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!

ChocoPro 22 Live Stream Thoughts

June 13, 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.

ChocoPro 22

As usual Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties (with Sayuri this time). Mei and Sakura split referee duties.

Sakura has granted Yuna Mizumori’s request for a singles match, but it’s to be at the end of June and Yuna will not be booked until then. Combined with DDT’s show happening at the same time, it means this show was down a few regulars. But there’s some additions…

1) Emi Sakura vs Sayuri

Really excited to see Sayuri back and this is her ChocoPro debut.

This was quite different, and really awesome. Sayuri’s developing her style and showed a new intensity. Her approach to normal spots is a bit different with unique counters, etc and it’s coming together REALLY well. It’s going to be great to see her continue to expand and refine things as she continues to learn and progress.

Little things like her Naruto run, repeatedly calling for the bodyslam (which she has yet to successfully hit), and a fantastic small package where she fought for every inch so much it was practically in slow motion all really added to the match in immeasurable ways.

She was well outmatched here but fought tooth and nail and Sakura, who took the rookie a bit lightly and toyed with her at times, was continually surprised and had to get more and more serious as things went on. Sayuri even had her in serious trouble at one point when she laid Sakura out and dropped the punching bag on the sideline on Sakura’s bad back.

Emi finishes with Yuna’s handstand splash and her Tropical Splash to really rub things in as the Pineapple Girl freaks out in the show comments.

2) Best Bros (Mei Suruga & Baliyan Akki) vs Lulu Pencil & Tokiko Kirihara

Tokiko (recently nicknamed Otoki) has been on fire lately and has been become a really strong part of the ChocPro regular roster. Here she teamed with a returning Lulu Pencil, a huge fan favorite. They faced the cornerstones of ChocoPro, who are coming off a rebound win over Sakura & Yuna.

Fun, lengthy tag match. As always Lulu lucking/stumbling out of danger is awesome, and the work from all four was great.

Rather amazing finish in which Tokiko helps Lulu trap BOTH opponents in a simultaneous deathlock… but it’s Lulu so they are able to last longer than her and she gets herself stuck and taps out while on offense to give Best Bros an extremely lucky win. There was cheerful chaos in the comments as new viewers momentarily thought one of the Best Bros gave up giving Lulu her first win, but alas not quite yet.

3) Mitsuru Konno vs Kaori Yoneyama 

Yone is one half of the reigning Asia Dream Tag Team champions (with Emi Sakura), and this is her ChocoPro debut.

Mitsuru’s coming off her amazing main event against Chris Brookes last show (which is a rematch of one of my favorite matches of 2019)

This was an all over the venue, frantic brawl, with lots of screaming to the point where Yone momentarily blew out the mic at more than one instance. She also stole the camera for a wrestler’s point of view sequence, the kind of awesome stuff only seen in ChocoPro.

This culminated in a series of incredibly close nearfalls for Mitsuru as she pushed the vet to her limit, but Yone in turn pushes Mitsuru into the camera and then gets a tight rollup for the win.

Mitsuru is already making an incredibly strong case for MVP of season 2, and the more main event singles matches we get from her the better.

Post-show as usual sees the AEW Dark Chocolate Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament! Lulu won the only other tournament she was in, so anticipation whether she would remain undefeated ran high.

Unfortunately she would go out early, and while the debuting Sayuri did enjoy one victory she and Mitsuru would fall in the semis and the final would see the tag team champions facing off. The oni failed to gain her fifth tournament victory, meaning Yone is the new undefeated one-to-beat in ChocoPro janken!

——-

One of the most enjoyable top-to-bottom shows so far. The level they keep meeting and exceeding is incredible.

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 it all out, including the replay of this show.

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.

Top 25 Matches 2019 (Live) 5-1

Finishing up with my (overdue) look back on my favorite matches from 2019. In addition to still wanting to highlight and share these great matches, positivity and happy memories seem to be in great need at the moment. 

I’ve mentioned before that my top matches of 2019 reads a lot like a certain wrestler’s resume, and here’s where it really gets highlighted as she’s in 3 of my top 5. Sareee had a truly incredible year and would be all over this list even more if I wasn’t just considering matches I was able to see live.

Previous installments:
Prelude (with honorable mentions and a brief list for December 2018)
25-16 
15-6 

One might notice that since my prelude this has become a top 25. Even with the latitude I took in spotlighting shows/groups of matches in the prelude I still had a monster of a time narrowing this down. Since there is no set reason to strictly restrict it to 20 (and to avoid delaying any further), I decided to stop sweating the minutia of what to include and expand the list a bit. Even so, there is plenty of excellent wrestling beyond what’s here / what I was able to see as 2019 was a phenomenal year.

Match reviews are copied/modified from my show specific blogs when appropriate, although there’s a fair bit of new writing this time around from shows I didn’t have the chance to write up. As always the ordering was a bunch of close calls and could’ve been different – everything here is great.

Also, I’ve indicated and linked to matches officially available online from the companies that held them for those who would like to check them out.

5-1:

5. Wrestle-1 Grand Prix Opening Round: Seigo Tachibana vs Shotaro Ashino – Wrestle-1 6/2/19 

I went to my first Wrestle-1 show ever in order to see Reika Saiki face Takako Inoue (in a match I enjoyed). The rest of the show was largely wrestlers I had no familiarity with, although the Grand Prix Tournament helped accessibility a bit with a clear structure to the show.

Among it all, the semi-main was particularly incredible. I went from having no knowledge or investment in either man to DESPERATELY wanting Tachibana to win by the end. Just top notch work from both wrestlers to tell a compelling story in the ring with excellent action and psychology that transcended language and familiarity.

Really hope I see more of both, particularly in the aftermath of W-1’s unfortunate closure earlier this year.

4. Diana World Championship: Aja Kong (c) vs Sareee – Diana 5/12/19

Sareee and Kong’s previous encounters had huge buzz and as mentioned I have become a huge fan of Sareee in general, so expectations were high for this one.

It was A LOT more lopsided than I expected at first, with Kong largely wiping the mat with Sareee for the first third to half of the match. Then Sareee found a weakness to capitalize on when Kong missed a charge and “injured” her arm, and Sareee showed she could give as good as she got.

The back and forth battle raged on, with Sareee weathering the storm long enough to shock the monster with a rollup for the win and the title. This built to a moment, and was pretty excellent along the way.

3. Sendai Girls World Championship: Chihiro Hashimoto (c) vs Sareee  – Sendai Girls 1/6/19  

Prior to this show I hadn’t had much opportunity to see Sareee wrestle for a long while, so was really excited for this main event against Sendai’s monster. Sareee was particularly fantastic here, going tooth and nail with the dominant Chihiro in a surprisingly visceral title match. Extremely impressed with the performances of both wrestlers here, which was no surprise. Chihiro is an incredible wrestler with equally incredible presence, and it’s a joy to hear her dedicated cheering section go wild for her during her matches. Sareee pushed the champs limits, but Chihiro persevered and kept her title.

I commented at the time that I’d love to see a rematch down the line, and in fact there were two more last year: one midyear where Sareee dethroned Chihiro to become a double champion and one late in which Chihiro took it back. From what I hear they were equally great.

2. Riho vs Masahito Takanashi- Gatoh Move 4/27/19 

(Available for free on Gatoh Move’s YouTube Channel.)

While I love Gatoh Move in general and was excited about the entire show, this match in particular is primarily why I came rushing back from seeing a different show in Sendai earlier the same day.

Riho was a couple months out from leaving Gatoh Move to go freelance and this was one last big singles match against their most frequent male visitor.

Takanashi is an absolute master at working with smaller opponents in a believable way, and Riho of course is a expert in her own right (and usually faces larger opponents). The combined experience in this match was close to 29 years, and did it ever show.

The match built from careful counter-grappling to high impact offense naturally, telling an incredible story along the way. During the opening sequence of hold-for-hold struggles there was a particularly excellent exchange of stranglehold reversals.

Throughout the match there was realistic use of Takanashi’s size advantage (in certain counters, the way moves were applied/executed, etc), which is one of my favorite little touches. It adds so much to the match and forced Riho to get clever and make good use of her speed, etc to nullify that edge.

They made each other fight for EVERYTHING, which is so important to immersion and feeling like they’re both doing everything they can to win. The constant counters and back and forth in this are amazing, and it was all so smooth. Takanashi eventually had one counter too many in his bag of tricks and small packaged Riho out of a suplex attempt for the win.

1. Sareee vs DASH Chisako – Sendai Girls 4/27/19  

(Available for free on Sendai Girls’ YouTube Channel.)

And to complete the story from the last entry, this is the match that prompted me to go out to Sendai in the first place. Arguably wrestling’s biggest rising star against my personal favorite. Also as spotlighted above Sareee challenged Sendai’s Champion in an incredible match at their 1/6/19 show in Tokyo, and while she came up just short there she defeated Meiko Satomura herself shortly before this match and seemed on course for another shot. Dash is another top veteran in Sendai Girls and was in position to play spoiler to those plans here.

This was everything I hoped for, and Sareee picked up another big singles victory on her way to another date with destiny against Chihiro in an awesome match. Sareee is on absolute FIRE lately, combining incredible in-ring work with real star presence, and it’s always something to behold when Dash gets the opportunity to go all out. They hit the hell out of each other here while build a logical, escalating flow to the match. Fantastic.

Later in the year Dash challenged Sareee for her newly won title in the main event of Sendai Girls’ Korakuen Hall show in yet another match I’m sure would have made this list if I’d been there.

——-

That wraps things up for the look back on my favorite live matches of 2019. Again, everything I’ve mentioned is well worth seeking out if possible.

Top 25 Matches 2019 (Live) 15-6

Continuing on with my (overdue) look back on my favorite matches from 2019. In addition to still wanting to highlight and share these great matches, positivity and happy memories seem to be in great need at the moment. 

Previous installments:
Prelude (with honorable mentions and a brief list for December 2018)
25-16 

One might notice that since my prelude this has become a top 25. Even with the latitude I took in spotlighting shows/groups of matches in the prelude I still had a monster of a time narrowing this down. Since there is no set reason to strictly restrict it to 20 (and to avoid delaying any further), I decided to stop sweating the minutia of what to include and expand the list a bit. Even so, there is plenty of excellent wrestling beyond what’s here / what I was able to see as 2019 was a phenomenal year.

Match reviews are copied/modified from my show specific blogs when appropriate, although there’s a fair bit of new writing this time around from shows I didn’t have the chance to write up. As always the ordering was a bunch of close calls and could’ve been different – everything here is great.

Also, I’ve indicated and linked to matches officially available online from the companies that held them for those who would like to check them out.

15-6:

15. Sendai Girls Junior Championship: Ayame Sasamura (c) vs Millie McKenzie – Sendai Girls 1/6/19

I was not familiar with rookie Ayame Sasamura prior to this trip, and was impressed with what I saw from her at SEAdLINNNG on 12/28 in a triple threat against Sakura Hirota and Ayame’s own reigning SEAdLINNNG Tag Team Championship partner Arisa Nakajima. That isn’t the only title she held either, and here she defended her Sendai Girls Junior Championship against Millie McKenzie (who I saw at Tokyo Joshi Pro two days prior). Excellent work here from two wrestlers with under a year and half experience each. Both have a lot of potential and bright futures ahead of them (not to dismiss what each has already accomplished of course). Millie scores a bit of an upset and becomes the new SG Jr Champion in a great match.

14. Riho & Mitsuru Konno vs Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi –  Gatoh Move 1/1/19

I adore the pairings involved as well as any chance to see Mitsuru in with Gatoh’s veterans, so was really excited for this one. In a great bit to start, Emi was dismissive of Mitsuru just before the bell rung, at which point a fired up Mitsuru beat Emi across the venue. Great intensity, and beyond the normal excellent tag work in Gatoh this had a good feel of varying things up a little to nice effect, including things like brawling through the crowd a bit. Loved it overall. Emi eventually isolated and pinned Mitsuru to give her and Takanashi the win.

Takanashi is currently out with injury. I hope he recovers as soon and as completely as possible. He’s incredible and this is not the last of his appearances in this list.

13. Wonder of STARDOM Championship: Momo Watanabe (c) vs Utami Hayashishita  – Stardom American Dream 2019 

(Available as an ippv replay on FiteTV.)

Excellent, and even more impressive once discovered that Utami chose to work through a broken thumb here. This completely lived up to expectations, while leaving room for the inevitable rematch to take things a step further. It’s also a nice illustration of Stardom following through on giving NYC an authentic, worthy show, as this was a big, important first time singles title match for them between their current reigning tag team champions. The hype around Utami seems justified, and it’s nice to see Momo excelling as (one of) Stardom’s ace(s). It took a lot, but Momo eventually prevailed with a clean pin over her rookie partner and retained her title. Just the start of the story though I’m sure. This was the match I was most hyped for, and it delivered big time. Crazy to imagine what it would have been without the broken bottom rope and Utami’s injury.

12. Chris Brookes vs Mitsuru Konno – Gatoh Move 12/30/19

(Available for free on Gatoh Move’s YouTube Channel.)

Chris has been such an awesome fit in Gatoh, and his singles match against one of my personal favorites in Mitsuru was a treat. This was all about Mitsuru’s fire and defiance as a counter to Chris’ size advantage, including her unloading at various points with heavy, vicious strikes. I adored the inventive submissions and counters from both that anchored the match throughout, and it all lead to a great series of rollup reversals culminating in Chris locking in an arm bar for win.

11. Super Asia Championship: Mei Suruga vs Riho (c) – Gatoh Move 6/4/19 

Riho, Gatoh Move’s ace since the promotion’s inception and a twelve year veteran at age 21, was a month away from going freelance and still held the company’s top title. Here she defended against arguably their biggest rising superstar at the time with just a year and a half under her belt.

So there was a real feel of a title change being possible hanging over this match, especially with the build in the proceeding shows. It added a lot of drama to this excellent, fast paced match. Riho’s transitions and counters were so smooth, and Mei kept up with the master in fine form for a lot tense, gripping back and forth sequences.

A particular highlight of the match was Mei hitting her battering ram move on the apron, sending Riho headfirst into the ringpost.

FANTASTIC finish where Mei ducked Riho’s double knees finisher (as she had earlier in the match for a rollup and a close 2 count), but before she could do anything else Riho turned around and nailed Mei in the back with it. Riho then hit it again proper for the win. Riho then vacated the championship (which has not been reintroduced since). After leaving Gatoh Move she would become AEW’s first Woman’s Champion as well as winning Stardom’s High Speed title.

10. Ice Ribbon vs P’s Party: Maya Yukihi, Akane Fujita, & Risa Sera vs Tequila Saya, Giulia, & Asahi   –  Ice Ribbon 1/3/19

(Available with subscription to Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico Channel.)

As a big fan of what Tequila Saya’s being doing with P’s Party, I was thrilled to see “P’s Party vs Ice Ribbon” theme for the main event with Giulia & Asahi joining Saya to face Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera) & Akane Fujita. This was an elimination match with each wrestler being assigned a finisher before the match via ladder game, which was the only way they could score pinfalls. Eliminations could also by going over the top rope to the floor.

They had fun with the assigned finishers, such as Risa repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) trying to rope-walk, the slim Giulia bouncing off of people when she tried to throw her assigned lariats, and a posturing Saya struggling in her attempts to perform a powerbomb. Maya got “diving headbutt” and attempted several Maki Itoh style ones, while Akane and Asahi got luckiest and had the appropriate for them “bodyslam” and “schoolboy rollup” respectively.

This was really well booked and executed, with a surprisingly strong showing for the “rookies” (in Japan that term generally covers any with less than three years experience). Despite everyone’s best efforts with their finishers, all the eliminations ended up being over the top rope. After Risa, Saya, and reigning Ice Cross Infinity Champion Maya were respectively eliminated, it was down to Akane vs Asahi & Giulia.

Eventually Asahi had Akane on the apron and delivered several running dropkicks to try to knock her off and win. As she set up for the (presumably) final one her partner Giulia shoved her out of the way and knocked Akane down herself to claim the victory and the glory. (Man, does this play a bit differently looking back now.) TEAM P’S PARTY WINS!!!

Asahi stares a HOLE through her so called partner, and then goes CRAZY trying to claw and scrape her way to at at Giulia requiring three others to hold her back and finally Tsukka comes in to calm her down. Fantastic fire from Asahi here, and there was more story and character conveyed in these 30 seconds than I’ve seen in entire shows. Which makes a bit mind-boggling that they cut the post match stuff out from the video releases. SHOW PEOPLE THESE AWESOME BITS OF EMOTION.

The match itself was creative and engaging, and done in such a way that made the rookies look good and competitive without taking anything away from the vets. Great stuff.

9. Mitsuru Konno vs Mei Suruga  – Gatoh Move 12/26/19

In their last big event of the year, two of Gatoh Move’s top rising stars faced off in a battle of wrestlers trying to prove their place as the new ace in the wake of Riho’s departure. This had been built to wonderfully, with Mei consistently having a bit of an edge on Mitsuru despite having less experience. A few days prior the two battled to a draw in an intense tag match (Mitsuru & Rin Rin vs Mei & Actwres Girlz’ Saki).

Excellent work all around from both, and the underlying story of Mei trying to outlast and outmaneuver an angry, driven Mitsuru was pitch perfect. They took advantage of the spotlight and this was a strong indication of a bright future ahead of Gatoh Move.

I was thrilled (as well as a bit surprised) to see Mitsuru finally get a big win. Awesome all around.

8. Ice Cross Infinity Championship: Maya Yukihi (c) vs Giulia – Ice Ribbon 5/28/19

(Available with subscription to Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico Channel.)

Maya was a triple champion in Ice Ribbon at this point, holding the Triangle Ribbon and International Ribbon Tag Team Championships in addition to her Ice Cross Infinity Championship that is on the line.

At the time this seemed to be a preview of Ice Ribbon’s future, with Giulia likely to be a center point of the promotion someday. Who knew. Whatever of the circumstances of Giulia’s sudden and contentious departure in the Fall, this was an absolutely excellent match. She fought tooth and nail to dethrone the person dominating Ice Ribbon only to come up a bit short when Maya absolutely spikes her with a butterfly package piledriver. Incredibly hard hitting and intense the whole way through.

7. Union Max Championship: Masahiro Takanashi (c) vs Isami Kodaka – Basara 12/28/19

(Available with subscription to Wrestle Universe.)

I’ve only seen a little of Basara here and there, but am well familiar with Takanashi from Gatoh Move. I went to this show primarily to see him defend his championship, and the match certainly didn’t disappoint. Great, gradual building war of counter wrestling and one upsmanship culminating with Takanashi retaining with one final Takatonic (his version of the Code Red) after a number of close calls.

6. Meiko Satomura vs Reika Saiki  – Tokyo Joshi Pro 1/4/19

(Available with subscription to Wrestle Universe.)

Ever since seeing Meiko Satomura come to TJP in August 2017 I’d been dying to see my personal favorite from the promotion, the Muscle Idol Reika Saiki, get a shot at the legend. Reika just keeps getting better and better, utilizing her incredible power in wonderful ways and really strives to excel at everything she does. Meiko is quite simply the greatest wrestler in the world. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with this battle. Reika went toe-to-toe with the 23-year veteran at several points, and had an excellent, hard hitting, back and forth showing before Meiko put down the upstart. 

——-

Hope you enjoyed reading about these great matches. Everything I’ve mentioned is well worth seeking out if possible. Be back soon to finish up with the Top 5.

Top 25 Matches 2019 (Live) 25-16

Continuing on with my (overdue) look back on my favorite matches from 2019. In addition to still wanting to highlight and share these great matches, positivity and happy memories seem to be in great need at the moment.

Previous installments:
Prelude (with honorable mentions and a brief list for December 2018)

Special mention

Hana Kimura & Bobbi Tyler vs Brittany Blake & Britt Baker vs Bea Priestly & Konami – Stardom American Dream 2019 

Obviously with the tragic passing of Hana she’s been on everyone’s mind. This match was the last one I got to see her in, and was a fond memory in the first place so I wanted to share it here.

From my review of the show:
Hana was CRAZY over, but her & Bobbi were also able to get booed as needed for the story of the match. Excellent work by both. This was a bit rough in parts, but nicely energetic and chaotic in largely good way leading to a fun encounter overall. Crowd seemed to be waiting for a little more of a spotlight on Konami, but she looked good in what we saw of her. Hana picks up the win, and goes CRAZY and starts throwing things at the ring announcer when the wrong music plays. She was on point and in character every second she was visible (more on that later) and it’s really cool seeing how far she’s come as a performer since I last saw her in her rookie year.

Later on, at the end of the show, STARS called the entire the roster out to sign off with in a one time show of unity to represent Stardom and thank the fans. Hana alone remained lurking on the stage off to the side where she watched the main event from, dismissively staring at her various former compatriots. Nice touch and yet another example of all the wonderful nuance she brought to her performances.

Rest in Peace Hana.

25-16:

One might notice that since my prelude this has become a top 25. Even with the latitude I took in spotlighting shows or groups of matches in the prelude I still had a monster of a time narrowing this down. Since there is no set reason to strictly restrict it to 20 (and to avoid delaying any further), I decided to stop sweating the minutia of what to include and expand the list a bit. Even so, there is plenty of excellent wrestling beyond what’s here (and what I was able to attend) as 2019 was a phenomenal year.

Match reviews are copied/modified from my show specific blogs when appropriate, although there’s a fair bit of new writing this time around from shows I didn’t have the chance to write up. As always the ordering was a bunch of close calls and could’ve been different – everything here is great.

Also, I’ve indicated and linked to matches officially available online from the companies that held them for those who would like to check them out.

25. Lulu Pencil vs Yasu Urano – Gatoh Move 12/7/19

(Available for free on Gatoh Move’s YouTube Channel.)

Yaso was involved in one of my favorite intergender matches of all time, a no-rope contest against Gatoh Move’s former ace Riho at Basara’s 12/28/17 show, and has faced Lulu before.

The story here was Lulu drawing inspiration from Emi Sakura and wanting to make use of certain counters she’d learned/copied… so she kept setting herself up for moves and holds. A confused and tentative Yasu didn’t know what to make of it, and kept putting on the “wrong” move, repeatedly preventing her plans from working.

It all eventually builds to a persistent Lulu finally executing one successfully into a rollup, but not having the power or weight to prevent Yasu from reversing into his own pin for the win.

This was different and silly in a way that enhanced the story told, and a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. Lulu’s gimmick of being a pro-wrestler who’s too weak and awkward to be pro-wrestler is rather genius in the way it’s being executed, and makes her a natural and easy to cheer for underdog.

24.  Reiwa Ultima Powers (DASH Chisako & Hiroyo Matsumoto) vs Twisted Sisterz (Thunder Rosa & Holidead) – Shimmer 3/30/19

Sendai Girls’ DASH Chisako is a 13-year veteran and one of the best high flyers in wrestling. She’s also a personal favorite of mine, and I had been dying to have her in Shimmer for years. Her Shimmer debut weekend was an impressive one, and she & Hiroyo make a fantastic team. RUP and Twisted Sisterz had the best match of the weekend (imho) in an energetic, captivating clinic on tag wrestling.

23. Signature Moves Match: Guilia & Suzu Suzuki vs Asahi & Tsukasa Fujimoto – Ice Ribbon 1/19/19

(Available with subscription to Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico Channel.)

This was one of IR’s weird and wonderful stipulation matches. Each team was assigned 3 moves from the repertoire of Tequila Saya or Uno Matusya respectively, who amusingly demonstrated their moves on each other before the match. All 3 moves on your checklist must be successfully completed on your opponents.

Giulia & Suzu had the “Tokuho” (Saya’s corner splash), “Submarine” (her reverse pedigree), and “Grand Maestro de Tequila” (her sideways rollup). Asahi & Tsukka needed to complete Uno’s schoolboy rollup, “Saber Chop,” and “Katsudon” (over the shoulder into a faceplant).

As an additional treat, Maya refereed this.

It’s particularly interesting to look back on this now, both in light of Giulia’s departure (more on that later) and since after Saya’s retirement Suzu has inherited the Gran Maestro de Tequila, one of her assigned moves in this match.

This was great, with fighting over the checklist moves providing an additional layer of storytelling and fun to the match. The thread of Asahi being desperate for victory and to prove herself continued, and she executed both the schoolboy and Katsudon to get her team within one move of winning after being behind as her opponents managed the Tokuho and Submarine early.

In a clever sequence once again bringing Asahi oh so close to victory without quite getting there, she hit everyone in the match with the top rope chop except who she needed to (her legal opponent at the time, Giulia, who kept dodging or pulling others in the way).

Eventually Giulia hits the Grand Maestro de Tequila to complete the checklist and get the pin simultaneously. This was a ton of fun.

22. Maya Yukihi, Maika Ozaki, & Kyuri vs Tsukushi, Tequila Saya, & Giulia  –  Ice Ribbon 1/5/19

(Available with subscription to Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico Channel.)

The newly crowned (at Ribbonmania, less than a week prior) Ice Cross Infinity and International Ribbon Tag Team Champions teamed together here against a group of likely forthcoming challengers. I was expecting a Tsukushi pin on someone to set her up in her traditional role as sacrificial first defense for the new singles champion, but Saya pinning Kyuri set up several interesting things post match and was a nice, intriguing call. I really liked the direction the booking took around that time overall, shaking things up a little in a believable way. This match was an exciting, face paced contest throughout with excellent work by all six.

21.  Maria vs Maika Ozaki – P’s Party 5/2/19

As great as all of Marvelous’ current crop of rookies are, Maria is my favorite. So I was extremely excited to see her get a singles spotlight in the semi-main of this show, particularly against another favorite in Maika Ozaki. This was all about the scrappy Maria showing no hesitation in facing Maika’s incredible power, and it completely clicked. They presented a good, well worked story in an exciting match that was exactly as long as it needed to be. Loved this.

20. Calamari Druken Kings (Chris Brookes & Takanashi) & Rin Rin vs Mei Suruga, Saki, & Sayaka – Gatoh Move 12/7/19

(Available for free on Gatoh Move’s YouTube Channel.)

I’d been dying to see Brookes in Ichigaya, and as expected it was a lot of fun. His building feud with Mei is awesome, and the two have a ton of chemistry in the little things they do to egg each other on.

Rin Rin looked great and totally at ease, and the play off of what happened last time she teamed with CDK was highly amusing. She had gotten on Chris’ shoulder for a double team, and when he stood up her head banged on the ceiling. So this time when he and Takanashi tried to put her on Chris’ shoulder she freaked out, fought her way down and slapped them upside the head in admonishment. Awesome.

I have yet to see a trios match at Ichigaya that I didn’t love, and this certainly continued the streak. Innovative and fun, with the Gatoh regulars showing their usual mastery and the new faces fitting in well (in addition to Chris and Rin Rin this was also my first time seeing Sayaka since her Gatoh debut). Mei pinned Rin Rin to give her team the victory.

I absolutely adore the trio of CDK and Rin Rin and also loved the other match I saw them in against Mitsuru Konno, Mei Suruga, & Yuna Mizumori.

19. Makoto & Yoshiko vs Mikoto Shindo & Ryo Mizunami – SEAdLINNNG 5/29/2019

This tag team match of seemingly thrown together teams was surprisingly fantastic. The chemistry of the odd pairings was fantastic, particularly Mikoto & Mizunami. Fun from start to finish, and anchored by great action and INCREDIBLE in-ring storytelling where they built things to the point that they actually had the audience buying the idea that Mikoto might PIN YOSHIKO at a couple of key moments (which at this point in time was never going to happen). Excellent stuff all around.

18. Yuka Sakazaki, Miu Watanabe, Rika Tatsumi, & Maki Itoh vs Hikari Noa, Miyu Yamashita, Nodoka Tenma, & Yuna Aino – TJPW 12/27/19

(Available with subscription to Wrestle Universe.)

A few days out from Tokyo Joshi Pro’s traditional January 4th show the champions and challengers faced off early in a 2 out of 3 falls 8-woman tag team match. Wonderfully exciting and fast paced battle between some of TJPW’s top wrestlers.

Somewhat surprisingly upcoming opponents were involved with each other in all the falls and it was impressive how well done it all was while also serving its purpose to build anticipation for the big show without feeling like too much was given away.

17. Sareee & Syuri vs Takumi Iroha & Mayu Iwatani – Sareee’s Special Night


This was billed as a dream match, and with reigning top champions from three different promotions that don’t all generally interact and a recently returned MMA competitor involved I’d say it fit the description.

With her time in MMA I hadn’t seen Syuri wrestle in years. And while Stardom’s NY show was quite good a crazy 8-woman tag with a broken bottom rope isn’t the same thing as a concentrated singles or tag team match, so this was also my first time seeing Mayu in this type of contest in about as long. Add in Marvelous’ ace and reigning Regina di Wave champion Iroha and Sareee herself and this was quite an exciting matchup on paper.

Of course again the benefit of dream matches is seeing these unusual combinations of wrestlers squaring off with a big fight feel, and this had it all in spades. Top notch work from all four for the full duration of the time limit draw without every feeling like it was headed that way, this was a treat on so many levels. Great way to wrap up a great show.

16. Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki vs Shoko Nakajima & Riho  – Tokyo Joshi Pro 1/4/19

(Available with subscription to Wrestle Universe.)

In an interesting parallel, the Tokyo Princess Tag Team Title Match involved the same four wrestlers as the prior year’s event, but in different pairs. Yuka Sakazaki now held the titles with Mizuki, and her former championship partner Shoko Nakajima challenged alongside Gatoh Move’s Riho (who teamed with Mizuki to challenge Yuka & Shoko the prior year).

I found the previous year’s match just a touch better overall, but that’s slight criticism and this was still an excellent, high energy example of tag team wrestling. Again all four’s jaw dropping athleticism was on display in innovative double teams and exciting action. Down the stretch this became about Shoko trying to prove herself against her former partner, and she looked absolutely emotionally wrecked afterwards about coming up short and being pinned by Yuka.

——-

Hope you enjoyed reading about these great matches. Everything I’ve mentioned is well worth seeking out if possible. Be back soon with 15 though 6.

Heartbreaking

I barely know where to begin here. Part of me doesn’t want to write this. And part of me has to.

A short while ago it was confirmed that Hana Kimura has passed away.

Hana wrestled for Stardom and was the daughter of retired wrestler Kyoko Kimura. She had been wrestling for four years and was one of my personal favorites in the promotion. She always made an impression, and seemed to have all the potential in the world. The last time I saw Hana was at Stardom’s American Dream 2019 show in NYC. I commented about how over she was, how far she had come as a performer since I’d seen her in her rookie year, and how impressive her character work in particular was. Her charisma was striking and she always seemed to go out of her way to be friendly to fans and make sure everyone was having a good time.

Earlier in the day Hana posted some worrying tweets indicating self harm. She had been the target of extreme cyberbullying, in part in relation to her appearances on the show Terrace House. Her tweets were shortly removed (possibly by Twitter, who has a reporting function for self-harm tweets to try to extend help) and numerous fans and others who knew Hana tried to reach out to those who could contact her as well as tweeting messages of love and support.

Further details about her passing have not been official released at the request of her family and I won’t speculate further, but felt it important to mention the circumstances briefly.

Her loss is beyond tragic, particularly so young. Underneath the rising wrestling superstar and reality tv personality was a 22 year old woman having a harder time than anyone knew. Please think of the person on the other side of the computer screen, and never wish or encourage harm on anyone. Words cannot express my anger and total lack of comprehension towards those who would wish such things on another. There are also important issues to look at in entertainment industries and the presentation of and support systems available to performers.

On the other side of things, if anyone is ever in trouble and things seem hopeless, please know that you are not alone and there is hope, and please reach out for whatever help and support you need.

I feel a terrible sense of loss and heartache for Hana and wish things had been different. My thoughts are with her family.

Rest in Peace Hana. You will be greatly missed.

Ice Ribbon Special Challenge Match: Tsukka vs Broom Review

May 10, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

A very special no audience match up for free on Tsukka’s YouTube channel.

Suzu Suzuki is acting as referee, with Hifumi behind the camera.

In an impromptu scuffle last month during cleaning, Broom nearly pinned Tsukka after countering her trademark kicks. The incident isn’t mentioned here, but that’s where it all began.

We get video highlights of subsequent sneak attacks by Broom baiting Tsukka into this grudge match.

Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Broom

Lockup to start. Tsukka struggles and is forced back towards the ropes, but reverses at the last second to push Broom up against them. No clean break as Tsukka kicks Broom then hits a “hair”-mare into the far corner and chokes Broom against the bottom turnbuckle.

Back to center and Tsukka converts a scoop slam into a power slam for 2, then works some crossfaces from Camel Clutch position. Broom holds on and does not give up. Tsukka calls for a brainbuster, but Broom reverses into a suplex on Tsukka and gets 2. Chinlock on Tsukka follows. She tries to break by biting the broomstick, but referee Suzu’s aggressive count breaks that right up and Tsukka remains in the hold. She struggles to the ropes for the break.

Back in the center of the ring they trade “head”-butts and forearms respectively, and Tsukka wins the exchange with a surprise enzuigiri that sends Broom right out of the ring. Tsukka follows up with a doublestomp off the apron, then rolls Broom back in and hits another from the top rope for 2.

All Tsukka at this point, but her flurry of kicks is countered with the same rollup Broom almost pinned Tsukka to set this whole rivalry off for a close 2. Tsukka lays in some more forearms and tosses Broom into the air but gets caught coming off the ropes with a crossbody and just barely kicks out to deny Broom the upset win.

The veteran is getting tired of the upstart cleaning implement, and whips Broom into the corner to hit a nice pair of dropkicks (one “standing,” one “seated”). World’s Strongest Slam only gets 2, but that kickout is all Broom has left and Tsukka nails a beautiful Venus Shoot for the 3 count and the victory. That broom will know better than to bother Ice Ribbon’s ace again.

Ok so this was ridiculous (as was my choice to do full play-by-play), but that was the point. One of the best wrestlers in the world today took the old “so good they could get a decent match out of a broomstick” cliche as literally as possible to produce five minutes of absolute absurdity that was just plain fun. The key of course is they played it totally straight within the confines of the silly premise, and while I certainly don’t need to see Broom become an Ice Ribbon regular this was a tremendously amusing.

Extremely well done too. Tsukka managed pretty long stretches in this, with only a few cuts (honestly I’m surprised there weren’t a lot more) that were noticeable if looking for them but pretty smooth overall. She only needed outside help with a single spot too, and the camera angle completely obscured Suzu holding Broom up for the Venus Shoot (the needed angle also made the move itself look particularly awesome).

Truly a match for the ages. Congratulations to Tsukka on her epic victory.

Watch it here.

Golden Week Chocolate: ChocoPro 11 Live Stream Thoughts

May 5, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

ChocoPro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura and DDT’s Antonio Honda to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world. 

This is 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.

LAST MAN STANDING MATCH: Yuna Mizumori vs Minoru Fujita

Baliyan Akki is acting as cameraman and providing commentary (as well as doing the 10 counts), and is the only person besides the participants at the venue.

He’s alone as the feed starts and sets the stage for the match, summarizing the long, emotionally charged talk the day before between Emi Sakura and Yuna where Sakura really pushed Yuna about her insecurities, both regarding wrestling and her other career as an idol.

“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).

So going into this huge match with a wild stipulation against a bigger, vastly more experienced opponent, a picture is clearly painted of wrestler who is better than she thinks she is, too hard on herself, and desperate to prove something.

The intensity is high right away with energetic chain / submission based wrestling. They’re really cranking holds and fighting over every inch trying to get the advantage.

Submissions can’t end the match here, which Akki reminds Yuna when she instinctively calls for her opponent to give up at one point, but they’re using these holds to try to control / wear down each other and it’s being excellently done and actually fits really well with the type of match.

Yuna dropped the shutters over the door to lock them in before the match started … but Fujita goes out the window as Yuna whips him with an exercise rope and they brawl in the alley. Akki’s still inside with the camera and seeing things through / against the windows for a little bit is pretty awesome. They come fight back in over the windowsill shortly and relock the windows.

As the match goes on Yuna wisely focuses on immobilization, doing things like tying Fujita’s legs, putting a pool ring around him, and splashing him while he’s trapped underneath the ring mat. She even turns the Christmas tinsel still decorating Chocolate Square into a weapon at one point, and the milage everyone is getting out of using the basketball Chris Brookes gave Mei Suruga during matches is impressive.

Fujita of course gives as good as he gets and uses his size and striking power advantage to turn the tide whenever Yuna starts to gain momentum. There’s really great, creative use of the environment while keeping things brawl/wrestling based at every turn here.

Eventually Fujita hits the Sayonara Piledriver and Yuna is down for 10.

Simply incredible. This had escalating pace and flow, solid story undercurrents, and of course great action. There were weapons involved as appropriate for this type of match, but perhaps not as much as might have been expected. That was 100% to the match’s benefit. It meant when used they were well integrated, never overwhelmed the story and let the straight up intense, creative wrestling the two were doing shine.

An INTENSE post show talk continues to examine Yuna’s insecurities, and Fujita is brilliant here as he alternates a bit between antagonizing Yuna and being sympathetic / giving her advice. He talks about being in wrestling for 23 years and how he can relate to frustration, but points out the high level she’s at with only two years experience. He says if she were a baby she’d just be standing at two years, and she shouldn’t be so frustrated so early.

He says they have one more fight, and brings out a piece of paper with a single match bracket on it and a KitKat! He tells her to get up and the traditional post-show Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament is on!

After to two increasingly tense ties … poor Yuna loses again. She is SO ANGRY and dejected as Fujita enjoys the KitKat, and even more so as he starts singing the traditional end song (but can’t help herself from joining in eventually).

But even in the face of Yuna’s anger Fujita says we’re not done yet… and after praising Yuna and pondering why they had to be the ones to go through this emotional journey at Sakura’s pushing challenges Emi Sakura to find a partner to face him and Yunamon as a TEAM. I adore the way all of this was done so much.

In the stream comments Sakura makes a SuperChat donation to her own company to announce she accepts and on May 9 it’ll be Yunamon & Fujita vs Sakura & Akki.

Fujita leaves and Yuna echoes what he said: “why was it only me that had to show my emotions?” She’ll express her grievances to Sakura on May 9. My word this is going to be fantastic.

——-

Golden Week is a huge time for wrestling in Japan, and to be honest one particularly disappointing parts of quarantine is knowing I’d be there watching shows now if not for the pandemic. I can’t express how much I appreciate all the effort my favorite promotions are putting into providing content for everyone to enjoy during this tough time (while taking precautions to be safe themselves).

This show was incredible from start to finish, including all the buildup and heart wrenching context to the interviews as well of course as the excellent match itself. Must watch.

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.