Gatoh Move 8/28/19 DVD Review

August 28, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

In the wake of Gatoh Move’s ace Riho leaving Gatoh Move to go freelance last summer, Emi Sakura ended up deciding to bolster the roster by seeing if anyone from her casual training program DareJyo (which strives to make pro-wrestling accessible to any woman, not matter age or background) wanted to try to debut as a pro.

Several members took her up on the offer and trained hard throughout the summer, leading to this extremely unique show with ALL the matches being someone’s first match with a total of six new rookies debuting.

Leading up to the show profiles of the entire expanded roster were released on Twitter, which (with a lot of help from a dear friend) I translated. Check them out for background information on all of the wrestlers appearing on this show:

Gatoh Move 2.0: The Present
Gatoh Move 2.0: The Future

There have also been a series of great interviews with some of the rookies (by Sakura and translated by Akki) leading up to their first anniversary:

Lulu Pencil
Sayuri
Tokiko Kirihara

GTMV 1: Gatoh Move Juice 100%

This show was seen as a new beginning for Gatoh Move, and as such the “Japan tour” numbering was dropped and this became the first show of the new era of Gatoh Move. It was also one of their bigger venue shows, taking pace at Shinkiba 1st Ring with a more traditional ring setup than the mat only shows they have at Ichigaya.

Mei, Yuna, Mitsuru, and Obi did the opening song montage that’s typical of Gatoh’s bigger shows.

1- Rin Rin Debut Match: Rin Rin vs Emi Sakura

Rin Rin is the youngest debuting wrestler, being in junior high at this point, so it makes sense that Sakura herself is her first opponent.

Sakura starts the mocking early by ignoring Rin Rin’s handshake offer to instead gesture like she can’t see Rin Rin because the latter is too short.

Lockup and Sakura pushes her down hard. Rin Rin gets right back up and shoves Sakura into the corner. Sakura reverses and tries a heavy chop, but Rin Rin rolls out and gestures for a test of strength. Sakura accepts and forces Rin Rin down, but eats knees when she tries to transition into the splash. Sakura looks as impressed as in pain and again answers Rin Rin’s challenge to another test of strength. Rin Rin tries a heel trip but Sakura hangs on, so she goes into a schoolboy trip instead and is quite pleased with herself.

Sakura back up and they trade arm wringers and reversals, then Sakura works a full nelson. Rin Rin escapes and ducks behind for a schoolboy attempt. Sakura blocks by grabbing her arm and spins around to stand over Rin Rin for presumably a sit down splash, but Rin Rin bridges to throw her off balance and send her tumbling. I really like how Rin Rin has had a lot of answers for Sakura’s offense in the form of unique counters. She’s already showing innate instincts and seems to immediately feel at home in the ring.

Rin Rin celebrates a little too much though and Sakura grabs her hair from behind to boos. After the hair mare Sakura drags Rin Rin around the ring in Liontamer position until the rookie grabs the ropes to break.

Sakura tries an Irish Whip but Rin Rin grabs the top rope. Second attempt is blocked by Rin Rin grabbing the middle rope. Third by the bottom, with Rin Rin now dropping to a low kneeling position. Made for a neat variation and visual. Sakura’s fed up and does a fingernail rake across Rin Rin’s forearm to make her release the ropes to more boos and grabs Rin Rin’s legs, but the latter grabs the bottom rope again. Sakura responds by dropping the legs and just strutting around, walking over and standing on Rin Rin in the process.

Emi’s such a master at heeling it up and getting booed when she needs to during matches without turning the fans against her in general so when she needs to be cheered or talk about the company in general terms outside of matches it still feels natural to like her.

Rin Rin fights out of a slam attempt and forearms Sakura, who shoves her back. More forearms earn another shove, this one knocking Rin Rin down. It happens again, but this time Rin Rin rolls up from the mat and shoves Sakura down in turn in one smooth motion and then dares Sakura to come at her, which earns appreciative laughter and cheers from the crowd.

Sakura obliges and attempts Rin Rin’s roll, but as she completes it Rin Rin rolls at Sakura and knocks her over, then flips into a surfboard attempt.

Small detail that will come up in other matches: attempting to block moves like a surfboard by extending one’s arms straight out on the mat is a fantastic touch that needs to be used more. Little things like that make the person applying the hold work harder to lock it in, and generally makes everything feel more like the participants are genuinely trying to resist each other and want to win.

Rin Rin can’t complete the surfboard, so she adjusts into a nice death lock. She’s honestly doing quite a bit more in terms of both move complexity and variation than I’d expect from anyone’s first match, particularly someone so young. Sakura makes the ropes. As she gets up she catches Rin Rin’s charging crossbody, but Rin Rin drops back to her feet and takes Sakura down into a Fujiwara armbar (!!).

Sakura makes the ropes with her foot, but eats a dropkick as she gets back to her feet. Another follows and Rin Rin goes to the middle turnbuckle. Crossbody gets 2. Scoop slam attempt is countered into the Last Rites, and just like that Sakura’s in firm control.

Rin Rin staggers to the corner and Sakura nails her middle turnbuckle crossbody for 2. She calls for the end and gets Rin Rin into the butterfly, but it’s awesomely reversed into a backpack sleeper.

Rin Rin adjusts to a modified crossface to keep Sakura’s arm from reaching the ropes, then rolls into a cross armbreaker. Sakura flips over so Rin Rin simply adjusts the hold to match, then floats into a modified Fujiwara where her legs are wrapped around Sakra’s arms. Then she pulls back even further and pulls her feet onto Sakura’s back for leverage. Sakura gets a toe on the bottom rope to escape the only way she could.

Rin Rin comes off the ropes and blocks and attempted chop by Sakura, but the veteran has had enough and LEVELS Rin Rin with a double chop for 2. Butterfly backbreaker into a cross armbreaker and Rin Rin has to tap.

I wouldn’t have guessed this was Rin Rin’s debut if I didn’t already know. She looked really smooth and while she clearly benefitted from having Sakura as her first opponent, this was just a flat out great first showing from her. The story of the upstart flummoxing her teacher a bit until Sakura had to get more assertive towards the end was pitch perfect too.

2- Sayuri Debut Match: Sayuri vs Mitsuru Konno

Mitsuru has a size and power advantage and easily backs Sayuri up to the ropes with the opening lockup. A fiery Sayuri charges right back into lockup on the break, but the result his the same. Mitsuru goes for a double chop with Sayuri against the ropes this time, but the latter dodges then rolls out of the way of a wild Mitsuru strike and lands a forearm. It… doesn’t have much affect and Mitsuru looks annoyed.

She swings a heavy forearm shot in retaliation but Sayuri ducks and hits another of her own. This repeats a few times until Sayuri continues with several shots, but Mitsuru’s had enough and simply grabs Sayuri’s hair. She tries to twist to set up a hair mare across the ring, but Sayuri rolls with the attempt each time so while Mitsuru still has hold of her hair the grip isn’t tightening. Sayuri then breaks free of one of Mitsuru’s hands and manages to force an arm wringer while Mitsuru still has one hand in her hair.

Sayuri converts into a hammerlock. Mitsuru tries to reverse but Sayuri continues right through to reapply the hold. Mitsuru creates a little separation so Sayuri lets go in order to snap mare Mitsuru down and then apply a bodyscissors. Mitsuru is pulling at Sayuri’s legs to try to free herself so Sayuri grabs a sleeper while maintaining the bodyscissors. Now Mitsuru’s really annoyed, and she stands up to counter but Sayuri tenaciously hangs on to both the sleeper and the bodyscissors, so Mitsuru’s carrying all Sayuri’s weight as she struggles towards the ropes (granted Sayuri is rather light).

When Mitsuru’s almost there Sayuri abandons the holds and drops down into a schoolboy rollup attempt. Mitsuru blocks by grabbing the ropes, but Sayuri pulls her down anyway into sunset flip position for 2. Sayuri doesn’t even let Mitsuru get to a knee before laying in some forearms, then sends Mitsuru face first into the corner and tries another schoolboy. Mitsuru rolls through so Sayuri does it again, then again after the second roll through and holds Mitsuru down with this one for 2.

Mitsuru stumbles into the corner as she gets up and Sayuri comes charging from the far corner with a jumping kick. It gets 2. Sayuri tries to send Mitsuru into the corner again but Mitsuru puts a foot up to block and Sayuri kind of collapses backwards from the momentum. Mitsuru simply lays in a boot to the fallen Sayuri then sends her into the corner. Mitsuru hits her awesome launch into the corner and goes for the followup bridge pin, but Sayuri grabs the pad to prevent it. As Mitsuru continues to struggle to pull Sayuri back Sayuri hangs on and drops down until they’re both sitting, then shifts backwards to put Mitsuru’s shoulders down for 2.

They exchange waist locks and Sayuri gets a crucifix of sorts for 2. Mitsuru pulls Sayuri into her own body after reversing an Irish Whip and converts into a sleeper. She spins Sayuri around in it with the latter’s feet leaving the mat (!!) then goes down to the mat with Sayuri still in the sleeper and looking down, but Mitsuru releases. She goes to a neutral corner as the ref counts Sayuri down. Sayuri crawls to the ropes and pulls herself up at 8.

Mitsuru dashes in and gets in suplex position. Sayuri drops to a knee to hold her off, so Mitsuru twists into a Dragon Sleeper instead. Again Sayuri looks to be in deep trouble but her hand only drops twice. When she shows life Mitsuru drops the hold and drags Sayuri up, but the latter attacks with a flurry of forearms in the corner. She dazes Mitsuru and runs to the far corner to come charging with another jumping kick, but Mitsuru CATCHES it, elbows the leg down and then NAILS poor Sayuri with her trademark Sekai Volley (and Sayuri was in the corner so there was nowhere to go). Sleeper is reapplied and the rookie is done.

Great structure and story to this, and while not everything was super smooth Sayuri more than held up her end of the match and was already showing a good bit of character and personal style. Mitsuru looked like a monster down the stretch, which is always a treat because her aggressiveness comes off really well.

3- Tokiko Kirihara Debut Match: Tokiko vs Mei Suruga

Tokiko, now frequently referred to by the nickname “Otoki,” has become a cornerstone of ChocoPro (Sakura’s no audience initiative that’s specifically developed for streaming that arose due to Covid restrictions). She has a judo background that gives a wonderful layer to her wrestling style and impressively was 44 years old at the time of this debut match.

In contrast to the previous matches, the more experienced competitor is the aggressor here as Mei blasts Tokiko with a dropkick as soon as the bell rings. She does her rope jump arm drag then nails another and fires up the crowd a bit with self congratulations as Tokiko recovers in the corner.

Back to center, and arm wringer into a drop toehold puts Tokiko down, then Mei runs the ropes a bit stepping on Tokiko with each pass. On her last go she jumps over Tokiko, rolls back over her, then applies a surfboard. After a bit she releases and converts into a bodyscissors, then does her roll around the ring into the cute pose pinning combination for 2.

Tokiko angrily breaks away from Mei grabbing her head so Mei does her cute pose. Swing and a miss by Tokiko, Mei snap mares her down and applies a modified sleeper. This has been ALL Mei this far. Tokiko forces them up and her height advantage makes it difficult for Mei to keep the sleeper so she goes attempts an abdominal stretch. They keep blocking and reversing on each other until Mei uses a different counter going through Tokiko’s legs and gets the hold. Tokiko stands up and rams Mei into the turnbuckle to break, then goes for a scoop slam. Tokiko gets her up on second try and holds her one-handed, then completes it for her first offensive move of the match. It gets 2.

Tokiko uses the kickoff momentum to put Mei right into a Fujiwara armbar. She has all her weight on Mei, who has to claw and scrape to get a foot on the rope to break. As Tokiko goes for abdominal stretch Mei slides through her legs again into a waist lock, which is then reversed by Tokiko. Mei breaks the grip, then turns while still holding an arm, forearms Tokiko, then pulls her into a wheelbarrow roll for 2.

Mei’s battering ram into the corner and a scoop slam get 2. Mei grabs a full nelson and tries to force Apple Mutilation, but Tokiko stands up so Mei jumps on her back to keep the full nelson applied. Tokiko back into corner to break, then snap mares Mei to the center. Big forearm exchange follows until Mei ducks one then steps on Kirihara’s foot. Forearm is blocked though, and Tokiko hits one of her own then nails the judo throw for 2. Love that.

Mei gets up and defiantly tries her own throw, but she can’t budge Tokiko. Mei is lifted momentarily but fights her way down. Tokiko grabs a single leg to lift Mei again and rams her into the corner. She then backs up, then charges in with a single leg takedown and turns it into a pin for 2. Tokiko goes for an abdominal stretch again and locks it in (with a face lock). Mei struggles for the ropes but when she gets close Tokiko converts and rolls backwards to put Mei’s shoulders down for 2.

Arm twist into another judo throw but Mei turns it into a crucifix pin for a really close 2. She hits the ropes and lands a dropkicks then applies an octopus stretch with 2 minutes left. Tokiko forces Mei’s leg off her head, so Mei rolls them both forward and holds Tokiko down for 3 to get the win.

Another really strong debut in another completely different feeling match.

4- Lulu Pencil Debut Match: Lulu vs Yuna Mizumori

With a truly unique presence and character Lulu has garnered a huge following in her first year with her fans dubbing themselves the Pencil Army. The “wrestler who is too weak to be a wrestler” gimmick and Lulu’s highly unusual way of doing things has really captured everyone’s hearts and imaginations and makes her the ultimate underdog.

Lulu is an actual freelance writer and has worked it into her wrestling character extremely well.

Yuna starts a Yunamon chant, but Lulu gets the crowd to chant Lulu instead. Yuna backs Lulu ip to the ropes pretty easily on the lockup, then gives a light tap and breaks. As she turns her back on Lulu to go back to the center Lulu marches up to her and pushes her toward the far ropes for a rollup attempt. Yuna holds on to the ropes and Lulu goes flying. Lulu charges again and they lockup… and Lulu gets thrown down to the mat in short order. Lulu’s a little more aggressive in general here then she would become, but otherwise the character is pretty well fully formed already here.

Yuna picks Lulu up but a simple arm wringer send her crashing back down. Lulu back up and a trio of rolls let her reverse the arm wringer, but she twists Yuna’s arm too fast and too many times and makes herself collapse in a dizzy heap. Yuna grabs Lulu’s legs and tries to turn her over into a crab, but Lulu spreads her arms straight out to block. Yuna eventually just powers Lulu up far enough to start to turn her, but Lulu fights enough to get her arms around the bottom rope.

Yuna manages to drag Lulu to the center of the ring and now signals for a giant swing. It’s amazing, as Lulu just lets her arms flail and looks completely at Yuna mercy. Yuna releases after four revelations and Lulu lands hard (nicely tucking her head to protect herself on impact).

Yuna goes over and after a moment of deciding what to do she cover Lulu, who defiantly kicks out at 1. Yuna picks her up and sends her into the corner for her trademark elbows, but Lulu collapses after the first and Yuna bounces off the turnbuckle pad in an amusing spot. Yuna pulls Lulu up for it again. Lulu collapses before the first connects but Yuna’s able to stop her momentum when she realizes it and chokes Lulu in the corner out of frustration. Yuna pulls her up one more time and puts her arms over the top rope to keep her in place, then hits the elbows and backs up for the Papaya, Mango, Coconut headbutt. Lulu jumps up and avoids it, making Yuna crash headfirst into the turnbuckle pad. Lulu then hits the world’s strangest sunset flip out of corner for 2.

Lulu can’t quite get enough power going to snap mare Yuna and gets lifted into the air, but she fights down … only to get lifted into Tropical Yahho (Yuna’s signature backdrop) position. Lulu “swims” through the air to get ahold of the rope, but Yuna is too strong and just walks back towards center to break the grip. Tropical Yahho is countered with a sunset flip, but Yuna rolls through. Lulu lays prone to dodge a forearm, so Yuna tries a splash. Lulu pencil rolls out of the way, so Yuna tries another and is ready when Lulu rolls again, but Lulu keeps rolling right out of the ring and Yuna hits the mat again anyway.

Lulu then runs away through the crowding the bleachers and hides behind the hard camera, leading to almost ChocoPro like close ups as Yuna chases her. By the time Yuna gets around the cameraman Lulu is back down the other side of the bleachers. Yuna catches her up on the stage and rolls her back in the ring. Lulu pencil rolls as Yuna comes in. Yuna jumps the trip attempt twice, but falls prey to the third. Lulu summersaults over Yuna twice but one arm is all it takes for Yuna to stop the third and hold Lulu down for 1. Lulu goes for the Pencil Splash but Yuna gets up and Lulu crashes. Lulu gets her knees upto block the Tropical Splash and perhaps hurts herself more than Yuna.

Lulu recovers first though and crawls over Yuna as the crowd heavily cheers her on, then hits the Pencil Splash for 2. Lulu goes up to the top turnbuckle in the wrong corner, then even when she corrects to the correct corner she’s too scared and comes down to bottom rope to set up her splash. By now Yuna has recovered, forearms Lulu, and brings her out of the corner in scoop slam position. Lulu counters into a small package for 2.

Lulu struggles for a backslide with two minutes left, but can’t get Yuna over. Yuna reverses the arm positions and flips Lulu over her head, putting Lulu in position for Yuna to hit the Tropical Yahho. Tropical Splash follows and Lulu is a pancake. The 3 is academic.

It’s incredible how well this whole show has been laid out, as well as how good the opponent pairings have been. Like Mei earlier Yuna looked every bit the veteran in this match, despite the fact that neither really was (both had been wrestling only a year and a half or less).

5- Chie Koishikawa Debut Match: Chie vs Sayaka Obihiro

Chie’s so locked into attendant mode that she starts to clean up her own streamers and it’s such a great, earnest moment.

Obi kind of does too … by spinning until her streamers are tangled around her legs. Then she falls over while trying to get out of them.

Chie and Obi both have the same kind of energy and this is a great choice for Chie’s debut. They lockup and Obi forces Chie into the ropes, but Chie reverses into the corner and hits a trio of forearms. Obi tries to reverse but they end up trading reversals across the ropes and into the next corner where Chie has the advantage again and hits another trio of forearms. Chie attempts a whip into the far corner but Obi reverses then comes charging in with a hip attack, then trips Chie down and does a standing choke in the corner.

Side note: in the US this choke would be a very heelish move, but in Joshi seniors in a match with rookies often use moves like this to taunt the newcomers (ro simply out of frustration, etc like Yuna did earlier) and while it will often get booed and make people cheer the rookie more vigorously it’s not seen as a indictment on the senior’s character and doesn’t necessarily indicate or turn someone heel. The relatively few full blown heels that exist in Joshi are generally characterized by more blatant and constant rule violations, usually involving weapon use.

Obi rolls Chie out of the corner to the center and works a hold pulling back on both Chie’s arms with Obi’s knee or feet in her back for a while before transitioning into a seated bodyscissors. Chie rolls back for a 2 count a few times but can’t get Obi to break the hold, so she changes tactics and fights to the ropes instead. She shakes the ropes vigorously to fire herself up so Obi simply kicks her in the back.

Chie blocks a whip attempt by Obi and turns it into a schoolboy for 2. Another gets 2. Yet another gets 2. Chie whips Obi into the corner and darts in and out with chops, then backs up for some running space to hit a dropkick for 2. Obi reverse a whip into the far corner and hits a rather more forceful dropkick of her own. Chie bridges up at 2 to the crowd’s delight, but time is short for the rookie and Obi finishes things off with a sweet through the legs rollup for the win.

Shortest match of the night but that’s not a bad thing. It was the perfect length for what it was and like everything else on this show played to the strengths of the participants. They made the most of the time they had too.

6- Sayaka Debut Match: Sayaka, Mitsuru Konno, & Sayaka Obihiro vs Emi Sakura, Mei Suruga, & Yuna Mizumori

Although there might or might not be a ton of overlap in the fanbases, Sayaka is the one rookie who was previously known a bit due to her cosplay and modeling.

For her debut she gets her own entrance, then her partners Obi & Mitsuru come out together to Obi’s music. Sakura’s team comes charging out together to Sakura’s music. Nice way to spotlight the rookie for her first match.

Sakura’s team all offer handshakes then pull back when their opponents go to accept. We’ve clearly established which will be the bratty team in this encounter.

Mei starts with Sayaka, who immediately turns the opening lockup into a schoolboy for 2. She follows with two for for another pair of 2 counts then attempts a face lock on Mei. They quickly, repeatedly counter each other’s face lock attempts until Sayaka tries a cover and Mei bridges out, then rolls Sayaka up for 2.

They separate, then tag out bringing in Mitsuru and Yuna. The latter gets the better of the lockup and goes into a side headlock, holding on even as Mitsuru tries to whip her off the ropes to break. A second attempt works and as Yuna runs the ropes Mitsuru drops down, then dodges, then lands an arm drag. Yuna returns the arm drag when Mitsuru tries to pick her up, but Mitsuru holds on and arm drags Yuna right out of her own arm drag in an awesome spot. They square up from across the ring then switch out.

Sakura forces Obi into a corner quick and lays in a chop, then whips Obi to the far corner. Obi jumps up to the middle turnbuckle then leapfrogs a charging Sakura, hits the ropes in a diamond pattern to confuse her then nails a running double chop to put Sakura down.

Sakura lands an overhand double chop as she gets up and calls her partners in. Obi sent to the rope and a triple Mei jump stalls her, then Mei drop toeholds her into Sakura’s knee and Yuna follows with a splash. Sakura & Yuna hold her in seated position for Mei to jump over, then dropkick as Sakura & Yuna hit the ropes. Sakura summersaults onto Obi as Yuna cartwheels over her, and Emi’s team all hits a pose. Awesome triple teaming there.

Obi manages to force Sakura into the corner as Mei & Yuna leave and tags in Sayaka. Looks like Sayaka pulls back for a forearm then changed her mind and snap mares Sakura instead. Sakura pops right back up and takes another snap mare, and it all happens again then Sayaka applies a body scissors.

Sakura is only mildly inconvenienced by this and turns around, breaks the leg scissors, and appears to be setting up a surfboard, but instead stands up and has Sayaka hanging in the air in a rather painful looking hold. Sakura drops her after a few seconds and applies a front facelock. Sayaka reverses, pulls Sakura to the corner, and tags Obi back in.

Obi lands a few strikes to Sakura’s back and a series of running dropkicks, then covers for 2. Tag back to Sayaka. That was brief. Suplex position but Sakura frees her head and back rakes Sayaka, then lifts Sayaka over her shoulder and unceremoniously drops her to the mat. Tag to Mei.

Mei hits a pair of snap mares then covers for 2. She applies an arm wringer, which is eventually reversed in kind, then Sayaka arm drags Mei forward but Mei rolls back into a handstand and takes snake down with a head scissors. The ever sportsmanlike Mei stomps Sayaka while she’s down then grabs a front face lock to drag Sayaka to the corner and tags Sakura back in.

Sakura rakes the back then steps on Sayaka’s legs to set up the bow and arrow, but Mitsuru comes in and breaks that up with a hard kick. Mei takes Sakura’s place and likewise setups up the bow and arrow, but she’s dispatched by an Obi dropkick. Not to be left out Yuna comes in to try. There’s no one left to save Sayaka so she struggles towards the ropes to avoid the hold getting applied, but Sakura steps on her hands to end that effort to loud boos. Yuna leaves the ring and Sakura picks Sayaka up, sends her headfirst into the corner and tags Mei, who goes back to the front face lock.

Sayaka eventually fights out with a scoop slam and tags Obi, who darts across the ring to knock Sakura & Yuna off the apron. Summersault and splash to Mei’s back then she picks Mei up for a chop combination that knocks her right back down. Mei fights out as Obi brings her off the mat again, and the Mei jump startles Obi enough for Mei to hit a kick to the gut and grab a headlock. She calls for her battering ram but Obi gets loose and sends Mei towards the corner alone. Mei jumps of the turnbuckles to switch momentum then hits a dropkick for 2. Arm wringer sets up the leg sweep rollup for 2, then Mei tags Yuna.

Yuna mows Obi down with a shoulder tackle then tries the Tropical Yahho, but Obi fights free and goes for several knife edge strikes. Yuna frantically dodges, then catches both of Obi’s arms and makes her do the Tropical Yahoo cheer, but Obi spins right into the throat strike. The advantage is short lived as Obi hits the ropes and charges right into the Tropical Yahho. Tropical Splash is countered into a rollup for 2. Yuna forearm is countered into a bit of Obi Magic ending with a sweet single arm bridging butterfly suplex for 2. Tag to Mitsuru, who comes in charging.

Yuna dodges the kick and forearms Mitsuru, who return the favor and hits the ropes, ducks Yuna’s attempted counter spin kick, bounces off the far ropes and levels Yuna with a chest kick. Snapmare put Yuna into position for Mitsuru’s sweet bridging submission over a seated opponent (newly named the Oni-Goroshi after one of Mitsuru’s ChocoPro encounters with Sakura). Yuna powers up but Mitsuru grabs her arms and applies a variation. Obi comes in to block Mei, but Mei gets the better of her and breaks the hold with a dropkick. Mei grabs a headlock on Mitsuru and uses Yuna to jump off of into a side headlock takedown.

Tropical Splash gets 2. Handstand splash eats the canvas as Mitsuru moves, and her leg drop split gets 2. Sekai Volley ducked, but a second catches Yuna as she rebounds off the ropes. Then Mitsuru hits the ropes but eats a dropkick and both are down. Yuna rolls into a tag to Sakura and she comes in just as Mitsuru is standing. Sakura forces Mitsuru into the ropes and hits a trio of HARD chops. Mitsuru is whipped to the far ropes where Sayaka manages to tag herself in. She tries a dropkick but Sakura sidesteps. Sakura puts Sayaka in the corner, hits a chop, then backs up for her “We Will Rock You” corner splash, but Sayaka charges out while she’s singing and nails the dropkick. Sakura grabs a headlock to block a suplex attempt then butterflies Sayaka’s arms. Obi comes in and grabs a waist lock on Sakura to stop her, which frees Sayaka but Obi doesn’t let go of the wasitlock during poor Sayaka’s scoop slam attempt. Sakura’s anchored by Obi’s waist lock, tries a scoop slam of her own so Mitsuru comes in and grabs a waist lock on Sayaka to block. Keep in mind three of these four are on the same team. Mei & Yuna are just on the apron kind of perplexed by what they’re seeing.

Mei comes in and waist locks Obi, then changes her mind and waist locks Mitsuru, then just goes to the middles and tries to pry Sakura and Sayaka apart. Yuna’s lost all patience and charges from the opposite side and wipes out the whole pils, but Mei had ducked and is unscathed. They celebrate with a high five and Mei acts like job well done and yells at Sakura (who’s getting up from being kicked silly with everyone else) to take care of Sayaka now. Ridiculous but highly entertaining sequence.

Forearm exchange and Sayaka gives as good as she gets with Sakura, which is really impressive. Sakura surprises her with a reverse STO then applies a crossface. Sayaka finds the ropes with her foot to break. Sakura drags her to the center and applies it again as Mei & Yuna block Mitsuru & Obi, but Mitsuru breaks free and breaks the hold. Emi’s trio sets up triple battering rams, but it’s all reversed it triple Mitsuru style launches. Mei and Obi start reversing on each other thought as Mitsuru & Sayaka hold Yuna & Sakura, respectively, in position. Mei gets the advantage and pushes Obi forward as Mitsuru & Sayaka launch Yuna & Sakura so as they all approach the middle Obi hits a double throat strike. Mei’s all alone now and Mitsuru & Sayaka double whip her, but she goes for a triple crossbody off the far ropes. She’s caught, but Yuna come back to add so force and Obi, Mitsuru, & Sayaka all go down. Sakura starts the clapping again as Sayaka staggers into the corner and everyone else powders out and hits the corner crossbody.

Sakura calls for the finish (the Japanese cry of “owari”) and hit the butterfly backbreaker, but Sayaka kicks out at 2. Sakura on the middle turnbuckle but Mitsuru pulls Sayaka out of the way of the Vader splash. Mitsuru launches Sakura into an Obi throat strike then rolls her backwards but doesn’t hold the bridge so Sakura keeps rolling into a rollup by Sayaka for 2. Running dropkick gets another 2. Sayaka trying to pull Sakura up and looks just a little lost for a second so Mitsuru rushes over and kicks Sakura and directs Sayaka to the corner with Obi, and the two of them hit a nice double dropkick.

Sekai Volley by Mitsuru sets up a middle rope flying crossbody by Sayaka but Mei saves at 2. Mei holds Sayaka for a second trying to give Sakura a breather but Obi nails Sakura with a shotgun missile dropkick from the top. Sayaka charges with another dropkick for a close 2 as Mitsuru & Obi holds Mei & Yuna back. Sakura fires up with a couple strikes but Sayaka ducks the third and rolls into a sweet bridging rollup for 2.

Sayaka hits the ropes but Yuna cuts her off and lifts her in Tropical Yahho position, then converting into the corner splash. She drops down to all fours to be used by Mei as a launchpad, but Mei slips when trying it and just lands on her feet in front of Sayaka. She gives a great look of frustration and then just hits Sayaka with a forearm. Great recoveries like that make all the differences between something being a small mistake that ends up making the match feel more real and a full blown botch that derails it. The in character acknowledgement also allows Mei to try the spot/attack again with looking it silly or overly scripted. Which she does, and lands a beautiful launch dropkick on Sayaka in the corner this time.

Mitsuru & Obi are held back by Yuna & Mei as Sakura hits the Vader splash, but they break free just in time to save Sayaka before the 3 count. Mei & Yuna dispatch them however as Sakura goes up again, and a Mei assisted Sakura senton puts Sayaka away to give Sakura’s team the win.

Seventeen minutes of all out action and the usual high quality Gatoh Move 6-woman tag from a rookie and five wrestlers who had all already wrestled once before this show. Bravo.

Sakura, Obi, Mitsuru, Mei and Yuna sing the closing song.

What impressed me the most here was the variety of stories they managed to tell with the rookies both pushing to do interesting things and staying within their capabilities. Sakura is so amazing at bringing out her trainees’ unique strengths and personalities and no two matches here felt the same. Little bit of awkwardness here and there, but that’s to be expected and overall these were all really strong debuts with everyone pushing themselves. The level of show this was with six debuts and about three quarters of all involved wrestlers having less than two years experience is mind boggling.

Really fun first look at the rookies, and it’s been great to see how all six have progressed during their first year. Happy Anniversary!

Chocopro 43 will happen on their anniversary, although due to current circumstances not all of them will appear. Lulu will continue her quest towards her first win against Antonio Honda in the main event, and Otoki will face Minoru Fujita the night before his big title match in BJW.

Visit Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel to check out all of ChocoPro’s content. Everything new 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 for most physical goods as well as a variety of e-merch available!

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. 

ChocoPro 41 Live Stream Thoughts

August 17, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Emi Sakura is one of the greatest professional wrestlers in the world and, as of this day, has been wrestling for 25 years. Normally a big celebratory event like this would be held at a larger location, but given current circumstances it was decided to have it as a ChocoPro with no audience in Ichigaya. As such this will be the biggest show they’ve ever held at Ichigaya, with six matches.

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 Ichigaya reviews, these 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.

In preparation for this anniversary event there were a number of excellent ChocoTalks featuring Emi Sakura telling stories from her long career with a variety of special guests. All are a lot of fun and contain numerous interesting and rare stories, and are well worth listening to.

Links to Emi Sakura’s 25th Anniversary Road ChocoTalks (listed by guest):

Makoto
Aoi Kizuki
Hanako Nakamori
Koda Testuya
Nanae Takahashi
Sayaka Obihiro & Masahiro Takanashi

ChocoPro 41

Aoi Kizuki, a trainee of Sakura, a bit of a mentor to Mei, and a thirteen year pro who retired a couple of years back will be serving as special referee for all matches.

Gatoh Move’s former ace Riho and Emi Sakura’s reigning tag team champion partner Kaori Yoneyama were originally scheduled to participate but had to be pulled due to someone from Stardom (where they had both recently wrestled) testing positive for Covid. They were missed but kudos to all involved for taking the appropriate precautions and their replacements were appropriate, excellent choices.

Aoi and Akki welcome everyone and run down the card. Again since this show has twice the normal number of matches for an Ichigaya show, they skip the traditional ChocoPro warmup squats and proceed straight to the matches.

1) Tokiko Kirihara vs Lulu Pencil

The ever struggling Lulu Pencil has been growing (ever so slightly) stronger and pushing herself both in singles and as a part of the Pencil Army alongside her mentor Emi Pencil. After Pencil Army lost a handicap match against Tokiko, Lulu decided maybe Emi Pencil was holding her back and refocused on singles competition (while Sakura temporarily put the Emi Pencil character back on hold).

Outside of that victory Tokiko had been struggling a bit herself as her aggressiveness and anger led to a number of quick losses. With the two just a couple of weeks away from their first anniversary in wrestling, they face off here in a hyped match that ha everyone wondering if Lulu will finally achieve her first win.

The two rookies paid off on all the build nicely, with a strong match centered around Tokiko’s ferociousness against Lulu’s tenaciousness. The way they’re both evolving a little bit each time out and really growing their characters alongside their skills is wonderful.

Tokiko counted the Pencil Splash into a Pencil Roll of her own then lifted Lulu right up into the Cobra Twist for the submission win. Lulu’s first win remains elusive, but she does better and better each time and eventually will lead the Pencil Army to victory.

In a great moment Tokiko shows respect to the exhausted Lulu by lifting her into piggyback position to carry her to the back.

Aoi is a joy and was great as ref, being both unassuming enough not to take away from the match and so charismatic she always adds a bit of fun to everything whenever she actual needs to be a focal point.

2) Tropikawild (Yuna Mizumori & Saki) vs Tokyo Heartbreak Academy (Antonio Honda & Minoru Fujita) vs CDK? (Chris Brookes & Masa?)

Really great to see Fujita back, and this lineup is great in general.

Shota is dressed up as and acting like Chris’ usual CDK (Calamari Drunken Kings) partner Masahiro Takanashi, who is currently out with injury.

Crazy energy in this one. As expected with some of the wrestlers involved, it got a little derailed at points with comedy, but everything was amusing enough and the majority of the match was full out action. All six really know how to make the most of the Ichigaya environment and this was reminiscent of Gatoh Move’s wonderful 6-person tags in all the best ways. Seeing Yuna and Fujita face off a bit in a couple of exchanges that harkened back to their amazing last man standing match at ChocoPro 11.

There was also a great series of rollup exchanges near the end, among numerous other cool sequences and fun doubleteams.

Eventually Chris got Honda in a sleeper, but Gon the Fox made an appearance to break the hold (Gon is Honda’s fox hand puppet… yes really). After a frenzy where Gon attacked nearly everyone, Yuna managed to save Saki from a final strike and stripped Gon off Honda’s arm. She then used the fox herself to knock Honda backwards over Saki into sunset flip position, and added her own Superman pin finisher FOR THE WIN! Nice finish to a really good match.

I’m pleasantly surprised TropikaWild won this, and it was 100% the right call. It not only kept the former tag champs strong but also gave a rare, much needed win to women over men in this intergender promotion.

3) Baliyan Akki vs Hagane Shinnou

ASUKA (the one also known as Veny, not the former Kana who wrestles in WWE) recently kind of called Akki out after beating Yuna on ChocoPro 40. Sakura dangled a possible match with her as a prize if Akki could beat Hagane here.

Extremely different feel to this match, with Akki and Hagane fighting over every inch with both their strike/block exchanges and their hold-for-hold grappling. Hagane brings out a visceral intensity in his opponents, and he and Akki kept upping that intensity throughout this battle.

In the end the veteran had one too many answers for the challenges Akki could pose, and Hagane won with a nasty looking stretch muffler variation.

4) Mei Suruga vs Yuu

Chris Brookes’ was on camera for this one, leading to a lot of amusing commentary about his friend(?)/rival Mei. I laughed myself silly when Chris turned the camera away and refused to capture Mei doing her “cute on purpose” pose.

Yuu is formerly of Tokyo Joshi Pro and know is contracted to Pro Wrestling Eve and wrestles a lot for Sendai Girls when in Japan. This was her ChocoPro debut. She has a judo background and a significant size and power advantage over Mei, and there were a ton of spots in this highlighting the difference and how Mei couldn’t quite get a lot of her normal moves on the larger, stronger Yuu. I adore it when things like that are well utilized in the story of the match, and they did a fantastic job of it here.

One particularly incredible moment saw Mei send herself flying when trying for her trademark Propeller Clutch rollup as Yuu was simply too solid and went nowhere when Mei tried to spin her over. Another nice tough was when Mei went for it again later in the match and visibly adjusted her approach to make sure to get Yuu over. It got a close 2.

Mei couldn’t overcome Yuu’s onslaught but withstood enough of it to force a 15 minute draw. Yuu offered a hand of respect but a frustrated Mei turns it into a rollup and Aoi (perhaps ever so biased in her former protege’s favor) counts an unofficial 2.

Would love to see a rematch, and to have Yuu back in general.

5) Mitsuru Konno & Makoto vs Ryo Mizunami & Hanako Nakamori

This is where Riho was originally scheduled, as Mizunami’s partner. Hanako was a lynchpin of Gatoh Move in its early days, wrestled Emi in a great main event on ChocoPro 40, and is a great replacement. Makoto and Mizunami have both also appeared in ChocoPro before.

Incredible, hard hitting match with everyone firing on all cylinders. The strike exchange in the middle between Mitsuru and Hanako was INSANE. Both teams had surprisingly great chemistry for being non-regular partners.

Mitsuru was always going to be the one taking the fall here, but she got to look awesome even in defeat and really felt like she belonged with all the veterans. I’d love to see her get a singles match against Mizunami in particular. Ryo pinned her with a hard lariat right after Mitsuru had barely survived her spear. Loved this.

6) Emi Sakura vs Sayaka Obihiro

“Twenty five years. I’m just getting started.”

This was originally scheduled to be reigning Asia Dream Tag Team Champions facing off, but again Kaori Yoneyama had to miss the show do to Covid exposure concerns. In an equally fitting, and perhaps more emotional, opponent choice for Emi’s 25th anniversary match Obi made her return from injury to face her trainer/mentor.

In a great touch Obi and Emi get streamers thrown from the other wrestlers.

This was appropriately great, emotional, and fun all the way through. At one point Obi gets the knees up for Sakura’s “We Will Rock You” seated splash and puts Emi in the position her opponent would normally be in, then whips everyone in the venue into her to deliver Sakura’s own move to her instead in an awesome variation of the traditional special event corner splash sequence. Further amusement: Fujita was trying to record with his phone when Obi decided to whip him and wiped out rather spectacularly.

Obi looked good in her return and mostly immediately back to form (except for clearly suffering from the brutal summer heat and being exhausted late in the match). The high level performances of these wrestlers in this small environment under tough conditions is amazing, especially for Obi after a long break.

Clever finish where Obi hunkered down to block Emi’s deadly La Magistral, so Emi simply pushed her forward and pinned her that way.

After the show came ChocoPro’s biggest janken tournament ever, and as such they were amusingly doing the match at high speed. A great surprise was in store when the real Masahiro Takanashi showed up to challenge his doppelgänger for his spot in the tournament… and then lost leaving Shota to continue his impersonating ways.

An emotional, crying Obi won her way through the brackets to the last match … then the boss who gave herself a bye straight to the finals won and steals the chocolate. I suppose it’s her party and all. Sakura enjoys her prize and explains it all away with “everything’s fair in love and war.”

A group photo, the normal ending song, and some special celebratory words (including a special video message from Sakura’s old boss) capped off the festivities.

This was a truly fantastic show, both as a celebration of Sakura’s career and as a well built, diverse escalating progression of matches in their own right.

——-

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 for most physical goods as well as a variety of e-merch available!

ChocoPro 34 Live Stream Thoughts

July 24, 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 34

Mei (in her green “Lettuce-chan” costume) excitedly reclaims squat song duties… and has an absolute blast singing Bobby Roode’s theme Glorious. Fun stuff.

1) Baliyan Akki vs Pencil Army (Lulu Pencil & Emi Sakura)

“1+1= infinity.” – Emi Pencil

Lulu lasted until the final 15 seconds of her match against against Akki last show. Sakura pondered that Lulu could win rematch, and to make sure of it she added herself and made this ChocoPro’s first ever handicap match.

The Pencil Army stuff is really leading to extra dimensions and wonderfully well integrated humor and action. This was a excellent example of it all, right from the opening moment when Akki wiped out Emi with a superkick and nearly stole it with a rollup on Lulu.

Little touches like Emi using the camera to check her face after the second of Akki’s brutal superkicks and Mei’s highly amusing commentary added a lot.

Lulu continues to keep pushing herself to get better each match and hangs on for dear life while applying a sleeper to Akki late, but Akki pushes off of Emi to bridge back and uses Emi’s weight to help keep Lulu down for the upset(?) win. Exactly what it should have been, and Lulu’s quest for success in wrestling continues.

2) Mei Suruga vs Tokiko Kirihara

Tokiko was quite angry after being beaten by Emi Pencil in under two minutes, and once her next opponent was announced as her debut opponent Mei the two started sniping at each other big time.

So the opening face off and introductions were rather tense, and when the bell rang Tokiko charged Mei so fast/hard she intercepted before Mei got into frame and then judo tossed her in. Really different and awesome.

Kirihara continued to be really aggressive and gave the more experienced Mei trouble … but Mei managed to use Tokiko’s energy against her and held her down in a rough rollup for the win in about three minutes. Mei condescendingly pats Otoki on the head after the match in an extraordinary display of bad judgement, and gets tossed out the window.

Referee Sakura manages to pull Otoki away as she goes for Lulu ebhind the camera like she did last show, so she judo tosses Emi and then Akki for good measure. Frustrated, rampaging Tokiko is a very interesting development.

3) Mitsuru Konno vs Yuna Mizumori

After a bit of an epiphany following her match with Mei at ChocoPro 33, Mitsuru decided to approach this match with Yuna a bit differently. Her attempted talks with Yuna led to both of them discovering things about themselves, but it was a bumpy ride. Mitsuru sat down with Akki for a excellent summary discussion the night before this show.

With the timed nature Mitsuru applied to their talks causing a bit of friction, Sakura decided to make this a no time limit match. Now all the talking is done and two of ChocoPro and Gatoh Move’s lynchpins collide in a situation where there must be a winner.

There’s a great “roughness” to the early chain wrestling that felt really visceral. Both wrestlers are in a different place here and the match is quite different from all the other great matches the two have been having with others lately, but in a wonderful way.

This got wild, including a crazy exchange up against the tables leaning against the far wall and a heart stopping moment when Mitsuru slammed Yuna against the giant glass window on the other side of the venue.

Their striking was vicious. At one point they absolutely WAYLAID each other with forearms, and in a late moment that made me wince Yuna did a full charge right into Mitsuru’s Sekkai Volley (overhand volleyball spike style strike).

Yet another significant, well integrated aspect of the match with the holds and counters. Mitsuru’s submission game is amazing, and the way she continually works and modifies her holds makes everything riveting. Little touches from Yuna were equally important, like the way she fought tooth and nail every time she found herself confined and a smart detail of holding on to and pulling on the mat to help with counters and escapes.

Yuna spins out of Mitsuru’s attempt at her version of the Overdrive but unfortunately turns right into a dragon sleeper. With some effort Mitsuru fully converts into her Doragram Sleeper (dragon sleeper with a leg lace and her knee in the opponent’s back) for the win in about 23 minutes. Fantastic, hard fought match that really lived up to its potential and had a little bit of everything.

Afterwards Yuna slaps away Mitsuru’s hand… but gestures for a hug instead. She’s torn up and crying at losing, but says they’re tears of happiness. She wanted to show Mitsuru how far she’s come by winning, but after all this time trial and error today she’s proceeded at least one step towards where she wants to go, even in a loss.

The janken tournament was as usual really fun and interesting. Emi once again teaching Lulu all the wrong lessons by giving herself the bye. Tokiko played major mindgames with Mei throwing so close to Mei’s face it looked like she was trying to punch her or put her eyes out (with throws of rock and scissors respectively). Yuna faced Mitsuru again and seemed perfectly happy even if she lost again… but didn’t. In the end a calm and collected Akki beat Lulu, Yuna, then Emi to claim the prize chocolate.

Post show Mitsuru does a special cheer with everyone, but pushes Akki with camera out of participating because he’s doing the camera and she doesn’ think it’ll look good for viewers. Everyone else is a little aghast, so Sakura makes Mitsuru vs Akki for the next ChocoPro.

What a string of amazing shows. Several things that have been building tied up in emotional and cheerful fashion. Yuna even gave Sakura a hug during the end song to everyone’s shock. This almost felt like a good place to end the season, but there were two shows to go and Akki is one of the last big singles matches left for Mitsuru among the regular that hadn’t happened yet so is a good choice for next show. Great stuff.

——-

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!

ChocoPro 33 Live Stream Thoughts

July 19, 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 33

Mitsuru sings an old favorite song of hers during the squats, and it’s the longest squat song ever. Pretty sure Sakura’s not going to nominate Mitsuru for this duty again. 😉

1) Baliyan Akki vs Lulu Pencil

Lulu can barely breath from Mitsuru’s extended squats. And Akki was on camera duty so he’s well rested. Akki explains he’s not just facing Lulu, he feels he facing the whole Pencil Army so he’s extra determined.

Lulu rushes to start and Akki just lifts a foot and she wipes herself out, which set the tone for the whole match nicely. Akki was almost indignant about his upstart opponent.

After a little while Akki can’t handle not being cameraman so grabs it from Sakura for some first person holds and attacks. He pays for that later as Emi kicks over a submission attempt from behind the camera to aid her partner.

Every match is a progression for Lulu as she tries new things and becomes a little more effective while still approaching everything from a fundamentally different and weird perspective. Her attempt at a Vader splash was the most hilarious thing ever. She gets tougher each time out and late in the match survives an airplane spin she submitted to last time they faced. Akki became more frustrated and the longer Lulu lasted.

In the end Akki won with a mere 15 seconds left. O_o Lulu nearly pulled off a draw.

The victorious Akki is a bit dumbfounded by the level of fight he got from Lulu, especially after an equally difficult fight with Tokiko Kirihara the show before. “What is happening with the rookies? Why don’t you give up?”

“Passion for wrestling.”

Akki’s impressed and salutes the Pencil Army.

Solid, enjoyable match. Lulu’s gradual journey is being REALLY well done.

2) Emi Sakura vs Tokiko Kirihara

First singles match for Emi Pencil.

Interesting combination of regular old Sakura and her new character as she uses the cheerful Pencil Army chant as a taunt in the place of shaking hands.

Tokiko starts 100% full bore. She throws Emi all over and gets some quick, super close falls… then Sakura grabs a small package out of nowhere for the win in under a minute and a half.

Tokiko is NOT happy, and jumps Sakura then tosses her out the window. She continues with an attack on Emi’s partner Lulu (who is behind the camera, leading to a really interesting visual as we see a first person view of Tokiko choking her). Referee Akki tried to calm her down and she goes crazy on him as well.

Whether the length here was a result of Sakura’s bad back or not, it was done perfectly. Sakura survived due to her experience and her opponent’s emotions getting the better of her, having a really short match every once in while add a lot of unpredictability, and Tokiko got to show an incredible amount of fire that will be really intriguing going into her future matches.

3) Mitsuru Konno vs Mei Suruga

Mitsuru had harsh words at the end of ChocoPro 32, which were expanded into a more nuanced explanation in a ChocoTalk interview ChocoTalk interview with Emi Sakura the night before this show. Both are really must watch going into this.

This was exactly the incredible, fast paced, hard hitting war expected while being equally anchored by a well integrated style and perspective clash. It was absolutely incredible down the stretch, and pretty much the definition of must see.

After a late series of back and forth counters, Mitsuru turns a Propeller Clutch attempt by Mei into a harsh submission hold that she just keeps modifying as Mei hangs on until settling into a leg lace dragon sleeper (subsequently named the Doragram Sleeper) that Mei has to tap to.

Mei says she lost, but she had fun. Mitsuru doesn’t understand it all, but is in good spirits and says after last night it feels like she found something. It feels like she can go on to find out what it is.

Sakura says Mitsuru has a good look on her face. But she thinks Mitsuru needs to face someone else. On July 24th at 10am JST (July 23rd 9pm EDT) she’ll battle the other member of ChocoPro who has gone through a transformative journey lately, Yuna Mizumori.

As her janken match starts Mitsuru explains she slapped Mei so hard she bruised herself, she says that must have hurt but Mei is still smiling. She got hurt and lost but still had fun. Mitsuru’s kind of amazed. She thanks Mei for fighting her… then beats her again at Janken. Heh. And then she beats everyone else as well, as this turns out to be Mitsuru’s day all around and she enjoys the janken victor’s prize chocolate.

During closing comments Lulu remarked “Today I am not defeated. Today’s defeat is only Emi Pencil. One step forward.” Akki comments that Lulu seems to be learning a lot from Sakura. Heh. Too true.

In an interesting twist, Mitsuru decided to take a different approach going into her match with Yuna and meet for some discussions ahead of time to try to properly communicate her feelings to avoid the type of situation that happened with Mei. It didn’t go well. Check out this fascinating discussion between Mitsuru and Akki going over it all less than twenty four hours before Misturu and Yuna collide.

——-

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!

ChocoPro 32 Live Stream Thoughts

July 16, 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 32

“Today’s main event: the team who is getting slaughtered and the team that is doing the slaughtering.” – Akki summarizing the impending clash of MonTsuru and Pencil Army.

Yuna sings Girls Just Want to Have Fun and leads twists instead of squats, saying it’s an exercise even someone with a bad back can do. Given how little Sakura participants (and Yuna’s resulting targeted annoyance) I don’t think this was the generous gesture she claims.

1) Mei Suruga vs Sayuri

Last time Sayuri appeared these two were teammates (in a losing effort against MonTsuru).

Mei takes issue with Sayuri pointing out that she’s actually taller than her opponent for a change, and stands extra straight during the handshake to appear otherwise.

Of course the flipside is that Mei is significantly stronger than her opponent for a change. This would come up a lot as she was able to shrug off numerous attempts by Sayuri to apply holds, etc. The elusive completion of the bodyslam attempt continues to elude Gatoh’s resident kunoichi.

I say it a lot, but it’s worth repeating that Sayuri is improving rapidly and really developing a strong character and presence. Her ninja stuff is great as it adds unique flair while still remaining well integrated and based in the concept of trying to win the match.

At a couple points Sayuri forces Mei into splits (one using the windowsill O_o) to immobilize her for a strike. Later she gets Mei down for a hold that’s just a knee on Mei’s back while she poses. Mei’s “are you for real?” look at Akki when he asks if she gives up is amazing.

They get locked in a backslide attempt by Mei, then Sayuri climbs the wall with her feet, has the window opened, then “walks” over to it and drops outside, slamming Mei’s back against the sill. She’s doing such creative, out-of-box stuff and Mei’s excellent skills provide a strong anchor to center the match.

Mei spins out of sleeper, but Sayuri keeps going back to it to wear her down. It’s a good move for her repertoire, and again her small size and distinct style allows for things like that wild counter by Mei.

By far Sayuri’s most competitive match yet, and it’s awesome to see her development. But the more experienced Mei weathers the storm and wins with her trademark Propeller Clutch.

2) Baliyan Akki vs Tokiko Kirihara

Otoki fires shots right away saying she’s happy to face a larger opponent because there’s more space to kick. Akki is not amused.

It all leads to a different kind of match right away as Tokiko squares up with the kicks and Akki has to take a sec then decisively respond in kind to force her to switch to a grapple based attack.

Really engrossing match alternating between tooth and nail grappling and hard strikes. Tokiko holds nothing back, especially with her fantastic judo throws. Akki had to reach down for some of the fire he had in the season one match with Yuna.

Akki tires of a Tokiko flurry of kicks late and DESTROYS her with a super kick. She gets the shoulder up at 2.999 and Akki is in shock. Namaste Press meets knees and Tokiko almost gets the upset with a knee bar. Akki powers up into a pin attempt to break it.

Akki counters a kick to tie Kirihara up in a leg lace cloverleaf variation, then grabs both her arms to force the submission for a hard fought win.

Like the opener this had a great showing for the rookie even in defeat, but was a great example of how different matches can be even with similar underlying stories. This show is shaping up to be one of ChocoPro’s strongest so far.

“You pushed me today, but there’s a well there and you’re happy with the bucket.” Akki getting philosophical and talking extreme trash at the same time.

3) Pencil Army (Emi Sakura & Lulu Pencil) vs MonTsuru (Yuna Mizumori & Mitsuru Konno)

“Only for Yunamon.”

“I’m so angry. That’s all.”

Yuna looks determined even as she sings. Sakura got Mitsuru angry during the prior day’s chat, and unfortunately for the favorites today Mitsuru’s resulting comments put her at odds with the entire roster, including her tag partner. However they both still want to rip Sakura apart, so don’t bet against them yet.

In some sense Emi got what she “wanted,” as she had been mocking the duo for being too cheerful and having too much fun in their last match (which they WON, by the way). As a strategy going into this match though it might have been a gross miscalculation.

To rub salt in the wounds, Sakura comes out in full cheerful Emi Pencil mode. Lulu tries to start and MonTsuru run right by her to absolutely wipe the floor with Sakura for a bit.

I’m never more happy than when watching Mitsuru or Yuna in full berserker mode, and we got both here. This was 90% Lulu just trying to survive, with moments of her unorthodox offense and key distractions and flurries from Sakura to keep the Pencil Army in the match. And it was fantastic.

At one point Yuna pulls the mat up at teases a backdrop on Sakura, but Lulu pulls them out of position so Emi lands on the double mat instead to no ill effect. Later Emi applies the slowest La Magistral in history and an IRATE Mitsuru kicks out before 1 cursing Sakura out for messing with her.

Given Sakura’s bad back, when in Emi Pencil mode she often knocks an opponent down and uses them as as a step to get into/through the window, then drags them outside and does it again to get in proper position. It backfired MAJORLY here as both Mitsuru and Yuna recovered while she was still in the windowsill and she ended up surrounded by extremely angry opposition.

There were tons of creative moments and crazy action throughout anchored by an intense emotional core to the underlying issues of the encounter. Incredibly well done.

After a flurry of offense on Sakura by both Mitsuru & Yuna the former hits one more Volleyball Strike… for the WIN?! O_o MITSURU PINS SAKURA!!! Even in a tag match with Sakura in Emi Pencil mode, this is huge. Only Mitsuru’s second ever direct win over Sakura, and definitely Sakura’s first pinfall loss in ChocoPro (she lost one singles match to Antonio Honda by submission and her tag partner was pinned in all of her previous tag losses).

Mitsuru had harsh words for the state of Gatoh Move and ChocoPro afterwards, and said Riho leaving wasn’t the catalyst: it was Mei’s arrival. She made it a game. “I’m ashamed of the rookies that came after you. This is not a sports club.”

“Mitsuru’s job is to discipline them and be hated. But mine’s not and I’m not hated.”

Mitsuru takes control and sets up the janken brackets herself. It’s a pretty intense affair, apart from Akki who is determined to be calm and happy. It serves him well, as he claims the tourney and the chocolate.

Of note during their first round match Yuna tells Yuna Mitsuru beat Sakura because of their team, Mitsuru said no I did it myself. An upset, glaring Yuna is DEAD SILENT as she glares at Mitsuru through three ties and then beats Mitsuru with a flat look on her face.

During closing comments Lulu remarked “Today I am not defeated. Today’s defeat is only Emi Pencil. One step forward.” Akki comments that Lulu seems to be learning a lot from Sakura. He. Too true.

ChocoPro 33 will be July 19th at 10am JST (July 18 9pm EDT) and to no one’s surprise after the earlier comments will feature Mitsuru vs Mei.

This show was incredible. All three rookies looked great and are really stepping up very time out, and everyone in general was firing on all cylinders. Some of Mitsuru’s comments were especially harsh and like with Yuna’s feud with Sakura there could be a little too much blending of story and real frustration building (and fallout with the rookies getting dragged into the crossfire), but for now the effect is extremely compelling.

Seek this show out.

——-

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!

P’s Party 48 Live Stream Thoughts

July 8, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

The future for P’s Party (“short” for Peace Party), Ice Ribbon’s related promotion run by Tequila Saya focusing on newer wrestlers, was uncertain when Saya retired from in-ring competition at the end of 2019.

However Saya stayed involved with Ice Ribbon in a commentary capacity, and after five months in limbo P’s Party would return in May as a weekly show (with of course no live audience at the time). P’s Party is a lot of fun and I was thrilled to see it come back.

Ps Party is broadcast on Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico channel. During June there was a small additional ppv price for the live viewings, but all P’s Party shows go up as part of the subscription service as replays. Now with small audiences starting to be allowed again, P’s Party is back to a two week schedule and fully included in the channel subscription even for live viewing.

I’ve been especially thrilled to see Diana’s Madeline and Haruka Umesaki as regulars since the restart (although Haruka isn’t on this show), along with other guests as well as of course Ice Ribbon’s own rookies (and a great selection of veterans sprinkled in for them to work with and learn from).

There was a particularly special guest this time around: Wave’s HIRO’e is appearing on both of this month’s P’s Party shows as she approaches her retirement.

Saya herself is on commentary.

Side note: During the no audience time period Ice Ribbon put in new lights in the dojo. They’re great for visibility (and likely great for Shutter Ribbon events as well), although do take just a little getting used to as brighter lights mean the shadows of the ropes and wrestlers are more noticeable and the mat’s a bit bright itself (the logos on the back part of the mat are pretty much completely washed out).

P’s Party 48

1) Tsukushi vs Honori Hana

Honori is a first year rookie from SEAdLINNNG, and looked good in her debut against SEAdLINNNG champion Arisa Nakajima on 12/23/19 (the only match I’ve seen in her in previously).

A little awkward at first, but they got on the same page quick. Honori impressively hits pretty much as hard as Tsukushi (who’s known for vicious shots) during an early forearm exchange.

Emphatic win for Tsukushi with a small flurry of offense for Honori in the middle. Good for what it was, and it was nice to see Honori in P’s Party. I hope she comes back.

Tsukushi’s issues with referee Mio continued as she was being a brat and antagonizing Mio (including tieing her up with Honori for the rope dropkick, although that backfired when Mio couldn’t count her subsequent cover). After the match Mio calls Tsukushi back to the ring and Yappy (and later Totoro) come out to seemingly continue to story of trying to get Tsukushi to respect the rules. Lost cause.

2) Uno Matsuya & Yappy vs Thekla & Satsuki Totoro

Preview of Uno’s upcoming shot at Thekla’s WUW World Championess title this Sunday at “Ice Ribbon in 176BOX” with them on opposing sides here.

Solid tag match that did a good job of building tension for Sunday, with strong support from Totoro and Yappy. I really like how Yappy is turning her facelock spin into a facebuster at the end now. Looks vicious.

Thelka & Totoro were in firm control late, but Uno reverses a fireman’s carry into a cross armbreaker and makes Totoro submit for the win. Nice establishment of that hold as a real threat going into Uno’s title match.

3) Banny Oikawa & Madeline vs Suzu Suzuki & Rina Shingaki

Partners Banny & Madeline faced in a singles match at P’s Party 44. They’ll make an amusing team. As with that match when she stole it for some posing, Madeline is still fascinated by Banny’s tail here.

Rina’s been a P’s Party regular since early on and it’s been great to see her develop. She’s actually the most senior wrestler in this match experience-wise at just over two years.

Don’t know if this is still a minority opinion, but I greatly prefer Suzu’s new gimmick and style to the Chirin Chirin days. She looked great here, and her sections against Madeline were a treat. Also, late in the match Suzu avoided a high kick from Banny with the smoothest matrix evasion I’ve seen.

Banny’s still a bit awkward with ring positioning , etc at times, but nothing too bad or too often, the effort is always there, and she’s continually improving bit by bit. Mid-match she hit a beautiful through-the-legs trip into a bridging pinfall attempt.

Suzu & Rina taunted their opponents heavily mid-match with the appropriation of Madeline’s batons for both aid in applying simultaneous camel clutches and a bit of showboating.

Rina pinned Banny after turning what looked like an attempted armbar taken down into a rollup. Banny hit hard, and I’m glad she was up and seemed to be moving ok afterwards. Fun match.

4) Nao Ishikawa vs HIRO’e

Nao debuted during the no audience period at Ice Ribbon 1039 on May 2 in the main event teaming with Suzu against reigning International Ribbon Tag Title holders the Dropkickers (Tsukasa Fujimoto & Tsukushi), and has looked really sharp. She’s been in several main events of both Ice Ribbon dojo shows and P’s Party events in her short two month career so far, and gets a big spotlight here in a singles match in the main event as one of HIRO’e’s final opponents.

Nice, energetic match. Nao’s really good at using the basics to build her end of the match and push her skills and repertoire a bit more each time out. Cool to get a few more opportunities to see HIRO’e before she the end of her career too.

Nao puts up a good fight, but HIRO’e eventually wins with a backdrop suplex.

This was a straightforward, enjoyable show with something different in each match and a bunch of interesting pairings. Nothing earth-shattering, but that’s not the point of P’s Party in the first place. Definitely recommend checking out this and the P’s Party back catalogue in general.

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!

ChocoPro 28 Live Stream Thoughts

June 30, 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. 

This is the match we’ve all been waiting for. A special show, even among ChocoPro’s usual unique atmosphere with no ring and no crowd in the small confines of Ichigaya Chocolate square. There will be only one match, no referee, and no rules. The only way to win is to have your opponent fail to get up by a count of 10.

Yuna Mizumori and Emi Sakura have been on a collision course for over 15 shows over the course of two months, and now the pineapple girl FINALLY gets her shot at ChocoPro’s oni.

Background:
 The story thus far (pre-ChocoPro 27)
ChocoPro 27: Sakura vs Mitsuru

And here we go…

LAST WOMAN STANDING MATCH: Yuna Mizumori vs Emi Sakura

Baliyan Akki gives us an opening introduction and will be acting as cameraman and providing commentary as well as doing the 10 counts (although as there were Dark Choco matches taped prior to the event other wrestlers are present besides just the participants and cameraman unlike with Yuna vs Fujita).

“I mean business.” – Yuna Mizumori

“Are you ready? I’m ready.” – Emi Sakura

Hot start as they just run at each other with shoulder tackles. Yuna has the slight edge, so Sakura goes for a kick but Yuna quickly establishes an advantage, then uses a giant swing to set up a crab. Nice establishment of the stipulations as Sakura goes for a break at the edge of the mat and Akki reminds her there’s no escape. She turns and chops Yuna, who releases more out of annoyance than pain.

Yuna just BEATS the wholly HELL out of Sakura all over the venue as we get glimpses of Lulu Pencil, Tokiko Kirihara, Mitsuru Konno, and Mei Suruga watching from the sidelines. She puts Emi between the side tables against the wall and does considerable damage, but when she dropkicks them (with Emi still between) the table falls on her.

A little later Emi goes for a pin and has to be reminded no fall. I LOVE this detail. Emi has the vast experience advantage, but Yuna’s been in a Last Man Standing before so has a slight edge in that respect and isn’t making those mistakes.

Sakura gets a surfboard and mocks Yuna by singing Yuna’s song throughout the application of the hold.

Sakura tries to turn the mat on Yuna, but she blocks, pulls the mat up, and backdrops Sakura on the floor. Then she put the mat on Sakura, and gets a 6 count before she looses patience and just attacks her immobile opponent some more. After going crazy for a bit she puts the heavy punching bag over Sakura for 9.

Reverse crab to further punish the back and the mid portion is ALL Yuna.

The other wrestlers are torn and are chanting for whoever is in trouble at the time.

When Sakura retakes control she mocks Yuna further by taking down the Tropical Planet sponsor sign and using it to cover Yuna’s face during a hold. Yuna would later repay that indignity.

Later on she turns her La Magistral into a Rings of Saturn. No submissions here but she’s wearing Yuna down, and it was a great variation on a move that usual leads to a pinball attempt (which is also not in play).

This is all about Yuna’s wild with energy and desperation against a methodical Emi carefully controlling her periods of advantage. At one point the oni stands on Yuna’s hand and just stomps on the arm with her other foot.

Later Emi breaks out of waistlock and taunts again with Yuna’s “Yahho!” cry so Yuna simply lariats her in the back of the head, then goes into an awesome series of short arm lariats.

Yuna takes out the right side windows, then hits the Coconut Crush flying knee strike at the 20 minute mark.

Yuna ducks a flying body press and SAKURA FLIES RIGHT OUT THE WINDOW!!! Count but she’s up at 8. Yuna goes outside and backdrops Sakura back in for 7. Yuna’s already perched in the window and dropkicks Sakura’s back the second she’s up.

Mushagaishi (Yuna’s wall jump splash) hits Sakura’s knees and Sakura (who’s been practicing the move over the last few weeks) hits it on Yuna instead for 8.

Sakura counters a spin kick by Yuna into Fujita’s Sayonara piledriver and Yuna’s own Mushagaishi, followed by her own variation with a twist in it for 9. Whew. Totally bought that as a possible finish.

Yuna backdrops Emi into the wall at a brutal angle at the 30 min mark.

Shortly thereafter Yuna gets up to stop a double count to go for Mushagaishi but hits Sakura’s knees again. Sakura hits the Ice Driver and sadly that’s it.

Poor Yunamon is bawling on the mat.

I covered a lot of the action and highlights but there was too much going on for full play by play, so there’s even more to enjoy in this intense, captivating struggle then what I’ve conveyed above.

Sakura stands over Yuna. “If you don’t want it to end today get up.”

Paraphrasing/summary of Akki’s translation of Sakura’s comments:

“I want Yuna to hear my dream. Will you listen to it? Right now there’s a lot happening in the whole wrestling world. Not just Japan. Everyone’s in some trouble. Gatoh Move can’t do matches. We’ve done ChocoPro for 3 months. I want ChocoPro to go on. Yuna might not be able to understand me. I don’t explain myself. I forget what I say. I say things then goes back on them. But, she wants to make ChocoPro big. Wrestling is fun. Has everyone been enjoying? 470 people watched today. But she is the AEW superstar. Every week, more than 100,000 people watch AEW. I want to use AEW as much as possible. I’m going to send today’s match to AEW. No idea if they will see it. It might be bad image wise for us, but I’ll send it.

Yuna, if you don’t get strong you’ll be in trouble. There’s Mitsuru, Mei, all the wrestlers not here, Lulu, Kirihara, and Akki’s here too. The whole roster needs to get strong and ChocoPro will get big. We’re doing something new. Of course we don’t know what’s good. I don’t know either. If I’m on the wrong path I’m sorry, but it’s no problem. I’ll just do it one more time. And one more time. From now on I want to fight Yunamon. Stand up. It’s not just frustrating that I used your moves. I might have made it my own. Musaigashi 2. You can use my move if you want to. Use my Mushagaishi to make yourself stronger.”

“Sakura, thank you. When I fight you I think the right thing is not the right thing sometimes. Thank you for making my move stronger. But if you go on the wrong path I will bring you back. I will make Musagaishi 3.”

“You hate me? It’s ok.”

Yuna gets up and it’s time for a single bracket AEW Dark Choco Tourney. Yuna puts on her 50:50 t-shirt!

After six intense ties with everyone around cheering for Yuna … YUNA WINS! You can see the relief as she tearfully talks about the victory and finally being able to savor the chocolate after winning the tournament (Sakura stole it from her the only other time she’s won).

Going into today I thought Yuna had to win the LWS match, but it all led to a great ending even if… SAKURA ATTACKS AND STEALS THE CHOCOLATE AGAIN! O_o Ok, well this isn’t over by a long shot. Poor Yuna looks so dejected. Once again the oni hits her new catchphrase: “You hate me? It’s ok.”

But then Sakura says no matter what happened she wanted to make sure today’s show ended on a happy note, so she announces the next ChocoPro and there will be one guest: OMG RIHO IS BACK!!! Sakura worried about Gatoh Move when Riho left, but they’ve made it a year. She wanted to bring Riho back in a big show, maybe at Korakuen Hall, but this is the biggest show they have right now, and pretty much exactly a year after leaving Gatoh’s former ace will return to Ichigaya.

They sing the traditional song (with socially conscious hand washing) to finish up. Sneaky oni was going to dropkick Yuna’s back from the window during the end of it, but the rest of the wrestlers rush her to push her outside instead and Yuna gets a small moment to shine surrounded by supportive roster mates. Outstanding.

This was everything it should have been and more, with a hard to predict result that was none-the-less logical and excellently executed. Yuna never hit the Mushagaishi, leaving the question of whether Sakura could survive it open for whenever the rematch may be. And again, the extended post match happens show this is far from over. Simply amazing all around.

——-

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!

ChocoPro 27 Live Stream Thoughts

June 28, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura 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.

Sakura has continued to taunt Yuna Mizumori’s throughout the latter’s forced absence in preparation for their big singles match, which has now been set as a LAST WOMAN STANDING MATCH. Just 14 hours prior to this show Yuna had a ChocoTalk interview with Akki explaining her feeling and perspective.

Sakura refrained from participation, even staying out of the comments, but immediately mocked Yuna after it finished and did her own impromptu interview with Minoru Fujita, who beat Yuna in a Last Man Standing Match when this whole ordeal started. The rivalry isn’t slowing down at all as we barrel towards the 30th and ChocoPro 28 (see my preview and story summary here).

But there’s one more show to go before then, and Sakura’s given herself a surprisingly difficult opponent in the main event…

ChocoPro 27

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

Mei sings Judas for the squats, this time with the phone to help with the lyrics. She’s SO proud when she gets all the way through. 🙂

1) Mei Suruga vs Tokiko Kirihara

Mei points out that her opponent is the same age as her mother, which kind of starts her off on Toikiko’s bad side as things begin.

Mei would continue in full mischievous mode throughout the match, doing things like applying a fist to Tokiko’s back during a submission hold and mocking Tokiko’s signature twist by doing it on her hair and fingers. Mei also got ample encouragement from the ever-so-slightly biased ref, her Best Bros partner Akki.

Toikiko’s size advantage let her hang in with her younger yet more experienced opponent all the way through. There was a nice extended fight over a slam that Tokiko eventually won with her leverage advantage, and a really nice touch in Tokiko being so much taller that Mei struggled to put the octopus on and had to reset and try again three times before locking it in.

As always I adore Tokiko’s use of judo and the way she builds to hitting the big throw. The transition into an armbar on Mei’s kickout was also great.

This got frantic at the end and for just a split second it seemed Tokiko could win, but the upset was not to be this time and Mei prevailed with the propeller clutch.

2) Baliyan Akki vs Lulu Pencil

Tokiko’s ref here and Mei’s on camera, which would become significant.

First ever singles match I believe, and only the second time they’ve crossed paths at all.

Lulu remarks on the age difference in the opener and that no one knows her age. So the fans in the comments decide she immortal. Akki vows to break the immortal pencil and we’ll never see her again. Kind dark for ChocoPro there buddy.

Lulu’s act gives a lot of leeway for trying new an absurd things, and they had a blast with this one. Lots of creative stuff that still provided an underlying anchor of exciting, solid action.

Akki steals the camera from Mei early on and self commentates as he applies a deathlock and otherwise gives a wrestler’s eye view for everyone to enjoy. Everyone except Mei that is (ok, and probably Lulu), who spends the whole segment in the background begging for the camera back, calling him a dummy, and saying “Hey Bro! It’s my job!” Great stuff.

Akki with Lulu over shoulders and uses her as a Pencil to write his name on mat

Lulu’s new moves based around trying to stab opponent with her hands pointed (as the point on the human pencil) and her super low dropkicks are a lot of fun. She slowly expands her character and style match by match and it’s a joy to watch. Akki took advantage of having a human pencil around by putting her over his shoulder and writing his name in the mat.

Late in the match Akki puts Lulu in an extended airplane spin, and it’s Lulu so she gives up to give Akki the win. Akki looking determined and satisfied with the win then falling over because he was so dizzy was the icing on the cake for this amusing contest.

3) Mitsuru Konno vs Emi Sakura 

“You hate me, it’s ok!” – Emi Sakura

Huge match here, and kind of insane that it’s in some ways a prelude to Sakura’s Last Woman Standing match against Yuna.

Emi jumps Mitsuru to kick things off, but it doesn’t really pay off as it just fires up Mitsuru. In general this was all about Emi trying to assert herself and Mitsuru refusing to back down AT ALL.

Lots of great back and forth, with an interesting substory in the middle of the match: Mitsuru was actually in charge and Emi only took over once she got into mocking Yuna mode and started copying the Pineapple Girl’s moves.

Things built and built until late Sakura made Mitsuru mad again and the latter just LAID INTO THE STRIKES. It’s always amazing when Mitsuru lets lose, and I adore the way they gradually build up to it.

But her anger gets the better of her and she PICKS SAKURA UP DURING A PIN. O_o Never seen that from her, and I can only think of maybe one other time in all of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro.

All in all Mitsuru DOMINATED the entire second half of the match, only to lose to a desperation move from Sakura who finally hit Yuna’s wall splash to both deny Mitsuru and continue her taunting of Yuna. Amazing match. This was a full bore main event the kind they could have had at any of their big shows.

The story was unexpected and really compelling, especially going into the LWS match. Sakura somehow looks both vulnerable and unbeatable, and Mitsuru looked fantastic even in defeat. In fact she’s up right after the surprise 3 count, in shock, and staring a HOLE right through Sakura.

Mei wins the AEW Dark Chocolate janken tournament (against Akki in the finals even) and blissfully enjoys her chocolate. But the real story is Mitsuru’s continued, visible distress throughout the tourney (to the point where Lulu dives under the rotating fan to hide after she beat Mitsuru) and afterwards as she refused to sing and just stood aside with a glare.

Then things got even more crazy, as at the end of the song YUNA BURST THROUGH THE WINDOW and wipes Sakura out in a blinding rage. Show ends with Sakura finishing the song from flat on the mat, then the rookies helping her up as Mitsuru again stands off to the side.

Just about as perfect a lead in show to Yuna vs Emi as you could get. Great action all around, continued development of that feud in particular, and a LOT of new potential story points going forward, most of which are swirling around an intense, angry Mitsuru. Absolutely can’t wait to see where it all goes.

——-

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!

ChocoPro 28 Preview: The Ballad of Yuna and the Oni

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

Required viewing:
Yuna vs Fujita
Yuna vs Akki
Yuna vs Mei
Yuna & Sakura vs Best Bros

Supplemental viewing:
ChocoTalk: Sakura’s interview with Yuna (Japanese language only)
Sakura & Akki vs Yuna & Fujita
Yuna & Sakura vs Akki & Tokiko
Yuna & Sakura vs Best Bros 2
Sakura vs Sayuri 2

Also watch Akki’s interview with Yuna (6/27 7am EDT), ChocoPro 27 (6/27 9pm EDT), and the big showdown on ChocoPro 28 (6/30 7am EDT) on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel.


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!