ChocoPro 59 Live Stream Thoughts

October 28, 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.

ChocoPro 59

Nothing outside of the main event had been previously announced. During the opening talk it was revealed there would be a singles match to start (participants still a mystery), followed by a Halloween Battle Royale.

Yuya Okada from Basara is on referee duties, presumably so no Halloween costumes are spoiled, etc by having participating wrestlers ref as usual.

1) Baliyan Akki vs Balliyan Akki

Out first is Akki, curiously dressed in a pre-ChocoPro style of his. His opponent is also announced as Baliyan Akki… and is Emi Sakura herself in Akki’s current gear. The way she mimicked his mannerisms throughout the match was incredible (and largely infuriating to Akki the original). Mei on camera and commentary debating which one was her true best bro only added to his ire.

A particular highlight was Emi failing spectacularly when trying to do the spider after being whipped to the wall, then again when she tried to slowly climb into it from one of the windowsills. So Akki forced her into position and held her stuck there for a bit before bringing her down into a backbreaker. Emi’s ridiculous attempts at the Namaste Press were likewise highly amusing.

Eventually Akki the original gets both Akki part 2 AND the referee in a triangle and gets the win off a double tap. I think fake Akki should have won by DQ for Akki’s transgressions against the official, but I suppose since Emi was forcing the referee to carry her into a splash attempt when Akki countered into the choke there’s a certain amount of karmic justice at work.

Extremely good match, which is no surprise with the participants involved.

2) Halloween Battle Royal

This match introduces a highly requested stipulation: in addition to pinfalls eliminations can also happen by being thrown out the window.

Red Riding Hood (Sayuri) and Snow White (Mei Suruga) start. The fairy tale heroines seem to be more interested in posing and cheerfulness than fighting, and Red Riding Hood seemed to be heading out on a journey before the referee and commentator Honda talked them into getting “out of fantastic world and into pro-wrestling” to start the match properly.

Once things got contentious they fought hard for long enough that people in the chat wondered if the match was gauntlet style, but they eventually notice (and the camera reveals to viewers) that a new contestant has secretly appeared. There was an unusually large piece of shrimp sushi huddled on the mat. Careful inspection eventually revealed it was Chie Koishikawa, somehow making shrimp sushi seem like the perfect costume for herself with her exuberant unveiling and masterful use of huddling up into sushi form during the match.

New entrants came fast after that, featuring Harley Quinn (Yuna Mizumori), a samurai (Akki), and a Zaku series Mobile Suit Gundam (Lulu Pencil).

There were a lot of fun interactions between the various characters and too many creative ways of working it all into top notch action to cover. Definitely check this one out.

The first elimination happened when everyone, including his partner Mei who had been working together with him moments before, piled on Akki for a pin after a series of strikes including the most effective lariat Lulu ever threw that knocked Akki over shrimp sushi Chie into schoolboy pin position.

Later Sayuri had an advantage on Yuna with a sleeper applied, but she climbed into the window and dropped back to slam Yuna’s back against the sill… eliminating herself. After ninja disappearing below the window she was shortly in the chat amusingly commenting “the windowsill was useless.”

Mei tried to attack people with her apple throughout the match, with everyone dodging safely until Yuna ducked while Lulu was holding her and Lulu was forced to bite Snow White’s apple. Lulu immediately fell to the mat asleep, and was declared eliminated.

Chie continued to play the perfect shrimp sushi, hiding at opportune moments and letting Harley and Snow do battle. She got involved late and after some intense back and forth seemed to seesaw Yuna back in the window after Mei nearly dropkicked her out, but it was just to set up the fencing chop to knock Yuna completely out (head over heels to boot) and eliminate her.

So it came down to Snow White vs shrimp sushi, and while Chie put up a valiant effort including her huddled sushi pose being a great initial counter to the propeller clutch, she of the evil apple eventually prevailed by taking a bite of the shrimp to break Chie’s defense and securing the propeller clutch after all for the win.

This was everything I want out of a Halloween match, with great costumes, a nice mix of comedy and action, and most of all a ton of fun. One of the most enjoyable matches I’ve seen all year.

3) Sayaka Obihiro vs Antonio Honda vs Jaki Numazawa

This comedy prop “deathmatch” involving these three is an annual tradition for Gatoh Move around New Year’s. However this year it’s also being done as a special main event for this ChocoPro Halloween show.

Every time someone gets a 2-count, they get to perform a comedy skit with their choice of props from a provided basket. If the referee finds it funny, they receive a point. Most points at the end of the fifteen minute time limit wins.

This was exactly what was expected, including running themes that have persisted throughout the various versions of this match I’ve seen (such as Obi being kind of intentionally bad at the comedy). Between the language barrier and the nature of the match itself, I find these hit or miss. One year’s version was one of my all time favorite Gatoh Move comedy matches, while some other years’ just didn’t connect with me. But it generally has it’s charm and given how much fun they all were having with it this one was enjoyable.

It also fit the tone of the rest of the show well and I’m glad they got to do it for a wider audience than would normally see it in person at Ichigaya. The comedy was fairly accessible and I thought it a good introduction to the tradition for new viewers. Though everyone’s milage will vary greatly with these matches depending on how much they happen to enjoy the particular slate of jokes and the style in any given one.

Perhaps wanting to add stakes and suspense to the match given the streaming format, Sakura changed the point value during the last minute to 10 points for a successful skit. As time expired with no one having taken advantage of that bonus and Honda having earned on last skit chance yet being considerably up in the scoring 4-2-1, she further up the stakes saying he’d lose all his points if he didn’t score. Honda failed to amuse the referee for the first time all match, going down to zero and making Jaki the winner with 2 points to Obi’s 1 and Honda’s 0. Jaki didn’t seemed thrilled with the rule roulette and was waving off his victory. I didn’t mind Sakura screwing with the rules for drama here as it’s not a match to take too seriously anyway.

As always post-show had a janken tournament, which came down to the starting entrants in the battle royal against each other again. Sayuri had a good chance at winning her first Dark Choco Tournament after powering through a tough field, but it was truly the poison apple’s day all around as Mei proved victorious and gleefully ate her prize chocolate throughout the photo op and closing song.

This show was a blast overall. Highly recommended.

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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 merchandise store with international shipping!

Assemble 10/1/20 Live Stream Thoughts

October 1, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Pro-Wrestling Assemble is new collaborative Joshi endeavor, with several promotions contributing to make each show a supershow of sorts.

The total list of participating promotions are:
Ice Ribbon
Marvelous
Oz Academy
Pure-J
SEAdLINNNG
Sendai Girls
Stardom
T-HEARTS (Yumiko Hotta’s new group)
Wave


Freelancers are also able to appear.

**Side note: There’s understandably not much public information on the reasons behind the promotions that aren’t participating, but on a ChocoPro livestream Emi Sakura did mention that Gatoh Move was invited and while interested she decided it just wasn’t the right time for them to be involved in such a project for a variety of reasons.**

It was announced that there would be no inter-promotional matches due to Covid considerations (likely as well as potential booking difficulties). Each participating company provided a match for the show, and the match order would be determined by random draw the day of.

The participating promotions and their announced matches for this big first show were:
Freelancers: Sareee, Tomoka Inaba, & Riko Kawabata VS Yumiko Hotta, Saki Akai, & Asuka (Veny)
Marvelous: Takumi Iroha, Rin Kadokura, & Maria vs Mio Momono, Mikoto Shindo, & Mei Hoshizuki
Oz Academy: Mayumi Ozaki & Saori Anou vs Sonoko Kato & AKINO
Pure-J: Leon & Rydeen Hagane vs Manami Katsu & Mari Manji
SEAdLINNNG: Yoshiko & Honori Hana vs Arisa Nakajima & Riko Kaiju *Referee: Natsuki Taiyo
Sendai Girls: Meiko Satomura, DASH Chisako, & Yurika Oka vs Chihiro Hashimoto, Manami, & Natsuho Kaneko

The abundance of tag matches makes sense for each promotion to be able to feature as many wrestlers as possible as well as allowing any match to be potentially suitable for any position on the card.

The draw for card order happened right before the show started, with lots also being drawn to determine who would draw for position first. Chigusa Nagoya got the prize pull putting Marvelous’ offering in the main event.

1) Freelancers: Sareee, Tomoka Inaba, & Riko Kawahata VS Yumiko Hotta, Saki Akai, & Asuka (Veny)

“Freelance” is apparently covering people from promotions not on this show as well as actual freelancers. Smart considering the flexibility it gives and the resulting match here is quite strong.

Opening the show with Sareee’s music hitting is pretty perfect. So awesome she’s being allowed to wrestle over there until it’s safe to come over to the states. I’m not previously familiar with her partners, but she’s alongside two rookies here against a trio of veterans. This is underscored when Hotta shakes everyone’s hand, but her partners Akai & Asuka ignore the rookies and only shake hands with Sareee.

This was all about the veteran heel team being dominant and the rookies getting to show some fire here and there (particularly against Asuka). They built to Saree’s involvement, with her first tag in ten minutes into the match. Solid match that set the stage nicely for the rest of the night.

Great finish saw Hotta & Saki push Sareee & Inaba into the orchestra pit and played guard so they couldn’t get back up to stop Asuka from finishing Riko.

Multiple cameras were used and the somewhat unusual angles combined with the uniqueness of the Ueno venue (which is like a concert stage as opposed to venues where the audience can be on all sides of the ring) gave a pretty cool and distinct feel. Shots were tight because of the setup and occasionally action started or finished out of frame, but overall the presentation was really good and striking.

Although in the first match they were clearly still getting used to the setup, and a camera in one of the corners with a potentially cool angle had to be largely ignored because it was largely blocked by the backsides of the wrestlers standing on the apron. They moved it to the middle of the far side of the ring for the rest of the show.

The various referees were wearing face shields, the audience was spaced out, and the ring was disinfected between matches. Really awesome to see reasonable precautions be taken and enforced.

2) Oz Academy: Mayumi Ozaki & Saori Anou vs Sonoko Kato & AKINO 

Pretty huge offering from Oz here. This match features four of their top stars and could easily main event one of their shows.

This match involved several wrestlers I really enjoy… mostly when they wrestle elsewhere. Oz Academy is often the epitome of heels over running everything in a way I really don’t care for. True to form, Police got involved three second in using chairs. During the match he repeatedly entered the ring to attack Sato or Akino. Ozaki & Anou also repeatedly used weapons themselves. All in full view of the referee. It’d be marginally better for me if the faces at least fought fire with fire, but they NEVER respond in kind.

The good news though is the action was solid in between all the nonsense, and this presented a spot on idea of what Oz Academy is all about. It’s not my thing, but was a genuine portrayal of the company and the style and should be highly enjoyable for fans of such.

There was a small amount of retribution late as Akino low blowed Police, but Ozaki rolled her up in the resulting chaos for the win.

3) Sendai Girls: Meiko Satomura, DASH Chisako, & Yurika Oka vs Chihiro Hashimoto, Manami, & Natsuho Kaneko 

I’m a big fan of Sendai Girls (and Dash Chisako in particular) and their 6-woman tags are always fire, so this had show stealer written all over it for me. And it was as fun and awesome as expected.

It’s been great to see Manami grow as a wrestler over her three year career thus far, and she looked really good here teaming with Sendai’s champion Chihiro and rookie Kaneko. Opposite them was veteran Dash, rookie Oka, and the legendary Meiko Satomura.

The match built nicely and the timing on everything was pitch perfect, particularly the double and triple teams. All the exchanges between Chihiro and the opposing vets (Dash & Meiko) were particularly intense. One of my favorite spots of the night saw Dash viciously headbutt her way out of a power bomb attempt.

Everything led to a long sequence with Chihiro and Oka at the end. Oka hung in, got several close falls, and even survived a lariat, but eventually Chihiro hit the bridging German for the victory.

4) SEAdLINNNG: Yoshiko & Honori Hana vs Arisa Nakajima & Riko Kaiju 

Similar to what Sendai Girls did, SEAdLINNNG went with a solid formula of putting their top two stars across from each other paired with two of their rookies.

The rookies, Riko and Honori, started with a nice exchange and the match just kept escalating from there. I’ve seen Honori a couple of times prior, but this might have been my first exposure to Riko. Both looked good and held up their parts of the match nicely.

This was quick paced and exciting, and there was palpable tension every time Arisa and Yoshiko got anywhere near each other which made for a gripping, excellent match.

Yoshiko won with her senton on Riko, and continued to fight with Arisa after the bell.

5) Pure-J: Leon & Rydeen Hagane vs Manami Katsu & Mari Manji 

I’ve struck through this match title because I unfortunately didn’t watch it. I couldn’t catch this show live and was watching the archive, and was running up against the time limit (it was only available for a few days after the original broadcast). I had to skip something, and this was the least interesting match to me personally.

Interestingly, just a few days after this show Katsu and Manji announced they will be leaving Pure-J.

6) Marvelous: Takumi Iroha, Rin Kadokura, & Maria vs Mio Momono, Mikoto Shindo, & Mei Hoshizuki 

This isn’t the match I imagined as the main event, but it was suitable and the participants more than capable of tearing the house down.

It’s awesome that Rin was able to be back for this. I haven’t seen Shindo’s new gear much before, and it looks great.

Mio’s team tried a bum rush to start but Iroha was ready and just turned and stared them into stopping. Such an awesome little character moment for Iroha, which immediately established Marvelous’ ace as the badass in the match.

The match was the kind of controlled chaos Marvelous does really well when they’re firing on all cylinders. I love Maria’s attitude and the little mannerisms she has during matches, and in general everyone in the match (and the show for that matter) was on point and giving their all to make the best impression possible.

Rin seemed to be pretty much immediately back to form. Her arm kind of gave out on her at one point, but it was a small thing and she recovered well enough.

A big portion of the match was rising star against ace as Mio battled Iroha. One incredible moment saw Mio looking done after Iroha hit the stout power bomb, but Shindo DOVE through her opponents to get a hand on Iroha to save the fall.

Late Mio did a beautiful code red reversal to another Iroha power bomb. But Iroha took back over and kicked Mio in the head three times then hooked a deep cover… so deep Mio rolled it around into a tight cover of her own, and WON!

EVERYONE was shell shocked, including Mio’s partners who seemed to take a few moments to realize they won.

Huge statement here by Marvelous by having Mio beat their ace in the main event of cross company show. Mio’s incredible and just really getting some momentum going after coming back from injury, so it’s fantastic to see her get a big spotlight victory here.

——-

Overall this was an extremely strong initial offering for Assemble. Good action all around with some big highlights, and each match was a bit different in style highlighting the promotion presenting it. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing more of the numerous new-to-me rookies from this show.

Assemble’s second show will be November 20. I expected the companies missing from the first show to be cycled in, but Ice Ribbon and Wave will still not appear yet.

All the companies from the first show (minus the freelance match) will be back, meaning the full slate of participating companies will be Marvelous, Oz Academy, Pure-J, SEAdLINNNG, Sendai Girls, Stardom, and T-HEARTS.

There will also be a “Hall of Fame Special Edition” match, and three “Up and Coming Edition” dark matches for a pre-show. The match order for both the pre-show and main show will be randomly determined (separately).