January 12 and 13, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan
I expected 1/1 and 1/2 to be my last Gatoh Move shows of this trip, but an unexpected extension due to less than pleasant circumstances yielded the fortuitous side effect of getting to enjoy a bit more wrestling.
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 generally 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).
1) Mitsuru Konno vs An-Chamu
Interesting matchup for An-Chamu after only having seen her against veterans in singles matches until now. Mitsuru has more experience than An, but is still within what’s considered a relative rookie in Japan with just over two years wrestling (at the time). This was a little rough in parts, but well done overall and continued the building story of Mitsuru developing a more aggressive edge. It was interesting to see what she did with an unusual power advantage too, and always cool to see her pick up a victory.
2) Mei Suruga vs Masahiro Takanashi
I adore veteran vs rookie singles matches in general, and particularly in Gatoh Move where differences in character are so seamlessly integrated into ringwork. This one was fantastic, with a brilliantly executed underlying story. Mei seemed a little “full of herself”, but it was justified as she continually countered and befuddled the vet. Takanashi only had the advantage when he focused on a body part and pressed his size advantage, which Mei would then often counter to start the cycle over. Takanashi brandishing an audience member’s stool at points also spoke to a touch of desperation / annoyance at the level of fight he was receiving (and they got really clever with how they used it too). Mei eventually ends up getting caught in a sharpshooter and Takanashi escapes with a win.
3) Emi Sakura, Riho, & Sayaka Obihiro vs Yuna Mizumori, Saki, & Baliyan Akki
Another fun, fast paced 6-person tag from Gatoh Move. The strike exchanges stood out in this one, particularly a series of them between Yuna and Emi. The Gatoh Move originals were befuddled a bit with a frenetic onslaught at the end of the match from their opponents leading to an exciting upset victory for Yuna, Akki, & Saki when the latter pinned Obi.
For this show I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to sit in the “rope row” for the first time. As intimate and exciting Ichigaya is as a venue in general, it’s incredible how different the experience is from being just a couple feet back standing behind these seats or sitting right outside the window. It really drives home the impact of moves and how fast everyone is moving when they’re inches away.
1) 3-Count Championship: Emi Sakura (c) vs Sayaka Obihiro
Obi had been needling Sakura going into this long awaited singles encounter, and the latter decided to throw down the gauntlet and make this a title match. Really intense, back and forth match leading to Sakura exerting her dominance in the end and retaining. It was a treat to see these two in singles action.
2) 3-way: Mei Suruga vs Baliyan Akki vs Saki
This was so much fun. Mei wrestling like she thinks she can take on the whole world is AWESOME. Akki’s really grown in his time with Gatoh, honing his impressive athletic abilities and refining all the little details that make for great matches. And Saki’s always an appreciated addition to Gatoh shows. She eventually pinned a stunned Mei to win this.
3) Mitsuru Konno & Sawasdee Kamen vs Riho & Madoka
I think Madoka was announced under one of his billion other names here, but it was him. He and Riho came out brandishing training equipment, which would quickly be revealed to be intended weapons. Going into this Mitsuru had been tweeting about their righteous cause to “cleanse the hearts of evil,” while Riho responded claiming there was no evil in her heart. I thought it simply banter until the match started…
Playing off those exchanges, this was framed with Riho & Madoka as the villains to Mitsuru & Sawasdee’s hero personas. Evil Riho is pretty awesome. Sakura was refereeing, and is possibly the “worst” ref ever. She was ridiculously easily distracted, often had her back problems act up when she was supposed to be counting pins for the heroes, etc.
I honestly generally dislike incompetent ref stories, as they’re really hard to do without making the faces look stupid. But the level to which they went over the top in the ridiculousness made this amusing (although it will get tiresome quick if the heroes keep getting the short end of the stick like this over several matches). They committed to the story 110%, anchored it with solid wrestling, and made this highly enjoyable. Madoka stole a pin on Sawasdee and the villains won this day.
The roundtable was especially fun this time, with Aoi Kizuki visiting (to sell DVDs of her retirement show), and Mitsuru staring a hole through Emi and others and they presented their version of what happened during the main event.
As I mentioned before everything was really clicking for Gatoh Move for these shows, even above and beyond their usual high standard. They’re always pushing themselves in new directions, making the most of their diverse styles and personalities, and above all striving to make everything they do fun for both the audience and themselves, and it really comes through in the form of enjoyable, engaging shows.