Vindication: Giulia’s 5 Star Grand Prix Victory

Heavy lies the crown as an outsider walks in and is offered the world.

The image of Giulia draped in the royal red robe with the crown upon her head was a sight that felt inevitable. From the moment she strode into a Stardom ring in October 2019 it felt as though she was anointed as their next big thing. Championships and even tournament victories had come her way since then, but when she was presented with the robe and crown awarded to the winner of the 5 Star Grand Prix, it felt like the true vision of Giulia was starting to come into view.

“In this year’s 5 Star, it’s this Giulia that’s definitely gonna be the main character.”

Giulia at the 5 Star GP Press conference – translated by Dana

Giulia is nothing if not confident in herself. She’s always backed herself, even when others wouldn’t. It’s part of what has crafted her into such a force of nature. However, for all of her confidence and swagger, the past year has been a humbling one for the leader of Donna Del Mondo.

The image of her in the robe and crown was one many, including Giulia, believed we would see a year ago. She was fresh off a strong White belt reign and had reinvented her image after having her head shaved as a result of losing her title to Tam Nakano.

She was the hot favourite heading into the 2021 tournament, and it started off well when she defeated Starlight Kid in her opening match.

However the 5 Star Grand Prix exacts a heavy toll from its participants. For Giulia, the gruelling nature of the tournament eventually caught up with her. After she lost to a brutal powerbomb from Himeka, she would have to withdraw from the rest of the competition with a neck injury that would keep her out for essentially the rest of 2021.

Her moment was ripped away from her in what she described as the worst memory of her pro wrestling career. Giulia had to watch from the sidelines as her fellow Goddess of Stardom Tag Team Champion Syuri stood in the middle of the ring, holding the trophy aloft. The night Giulia returned to the ring, Syuri converted that tournament win into a successful challenge of the World of Stardom Championship, a title she still holds to this day.

That could have been Giulia’s spot. One member of Donna Del Mondo took her out of the tournament and another seemingly claimed her glory.

2022 would continue to humble her. Giulia unsuccessfully challenged Syuri for that championship in March, and that night Syuri would not only leave Ryogoku Hall, but Donna Del Mondo. From that moment the faction would be without a championship for the first time in the groups history. Something Giulia couldn’t fix despite challenging for both the tag and trios titles during this time.

New stablemate MIRAI, someone Giulia had brought in, would leave with Syuri. It was a painful loss but it didn’t hurt as much as when Natsupoi made the decision to leave with a superkick, defecting to join Tam Nakano of all people – Giulia’s most hated rival.

Natsupoi handing in her resignation from Donna Del Mondo. Credit: Stardom

If Giulia was going to be the main character of the 2022 5 Star Grand Prix, her fortunes would need to dramatically change. People expected greatness and success from her, but living up to expectations is no easy feat.

The pressure was on, and even if she tried to maintain an image of supreme confidence, the weight of the world was clearly hanging off of her shoulders on the tournament’s opening weekend. Hazuki went out and beat Giulia at her own game in a wild, hard hitting affair. Then MIRAI outsmarted her at the worst possible time, catching her with a flash pin and pushing the favourite to 0-2 after the opening weekend.

Giulia might not have said the pressure was getting to her, but it looked that way from afar. She accepted the Hazuki loss with a reluctant smile – at least she lost in the kind of fierce match she adores – and it was payback from three years ago as their wrestling careers first crossed paths like ships in the night. The loss to MIRAI, however, hurt more. The frustration was clear as day, even if she held back after her opponent’s show of respect.

She had waited a year for this moment and it was already slipping through her fingers.

Small fortunes did shine on Giulia though. After such a horrid start, Giulia had a fortnight between tournament matches to shake off that poor start and get her head back in the game. Her next two matches were against Hanan and Saya Iida, the two who would finish at the bottom of the block. It allowed Giulia to clean the slate.

After evening her record, her next two matches were Starlight Kid and Natsupoi; both wrestlers who would bring out the arrogant and aggressive side of her that leads to the best version of Giulia. She had personal business with both of them. Starlight Kid was the young upstart who Giulia seemed to relish toying with, up to and including trying to rip her mask off in every match they have. Then there was Natsupoi, who had betrayed her for Tam Nakano. A message had to be sent and that’s precisely what Giulia did.

Suddenly Giulia was 4-2, and the poor start was just a memory. From there through the rest of the tournament she would only lose to Momo Watanabe. She quickly rose back to the top of the standings, and once Hazuki’s incredible start began to crumble under the weight of successive losses, Giulia was ready to pounce.

To gain an idea of how dangerous Giulia became during this stretch, you just have to look at how she won her matches. In all eight of her victories, she won using a different move:

  • Octopus Hold vs Hanan
  • Stealth Viper vs Saya Iida
  • Gannosuke Clutch vs Starlight Kid
  • Glorious Driver vs Natsupoi
  • Saito Suplex vs Mina Shirakawa
  • Bianca vs Ami Sourei
  • Guillotine Choke vs Saya Kamitani
  • Northern Lights Bomb vs Tam Nakano (not shown in the above GIF)

That’s a statement, drawing upon all of her five years of experience and growth. Moves she had once relied on to finish matches and new moves she had developed to take the next step. A mixture of technical submissions that sap the life out of her opponents and concussive slams that can end matches in an instant. Plus a couple of surprises, just to keep everyone on their toes.

By the final night Giulia was tied first in her block, and once Hazuki fell to Momo Watanabe her future was in her own hands. Her past and her present would await her on that final night: Suzu Suzuki and then Tam Nakano.

Suzu Suzuki first arrived in Stardom at the start of the year with one goal in mind: revenge. She and Giulia had both gotten their starts in wrestling years ago as a part of Ice Ribbon, but the young prodigy felt betrayed when Giulia left for Stardom.

“Everything I felt before means nothing now. I just have one thing to say to her, to that scum who betrayed me. You are a traitor. And I’m not leaving until you’re on your hands and knees begging for my forgiveness.”

Suzu Suzuki – 22.01.29 STARDOM Nagoya Supreme Fight backstage comments – translated by Dana

Once the bell rang emotions were at an all time high. Both sides shed tears and they steeled themselves for the war to come. Years of raw pain and passion fuelled the next fifteen minutes as they tore each other apart through any means necessary. As the bell rang, neither had succeeded in defeating the other, just expressing themselves.

A win would have seen Suzu advance, however the draw meant Giulia remained one point ahead. A fitting result as both knew the rivalry would never be settled in a single tournament match. For three years Suzu had wanted to show her former friend her true feelings, and even without the win she had managed to do so.

Suzu Suzuki and Giulia after their draw. Credit: Stardom

With a final total of seven wins, three losses and two draws, Giulia was through to the final. She had barely over an hour to rebound from one emotionally charged fight to be ready for another. Suzu had waited years for the moment, but Tam Nakano and Giulia had spent those same years actively demonstrating their hatred for one another.

It felt like destiny. The biggest rivals in Stardom. The match that headlined their biggest ever show. Both striving for glory and a pathway to the World of Stardom Championship. Both would give everything of themselves to win this match, but not just because of the grand stage – put these two in a back alley with nobody watching and the resulting carnage would be the same.

In the end, Giulia endured. A year of pent up frustration watching from the outside. A year of wondering “What if?”. A year of waiting that could have nearly fallen apart at the first hurdle when she lost her first two tournament matches.

Giulia took that year and turned it into the drive she needed to survive two gruelling months of travel and competition. She took the best that Stardom could throw at her and emerged from that fire stronger than ever

“And, since I won, my goal is, like I’ve said before, only one thing, the red belt, only the red belt. I’m looking ahead to the Ryogoku Kokugikan show on December 29th, and I’m going to fine tune myself into perfect condition, and I’ll show you another new world, one in Giulia’s colours. Ladies and gentlemen I will definitely show you the best view so please look forward to it. Really, thank you very much. Let’s meet again. Arrivederci. Later.”

Giulia backstage after her 5 Star GP victory – translated by Dana

December 29th 2021 Syuri converted her 5 Star Grand Prix victory into World of Stardom Championship glory, and promised to paint the world ‘Syu-Red’ in her image. A year ago Giulia watched from the sidelines and could only wonder if that should have been her.

It’s no coincidence Giulia chose to echo the same expressions of her former tag team partner. A New World, not in Syu-Red, but her own colours. The victory she believed was hers a year ago can be finally be hers 365 days later. ‘The main character’ can become the main champion.