January 2, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan
My final Gatoh Move show of my most recent trip was another great one with three intriguing matches and something special in place of the normal roundtable discussion afterwards.
As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.
Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).
I mentioned in other reviews how big a fan I am of Mitsuru Konno in particular and how wonderful it was this trip to see her in singles matches against incredible veterans like Riho and Masahiro Takanashi. This show had potentially the biggest treat in that vein, as she faced Gatoh Move founder Emi Sakura in a match I was beyond excited for. Unfortunately with this show being super sold out I ended up off to the side a bit with a less than ideal viewing angle looking through the window and couldn’t see about half of this.
It was still great though, as Mitsuru continued to play the perfect fiery underdog trying to prove herself against an opponent who’s an absolute expert in the field. They spilled out of the window by me towards the end leading to Mitsuru’s fun “using an audience stool to launch herself back through the window into a kick on her opponent” spot. Emi eventually prevailed, but both looked extremely good from what I witnessed. Hope to be lucky enough to see this matchup again.
In a variation on a match I saw last year, Antonio Honda faced Aoi Kizuki in a special match for New Year’s involving trying to “recreate” a Kagami mochi. This time the goal was to get a hat that looked like mochi onto Obi’s head (Obi was sitting apparently passively in a corner of the mat), then whoever placed an orange on top of the hat to complete it would win. This was absurd in the best way, and one of my favorite comedy matches I’ve seen in Gatoh Move.
There was a slow bit it the middle where Aoi was inches away from winning but kept stopping for some reason as Honda begged off (obviously understanding Japanese might have helped me here), but otherwise everything really came together and was highly amusing. Particular high points included Honda and Aoi having to temporarily join forces to get the hat on Obi when she started striking whoever got close to her, and a fantastic ending that saw Honda and Aoi get more and more exaggerated and ridiculous doing dueling dances building up to Honda’s tribute to Dusty Rhodes’ trademark elbow, but when it came time to hit the elbows as Honda reared back for it Aoi turned and calmly put an orange on Obi’s head for the win instead. This was my first time seeing Aoi at an Ichigaya show and my only opportunity to see her this trip, so her involvement in this was particularly awesome for me.
During the roundtable following the New Year’s Day Show, Baliyan Akki formed a new tag team with Saki, and Emi set up a unique challenge for them if the form of her own tag team champion partner Masahiro Takanashi and Gatoh Move’s singles champion Riho. Both teams had great chemistry and I loved this match. The unusual pairing of champions prevailed here in an excellent main event.
After the show in lieu of the normal roundtable of conversation Emi changed things up a little, in part to be more accessible to the decent number of visiting foreigners. So this time they ran cool practice drill where Emi had balloons taped to a kickpad she was holding and other wrestlers took turns trying to pop them via dropkicks. Mitsuru, Baliyan, Aoi, and Riho all popped their balloons first try. Poor Saki came very close on two attempts, but only managed to knock the balloon off the kickpad. Guest referee for the day Hikaru Shida walked up to Emi before her attempt and took the balloon off the pad and made Emi hold it instead (to the latter’s consternation), then just took the balloon away altogether and blasted Emi with the dropkick instead.
This was so much fun to watch and another excellent touch from a promoter completely committed to making her shows enjoyable.
This was a pretty much perfect way to wrap up my Gatoh Move shows for this visit to Japan, and as always I had a fantastic time.