Gatoh Move 1/1 & 1/2/19 Live Thoughts

January 1 and 2, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Third and fourth days in a row (and my fourth and fifth shows of the trip) for Gatoh Move at Ichigaya to ring in the new year (also see my thoughts on 12/30 and 12/31).

 

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As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

1/1/19:

Gravure model An-cham had another decent showing in singles action to open against Yuna Mizumori until the latter’s size and power led her to victory. Yuna looks like a monster when she gets serious in the best way and combines it with an infectious charisma. She wrestles quite a bit beyond her experience level.

 

 

Next up was an amusing tag team match between Antonio Honda & Mei Sugura and Saki & Baliyan Akki. Mei trying to copy Honda’s mannerisms and moves was hilariously awesome, and watching  Aoi Kizuki’s protege of sorts team with Honda after enjoying “Happy Rhodes” as a team in 2018’s Go Go Green Curry Cup was fun. Saki & Akki complement each other well and it’s always nice to see them team.

 

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In the main event Riho & Mitsuru Konno faced Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi. 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.

 

1/2/19:

This show opened with Mitsuru Konno vs Baliyan Akki in Akki’s first ever intergender singles match (although the two had been on opposite sides of several tag matches). Good match with a well told story, with a steady stream of aggression from the smaller Mitsuru forcing the slightly overconfident Akki to dig a bit deep to pull out the win. While Akki has been wrestling longer overall, Mitsuru is his senior both in Gatoh Move and in experience in this kind of match, and they both played their roles well.

 

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Like Cho-un vs Takanashi on 12/31, another yearly tradition around this time has become seeing Antonio Honda v Sayaka Obihiro v Jaki in a comedy deathmatch. Every time someone gets a 2-count they get to perform a “comedy routine” using  provided box of props and are awarded a point by the referee if it’s funny. Most points at the end of the fifteen minute time limit wins.

I’ve seen this four years in a row now and between the language barrier, Obi doing intentional poor comedy for effect, and the “wrestling” sequences being pretty much just a bridge to the jokes, I personally find these really hit or miss. Honestly this year’s didn’t really connect with me, and was my least favorite of the four.

 

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The main event was a 6-person tag of Emi Sakura, Masahiro Takanashi, & Yuna Mizumori vs Mei Sugura & Gatoh Move’s reigning Tag Team Champions Riho & Makoto. At the beginning of the show Emi mentioned she was annoyed with Mei today, and tension between the two provided a strong undercurrent to build certain elements of the match around. This was yet another of Gatoh’s excellent 6-person tags in Ichigaya, with a ton of fun triple teams. Riho of course is a master of the environment, and had a particularly jaw dropping spot here from the window vaulting off other wrestlers to deliver her diving knees. Great work from all involved.

 

 

I always enjoy Gatoh Move at Ichigaya and its unique atmosphere and environment. But this time if possible I was even more impressed with what felt like an extra layer of creativity on display in a lot of the matches. The rookies are all coming along quickly and developing incredible instincts, and seeing Gatoh back at “full strength” so to speak with said rookies all mixing it up with Gatoh’s ring generals was a real treat. This was another pair of fantastic shows over all. 

 

Beautiful Dreams 3: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been a year and change since my last spotlight on the work of my favorite artist, and I’d like to share and talk about more of her incredible work and some of the inspirations behind the pieces. See Beautiful Dreams and Beautiful Dreams 2 for more about Juri H. Chinchilla’s art, including past pieces I’ll be mentioning in this write up.

 

 

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements. One of the more unique requests I’ve made was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, and I adored it so much that I’ve followed up with several more since. Juri’s done an AMAZING job depicting these previously unfamiliar to her subjects and these are in many ways the pride of my entire art collection. See Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2 for more about the above works featuring WWE’s reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka, Sendai Girls’ phenomenal high flyer Dash Chisako, and the recently retired Happy Maker Aoi Kizuki.

 

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Misaki Ohata PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Another favorite of mine also retired in 2018, and Juri’s strikingly posed Misaki Ohata with a wonderful background of venue lights is a great keepsake.

 

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Reika Saiki PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Reika Saiki is known as the “Muscle Idol,” and all aspects of her strength and charisma as a wrestler, idol, and body builder are gloriously highlighted in Juri’s drawing.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last wrestler in this batch was also the first of all. Juri’s first rendition of Mitsuru Konno from Gatoh Move for me featured a great action pose capturing and combining Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in a remarkable rendition. Equally wonderful is Juri’s quite different recent depiction, featuring Mitsuru in her newer wrestling outfit with a palpable sense of celebration and excitement captured.

With the exception of Dash doing her trademark frog splash, I didn’t specify poses and the layouts, details, and way Juri captured each subject are just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with how these all turned out.

 

 

Juri’s work have are as diverse in creation method as they can be in subject matter. I’ve added a pair of wonderful paintings of hers to my collection, including a striking abstract and an atmospheric, haunting image of night in Rainy Gotham.

Another unique piece is Aquatica, which shows off Juri’s wonderful use of color in a gorgeous image of an original character.

 

 

As always Juri’s work for Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets is pitch perfect for the subject matter. I was lucky enough to get some Artist Proofs (APs)  from her for their most recent sets. For Witchcraft, I requested a female grim reaper from several artists, and I adore the delicate yet powerful feel Juri brought to her version. In the past I got a witch from Juri with some amazing ravens, so loved the idea of getting Celtic goddess Morrigan for her Classic Mythology III metal AP. Rounding out this group is a graceful moonlight scene featuring my favorite Greek goddess, Artemis, with just a touch of lurking menace as she hunts.

 

A very different Morrigan was part of one of the Personal Sketch Cards I got previously from Juri, an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers character with her “sister” Lilith. Morrigan’s an old favorite and one of my most played fighting game characters ever, so I was thrilled to add this larger, equally amazingly done drawing of her to my collection.

 

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Continuing the video game theme are three new PSCs from some of my favorite game series. Makoto from Persona 5 joins my previous PSC of Elizabeth from the third game in that series, with a bold red background complimenting the deep blues of the other card. The wonderful balance of a sense of motion while still posing is a wonderful touch not only in the two Persona cards, but also accentuates Juri’s drawings of Fire Emblem’s Tharja, and Valkyria Chronicles 4’s Riley, as well as the Bombshells version of DC’s Raven and Clare from the manga/anime Claymore. Finally for this time around is a beautiful depiction of two of Juri’s original characters. The cards are all excellent and unique works showcasing Juri’s attention to detail and mastery of color in their own different ways

 

 

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her wonderous creations for a long time to come. 🙂

 

 

 

Gatoh Move 12/30 & 12/31/18 Live Thoughts

December 30 and 31, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

Shows #2 and 3 from Gatoh Move for this trip, although I was also lucky enough to also see Gatoh talent in action at Michinoku Pro on 12/21 and SEAdLINNNG on 12/28.

 

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As I like to explain to start my Ichigaya reviews, these events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

12/30/18:

 

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I’ve seen An-chamu at Gatoh Move once before in 6-person tag team competition, but here the gravure model had a singles opportunity against Gatoh’s resident ace in Riho. An has a different look and approach to wrestling that helps her stand out. She’s not nearly as physically strong as the other rookies, so has to adapt a bit in style. So far it’s working well and provides a nice contrast. Decent showing before the women tri-champion Riho turned up the pressure and simply outpaced and dispatched of the rookie.

 

 

Mei Suruga’s straight ahead, “I can take on the world” optimistic character is fantastic, and the undercurrents of mind games and one-upmanship it fostered in her match with the larger, stronger Saki were phenomenal. Lots of compelling, back and forth action until the size and power advantage finally swung things Saki’s way and she picked up the victory.

 

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Masahiro Takanashi, Emi Sakura, & Baliyan Akki are always a blast as a trios team as their heel instincts gradually come out, making their pairing against the hero group of  Mitsuru Konno, Sawasdee Kamen, & Sayaka Obihiro even more appropriate and fun. Obi didn’t quite mesh well with the masked heroes in the end, causing miscommunications that lead to Akki pinning Mitsuru. Sawasdee was not happy with Obi “failing” his regular partner and made it known. Standard high level performance from Gatoh’s 6-person tags.

 

 

12/31/18:

 

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Baliyan Akki  vs Cherry vs Toru Owashi was of course comedy heavy with the talent involved, but still felt nicely competitive. Cherry outsmarting  her much larger opponents and pitting them against one another to earn a win here was a really solid story to build around, and they did so reasonably well.

 

Seeing Masahiro Takanashi and Cho-un go to a time limit draw on New Year’s Eve has become something of annual tradition, and to be honest one I was a bit lukewarm on last year. I feel like they pushed themselves a bit to do something different this time, to great effect. While the previous matches were decent, this one was more interesting, with better pacing and the draw feeling less like a forgone conclusion, and unusual elements (like fighting over an audience member’s stool) being involved. Kudos to the vets for freshening things up.

 

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The main event was a “old Gatoh Move vs new Gatoh Move” 6-woman tag as Riho, Sayaka Obihiro, & Emi Sakura faced Mitsuru Konno, Mei Suruga, & Yuna Mizumori. From little things like brawling through the crowd a little more to coming up with inventive new ways to use the windows to all the tiny, detailed character touches they all use to differentiate themselves, Gatoh Move’s firing on all cylinders and the results are amazing. I loved this match, from the starting moments where Sakura didn’t quite care about being a full part of her team through to when the veterans’ skills were just a little too much for the rookies’ energetic determination to overcome and all the frantic, captivating action in between. Mei was eventually isolated by her opponents, triple teamed liberally, and pinned by Riho.

 

 

Seeing Gatoh Move at full strength is so awesome, and as I’ll mention often in this batch of write ups there was a definite feeling of progression and evolution in these shows. The wrestlers are pushing the boundaries of the format, environment, and the personal strengths and weaknesses they’re working with and elevating what was already always a fun time to another level. Everything’s consistently coming together wonderfully and it’s a joy to see.

 

Gatoh Move 12/21 & 12/22/18 Live Thoughts

December 21 and 22, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

 

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Michinoku Pro 12/21/18:

Ok, this clearly wasn’t a Gatoh Move show, but at the risk of sacrilege the Gatoh Move 6-person tag was the reason I went. To be perfectly honest the rest of the card was incidental to me outside of the main event, and that’s a whole other story all together. So for now as I work through my significant backlog of shows I’d like to focus solely on the Gatoh match from this show.

 

 

The way this trip (and many of my others for that matter) fell I only saw Gatoh Move shows at Ichigaya, missing their larger, more traditional offers at places like Shinkiba 1st Ring that took place shortly before and after my visit. I adore Ichigaya and its unique environment (much more on that to come), but working and thriving in that space adds depth and versatility to their wrestling as a whole, not only what they can do there. So it’s also a treat to see them let loose in a traditional ring in general, let alone in a rare appearance at Korakuen Hall.

 

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Emi Sakura, Masahiro Takanashi, & Baliyan Akki vs Riho, Mei Suruga, & Greg Glorious was fantastic. Just non-stop, energetic fun for a straight eleven and a half minutes. It was my first look at Greg, who fit right in with the Gatoh crew and had a great showing in a victorious effort alongside Riho & Mei.

 

 

It was so cool to see rookies Mei and Akki’s Korakuen debuts, and of course any opportunity to see ring masters like Emi, Riho, and Masahiro let loose is to be cherished. Call me overenthusiastic if you like, but this was fantastic and is will certainly be in the discussion when I put together my best of the trip list.

 

 

Gatoh Move 12/22/18:

A day later and I was had my first show of the trip in Gatoh’s home base.

As I always explain to start my Ichigaya reviews, these events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics for this won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

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Kazuhiro Tamura is a familiar guest at Gatoh, and provided a strong test for Yuna Mizumori to open the show. As I’ve noticed and remarked often about Sakura’s trainees, Yuna has a very distinct personality and energy that’s worked well into her ring style. In her specific case, the impression is that of a friendly, hyper wrecking ball and I adore watching her wrestle. Tamura was victorious here, but it was a fight.

 

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I really love when Masahiro Takanashi teams with Gatoh’s rookies, and Mei Suruga’s exuberance is a particularly great compliment to his straight ahead style. It was absolutely wonderful to see Sayaka Obihiro, recovered from injury and fully back, across the mat from them teaming with another regular guest in Saki. Fun back and forth contest, with Mei managing to be just a more on the same page with her veteran teammate than Obi and Saki managed as time wore on, opening the door for Takanashi to pickup the win. Nice story underlying a good match.

 

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I adore the Riho & Mitsuru Konno pairing (and honestly wish Riho had won the tag belts with Mitsuru instead of Makoto, but I suppose it’s possible that’s my bias speaking), so seeing them main event against Emi Sakura & Baliyan Akki was great.

Akki has come so far in the year since he came to Gatoh Move, and he had already been pretty impressive in my first exposure to his work. He’s making the most of the unique and rewarding experience of training and wrestling at Gatoh Move, and seems really comfortable with his wrestling and as a result can push himself in new directions.

Mitsuru’s showing a nice aggressive streak as frustration with her losses builds, and of course with Gatoh’s ace and founder anchoring this everything came together in an engaging contest that had several nice layers lurking beneath the surface.

 

 

I always enjoy Gatoh Move a lot, but something clicked even more so than the already high usual standard throughout the batch of shows I saw this trip, and it was immediately noticeable starting right here.

Gatoh Move 10/6/18 & 10/7/18 Live Thoughts

October 6 and 7, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

My third and fourth (and final) Gatoh Move shows this trip continued on consecutive after 10/4 and 10/5.

 

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As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

10/6/18:

This show opened with a contest between Darcy Stone and Sakura Emi. It was Darcy’s final match of the tour, against GM’s founder and the person who brought her in. Hard hitting, good opener. Darcy’s chest was bright red, and she mentioned to me after the show that she noticed the bruises on someone’s chest the night before after they faced Emi and Emi said to her “that’s you tomorrow.”  Rite of passage passed I guess. 😉 I hope Darcy returns.

 

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I have to be honest – I don’t remember Joji Otani vs Yu Iizuka at all. ^_^; So nothing particular stellar nor particularly poor here.

 

 

I go on and on about how wonderful all the 6-person tag matches are at Ichigaya, but it’s well deserved. The core roster knows the environment and how to use it effectively so well whenever several of them are in a match like that it’s always fast paced, exciting, and flat out fun. Not only was Mei Sagura, Mitsuru Konno, & Balliyan Akki vs Kaori Yoneyama, Saki, & Yuna Mizumori  no exception to that, I think this was one of the best I’ve seen. Something about the structure and execution of this one made it stand out a bit even among all the excellent matches of this type Gatoh does. The relative rookie team of Mei, Mitsuru, & Akki battled veteran Yoneyama and the then reigning Gatoh Move tag team champions to a time limit draw in a fantastic main event.

 

 

10/7/18:

This show was in the evening after  Aoi Kizuki’s retirement show, and several Gatoh Move talents appeared there as well. Most everyone that was involved in that show wore Aoi t-shirts after this one, which was really cool.

 

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Mitsuru was at Aoi’s show selling merchandise and cornering for her compatriots, but wasn’t feeling well and ended up being pulled from this show. So it was announced that the winner of the opening triple threat of Riho vs Yuna Mizumori vs Kuishinbo Kamen would take her place in the second match.

 

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I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with Kuishinbo, so didn’t understand his status nor why on Earth he’d end up double pinning the Super Asia champ AND half of the reigning tag champs. It was well done, and the rest of the audience was really into him, but since a lot of his act is verbal and/or playing off the fans knowing his act and moves it fell flat for me. Action was good when things picked up, and despite my personal dislike of the result the finish is a cool one to occasionally bust out for triple threats (Riho and Yuna were fighting over a backslide and Kuishinbo flipped them both over to pin them simultaneously).

During entrances fans placed necklaces made of snacks around the necks of each competitor. Mei’s amusingly covered her head.

 

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So Kuishinbo Kamen immediately wrestled again as the partner of Balliyan Akki against Makoto & Saki. This was fine, although again I didn’t have the context to follow Kuishinbo’s antics and two matches in a row that had heavy comedy overtones (of the same type no less) was a bit much. Good effort all around though, and the other half of Gatoh Move’s tag team champions (Saki) got some payback for her partner by picking up the win at Kuishinbo’s expense.

I was concerned for Mitsusu and clearly since she wasn’t well enough to compete she shouldn’t have, but she is a favorite of mine and her participation in this match was definitely missed.

 

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In a bit of a completion thematically of the main events from 10/4 and 10/5 (as well as being appropriate for the day), Aoi’s two opponents from those days, her partner protege Mei Sagura and her trainer Emi Sakura, faced off here. This was incredible, with the fiery Mei giving Gatoh’s lynchpin everything she could handle until Emi weathered the storm long enough and experience won out. Fantastic.

Even more impressively, Sakura had to be helped out of the ring during Aoi’s show and limped into this one, but you’d never know it from her work during the matches. Her performances were amazing, and a admittedly a little worrisome as I really hope she’s not overdoing it. She’s one of the very best in the world.

 

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As I mentioned in the Aoi tribute and the review of her final show, Aoi gave Mei her wings from her entrance gear. Mei was so clearly excited about them, and it was pretty adorable how she had to struggle a bit to get used to not tripping while jumping around in them since Aoi’s taller and thus the wings are a bit too big for Mei.

 

 

So-so undercard for me that everyone else seemed to really enjoy topped off by an excellent main event still made this a worthwhile show overall. Four days in a row of Gatoh Move was pretty awesome. 🙂

 

Aoi Kizuki’s Retirement Show 10/7/18

October 7, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

As I mentioned before, this trip was largely based around Aoi Kizuki’s retirement and seeing this, her self-produced final show. In the week leading up to this show I was lucky enough to see her wrestle several times, at her final appearances for Ice Ribbon, Pure-JWave, and Gatoh Move. Several wrestlers from those companies appeared on this show as well to see the Happy Maker off.

 

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The show opened with Hiroyo Matsumoto & Hanako Nakamori vs Totoro Satsuki & Saki. The Lady Destroyer Hiroyo’s a freelancer who wrestles most often for Oz Academy and was also in this year’s Mae Young Classic, Hanako is Pure-J’s reigning champion, and Totoro and Saki are from Ice Ribbon and Actwres Girlz respectively. All four are heavy hitters and this was a really good illustration of that style. I really liked the pairing of Saki and Totoro and would love to see them team again sometime.

 

 

Like Hanako from the opener, Haruhi Moeka is a former tag team partner of Aoi (they were called So On Flower, which I still don’t understand as a team name ^_^;) and it was nice to see her appear here. But she had the unenviable task of facing Oz Academy’s promoter and star Mayumi Ozaki, and this went pretty much as expected. Haruhi got some defiant offense here and there, while Ozaki countered by beating the hell out of her with a chain and of course eventually won.

 

 

The third match saw Gatoh Move rookie Yuna Mizumori & Seadlinnng founder Nanae Takahashi take on freelancer Kaori Yoneyama (who runs some shows under her own banner of YMZ) & Pure-J rising star Yako Fujigasaki in a decent tag encounter. Considering all the experience in match, Yuna looking the best here by just a tad says really positive things about her future (as well as my own personal taste/biases in wrestling styles I suppose).

 

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Aoi spent the vast majority of her career in Ice Ribbon before going freelance in her last couple of years, so it was great to see a majority of the current IR roster wrestle on this show. In a huge 10 woman tag the Lovely Butchers (reigning International Tag Ribbon champions Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi), Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera), & Ibuki Hoshi faced ICE Cross Infinity champ Tsukasa Fujimoto, This is Ice Ribbon (Tsukushi & Kurumi Hiragi), Asahi, & Miyako Matsumoto.

 

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This was really fun, and Tsukka breaking out the “partners as steps” spot always make me wonderfully happy.  In a cap to the running joke of Aoi not letting Tsukka do her “Youth Pyramid” pose because of her age, Tsukka finally managed to do it uninterrupted here and Aoi even did it with her during the after show ceremony.

The two rookies in the match (Asahi and Ibuki) became the focal point towards the end, end despite Asahi desperately struggling to prove herself she eventually fell victim to a trio of Hamuko Rolls from the Butchers & Ibuki and pinned by the latter.

 

 

It a perfect endcap to Aoi’s career, she teamed with Gatoh Move’s Riho, & Mei Sagura against Gatoh (and Ice Ribbon) founder Emi Sakura with freelancers Makoto & Hikaru Shida in the main event.  It was a nice tribute to her trainer (Sakura) and other wrestlers she had a long history with. The sole exception was Mei, a rookie who became Aoi’s tag partner and seemingly something of  protege since her debut this spring. Mei’s already incredible for her experience level and seems to have big things ahead of her. The fact that Aoi ended up having her final singles match against Mei on October 5th (and put the rookie over to boot) and included her in this main event illustrates how close they became.

In a particularly sweet gesture, Aoi gave Mei her rainbow “wings” from her entrance gear. Mei’s excitement about it as she wore them not only for this match but at Gatoh Move later in the day was clear and contagious. Aoi herself came out for this match in special white gear that included an incredible, light up version of her wings.

 

 

The match was fantastic and an appropriate goodbye to Aoi. The traditional spot with everyone one the show and more (including Aoi’s best friend Jenny Rose, who came to Japan to be ringside) splashing Aoi in the corner was of course a lot of fun.

 

 

Emi, bad back and all, gave 110% to give her former trainee a proper farewell throughout the match and busted out a freakin’ 450 to pin Aoi to end it. All of Aoi’s trademarks were also on display, including one more glimpse of her rare, incredible spinning top rope splash. Fun, emotional stuff from bell to bell, and an absolute privilege to be at live.

 

 

The post show retirement ceremony was likewise emotional and a treat to be at. All in all it was a wonderful, bittersweet, and fitting show see Aoi off. Although I’m sad to see her go, she had a great 13 year career and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to say goodbye to her in person and wish her well. Whatever the future after wrestling holds for her I hope life is happy for the Happy Maker. 

 

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Gatoh Move 10/4 & 10/5/18 Live Thoughts

October 4 & 5, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

Gatoh Move’s October 4th show was supposed to be Aoi Kizuki’s last appearance for them and thus the fourth and final in my quasi-tour of her final shows with various companies before her self produced retirement show.

 

However a typhoon intervened (which was quite the experience O_o ) and the big Gatoh Move show at Itabashi Greenhall on 9/30 that was supposed to run after the Pure-J show I saw at the same venue in the early afternoon was cancelled. Aoi’s planned match that night was a special one for her, and with her retiring just a week later there wasn’t much time available to reschedule it.

 

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But she and Emi Sakura managed to do it anyway. An entirely new Ichigaya show was added on 10/5 (in addition to the already full schedule for both Aoi approaching her 10/7 retirement show and Gatoh Move already having shows set for 10/4, 10/6, and 10/7), and Aoi wasn’t the only wrestler Gatoh would say goodbye to that night…

 

 

As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

 

10/4/18:

 

 

 

Things started off with my first look at Darcy Stone against one half of Gatoh Move’s tag team champions in Yuna Mizumori. Darcy’s good and a fun addition to Gatoh’s lineup of visiting wrestlers. She seemed to have a rivalry building with Yuna, and got in some good offense before Yuna eventually went into full wrecking ball mode and picked up the win. As with all of Emi’s trainees on the core Gatoh Move roster Yuna is insanely good for her level of experience.

 

 

 

I’ve mentioned before how impressive and fun it is when Gatoh Move regulars are involved in a 6-person tag match in Ichigaya’s enclosed space, and Riho, Mitsuru Konno, & Balliyan Akki vs Mei Sagura, Saki, & Masahiro Takanashi certainly continued this trend. Everyone involved is a part of the core roster or regular visitor, and as such they all know how to use the Ichigaya environment wonderfully and tell a story within its confines.  It was particularly great for me to see Mitsuru get a rare pinfall victory on her two year anniversary in wrestling. 🙂

 

 

 

In what was originally supposed to be Aoi Kizuki’s last Gatoh Move match, she faced her trainer and mentor Emi Sakura in the main event. This was another great match in Aoi’s goodbye tour, and at the time I would have been hard pressed to imagine a more appropriate way for Gatoh Move to say goodbye to her. Aoi defeated her mentor after thirteen minutes of back and forth, emotional, captivating wrestling with the Happy Clutch.

 

 

 

Emi had prepared a special song for Aoi (with audience participation) that was sung for Aoi during the post-show festivities. The show was super sold out, which was great to see. Fantastic night all around.

 

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10/5/18:

It’s wonderful that this show was put together and added in so Aoi Kizuki’s scheduled match from the cancelled show could still take place before she retired. I’ll talk about that more when we get to the main event, but in the meantime she came out and issued a special challenge… to her former tag team champion partner Sayaka Obihiro!!!  This was a big deal as Obi was out with a knee injury. It was an extremely short match (under 2 minutes) since Obi was obviously still not fully ready to return, but was a wonderful way to say goodbye to her friend and former partner and was really special to be at.

 

 

 

Makoto vs Darcy Stone was the first scheduled match, and like the main event to come was rescheduled from the cancelled Greenhall show. Fine “opener” that gave Darcy a chance to wrestle a much more experienced opponent.

 

 

 

An-chamu, Balliyan Akki & Riho vs Emi Sakura, Yuna Mizumori, & Cherry  was another really fun 6-person tag anchored by Gatoh regulars. An looked decent in my first time seeing her, before eventually being defeated by the force of nature that is Mizumori. Emi and Cherry were clearly having a blast with their quasi-heel antics (and celebrating their victory).

Akki is so comfortable and adapt within Ichigaya’s unique constraints now and impresses every time out, on top of being an inspiration for the way he’s gone to a foreign country to pursue his dream and is making it all a reality. Riho is Riho, and if more needs be said you haven’t been paying enough attention. 😉

 

 

 

The main event was the reason this show was added, with Aoi Kizuki facing her recent tag partner and protege of sorts in Gaoth Move’s newest rookie Mei Sagura in a match that was supposed to happen the previous Sunday at Gatoh’s cancelled Greenhall show. In a bit of a parallel with Aoi’s mentor Emi putting her over in their final singles match the day prior, Aoi put Mei over here giving the rookie a huge win.

The match itself was excellent, and I certainly understand all the hype arising around Mei. As I mentioned about the very first time I saw her wrestle (at Pure-J days prior to this), she very clearly “gets it” and seems to have natural instincts for wrestling in terms of drawing the audience into her matches and making maximum use of her skills and charisma. This was just as fitting a Gatoh Move goodbye to Aoi as her match with Emi would have been, and was a wonderful “passing the torch” moment.

 

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But the night’s emotional goodbyes weren’t limited to Aoi. A few days before this show Aasa, who had withdrawn from wrestling at the end of December 2017 due to what turned out to be chronic illness, announced she would not be returning and her retirement became official. She appeared at this show to say goodbye and greet the fans one last time, and it was nice to be able to thank her for her time in wrestling and wish her well in whatever lies ahead.

 

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So this was a pair of heavily emotional shows, on top of being some of the best wrestling-wise I’ve ever seen in Ichigaya. A wonderful, special couple of nights.