Our story starts once upon a time (or like, last month), in the kingdom of chocolate and bodyslams…
ChocoPro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world, specifically tailored to the unique opportunities of wrestling without an audience in Ichigaya Chocolate Square.
In the short three months since it’s start, ChocoPro is already had 26 shows and counting. “Season 1” ran 18 episodes/shows. It featured a variety of amazing guest competitors, incredible wrestling, and compelling performances.
But an undercurrent of frustration and discontent would build in a particular wrestler, sparked by her own buried doubts and enflamed by a particular agitator.
As ChocoPro was building momentum and establishing its particular style and approach to wrestling, a special event was announced. ChocoPro 11 would be one match show, with Yuna Mizumori against Minoru Fujita in a Last Man Standing match. The only people there would be the competitors and Baliyan Akki, acting as cameraman and making the count. This was a huge opportunity for Yuna, but an equally huge challenge.
The day before the match Sakura pushed Yuna to emotional exhaustion in a lengthy interview during which she really grilled Yuna about her insecurities, both regarding wrestling and her other career as an idol. It was a stark, combative exchange that brought out all of Yuna’s own self-doubts.
Akki summarized the interview and Yuna’s struggles to open ChocoPro 11.
“Somehow she’s winning and still feels like she’s losing.”
I love that Akki made sure to highlight Yuna’s accomplishments and point out that she’s overachieving despite her lack of self confidence. She is the only Gatoh Move roster member with three years experience or less to hold any title (and that covers 80% of the roster), and her TWO tag team title reigns with partner Saki encompass over half of her two year career thus far. It does feel like Yuna’s accomplishments get a little overlooked sometimes compared with her compatriots, and her opening up about her insecurities in such a real way put this match in a new light (and was a bit heartbreaking).
The match was incredible, but Yuna couldn’t overcome her formidable opponent.
An INTENSE post show talk continued to examine Yuna’s insecurities, with Fujita alternating a bit between antagonizing Yuna and being sympathetic and giving her advice.
After praising Yuna and pondering why they had to be the ones to go through this emotional journey at Sakura’s pushing Fujita challenged Emi Sakura to find a partner to face him and Yunamon as a TEAM.
Everything about that show was a roller coaster for Yuna but she seemed satisfied to have earned Fujita’s respect, even though they came up short in the grudge match against Sakura & Akki and during subsequent teaming. Sakura took further issue with this, saying Yuna shouldn’t be happy since she was still losing, and broke up the team out from under Yuna and started booking Fujita to team with Mei instead.
The criticisms were a constant barrage, as Sakura had a daily platform to evaluate Yuna and remark about her emotions with Akki and Mei (during ChocoPro’s non-show content like watch parties, etc) while Yuna went mad in the comments limited to short bursts of text that might or might not be read as her only retorts. It wasn’t done maliciously, but with a matter-of-factness that was none the less biting and at times uncomfortable.
Things like said matter-of-fact dissection of Yuna’s emotions, Sakura’s occasional mean streak during matches, and her power both as the boss of ChocoPro and a hard-to-beat 25 year veteran led to the “oni” nickname, likening her dominance and approach to mythical, powerful Japanese ogres.
The legitimate, heart wrenching emotion tied up in all of this overflowed as Yuna directed her anger at all three of her perceived agitators. In response she received a singles match… against Akki instead of Sakura.
EVERYTHING that had been building in Yuna came out in an incredible roller coaster ride of a battle with Akki that easily ranks among ChocoPro’s best matches against stiff competition. She had weeks of frustration to let out, he was annoyed at being looked at as a step towards Sakura, and they expressed all of their frustrations and more in a hard hitting, intense affair. It’s impossible to properly describe the raw emotion, intensity, and atmosphere this had.
They fought to a time limit draw, with Akki being run ragged and having to dig deep to survive against someone he had beaten before. Yuna demanded a match with Mei afterwards, intending to continue on her way to Sakura, and even committed the unforgivable sin of stealing Mei’s chocolate after the latter won the post show janken tournament.
However the war with Akki had helped center Yuna a little. Afterwards he expressed that he was glad he could help Yuna as an outlet for it all, even if he had to be the target. By this point Sakura had also toned down the needling of Yuna and even apologized during one of the streams.
So when Yuna & Akki worked things out and ended up tagging on the next show, shades of the old, happier Yuna started reappearing. She still had the edge that had been forming though, and was still desperate to prove herself. They fought to a draw with Antonio Honda & Fujita, and in the main event Mei had an incredibly impressive showing in a draw against Asuka.
The strong performances of both Yuna and Mei led to Sakura granting their desire for a match, and Sakura’s annoyance with the numerous draws made her declare it would be a special match type and there must be a winner.
Thus another one match show was set for ChocoPro 17: Yuna vs Mei in an ironman match. If tied at the end of a half hour, the match would continue under sudden death rules, first fall to a finish. Sakura had ChocoTalk interviews with both before the match, and they were of a more genial nature than the original one with Yuna.
ChocoPro has been a constant repetition of raising the bar and then exceeding it, and these two wrestlers with just barely two years experience each tore the house down in a phenomenal back and forth encounter that would end up winning fan voted best match of the season. Yuna managed to secure the advantage just as time ran out with them tied 3-3 and pinned Mei in the first few seconds of overtime for the win.
“Why do I still feel like I lost?”
It was a huge victory for Yuna, but it wasn’t enough. Something was still gnawing at her, which made Mei (who actually lost) irate and led to tension all around.
But things lightened a bit with the next ChocoPro show, which was a double birthday bash for Akki & Mei. The Best Birthday Bros teamed up in the main event to defeat Yuna & Fujita. Things seemed a bit back to normal as far as Yuna’s emotional state, it was revealed that Fujita was done with ChocoPro (as he had a title match coming up), and Mitsuru Konno made a surprise return after being out for the majority of the season to declare she was healthy and ready to come back.
The season length was not preplanned. However with the above developments all in one show it felt in some ways like the end of a chapter in the story of ChocoPro, and it was decided show 19 would start “season 2.” Yuna’s heart, journey, and of course top-notch wrestling won her fan voted MVP of the season. She never got her match with Sakura, but it still seemed like the story might be wrapped up for the moment none the less.
Except of course it wasn’t, and that couldn’t have been more clear from the start of season 2.
In the very first show Sakura made Yuna team with her to take on Akki & Tokiko Kirihara. After a successful outing, in outcome if not from a reconciliation perspective, Sakura would continue to make a reluctant and grumpy Yuna partner with her. She even twisted the knife by stealing Yuna’s chocolate after her janken tournament win, delighting in her “partner’s” distress.
They defeated Best Bros (Akki & Mei) after a tough fight more due to Sakura blind tagging herself in at an opportune moment to seize the glory for herself than being particularly good partners. For “fun” Sakura made a rematch for the very next show, and the volatile team of her and Yuna finally fell in defeat as Sakura got rolled up onto her partner to cause Yuna’s loss.
By this point Yuna had more than enough of Sakura’s games, and demanded to finally get her one-on-one match with her antagonistic boss. Sakura stalled and taunted Yuna a bit, but then agreed under the condition that Yuna prove her desire by focusing only on that match and thus would not appear on ChocoPro until their match, set for the end of June.
On a ChocoPro stream shortly thereafter Sakura revealed that Yuna was too fired up and might have had an advantage if they fought right away, so she delayed the match to remove that edge. Scheming oni will scheme.
In Yuna’s absense, Sakura has been taunting her at every opportunity. She sings Yuna’s entrance song to start her matches and uses Yuna’s signature moves constantly. All the while the pineapple girl watches from the sidelines, posting angry comments in the chat, doing streams herself about being free during the shows to wrestle if Sakura would let her, and sharing training videos of her preparations to vanquish her tormentor.
At ChocoPro 25 Sakura stated she wanted a winning streak going into her match with Yuna and decided Sayuri was the weakest on the roster so booked herself against the rookie (for the second time in a week). That match is well worth checking out both for an example of how much Sakura has been determined to push Yunamon’s buttons, as well as a great performance by a fiery Sayuri determined to play spoiler.
Speaking of playing spoiler, there is one more show before the fated showdown. Sakura will face Mitsuru Konno in the main event of ChocoPro 27, and there are questions about what it will do to Yuna’s quest for recognition and redemption if another key rising star defeats Sakura first.
Also, Yuna will have another ChocoTalk before the big match, although with Akki handling the interview this time to avoid things getting heated as they would if Sakura did the interview again.
This has been building for over 15 shows and nearly two months of daily content. Will Yuna finally cast this tremendous weight off her shoulders and defeat her trainer/tormentor? Will she be satisfied if she does?
Or will the almighty oni’s experience and bag of tricks prove too much for the emotional upstart? And if so, what depths of desperation will it drive poor Yunamon to?
We’ll find out in just a couple of days, and either way it’ll be a hell of a show.
The Story Thus Far
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