5 Star Grand Prix 2020 preview : And Hana’s successor is… ?

It is tournament season, ladies and gentlemen ! Stardom is back, and after the tournament to crown a new Wonder of Stardom champion, the annuel 5 Star Grand Prix returns !
With a field looking relatively new compared to last year, who will come out on top and face either Mayu Iwatani or Syuri in September ? Let’s dive into everything !

Let’s start things off with the usual global context part of these tournament previews. Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix is a round-robin tournament separated in two blocks, the red and blue ones. Last year saw the total number of participants reach its highest at 18 wrestlers. Only 16 will take part in the GP this year. The points system is the same as in most other tournaments : 2 for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. As you may have guessed, the two wrestlers with the most points by the end of the « block phase » make it to the final. Lastly, the tournament will be held from August 8th all the way to September 19th, with the Yokohama Cinderella two nights event taking place on August 22nd and 23rd, where most of the promotion’s championships will be on the line.
With the tournament missing prominent foreigners such as Bea Priestley and Jamie Hayter, the now retired Kagetsu, Arisa Hoshiki and Hazuki, as well as the usual tournament spoiler Natsu Sumire being out of the field, how is this 2020 edition looking like ? Let’s look at both blocks !

Blue Stars block

Credit to @we_are_stardom for the picture
  • Momo Watanabe ~ 4th appearance

Kicking it off with the blue stars block is the leader of Queen’s Quest, and the woman positioned as the future « Ace » of Stardom up until Bushiroad bought the promotion. While the tournament is globally open, Momo still comes off as the big favourite in this block, and more globally a favourite to win the whole tournament, but that will be addressed later.
Whether or not Momo faces an upset, which is far from unlikely, she remains the woman to beat.

Key match-ups : Utami Hayashishita, Jungle Kyona, Natsuko Tora, AZM, Saki Kashima, Syuri.

  • Utami Hayashishita ~ Goddesses of Stardom champion ~ 3rd appearance

We’re moving on with yet another big fish in this block and QQ member Utami. The now tag champion alongside Saya Kamitani has always been on the rise since debuting, and has now surpassed the super rookie status. The next goal for her will be to aim at some Stardom’s top singles championships, and shining in this year’s Grand Prix should be a big step in that direction.

Key match-ups : Momo Watanabe, Jungle Kyona, AZM, Natsuko Tora, Syuri, Maika.

  • Jungle Kyona ~ 5th appearance

Lastly when it comes to the favourites to win the block, the eternally hometown cursed Jungle Kyona. Looking to bounce back after both losing the World and Goddesses of Stardom title matches, Kyona will look to make a statement and, for the first time, reach the Grand Prix finals. She also looks to do better than last year, where she couldn’t finish the tournament due to injury.

Key match-ups : Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, AZM, Natsuko Tora, Syuri.

  • AZM ~ High Speed champion ~ 2nd appearance

The third and last QQ member in this block is none other than the recently crowned High Speed champion AZM. While there are little chances she will finish very close to the top of the block, she remains a tough challenge for many people in the roster, and shouldn’t be slept on. Yet, as much as she could create upsets, she also has a target on her back with her championship, and someone in the blue block could look at this as an opportunity.

Key match-ups : Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, Jungle Kyona, Saki Kashima, Maika.

  • Natsuko Tora ~ 3rd appearance

Moving on with the leader of Oedo Tai leader and somebody in dire need of big momentum in Natsuko Tora. After failing to win the Wonder of Stardom title, as well as the Artist of Stardom titles recently, she will be looking to make an impact and assert herself as a future main player, confirming she truly was worthy of participating in the tournament to crown the next Wonder of Stardom champion. Expect her to get some big, big wins along the way.

Key match-ups : Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, Jungle Kyona, AZM, Syuri.

  • Saki Kashima ~ 4th appearance

Next let’s look at the only wrestler in the field who participated in the inaugural 5 Star Grand Prix, in Saki Kashima. She never was highly prominent in those tournaments and this is unlikely to change, however, if anyone can play spoiler in the blue block, this might very well be her. Her heel turn still calls for more tangible accomplishments, and after being the first person to hand Giulia a loss, Saki looks like she could play an important part in somebody’s downfall this year. Chances are she will the one looking to earn a shot at AZM’s High Speed belt.

Key match-ups : Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, Jungle Kyona, AZM, Syuri.

  • Syuri ~ Artist of Stardom champion ~ 1st appearance

Next is the woman challenging Mayu Iwatani for the World of Stardom title on August 22nd, making her GP debut, Syuri. The single fact she enters the tournament with a guaranteed title shot means she should be looking quite strong early on, in order to build her up as a threat to Stardom’s icon. While not exactly a favourite to make the final, she likely is the perfect dark horse who can beat absolutely anybody in this block.

Key match-ups : Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, Jungle Kyona, Natsuko Tora.

  • Maika ~ Future of Stardom champion & Artist of Stardom champion ~ 1st appearance

Lastly for the blue stars block, the Future of Stardom and JTO born Maika. One of many making her debut in the GP this year, with an opportunity to really break out at a higher level. Many wrestlers have a case to be called THE breakout star each year, and Maika with this GP has a good opportunity to cement her own case there, as long as she is able to perform well in what remains a rather stacked block.

Key match-ups : Momo Watanabe, Utami Hayashishita, Jungle Kyona, AZM, Syuri.

Val’s pick to advance : Momo Watanabe

At first, I thought about Utami reaching the final, possibly even Kyona or Syuri, but as you will see later in this article, my pick to win the red stars block is the one which is more « under the radar », so I have to go with the more obvious pick here with Momo. An obvious pick which, of course, makes perfect sense. Momo has had a harder time since losing the Wonder title to Arisa Hoshiki last year, so more than a year later, you have to expect her to start gaining momentum back. Therefore, making the Grand Prix final and looking as the favourite to win it is a big step in that direction, until the time is right for the Queen’s Quest leader to reach the top of Stardom, by winning the World title for the first time.
The time for Queen’s Quest to reclaim the spotlight is near, ladies and gentlemen.

Red Stars block

Credit : @we_are_stardom
  • Mayu Iwatani ~ World of Stardom champion ~ 7th appearance

Kicking off the red block with the World champion and icon of the company in Mayu Iwatani. Mayu has always been pretty good in the GP, now entering as champion this time around makes it so that she likely will be taking a bit of a step back, while still having a strong performance. It will be interesting to see who manages to see who can beat her and possibly earn a World title shot down the road, as well as who can shine the brightest against one of the best Joshi wrestlers at the moment.

Key match-ups : Giulia, Konami, Starlight Kid, DEATH Yama-san, Himeka.

  • Giulia ~ Wonder of Stardom champion & Artist of Stardom champion ~ 1st appearance

The Wonder champion is also in the red block this year, and the situation with Giulia is quite interesting given she will face Tam Nakano for the belt on the 23rd, so their block match will be one to look at with lots of attention. The result of this match may influence her status as potential favourite to win the block, but, champion or not by the end of the tourney, all Giulia needs is to look globally strong, which will be the case, and winning the red block isn’t a necessity for her at this point.
It might even be time for the Donna Del Mondo leader to start slowing down a little bit.

Key match-ups : Mayu Iwatani, Tam Nakano, Konami, DEATH Yama-san.

  • Tam Nakano ~ 4th appearance

Next is the woman who will be challenging Giulia for the Wonder of Stardom title on the 23rd in Tam Nakano. One of the bigger names in her block, with her title match coming up, like Syuri, you have to expect her to look strong up until the match happens at least. Also a dark horse to make it to the final as far as I’m concerned, even though her story isn’t so much about winning the tournament.

Key match-ups : Mayu Iwatani, Giulia, Konami, Saya Kamitani, Himeka.

  • Konami ~ 4th appearance

Let’s now look at the second member of TCS participating in the tournament, last year’s finalist Konami. After a very strong 2019, the submission and striking specialist has to be looking for a repeat of last year’s performance, and the odds look rather favourable with both top champions (usually not reaching the final) in her block, which she could and will have to beat in order to reach the final once more.

Key match-ups : Mayu Iwatani, Giulia, Tam Nakano, Starlight Kid, Saya Kamitani, Himeka.

  • Starlight Kid ~ 1st appearance

Also making her tournament debut is Stardom’s resident masked wrestler Starlight Kid, who might finish this tournament as High Speed champion. Now, she likely won’t get a lot of wins for her first appearance, but what is most important here is for Kid to look good against a field of very skilled opponents, which should be a great experience for her in order to keep improving.

Key match-ups : Mayu Iwatani, Giulia, Tam Nakano, Konami, Saya Kamitani, Himeka.

  • Saya Kamitani ~ Goddesses of Stardom champion ~ 1st appearance

Speaking of people who will primarily need to have a good showing in the tournament, here is Queen’s Quest’s Tall Saya ! Someone else whom you shouldn’t expect to make too many waves in the tournament points wise, but who may very well surprise you in terms of actual performance. Similarily to Starlight Kid, this tournament is Saya’s proving ground, and her goal will be to show she can be a lock for next year’s tourney.

Key match-ups : Mayu Iwatani, Giulia, Konami, Starlight Kid, Himeka.

  • DEATH Yama-San ~ 4th appearance

Next up is someone you may be surprised has already been in three GP’s before, but yes, she has ! Yama-san’s role in this Grand Prix should be pretty simple here : Play spoiler to the bigger names while handing « easier » wins to the less prominent people in the block. The big question is : Who will feel the wrath of DEATH in this year’s tournament ?

Key match-ups : Mayu Iwatani, Giulia, Tam Nakano, Konami, Starlight Kid.

  • Himeka ~ 1st appearance

Lasty, but definitely not least is Donna Del Mondo’s powerhouse Himeka. Making her debut as well like her stablemates, entering beltless, she might be the one who needs a strong showing the most out of DDM’s members, and when looking at the block, she likely will get just that. Imposing her dominance over smaller opponents and possibly getting an upset win over one of the bigger names should make for a good performance for Himeka here.

Key match-ups : Mayu Iwatani, Tam Nakano, Konami, Starlight Kid, Saya Kamitani.

Val’s pick to advance : Konami

I could have went with Tam Nakano if not for the Wonder title rematch, so yes ladies and gentlemen. Konami is making it to the Grand Prix final back to back, which hasn’t happened since Yoko Bito in 2016 and 2017, winning on her first final appearance. The situation with Konami is quite self-explanatory. She has had such a strong 2019 that it is impossible to imagine her not continuing on that track in one way or another. She was featured in the tournament to crown a new Wonder champion, so what is the next step for Kana’s student ? Making the final of Stardom’s biggest tournament and earning her second World of Stardom title shot in the process, getting to shine against (most likely) Mayu Iwatani sounds like the perfect plan. Losing the title match wouldn’t hurt her at all either, as right now, what Konami needs is to take that one step to cement herself at a higher standard, until she potentially gets her hands on the Wonder title in the future.
Beating Momo Watanabe in the final would only add to that logic, as Konami proved she was able to hang with both Mayu and Momo in their 20 minutes time-limit draw from July 12th.

Trophies predictions

Before wrapping this preview up, how about I give you some predictions regarding the various trophies Stardom gives out to some of the performers at the end of the tournament ? The following trophies are for the tournament’s Best Bout, the Fighting Spirit Award, Best Technical Skills and the Outstanding Performance Award. Make sure to tell me who you think could pretend to these awards !
Without further ado, let’s get to it :

  • Best Bout : Mayu Iwatani vs Tam Nakano.
  • Fighting Spirit Award : Jungle Kyona.
  • Best Technical Skills : Syuri.
  • Outstanding Performance : Utami Hayashishita.

On that note, this is where this preview of Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix comes to an end ! Who do you think is coming out of each block ? Who do you think can create upsets, and on who ? Who’s your pick to win it all ? Which matches are you looking forward to the most ?
Be sure to let me know !

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