World Wonder Ring Stardom, better known simply as Stardom, has emerged as Japan’s top joshi puroresu promotion over the past few years, producing stars like current WWE Superstars Io Shirai and Kairi Sane (formerly Kairi Hojo), nurturing Japanese sensations like Mayu Iwatani, Momo Watanabe and Kagetsu, as well as being home to such international stars as Toni Storm, Viper, Deonna Purrazzo and many more. This weekend they kick off the 7th annual 5*Star Grand Prix tournament, which is similar to NJPW‘s G1 Climax Series, a multi-woman round robin tournament. Here’s a run down of the entrants in the two blocks – RED STARS and BLUE STARS.
RED STARS BLOCK
The hot headed and boisterous leader of Oedo Tai, Kagetsu – a pupil of legend Meiko Satomura and longtime Sendai Girls star – joined Stardom full time in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. A 2x Goddesses of Stardom (Tag Team) Champion and Artist of Stardom (Trios) Champion with Oedo Tai, Kagetsu challenged for Ring of Honor‘s Women of Honor Championship earlier this year in the tournament, before returning to Japan to win Stardom’s top singles title, the World of Stardom Championship. A loose cannon, Kagetsu will be out to prove she is still the top of the card for Stardom.
Jungle Kyona has been a Stardom staple since her 2015 debut, initially as part of Team Jungle, before starting a new faction, Jungle Assault Nation (JAN), this year. With JAN, she is one third of the reigning Artist of Stardom Champions (alongside Kaori Yoneyama and Natsuko Tora) and a 2x Champion all together, as well as a former Goddessess of Stardom champion. She’s been a semi finalist in the past two 5*Star tournaments, and hopes to break out as a singles star this year.
Trained by Tokyo Joshi Pro‘s Yuna Manase, Tam Nakano is still relatively new to the joshi circuit, joining Stardom full time last fall after working for various other promotions in her first year. She initially joined Oedo Tai, but after being kicked out this January, she has aligned with her former foe, Mayu Iwatani, in STARS. An explosive striker, Nakano will be looking to show she belongs in Stardom and expect sparks to fly if she faces any of her former stablemates.
Only 22 years old, Konami is a student of current WWE Superstar Asuka, who began her career with Asuka’s group, Kana Pro, as well as working as a freelancer. She joined Stardom in 2016 and aligned with Io Shirai’s Queen’s Quest stable, holding the Artist of Stardom title alongside Kairi Sane and Hiromi Mimura.
A three year veteran of Stardom, Natsuko Tora was one of the Team Jungle members who followed Jungle Kyona to JAN, where she’s currently part of the reigning Artist of Stardom Champions. A product of the Stardom Dojo, she can brawl with the best of them, and will be looking to put on a good singles showing in her 5*Star Grand Prix debut.
A Stardom rookie, Utami Hayashishita only made her Stardom debut this past week, and is already entered into her first 5*Star Grand Prix. The wild card of the tournament, her youthful energy may upset a veteran or two.
One of several gaijin entering the tournament, indie star Rachael Ellering made her Stardom debut at the end of last year, and had her first tour at the beginning of 2018, where she even challenged Io Shirai for the Wonder of Stardom Championship. She’s just finished up with the Mae Young Classic for the WWE (as Rachel Evers) and now gets set for her first 5*Star Grand Prix, looking to add to an already impressive resume.
Hard to believe that one of the most beloved women’s wrestlers of the past decade (and former CHIKARA Grand Champion) is only making her Japanese debut now, but Kimber Lee is doing it with a bang, entering her first 5*Star Grand Prix for her Stardom debut. Formerly Abbey Laith in NXT and a long time star with CHIKARA, as well as various top indie promotions like SHIMMER, Shine, Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), Beyond Wrestling, and All American Wrestling (AAW) – where she’s the reigning AAW Women’s Champion – Kimber Lee will be looking to make an impact in her first tour with Stardom.
BLUE STARS BLOCK
With the departures of Io Shirai and Kairi Hojo in the past two years, Mayu Iwatani has emerged as arguably the new face of Stardom and rightfully so. A student of former All Japan Women’s Wrestling (AJW) star Nanae Takahashi, Iwatani has been wrestling with Stardom since she debuted in 2011 as a teenager. A former World of Stardom Champion, 2x Wonder of Stardom Champion, High Speed Champion, 3x Artist of Stardom Champion and reigning (and 2x) Goddesses of Stardom Champion, Iwatani is now the leader of the newer faction, STARS, and looking to re-establish herself at the top of the Stardom food chain. She gained some exposure in North America earlier this year as a participant in the Women of Honor tournament in ROH, making it to the semi finals. A 2x winner of the Stardom Cinderella Tournament, she’s still looking for her first 5*Star Tournament victory after four previous attempts.
Only 18 years old, Momo Watanabe is one of the brightest stars in Stardom – and she’s been wrestling since she was 14. The reigning Wonder of Stardom Champion won her title by beating her Queen’s Quest faction leader Io Shirai before the latter departed for the WWE. While not officially the leader, Io’s passing of the torch to Watanabe was her endorsement for leadership, but no word has been officially announced. A young star having a break out year, the 2018 Cinderella Tournament winner will look to add to her 2018 with a 5*Star Grand Prix trophy as well.
An early student with Stardom back in 2011, Saki Kashima stepped away from pro wrestling in 2013. She returned to the ring this year after five years away, but at only 25 years old, she still has lots left to give. She’s aligned herself with STARS and is currently one half of the Goddesses of Stardom Champions with STARS leader Mayu Iwatani.
Formerly part of Queen’s Quest – where she was known as HZK – she joined Oedo Tai last year and changed her name to Hazuki, where she’s developed a mean streak and penchant for violence. A 4x Artist of Stardom Champion with Queen’s Quest, Hazuki is looking to break out as a singles competitor, as evidenced by her participation in this year’s Women of Honor tournament in ROH.
One of the newer roster members to Stardom, Natsu Sumire spent most of her career as a regular star with Pro Wrestling WAVE, debuting in 2013. One of the newest members of Oedo Tai, Sumire is as cocky and arrogant as they come and will be looking to cause a little bit of chaos in her first 5*Star Grand Prix.
Arguably the heart and soul of Ring of Honor’s Women of Honor division, Kelly Klein is an 11-year veteran of the squared circle who started off in the Ohio indies of Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA) and Rockstar Pro. Since 2015, she’s been a wrecking machine in Women of Honor, making it to the finals of the WOH Championship tournament, before bowing out to current champion Sumie Sakai. She made her Stardom debut last year in the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League tournament, shocking the Japanese fans when her ad hoc tandem with Bea Priestley went on to win the entire tournament. Now entering her first 5*Star Grand Prix, she’ll be looking to shock the fans once again.
The reigning SHIMMER Champion, Nicole Savoy is another veteran of the North American indie circuit who just recently made her Stardom debut earlier this year. A Suplex machine and a fierce competitor, Savoy is also a former Heart of SHIMMER Champion who impressed many with her showing in last year’s Mae Young Classic, before being knocked out in the second round by Candice LeRae. Savoy has all the tools to go all the way.
The lone representative from the United Kingdom, 23-year old Jamie Hayter enters the 5*Star Grand Prix as the Revolution Pro UK (RevPro) Undisputed British Women’s Champion, after defeating Jinny for the title back in June. Also a regular with Pro Wrestling EVE and a young prodigy that’s worked across Europe, she’s making her Stardom debut in her first 5*Star Grand Prix.
Main photo courtesy of gansobomb.com