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Stardom Five Star Grand Prix tournament finals are set

Yoko Bito

World Wonder Ring Stardom, the women’s wrestling promotion in Japan more commonly known as Stardom, determined the finalists for their annual singles tournament at a recent show in Tokyo.

The Five Star (stylized as “5☆”) Grand Prix tournament began in late August and wraps up later this week with American Tessa Blanchard and Japanese native Yoko Bito meeting in the finals after winning their respective blocks.

Similar to the annual G1 Climax in NJPW, the yearly Five Star Grand Prix is a round-robin style tournament divided into two blocks. Seven wrestlers in each block combine for fourteen entrants overall. Unlike the designation of the “A” and “B” blocks of the G1, Stardom’s Grand Prix has a “Red” and “Blue” block.

Matches from both blocks appear on the same Stardom cards, unlike with G1 shows. A points system determines the winner of each block. All tournament matches have 15 minute time limits except for the championship final having a 30 minute time limit.

The final card for the tournament takes place on 9/22 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo with Blanchard vs. Bito to determine the Grand Prix winner. Also on that card, Kay Lee Ray challenges Io Shirai for the World of Stardom title.

Heading into the finals, the last round of tournament matches from the 9/11 card in Tokyo are now available on Stardom World.

The last stop before the finals took place at Shinkiba 1st Ring. The venue is famous for hosting various promotions and indie shows in Japan. Shinkiba 1st Ring is also the original venue for Stardom, hosting its inaugural event in 2011 and once serving as its dojo where many of the promotion's early stars trained. Stardom returned there once again for this show.

Tessa Blanchard & Arisu Nanase defeated Blue Nikita & Eimi Nishina

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In pre-match promos, Blanchard arrogantly claimed Arisu was lucky to have her as a partner. Tessa also vowed to somehow be in the tourney final. Arisu just wanted to win a match over Eimi. Same for Eimi, as she just wanted to win too. Blue Nikita said she had no idea what Eimi said but she agreed with her.

This was two younger wrestlers each teaming with an established star. Blanchard and Nikita would do more intricate spots and moves, whereas Arisu and Eimi did simpler things.

When Arisu squared off against Nikita, she had no luck at first but did get a near fall moments later. Blanchard was squaring off with Eimi and Emi got a near fall. Blanchard eventually dispatched Eimi with a combination finisher where she applied a choke and fell back into a codebreaker of sorts.

Nikita attacked her partner, Eimi, afterwards and Blanchard made the save.

Natsumi Maki defeated Hiromi Mimura in a Blue block match

This match determined last place in the tournament. Both had zero points coming into this match, and a determined Maki vowed to beat Mimura in a pre-match promo. She concluded by saying, “I’ll do my best!” That statement was a constant theme echoed throughout the show.

In her promo, Mimura said she would be known as the “Actress Killer” after this night. Mimura previously won a match over Mika using a la magistral cradle. That would play a part in a false finish during this match.

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Image: Natsumi Maki sailing through the air in Shinkiba.

Mimura played the role of antagonist and Maki was the protagonist fighting from underneath. Mimura went for the la magistral cradle and Maki kicked out at two. Maki countered with a nearfall following a swinging fisherman’s buster with a bridge. Maki also did a flying crossbody off the top for a nearfall. Mimura went for a flying crossbody and Maki floated over to cover Mimura for the pinfall.

In losing, Mimura finds herself last place the tournament standings. She refused to shake Maki’s hand afterwards even, though Mimura did respectfully bow to the crowd.

Momo Watanabe defeated Jungle Kyona in a Red block match

The backstory here is they are tag team partners. Before the match, Momo said because they knew each other so well as friends they will make great rivals. She also said, “I’ll do my best!”

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Jungle said in a promo she was looking to get back a win after losing to Momo on another promotion’s show.

What started out as catch-as-catch can soon turned into heated exchanges with kicks and strikes. Jungle charged down the entrance ramp to deliver a lariat with Momo tangled in the ropes. Jungle applied Jesse Ventura’s Body Breaker, but Momo escaped to hit a missile dropkick. They traded near falls. Jungle missed a splash off the top and Momo used a running somato into a cover. Jungle grabbed the ropes to break up the pin. Momo then jumped off the top with flying somato and covered Jungle to win.

Io Shirai vs. Kris Wolf ended with a double countout in a Red block match

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Shirai is the current ace in Stardom, similar to Hiroshi Tanahashi in NJPW. She needed a win here to advance to the finals. Wolf played spoiler and purposely got them both counted out. The match was heated and opened just like Chas Shelly vs. Maximo Blanco from UFC Fight Night last Saturday, except this bout went much longer.

Sharai with a running start charged towards Wolf and dropkicked her right as the bell sounded. The match only got wilder from there as Wolf turned it into a brawl, channeling the spirit of Bruiser Brody. She hit Sharai with a sign. Back in the ring, Wolf applied a Black Widow but Sharai countered into a tombstone followed by a crossface.

Blue Nikita interfered in the match several times as she kept attacking Sharai. After a springboard into a missile dropkick and a delayed German suplex, Sharai got the closest nearfall of the match before it broke down into a brawl.

They brawled outside the building, with Wolf pummeling Sharai then running back inside and locking the door behind her. Sharai tried running to another door but Wolf kept her from breaking the count, costing Sharai the match and keeping her from winning the Red block. Therefore, Blanchard won the Red block and advances to the finals.

Toni Storm vs. Mayu Iwatani ended with a double knockout in a Blue block match

Storm needed a win to advance while Iwatani admitted she had no chance of qualifying for the finals. Still, Iwatani said she wanted to finish the tournament with a win and vowed, “I’ll do my best!”

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During the match, Storm was dominating until she leapt off the top and missed a flying legdrop. Iwatani fired up, leading to a flying crossbody off the top to the floor. A slugfest developed. Storm delivered Kryptonite Krunch. Iwatani countered with a full-nelson suplex. Both were down and neither could answer the ten count for a double TKO.

Blue Nikita entered the scene to challenge Storm to a match for Storm’s SWA undisputed title. Nikita had beaten her in a match during the tournament. An angry Storm accepted the challenge and their title match is set for the 9/22 card at Korakuen.

Yoko Bito defeated Kay Lee Ray to win the Blue block and advance to the finals

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Heading into this match, KLR had nine points while Bito had seven points, so Bito needed a win here to gain two more points for a tie with KLR. Bito would then advance because she would also have a win here over KLR for the tiebreaker.

Bito proclaimed, “I’ll do my best!”

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They started with chain wrestling and grappling that led into them exchanging strikes and hard kicks in a match with all action. They went back to mat work later on as the match progressed with Bito working a leg. KLR took over to get a near fall. KLR did a tope suicida and followed that with a senton off the top rope to the floor. Bito superplexed KLR back into the ring where they traded near falls. KLR executed a shining wizard and went for a senton bomb off the top. Bito got her knees up to block it. Moments later, Bito hit a roundhouse kick and covered KLR for the pin.

Bito advances from the Blue block to meet Tessa Blanchard from the Red block in the finals of the 2016 Five Star Grand Prix.