April 14, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan
Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura and DDT’s Antonio Honda to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world.
The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square with no crowd. As I like to mention to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring. The edge of the mat and the wall are essentially the “rope break” point for submissions, but do not interrupt pinfall attempts.
With no crowd the two large sliding windows on one wall which are left in, but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers performed from the windowsill.
Another big dream match for Akki in the main event as Masato Tanaka makes his ChocoPro debut.
As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Sakura usually referees, except her own matches when someone else on the card steps in.
New banner with the ChocoPro logo in the background. Sakura explains it’s pink to represent strawberry chocolate, and with it being paper instead of cloth there will presumably be less in match shenanigans involving it than the prior one.
The replay is not up yet so no screen caps for this review.
1) Emi Sakura vs Antonio Honda
Usual opening sequence of Honda’s matches here where they trade hammerlocks so Honda can pretend to say “give up” and say things like “give apple pie” instead. I have to admit it’s one of my least favorite things he does and I’m glad it was kept to one instance here.
Honda keeps pretending to attack with various items, doing silly pantomimes, then often hits Sakura with them anyway in the confusion. No DQ for things like volleyball spiking a basketball into his opponent, which I can’t say is the best reflection on Mei’s refereeing skills.
Late in the match Emi does the We Will Rock you lead in to her signature splash, but Honda sings the song in English to interrupt her charge. He tries to get her to continue it, but she tries to deflect by humming then switching songs. As he grows more insistent she tearfully admits she can’t speak English (in English of course). Honda points out Queen has a song in Japanese and they sing together. However Honda savagely uses their handshake to attack Emi’s arm and proceeds into a cross armbreaker for the submission victory.
I can’t really evaluate this as a wrestling match, but I enjoyed it overall as a character piece. And bigger fans of Honda’s style and signature bits will get even more out of it than I did.
2) Yuna Mizumori vs Mei Suruga
Like Yuna vs Mitsuru from ChocoPro 3 this is one of the matches that would normally be more rare. These two haven’t faced in each other in singles competition in over a year. Let the fierce battle of apple vs pineapple begin.
This is honestly mush more my speed than the opener. High energy, fast paced wrestling with the humorous antics and pauses for posing blended into the action and largely delivered in the form of taunting the other wrestler.
At one point Mei hilariously tries her version of Yuna’s “Papaya! Mango! Coconut!” cheer (“Karage! Tonkatsu! Katsu curry!”) which backfires spectacularly as she realizes she was just making Yuna angry. Mei hides behind cameraman Honda and they chase each other around the camera in a cool moment unique too ChocoPro and its environment.
Later Mei closes the window on Yuna’s hair resulting in a humorous bit as Emi tries to shush Yuna’s screams so as not to disturb the neighbors while Yuna protests about being trapped.
Mei’s been breaking out her take on cattle mutilation lately, and here Yuna does a stunning handstand counter then falling onto Mei to break it. It was one of a series of excellent counters and move variations throughout the match. It all leads up to Yuna doing her wall run splash to Mei’s back for the win.
Really great stuff.
3) Baliyan Akki vs Masato Tanaka
This is Tanaka’s first non-ring match, which is presented as perhaps evening out his general experience edge over Akki. Indeed Tanaka needs to adjust to the environment, as he doesn’t quite understand why he has to break his holds when Akki grabs the edge of the mat at first.
The confusion doesn’t last long however, and the veteran shortly establishes an extended assault on Akki. There’s a serious, intense atmosphere to this match that’s absolutely captivating.
Tanaka adapts further and takes the action “outside the ring” so to speak by ramming Akki into the table against the wall. He then attacks Akki with a chair. Mei shouting “referee” in protest is pretty amusing considering what she let Honda get away with. Sakura considers it all for a moment and audibly decides it’s ok for Tanaka to use the chair.
I think from now I’ll just proceed under the assumption that all ChocoPro matches are relaxed rules. And to be fair, Tanaka involving tables and chairs in his matches isn’t exactly a surprise.
The carnage continues, as Tanaka sets up a pile of chairs but Akki reverses a powerbomb attempt into a back drop onto them. However Akki then gets DDT’d on them for a close 2
They go into a HEAVY forearm exchange, which Akki eventually gains advantage of with a variety of fast strikes. The pace keeps picking up the longer this goes. Akki opens the windows and later takes advantage of it for a wall grab counter into a Frankensteiner off the windowsill.
He later reverses a powerbomb into a brainbuster across the knee, and the following Namaste splash gets 2. Akki perhaps unwisely grabs a chair for a second one, and eats the chair as Tanaka moves out of the way. Tanaka puts a chair on Akki and goes to the window with another for an assisted elbow drop… for 2! He gets a table but Akki dropkicks it into him and goes into a series of rollups for several close near falls.
However Tanaka counters into a powerbomb counter for 2, then presses the advantage leading to the Sliding D for the win. This was fantastic.
Post-show sees A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney 3 take place!
Emi gives herself the first round match with Tanaka, Mei and Akki get the first round byes (since there are only six participants), leaving Yuna vs Honda to round out the bracket.
Poor Yuna has no luck in these tourneys, and Akki’s redemption quest ends early as Honda wins two in row to go to the finals.
Tanaka gets into it and beats Emi in the first round. A trepidatious Mei ties him, then WINS!
Riding unbeatable momentum after upsetting Tanaka, Mei defeats Honda to claim the whole tournament. This is her first win but second piece of prize chocolate after being given Chris’s last show.
Then Sakura and Tanaka sit down for a half hour of ChocoTalk. Mostly untranslated so I couldn’t follow what they were discussing, but still awesome that they do this type of thing.
As I like to reiterate I’m really grateful for Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro to be doing so much to provide good natured content aimed connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed.
These shows generally contain something for everyone, and it was epitomized here. The opener was full-on story and emotion based humor, the second match a masterful technical sprint, and the main event an incredible brawl. Add it all together with them fully embracing the things they can do only under the no audience format and I really can’t recommend ChocoPro enough.