year. After watching Saya throughout the tournament, I cannot help but feel that she is one of the brightest young stars that the promotion has and can easily be viewed as part of the future of Stardom. The Golden Phoenix represented Queen’s Quest to the best of her ability and has nothing to be ashamed of. For me, personally, her best match of the tournament was her loss to Unagi Sayaka. Yes, she lost the match, but this was easily her most fun and entertaining match of the entire Grand Prix and it embodied everything that both women are. It was a super fun match that everyone needs to check out.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Unagi Sayaka
September 25th (defeat, 11:53)
5★STAR Grand Prix Finals
Takumi Iroha (Marvelous Promotion) – 11 Points, 4-2-3
Takumi Iroha easily could have won this year’s tournament. She was brought in as a mystery participant initially and went on to defeat Unagi Sayaka, Tam Nakano, Maika and Ruaka, lost to Azumi and Konami and went to a draw against Utami Hayashishita, Syuri and Saya Kamitani. Every match that Takumi was in this year was one that you needed to watch as she was able to make every opponent look top tier, even the winless Ruaka. Takumi is one of those talents who can elevate everyone she is in the ring against and she proved it during the Grand Prix this year.
I would love it if she moved to Stardom full time, but I have to dream for now as she is still part of the Marvelous promotion. For me, while every single match of hers was a must-see, her match against Saya Kamitani was just so much fun.
Out of them all, that is the one match I would recommend you all watch. I could not believe that match went to a double count-out draw but I want to see more from them and I want it now.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Saya Kamitani
September 11th 2021 (double count-out draw)
5★STAR Grand Prix Finals
Konami (Oedo Tai) – 10 points, 5-4
I had high hopes this year for the Submission Sniper, and she didn’t fail to meet most of them. While not my pick for a finalist this year, she outperformed what people thought she would achieve. She defeated Utami Hayashishita, Syuri, Ruaka, Unagi Sayaka and Takumi Iroha while losing to Tam Nakano, Azumi, Maika and Saya Kamitani. Frankly, in my mind, she has more than earned herself a future shot at the World of Stardom title by defeating the current Champion and the eventual winner of the 5 Star Grand Prix in Syuri.
For me, her best match in the tournament was against Takumi Iroha. Takumi dominated Konami for most of that match but Konami found a way to win, which is what all the greats do. She and Takumi have a lot of chemistry in the ring and it showed in their match.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Takumi Iroha
September 4th 2021 (victor, 10:41)
5★STAR Grand Prix Finals
Utami Hayashishita (Queen’s Quest) – 10 Points, 4-3-2
The Red Queen failed in her quest to be the first two time, and back-to-back, winner of the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals this year but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Utami had some pretty costly losses to Konami, Maika and Tam Nakano, two draws against Takumi Iroha and Syuri and her four wins came against Azumi, Saya Kamitani, Unagi Sayaka and Ruaka. It was Tam Nakano who sealed Utami’s fate and finished her bid to win a second time. I know her losses were costly this year, but I want to believe that it was her two draws that ultimately ended her chances at victory. For me, her match of the tournament was actually against Azumi (AZM) on September 11th. Yes, she won the match, but her younger Kohai in Queen’s Quest gave her everything she could handle and was moments away from giving Utami a costly loss. I could have chosen one of her two draws as they were phenomenal as well, but I just loved her match with AZM most.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Azumi (AZM)
September 11th 2021 (victor, 8:50)
Tam Nakano (Cosmic Angels) – 10 Points, 5-4
Poor Tam Nakano. She really wanted to win the tournament this year but it just wasn’t meant to be. She put forth an incredible effort with victories over Utami Hayashishita, Ruaka, Azumi, Maika and Konami and suffered defeat at the hands of Syuri, Takumi Iroha, Unagi Sayaka and Saya Kamitani. Tam has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. She put forth one of the best efforts this year in the tournament and even played spoiler for Utami Hayashishita’s bid to be a repeat winner. The Stardom Dream may be coming near the end of her career, so I understand why she wanted to win so bad. Tam has said she has like five years left at most on her career, so I hope she wins the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals before her time comes. As for Tam’s best match of the tournament, I honestly think that it was her victory over Utami Hayashishita on 9/25. That win ensured that Utami was eliminated from the finals and made it feel like the Wonder of Stardom Champion had the edge over the World of Stardom Champ.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Utami Hayashishita, 9/25 (victor, 13:55)
Maika (Donna del Mondo) – 9 Points, 4-4-1
As the tournament went along, I started to believe that it was going to come down to Maika or Syuri as to who the victor was going to be from the Blue Block. Early on, Maika was a force in the block. She earned victory over Utami Hayashishita, Azumi, Ruaka and Konami, lost to Syuri, Tam Nakano, Saya Kamitani and Takumi Iroha with her lone draw coming against Unagi Sayaka. Her loss against Syuri was the foreshadowing of her downfall and it came to pass. She ended with a good record, but she was eliminated from contention about mid-way through the tournament. Her best match this year was against Utami Hayashishita. That was a huge upset over a tournament favorite and should have been her launching pad to run roughshod over the block. Instead, we know what happened. Maika has a lot of upside to her, she just needs to catch a break.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Utami Hayashishita, 7/31 (victor, 19:26)
Unagi Sayaka (Cosmic Angels) – 9 Points, 4-4-1
Unagi really wasn’t on anyone’s radar to win the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals this year, but she relished in playing the spoiler. She defeated Tam Nakano. Saya Kamitani, Azumi and Ruaka with her losses coming against Utami Hayashishita, Syuri, Konami and Takumi Iroha. Her lone draw came against Maika. I said she relished being the spoiler because she killed any chance of Saya Kamitani winning this year and she defeated unit-mate Tam Nakano. Both of those were upsets if I ever saw them. Even in the matches that she lost, she nearly beat each woman. Unagi could be viewed as having had a major impact on who won the Blue Block this year. So for me, her best match this year was her 20 minute time-limit draw against Maika. She had a few really good matches, but this one was just on another level. You could even argue that her best match was the one I mentioned earlier against Saya Kamitani. However, I personally believe her best was against Maika and I loved how their styles contrast each other during that match. Check it out if you get the chance to.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Maika, 8-28 (20 Minute Time-limit Draw)
Azumi aka AZM (Queen’s Quest) – 8 Points, 4-5
Azumi got off to a really bad start in this year’s tournament. She lost to Unagi Sayaka, defeated Syuri, then went on to lose against Maika, Utami Hayashishita, Tam Nakano and Saya Kamitani before she got back into the win column against Takumi Iroha, Konami and Ruaka. She had a less than ideal performance this year, results-wise, and that’s not necessarily on her. She had the toughest block to get through and at least she earned herself eight points in total. It’s not like she was totally blown out this year. I will admit that I had picked Azumi to go the distance this year, I just felt like it was her time, but I was obviously wrong in going against the favorite. Azumi’s best match, in my opinion, was her match on 8/7 against Syuri. It was her longest match, it was arguably her toughest match, and she defeated the eventual winner of the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals. If that doesn’t make it her best match then I don’t know what will. I look forward to AZM doing better in the next Grand Prix.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Syuri, 8/7 (victor, 13:38)
Ruaka (Oedo Tai) – 0 Points, 0-9
There isn’t a performer in either block who had a more disappointing performance this year in the Grand Prix than Oedo Tai’s Ruaka. She didn’t win a single match this year, netting herself ZERO points, and what’s worse is that none of her matches even made it to the nine minute mark. Ruaka is still super young, she has a long time to get better in the ring, but she is basically the Stardom equivalent to WWE’s Nia Jax. The only difference is that she is a lot safer in the ring than Jax is. I had to really think hard for her best match during the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals and honestly, I think it has to be her match against Takumi Iroha from 9/12. Takumi is one of only two who got her even close to the nine-minute mark and she was the only one who got an actually decent match out of Ruaka this year.
I really hope she improves more before next years Grand Prix. This year was just embarrassing for her.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Takumi Iroha, 9/12 (loss, 8:20)
Now that we’re done with the Blue Block,
it’s on to the Red Block!
Momo Watanabe (Queen’s Quest) – 12 Points, 5-3 w/ 1 Forfeit
You want to talk about so close and yet so far, that defines Momo Watanabe’s 2021 effort to win the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals. She defeated Giulia (by forfeit), Mayu Iwatani, Fukigen Death, Saki Kashima, Koguma and Mina Shirakawa with her losses coming to Starlight Kid, Himeka and Natsupoi. Going into this years GP, Momo was not on my radar to go to the finals, let alone have a chance to win it all. However, it was her match against Mayu Iwatani on 7/31, Night One, that set the tone for her journey this year.
It was her best match of the tournament, it was a defining match for her and it was earned by defeating one of her greatest rivals in the incomparable Mayu Iwatani. Once the finals were set, I was really hoping that Momo would somehow find a way to defeat Syuri. However, that was not meant to be. Better luck next year Momo. If this year was any indicator, you have a great chance next year.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Mayu Iwatani, 8/31 (victor, 17:37)
Mayu Iwatani (STARS) – 11 Points, 5-3-1
Mayu Iwatani had a rough start to the tournament with a brutal loss to Momo Watanabe, but she rebounded and even played spoiler on the last day of this years 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals. She finished the grand prix with victories over Starlight Kid, Mina Shirakawa, Giulia, Natsupoi and Himeka, losses to Fukigen Death, Saki Kashima and Momo Watanabe and a draw against her friend and unit mate Koguma. Now, I remember when Mayu won the tournament back in 2018 and she should always be viewed as a favorite to go the distance, however this year she had some stiff competition. Unfortunately for her, her draw against Koguma and her losses to Fukigen and Kashima ultimately derailed any chance for her to claim victory once again. Two of her losses she should never have had happened. She got cocky and got rolled up for one and a freak DQ for the other. Outside of those two matches though, she had a really solid performance this year and easily could have made it to the finals if luck had just gone her way.
As for her match of the tournament, that is a tough one to call. She had a lot of really good matches this year, which isn’t hard to believe given she is the GOAT in Women’s Professional Wrestling. That said, her match against Giulia on Night 2, 8/1, was easily her best match. Giulia was the betting favourite to win the red block this year and this match could have gone either women way.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Giulia, 8/1 (victor, 18:30)
Koguma (STARS) – 11 Points, 5-3-1
Koguma entered this year’s 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals as a clear dark horse pick to go the distance. Honestly, I was surprised at how well she did this year. She earned victories over Starlight Kid, Saki Kashima, Himeka, Mina Shirakawa and Natsupoi while losing to Giulia, Momo Watanabe and Fukigen Death. Her lone draw was against her friend Mayu Iwatani, a double count-out technically. Koguma and Mayu Iwatani together ensured that someone I will be covering next didn’t make it to the finals, despite her being my choice from day one. So I have a little bit of frustration towards Koguma and Mayu, but ultimately the matches were fantastic and I cannot be too angry. She would have been fed to Syuri anyway.
Now, as far as Koguma’s best match goes, there is one clear pick in my mind. Believe it or not, it was her match with Starlight Kid that I feel is tops for Koguma. She earned a future High Speed Championship match with the victory and it was one of the best fast-paced matches you could have had in the tournament. I wish SLK would have won, but Koguma earned that victory the hard way and man did she look good in doing so.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Starlight Kid, 9/6 (victor, 12:00)
Starlight Kid (Oedo Tai) – 11 Points, 5-3-1
Starlight Kid was my pick from the Red Block to win it this year, and dammit she nearly got it! If it weren’t for Mayu Iwatani and Koguma both defeating her and knocking some momentum out of her sails, the Dark Tigress would have topped the Red Block with ease. SLK defeated Momo Watanabe, Fukigen Death, Saki Kashima, Mina Shirakawa and Himeka with her losses coming to Giulia, Mayu Iwatani and Koguma. Her lone draw this tournament was against Natsupoi and that was actually a double count-out. Starlight Kid had one of the best tournament showings in her career and had to be viewed as a favorite to win it down the stretch. Her victories over Momo Watanabe and Himeka were easily two of the biggest upsets this year.
I personally loved the way Kid went about things this year, her new dark persona giving her a confidence boost and a new attitude and aggression that she desperately needed. Kid even captured the High Speed Championship during the tournament, in a non-GP match, against Natuspoi. She had a hell of a tournament and I really hope Stardom sees just how much a future star she is for their company. Her best match in the tournament, there were a lot of good ones, but it has to be in her loss to Mayu Iwatani. It was the match I was looking forward to most this year and it did not fail to impress. I was shocked at how short it actually was, but it was everything I could have asked for and I cannot wait for this feud to continue on after the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals. Especially after their match where Mayu offered a handshake, Kid slapped the taste out of her mouth and then Mayu forced her into a hug before throwing her to the mat and out of the ring.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Mayu Iwatani, 9/25 (loss, 6:19)
Himeka (Donna del Mondo) – 10 Points, 4-4 (1 forfeit)
Himeka, like Takumi Iroha, had a late start to the Grand Prix this year but she was able to quickly become one of the favorites to win it due in large part to the strength and aggression she displayed in her victories. She defeated Mina Shirakawa, Momo Watanabe, Natsupoi and Saki Kashima, lost to Starlight Kid, Mayu Iwatani, Fukigen Death and Koguma. She got an additional two points due to Giulia suffering an injury and having to forfeit the rest of her matches. Himeka was a force in all of her matches, dominating most of them, and her losses all came due to her getting a bit overconfident in my opinion. She had a lot of decent matches but only one stands out to me personally. That match is the one from 9/6 where she faced off against her unit mate and friend Natsupoi. Natuspoi pushed Himeka to a limit that very few did this year and almost actually defeated the powerhouse. It wasn’t Himeka’s longest match, but it was definitely one of her most fun.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Natsupoi, 9/6 (victor, 12:12)
Fukigen Death (Oedo Tai) – 10 Points, 4-4 (1 forfeit)
The comedy act of Fukigen Death did a lot better than I actually anticipated this year. I honestly didn’t think she’d win four matches, five if you count the Giulia forfeit. I figured one, maybe two, but four is not what I saw coming. She defeated Giulia (via forfeit), Mayu Iwatani, Saki Kashima, Himeka and Koguma, losing to Starlight Kid, Mina Shirakawa, Natsupoi and Momo Watanabe. What kills me most is that Death’s longest match was a whopping 5 minutes and 19 seconds. None of Death’s matches was very long and a lot of them ended via roll-up in one way or another. I get it, Fukigen is getting up there in age and can’t go like she once did, but she has an upcoming title match against Starlight Kid for the High-Speed Championship. She’s got to step it up if she wants to win. Given how short all her matches were, there isn’t a lot of choice for her best match.
However, if you look at the comedic factor then the answer becomes clear and that makes her best match the one from 8/28 against Natsupoi. Come on, Natsupoi used a squirt gun on an imaginary cigarette, how much more comedic gold do you need?
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Natsupoi, 8/28 (loss, 3:57)
Natsupoi (Donna del Mondo) – 9 Points, 3-4-1 (1 forfeit)
The High-Speed Fairy had one tough tournament this year. Not only did she lose half of her matches, but she lost her High-Speed Championship to Starlight Kid midway through the 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals. Natsupoi found a way to defeat Giulia (by forfeit), Momo Watanabe, Fukigen Death and Saki Kashima. She lost to Mayu Iwatani, Koguma, Himeka and Mina Shirakawa and she went to a double count-out draw against Starlight Kid. Did she have the best results? No, by far. However, Natsupoi had a lot of really fun matches due to her speed and aerial ability.
So with her mixed bag of results, which of her matches was actually her best? Well, you could argue for her matches against Mayu Iwatani, Koguma and Himeka but for me, her most fun and entertaining match was against Starlight Kid on 8/8.
Yes it ended in a double count-out draw, but this was a fun preview for their title match that followed a few weeks later and let’s be honest, two super fast high flyers in the ring together is nothing short of magical every time it happens.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Starlight Kid
8/8 (double count-out draw, 9:43)
Giulia (Donna del Mondo) – 6 Points, 3-6 (4 forfeit losses)
You want to talk about someone having a brutal tournament and getting the short end of the stick, then you have to look at Giulia. The clear betting favorite at the announcement of the red block, Giulia was off to a 3-2 start having defeated Starlight Kid, Koguma and Mina Shirakawa and having lost to Mayu Iwatani and Saki Kashima. After her fifth match, it was announced that Giulia would have to withdraw from the rest of the tournament due to a lingering neck injury that she needed to recover from. It was unfortunate, it was ill timed, however I don’t blame Giulia for wanting to take the time to get healthy and not endanger her career.
Neck injuries are no joke and I applaud Giulia for doing what she needed to do. Sure, it robbed us of a possible Syuri vs Giulia final, but Giulia’s time will come.
During her brief run this year, her best match was undoubtedly against Mayu Iwatani on 8/1. Yes she lost the match, but the fight between the leaders of DDM and STARS was one of the absolute best matches of this years 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals and should be watched by everyone. Get Well Soon Giulia!
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Mayu Iwatani, 8/1 (loss, 18:30)
Mina Shirakawa (Cosmic Angels) – 6 Points, 3-6
Mina didn’t achieve the results that she hoped for and she actually was the worst scoring member of Cosmic Angels. Amassing a total of six points by defeating Natsupoi, Fukigen Death and Saki Kashima, it is clear that she underperformed as far as results go. While that is a fact that Mina has to live with, something she can hold her head up high about is the fact that not a single one of her matches was ever boring. Mina put everything she had into each match, win or lose, and you have to respect Mina for everything she has done in this year’s 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals. Now, as far as Mina’s match of the tournament, I had to really debate it due to how fun her matches all were. That said, it was her match against Koguma on 9/23 that was her most entertaining. Mina showed she has speed and she can bring an aggressive side of herself in that match while still having fun and you have to respect that. Better luck next year Mina, I’m still a huge fan.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Koguma, 9/23 (loss, 12:22)
Saki Kashima (Oedo Tai) – 4 Points, 2-7
While not the worst-performing member of Oedo Tai, Saki Kashima’s run during this year’s 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals was full of disappointments. She lost all but two of her matches and her victories came as full-on upsets over Giulia and Mayu Iwatani. Not only that but only one of her matches cleared the ten-minute mark. She was involved in a lot of short matches, but that’s not necessarily her fault. I know Saki can go, I’ve seen some great matches out of her, Stardom just needs to give her some time in the ring. She had really solid matches in a lot of her losses and she should have won more than two of her nine matches, but that’s the way the booking went this year. Her match of the tournament was her fun match against fellow Oedo Tai member, Starlight Kid, on 8/1. Kid and Saki have a lot of chemistry, and being two of the youngest members of Oedo Tai, they had a lot to prove to their unit and to themselves. It was fun from bell to bell and the two women gave everything.
Best Match of the Tournament: vs Starlight Kid, 8/1 (loss, 8:46)
Stardom handed out performance awards after the final match this year and I am going to hand out a few of my own. No, there are no physical awards for me to give out, give me a break.
Stardom’s awards were given as follows…
- Technical Skill Award: Starlight Kid
- Fighting Spirit Award: Unagi Sayaka
- Outstanding Performance Award: AZM
- Red Stars Best Bout: Mayu Iwatani vs Giulia
- Blue Stars Best Bout: Syuri vs Takumi Iroha
- 2021 5 Star GP Finalist: Momo Watanabe
- 2021 5 Star GP Winner: Syuri
Now for mine, I want to add a few for each of those and add a couple that should have been included, in my opinion.
- Technical Skill Award: Starlight Kid
- Fighting Spirit Award: Mina Shirakawa
- Outstanding Performance Award: Mayu Iwatani
- Best Bout: Mayu Iwatani vs Giulia
- Most Improved: Starlight Kid
- Biggest Upset: Fukigen Death (victory over Mayu Iwatani)
- MVP: Momo Watanabe
- Technical Skill Award: Takumi Iroha
- Fighting Spirit Award: Unagi Sayaka
- Outstanding Performance Award: AZM
- Best Bout: Syuri vs Takumi Iroha
- Most Improved: Saya Kamitani
- Biggest Upset: AZM (victory over Syuri)
- MVP: Syuri
There you have it, folks, that’s all for this year’s 5★STAR Grand Prix Finals. I cannot wait until next year’s tournament. Until then folks, keep your eyes peeled for more Joshi content coming from yours truly!