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Japan Reviews Wrestling

Joshi Odds and Ends: Exhibition Matches, Ichigaya Chocolate Square

Been a while. I hope to have the blog off its long hiatus and back to regular updates sometime in September. In the meantime there are a couple of things I though it would be useful to have reference for and decided to do a quick write up.

Exhibition Matches

Exhibition matches are matches that generally have short time limits and are happening for some sort of special reason or circumstances, including special events, return matches, or occasionally for retirements (such as with Reika Saiki’s retirement earlier this year).

Here I want to specifically talk about pre-debut exhibition matches, like the ones new Gatoh Move trainee Miya is currently having (and that I’ve seen wrestlers in other companies go through as well).

These exhibitions are “unofficial” semi-practice matches for a trainee to face an established wrestler (usually a roster member of the company they are training to join). In the past these often happened as a pre-show of sorts only for the live audience, but more of them are being broadcast the last few years (still generally before the show officially starts though).

There are a few special things about these matches to take note of. Both the trainee and her opponent wear training clothes/sweats as opposed to full wrestling gear, underscoring the nature of the match.

The matches are short, generally with a three to five minute time limit with unlimited falls (although occasionally exhibition matches can end with a single decision).

Finally, again these matches do not count towards the career of the trainee in that the trainee is not considered to have debuted as a wrestler by having exhibitions. They are exactly as described: a chance to get a look at someone preparing to be a wrestler and an opportunity for them to challenge themselves a bit in an actual match environment before they debut. There is no set number of exhibition matches or timing for them before a debut. It can vary greatly from trainee to trainee.

It’s really cool to be able to see these, and Miya’s been impressive in the ones she’s had thus far. I’m extremely excited for her official debut at Gatoh Move’s 10th Anniversary show on September 15 and happy for her. Good luck Miya!

Ichigaya Chocolate Square

Gatoh Move and its alter ego of sorts ChocoPro (which was specifically designed with the strengths and limitations of a streaming based wrestling show in mind and often runs shows without a live audience present) have a unique home base in Ichigaya Chocolate Square. It’s a venue that just barely holds a rectangular mat to wrestle on, and when an audience is present its maximum is about 50 people nowadays (including spectators watching through two large windows while standing in a side alley).

Chocolate Square’s peculiarities as a space to train and wrestle in not only lead to a great deal of innovation and adaptability among the participating wrestlers, but also give rise to some unusual rules and conventions.

Here’s a brief overview:

  • The edge of the mat and the wall it’s pushed up against act as a “rope break” for submission holds only (when there is a crowd the crowd is essentially the rope break marker).
  • For pinfalls, as long as the shoulders of the person being pinned are on the mat the pin counts. There is no “rope break” for pinfalls in Chocolate Square.
  • There are no countouts: action can (and typically does during ChocoPro shows) spill outside the windows.
  • The referees in Gatoh Move/ChocoPro (perhaps even more than elsewhere in puro) are very lenient about DQ’s. There have been maybe five total DQs or no contests in all 250 ChocoPro shows, and they were only when things got particularly blatant and/or out of hand.
  • Double teams and double pins are allowed in tag team matches. As long as the legal person is being pinned and the legal member of the other team is involved the pin counts.

There is a lot more to the special environment and atmosphere in Ichigaya Chocolate Square to discover by watching, but I just wanted to give a little bit of context and reference here for newer viewers.

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That’s it for now. Hope this can be helpful.

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