ChocoPro 29: Riho’s Homecoming Live Stream Thoughts

July 5, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

ChocoPro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world and take full advantage of the unique particulars of wrestling without a crowd / specifically for online delivery.

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square. 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.

Without an audience and thus not having anyone trying to watching outside, the two large sliding windows on the “back” wall are left in but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers performed from the windowsill.

Just days over a year ago Gatoh Move’s ace left to go freelance. Already a 13 year veteran at just 22 years old at the time, Riho became an even bigger star on the bigger stages she moved on to. Among other things she would become the first AEW Women’s Champion, and successfully defended that title against AEW Superstar Emi Sakura, her former trainer and mentor.

Since her departure Gatoh Move has doubled its roster with an influx of rookies, Riho’s compatriots have grown and honed their skills, and ChocoPro has started. This is not the same place it is when she left, however as of yet no one has managed to claim the mantle of successor and stand out as the sole ace of the promotion the way she did.

And so, in what might or might not be a one-time appearance, Riho returns to Ichigaya Chocolate Square…

ChocoPro 29

As usual Akki is helping with translation, and camera and referee duties are rotated between the participating wrestlers.

1) Tokiko Kirihara & Mitsuru Konno vs Emi Sakura & Lulu Pencil

Sakura’s back is in particularly bad shape as a result of her last woman standing match with Yuna Mizumori at ChocoPro 28, and in the live stream before this show she said she planned on being more of a mascot or manager for Lulu here than a participant. After her battle with Mitsuru at ChocoPro 27 we’ll see how long that particular strategy lasts.

This was ALL Mitsuru & Tokiko dominating as Lulu tried to hold on while Sakura occasionally hobbled in to help break up holds throughout most of the match.

I understand why Sakura didn’t want to miss this show, and the Emi Pencil character and playing to her back issues allowed her to tell different type of story here from her recent intense battles with Mitsuru and Yuna. Her (and Lulu’s) weak, often ineffective strikes coming up just short or being largely ignored by an irritated Mitsuru was fantastic.

Lulu continued her slow progression by holding on just a little longer each time out and getting just a little more offense here and there with things like opportune use of her new pencil tip strikes.

Exactly the match that should have happened here, with a strong showing from Mitsuru & Tokiko against a weakened Sakura & always struggling Lulu, who none-the-less gave them an impressive fight. Tokiko finished Lulu with her sweet judo toss for her first win in ChocoPro.

2) Riho & Yuna Mizumori vs Best Bros (Baliyan Akki & Mei Suruga)

Even in defeat in her last woman standing match, Yuna proved herself and was acknowledged by Sakura as an appropriate partner for Riho in her return.

A determined Mei insists on starting, and is quite fiery against Yuna. The later rises to her intensity level though and fights back to a standstill after pinfall exchanges.

Yuna tags, but Mei won’t leave because she wants to face Riho and waves off the tag to Akki. Riho’s a bit dismissive, and bangs Mei’s head against the full panel window a bit to make her point.

As expected, the action got frantic QUICK. There was a little bit of needed adjustment from Riho who has never wrestled in Ichigaya without a crowd before and was having just her second match back after not wrestling for three months, but of course it didn’t throw her off much and this was every bit the awesome spectacle expected. Hard hitting too, and in one fantastic moment Yuna lariated Akki so hard she knocked his hair tie off.

Late in the match Akki and Yuna tumbled outside and neutralized each other as Mei and Riho battled inside. Mei fought her heart out and even countered Riho’s first attempt at the double knee strike for a close 2s a couple of times, but the returning superstar responded with a successful pair of them to put Mei away.

Incredibly fast paced and fun match highlighted by displays of intensity and power from Yuna, awesome double teams from Best Bros, and of course seeing Riho back in one of wrestling’s most unique environments.

Riho objects to the AEW logo on ChocoPro’s sign and says she’s taking it if she wins the tourney. She then proceeds to storm her way through Lulu and Tokiko to amazingly face Mei (who beat Yuna and Sakura) again in the finals… and wins AGAIN to claim the chocolate and remain undefeated in every aspect of ChocoPro. Sakura begs her to leave the AEW sign and Riho thankfully agrees.

Extremely good show overall and a solid return/ChocoPro debut for Gatoh’s former ace.

——-

As I like to reiterate I’m beyond grateful to Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro for doing so much to provide good natured content aimed at connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed and appreciated.

Visit Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel to check out all of ChocoPro’s content, including the replay of this show. Everything they are doing goes up for free under Sakura’s “No Pay Wall” initiative, so if you do enjoy and are able / would like to support please see their patreon, join as a member of their YouTube channel, and/or donate directly via their PayPal. Also check out their brand new merchandise store with international shipping!

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