As we approach the date of May 23, it only seems right to recognize and remember the beautiful legacy of the late Hana Kimura. Hana’s mother, Kyoko Kimura, will be holding a special memorial event on May 23 named “See You Again.” She was a shining light in the world who made it known that “everyone is different, everyone is special.” Those are words that anyone should take with them and live by. To the best of our ability, we hope to honor and remember Kimura through the incredible work she did in professional wrestling. In this article, we take a look back at the 2019 5STAR Grand Prix tournament that allowed Kimura to solidify herself as one of the true stars of Stardom.
Red Stars Block: vs. Tam Nakano (8/17/19)
The confidence that Hana Kimura walked into this tournament with really shows why this was her year. The leader of Tokyo Cyber Squad, Kimura had the coolest look around, oozing with confidence, and was ready to take on STARS‘s Tam Nakano to kick it all off. Nakano didn’t come into the match with nearly as much confidence and you could see it with the body language, but as Nakano has shown, she can gain it as the match goes on. This match was a fight. There wasn’t anything to it other than hard-nosed strikes and the need to hurt each other. Perhaps that is what made it such a great opener for both women. Kimura looked to be on her heels before she turned Nakano over into an intense Hydrangea, making Nakano give up and giving Kimura her first two points of the tournament.
It was a brilliant opening showing for Kimura, who rode the hot start to an incredible run.
Winner: Hana Kimura
Red Stars Block: vs. Natsu Sumire (8/18/19)
The former Oedo Tai stablemates had no love lost going into this one and it showed before the bell could even ring. It’s difficult to match the intensity that Kimura brought to the ring, but Natsu Sumire did that and then some. As soon as she stepped into the ring, Sumire blasted Kimura off the top rope and out to the floor. This is when the match really got underway and much like Kimura’s first bout in the tournament, it didn’t slow down until the finish. There was a real disdain you could feel in this match from just watching it. There was a brilliant spot mid-match where Kimura locked in the Boston Crab but added the spin of making it a pendulum swinging version of the maneuver, leaving Sumire without answers.
Sumire did get the upper hand after all and looked as though she was going to pull off the win over the young Kimura, but the Hydrangea proved to once again be one of the best moves in Stardom. Once Kimura got it locked in, it was over for Sumire who was left with no other option but to tap out. This pace that Kimura wrestled at was magic, putting into focus that this really could be her time.
Winner: Hana Kimura
Red Stars Block: vs. Saki Kashima (8/25/19)
Riding high after two impressive wins, Kimura’s confidence was out of this world, and rightfully so. Then she lost in eight seconds. Eight seconds. This match started and ended before you could even understand what was going on. As Saki Kashima got into the ring, Kimura went on the attack. It was little time to breathe for Kashima but didn’t end up mattering. After Kimura hit a brainbuster, she prepared to lock in the Hydrangea but was met with Kashima’s Kishikaisei pin and was stunned. The anger of Kimura spilled over after the match as she went after Kashima, but her road to the win in the 5STAR Grand Prix hit a massive block that no one expected.
Winner: Saki Kashima
Red Stars Block: vs. Avary (9/7/19)
The beautiful thing about who Kimura was as a human being was that despite that loss to Kashima, she didn’t become super serious but recognized that her talent speaks for itself. Kimura started off the match with Avary with some humor before going on the offensive. Maybe the most shocking part of this match is that at times, it seemed Avary may have had Kimura’s number. There were multiple occasions where Avary came close to winning and putting Kimura back that much more in her dreams of achieving victory, but once the Hydrangea was locked in, there was no escape for Avary. The establishment of that move was major in this tournament if you haven’t figured it out by now. With the win, Kimura prepared for her most difficult run but was thankfully carrying some momentum.
Winner: Hana Kimura
Red Stars Block: vs. AZM (9/8/19)
Kimura had essentially shaken off any doubt she may have had after her loss to Saki Kashima with the rather dominant victory over Avary. So much so that the confidence was glowing for Kimura heading into her match with AZM. For the majority of the encounter, Kimura was in control and having fun with it. She broke down the body of AZM, hitting her with stiff boots and strikes while bringing her from the ring into the crowd and back. It was only when AZM was able to stun Kimura with a springboard crossbody, getting a near fall and changing the pace of the match that led to a momentum shift. Rather than the slow methodical pace that Kimura had the match at, AZM brought it up to high speed and it eventually led to her shocking victory over Kimura.
Kimura did lock on the Hydrangea, but AZM’s leg had managed to fall onto the rope, forcing a rope break and allowing her to survive. AZM managed to get the Azumi Sushi pin on Kimura and stole yet another bout from the growing favorite. This marked the second loss in the 5STAR run of Kimura, nearly in the same fashion as the first via surprise pin. With Mayu Iwatani and Momo Watanabe on the horizon for Kimura, she was going to have to figure it out and bring out the best in her own game.
Red Stars Block: vs. Mayu Iwatani (9/14/19)
Anytime you have to face Mayu Iwatani in anything, you know it’s going to be a difficult fight. At this point in the tournament, Kimura sat with six points and a 3-2 record. She was still going rather strong despite the two stunning losses earlier on, but Iwatani was far different from anyone she had challenged so far. Despite that, the TCS leader managed to control the pace and the early majority of the match, something of serious note seeing Iwatani was a mere few months away from becoming World of Stardom Champion. But mid-match saw everything change. An all-out slugfest broke out between the opponents, matching blow for blow and holding nothing back in what quickly became a war between them.
Iwatani began to take control, moving effectively and making every maneuver count. But Kimura didn’t back down and even locked in Hydrangea. It seemed all would be over and Kimura would pick up the upset over the “Icon,” but Iwatani would escape by crawling to the ropes, forcing a rope break. Kimura was rattled and this led to her defeat, as Iwatani took advantage and would hit her Dragon Suplex to win the match. This left Kimura in a real hole all of a sudden and meant she would have to win out to have a chance. The magic of Kimura kicked in.
Winner: Mayu Iwatani
Red Stars Block: vs. Momo Watanabe (9/16/19)
There was no showmanship this time around for Kimura. It was all business for her when she faced Momo Watanabe. From the first bell, it became clear that this match was of the utmost importance to both competitors as they were preparing to run at each other. The urgency on the mind of Kimura was that by any means possible, she needed to win. The early going saw Kimura feeling good as she tended to do in these 5STAR matches but she had to know in the back of her mind the former historic Wonder of Stardom Champion was going to come storming back. And that she did. At one point, it felt as though both women threw the complete kitchen sink of moves in their moveset at each other, and towards the finish, it was going to take one over-the-top maneuver to win.
Watanabe, like Iwatani, managed to escape from the Hydrangea but this time around, Kimura didn’t look concerned or lost. Rather, she looked for the end. It became abundantly clear that it would come down to Kimura’s Tiger Lily Package Piledriver or Watanabe’s Peach Sunrise suplex to win the match. It was Kimura who managed to hit the Tiger Lily on Watanabe and pick up the major victory, seemingly stunning everyone in attendance. This was the tournament-defining win for Kimura, who would ride this momentum and success to the biggest opportunity of her career. She’d enter the final day with a chance to win her block.
Winner: Hana Kimura
Red Stars Block: vs. Hazuki (9/22/19)
It only seemed right that Hana Kimura’s road to winning the Red Stars Block would have to go through Oedo Tai. Hazuki stood in the way of Kimura and put up one of the best fights fans could even imagine. This bout started off far more technical than you would expect given the styles both these talented women utilized in their matches. Once that technical part was done with, Hazuki took control of the match and did really until the final moments. She brought Kimura everywhere around the ring, making it a goal of sorts to tire her out and hurt her to the point she could finish up the match sooner than anyone expected. It wasn’t until Kimura hit a last-ditch effort of the Hydrangea, which was more to change the momentum of the match more than actually winning it, that Kimura found herself in control.
Hazuki managed to get out, but with that one change, it was anyone’s match to win. A beautiful near fall got everyone in attendance as Hazuki came milliseconds close to winning the match. Kimura had enough of the back and forth though, hitting the devastating Tiger Lily Package Piledriver to win the match, to win the Red Stars Block, and secure a spot in the finals against one of her own Tokyo Cyber Squad stablemates.
Winner: Hana Kimura
Final: vs. Konami (9/22/19)
The crowning moment. Hana Kimura vs. Konami meant Tokyo Cyber Squad was winning the 2019 5STAR Grand Prix no matter what. But that did not mean either woman was going to hold back on their friend. Rather, they went that much more in on each other. Konami devastated the already injured right leg of Kimura, hitting a wicked dragon screw on her earlier in the match and making that the target for the remainder of the contest. At times it seemed Kimura would have no chance to get out as the offense by Konami was never-ending and only manipulated and attacked the joints to the point of most not being able to continue. But Kimura was perseverant, not only figuring out a way to come back but finding offense of her own to throw Konami off her roll she had been on.
It made sense. These two knew each other too well and all it was going to take one was slip up for the other to walk out victorious. Considering the success of the Triangle Lancer, it seemed if that was locked on Kimura, it was over. As Konami attempted for the move, Kimura was wise enough to barely sneak out of it and turn it into a pin attempt. Konami then managed to deny Kimura of the Tiger Lily Package Piledriver, showing a real stalemate over who would walk out as the winner. Ultimately for Kimura, it would be the move that got her to this point — the Hydrangea — that would win her the match and the tournament itself. It was an emotional, yet deserving moment for Kimura who finally saw herself at the top of the mountain.
It may not have been a title, but it was the tournament itself that showed this was her time.
Winner: Hana Kimura
Kimura’s efforts in this tournament showed that not only was she a star, but she was the star. The ability to capture the attention of everyone surrounding her and put on a show is something few wrestlers can possess so naturally. The world misses that shining light that Kimura brought in the ring and outside of it. We look at stuff like this because it’s a way to remember her. A way to try and honor her. The run by Hana Kimura in the 5STAR showed growth, internal belief, and the ability to keep chasing your dreams. She inspired so many people for a reason and if there’s anything that can be remembered about her, it is exactly that. An inspiration to many, a shining light to all. May she rest in peace.
You can help #EndTheHate through the non-profit organization set up by Hana’s mother Kyoko called Remember Hana. Here’s the link to donate. Together, we can keep Hana Kimura’s legacy alive forever.
“Everyone is different. Everyone is special. Yessir!”
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