ChocoPro 29: Riho’s Homecoming Live Stream Thoughts

July 5, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

ChocoPro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world and take full advantage of the unique particulars of wrestling without a crowd / specifically for online delivery.

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square. As I like to mention to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring. The edge of the mat and the wall are essentially the “rope break” point for submissions, but do not interrupt pinfall attempts.

Without an audience and thus not having anyone trying to watching outside, the two large sliding windows on the “back” wall are left in but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers performed from the windowsill.

Just days over a year ago Gatoh Move’s ace left to go freelance. Already a 13 year veteran at just 22 years old at the time, Riho became an even bigger star on the bigger stages she moved on to. Among other things she would become the first AEW Women’s Champion, and successfully defended that title against AEW Superstar Emi Sakura, her former trainer and mentor.

Since her departure Gatoh Move has doubled its roster with an influx of rookies, Riho’s compatriots have grown and honed their skills, and ChocoPro has started. This is not the same place it is when she left, however as of yet no one has managed to claim the mantle of successor and stand out as the sole ace of the promotion the way she did.

And so, in what might or might not be a one-time appearance, Riho returns to Ichigaya Chocolate Square…

ChocoPro 29

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

1) Tokiko Kirihara & Mitsuru Konno vs Emi Sakura & Lulu Pencil

Sakura’s back is in particularly bad shape as a result of her last woman standing match with Yuna Mizumori at ChocoPro 28, and in the live stream before this show she said she planned on being more of a mascot or manager for Lulu here than a participant. After her battle with Mitsuru at ChocoPro 27 we’ll see how long that particular strategy lasts.

This was ALL Mitsuru & Tokiko dominating as Lulu tried to hold on while Sakura occasionally hobbled in to help break up holds throughout most of the match.

I understand why Sakura didn’t want to miss this show, and the Emi Pencil character and playing to her back issues allowed her to tell different type of story here from her recent intense battles with Mitsuru and Yuna. Her (and Lulu’s) weak, often ineffective strikes coming up just short or being largely ignored by an irritated Mitsuru was fantastic.

Lulu continued her slow progression by holding on just a little longer each time out and getting just a little more offense here and there with things like opportune use of her new pencil tip strikes.

Exactly the match that should have happened here, with a strong showing from Mitsuru & Tokiko against a weakened Sakura & always struggling Lulu, who none-the-less gave them an impressive fight. Tokiko finished Lulu with her sweet judo toss for her first win in ChocoPro.

2) Riho & Yuna Mizumori vs Best Bros (Baliyan Akki & Mei Suruga)

Even in defeat in her last woman standing match, Yuna proved herself and was acknowledged by Sakura as an appropriate partner for Riho in her return.

A determined Mei insists on starting, and is quite fiery against Yuna. The later rises to her intensity level though and fights back to a standstill after pinfall exchanges.

Yuna tags, but Mei won’t leave because she wants to face Riho and waves off the tag to Akki. Riho’s a bit dismissive, and bangs Mei’s head against the full panel window a bit to make her point.

As expected, the action got frantic QUICK. There was a little bit of needed adjustment from Riho who has never wrestled in Ichigaya without a crowd before and was having just her second match back after not wrestling for three months, but of course it didn’t throw her off much and this was every bit the awesome spectacle expected. Hard hitting too, and in one fantastic moment Yuna lariated Akki so hard she knocked his hair tie off.

Late in the match Akki and Yuna tumbled outside and neutralized each other as Mei and Riho battled inside. Mei fought her heart out and even countered Riho’s first attempt at the double knee strike for a close 2s a couple of times, but the returning superstar responded with a successful pair of them to put Mei away.

Incredibly fast paced and fun match highlighted by displays of intensity and power from Yuna, awesome double teams from Best Bros, and of course seeing Riho back in one of wrestling’s most unique environments.

Riho objects to the AEW logo on ChocoPro’s sign and says she’s taking it if she wins the tourney. She then proceeds to storm her way through Lulu and Tokiko to amazingly face Mei (who beat Yuna and Sakura) again in the finals… and wins AGAIN to claim the chocolate and remain undefeated in every aspect of ChocoPro. Sakura begs her to leave the AEW sign and Riho thankfully agrees.

Extremely good show overall and a solid return/ChocoPro debut for Gatoh’s former ace.

——-

As I like to reiterate I’m beyond grateful to Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro for doing so much to provide good natured content aimed at connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed and appreciated.

Visit Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel to check out all of ChocoPro’s content, including the replay of this show. Everything they are doing goes up for free under Sakura’s “No Pay Wall” initiative, so if you do enjoy and are able / would like to support please see their patreon, join as a member of their YouTube channel, and/or donate directly via their PayPal. Also check out their brand new merchandise store with international shipping!

ChocoPro 28 Live Stream Thoughts

June 30, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

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

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

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

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

And here we go…

LAST WOMAN STANDING MATCH: Yuna Mizumori vs Emi Sakura

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

“I mean business.” – Yuna Mizumori

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Yunamon is bawling on the mat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You hate me? It’s ok.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

——-

As I like to reiterate I’m beyond grateful to Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro for doing so much to provide good natured content aimed at connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed and appreciated. 

Visit Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel to check out all of ChocoPro’s content, including the replay of this show.

Everything they are doing goes up for free under Sakura’s “No Pay Wall” initiative, so if you do enjoy and are able / would like to support please see their patreon, join as a member of their YouTube channel, and/or donate directly via their PayPal. Also check out their brand new merchandise store with international shipping!

ChocoPro 27 Live Stream Thoughts

June 28, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world. 

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square with no crowd. As I like to mention to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring. The edge of the mat and the wall are essentially the “rope break” point for submissions, but do not interrupt pinfall attempts.

With no crowd the two large sliding windows on one wall which are left in, but opened as needed for some unique high risk maneuvers performed from the windowsill.

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

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

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

ChocoPro 27

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

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

1) Mei Suruga vs Tokiko Kirihara

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

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

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

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

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

2) Baliyan Akki vs Lulu Pencil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Mitsuru Konno vs Emi Sakura 

“You hate me, it’s ok!” – Emi Sakura

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——-

As I like to reiterate I’m beyond grateful to Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro for doing so much to provide good natured content aimed at connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed and appreciated.

Visit Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel to check out all of ChocoPro’s content, including the replay of this show. Everything they are doing goes up for free under Sakura’s “No Pay Wall” initiative, so if you do enjoy and are able / would like to support please see their patreon, join as a member of their YouTube channel, and/or donate directly via their PayPal. Also check out their brand new merchandise store with international shipping!

ChocoPro 28 Preview: The Ballad of Yuna and the Oni

Our story starts once upon a time (or like, last month), in the kingdom of chocolate and bodyslams…

ChocoPro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya to fans all over the world, specifically tailored to the unique opportunities of wrestling without an audience in Ichigaya Chocolate Square.

In the short three months since it’s start, ChocoPro is already had 26 shows and counting. “Season 1” ran 18 episodes/shows. It featured a variety of amazing guest competitors, incredible wrestling, and compelling performances.

But an undercurrent of frustration and discontent would build in a particular wrestler, sparked by her own buried doubts and enflamed by a particular agitator.

As ChocoPro was building momentum and establishing its particular style and approach to wrestling, a special event was announced. ChocoPro 11 would be one match show, with Yuna Mizumori against Minoru Fujita in a Last Man Standing match. The only people there would be the competitors and Baliyan Akki, acting as cameraman and making the count. This was a huge opportunity for Yuna, but an equally huge challenge.

The day before the match Sakura pushed Yuna to emotional exhaustion in a lengthy interview during which she really grilled Yuna about her insecurities, both regarding wrestling and her other career as an idol. It was a stark, combative exchange that brought out all of Yuna’s own self-doubts.

Akki summarized the interview and Yuna’s struggles to open ChocoPro 11.

“Somehow she’s winning and still feels like she’s losing.”

I love that Akki made sure to highlight Yuna’s accomplishments and point out that she’s overachieving despite her lack of self confidence. She is the only Gatoh Move roster member with three years experience or less to hold any title (and that covers 80% of the roster), and her TWO tag team title reigns with partner Saki encompass over half of her two year career thus far. It does feel like Yuna’s accomplishments get a little overlooked sometimes compared with her compatriots, and her opening up about her insecurities in such a real way put this match in a new light (and was a bit heartbreaking). 

The match was incredible, but Yuna couldn’t overcome her formidable opponent.

An INTENSE post show talk continued to examine Yuna’s insecurities, with Fujita alternating a bit between antagonizing Yuna and being sympathetic and giving her advice.

After praising Yuna and pondering why they had to be the ones to go through this emotional journey at Sakura’s pushing Fujita challenged Emi Sakura to find a partner to face him and Yunamon as a TEAM.

Everything about that show was a roller coaster for Yuna but she seemed satisfied to have earned Fujita’s respect, even though they came up short in the grudge match against Sakura & Akki and during subsequent teaming. Sakura took further issue with this, saying Yuna shouldn’t be happy since she was still losing, and broke up the team out from under Yuna and started booking Fujita to team with Mei instead.

The criticisms were a constant barrage, as Sakura had a daily platform to evaluate Yuna and remark about her emotions with Akki and Mei (during ChocoPro’s non-show content like watch parties, etc) while Yuna went mad in the comments limited to short bursts of text that might or might not be read as her only retorts. It wasn’t done maliciously, but with a matter-of-factness that was none the less biting and at times uncomfortable.

Things like said matter-of-fact dissection of Yuna’s emotions, Sakura’s occasional mean streak during matches, and her power both as the boss of ChocoPro and a hard-to-beat 25 year veteran led to the “oni” nickname, likening her dominance and approach to mythical, powerful Japanese ogres.

The legitimate, heart wrenching emotion tied up in all of this overflowed as Yuna directed her anger at all three of her perceived agitators. In response she received a singles match… against Akki instead of Sakura.

EVERYTHING that had been building in Yuna came out in an incredible roller coaster ride of a battle with Akki that easily ranks among ChocoPro’s best matches against stiff competition. She had weeks of frustration to let out, he was annoyed at being looked at as a step towards Sakura, and they expressed all of their frustrations and more in a hard hitting, intense affair. It’s impossible to properly describe the raw emotion, intensity, and atmosphere this had.

They fought to a time limit draw, with Akki being run ragged and having to dig deep to survive against someone he had beaten before. Yuna demanded a match with Mei afterwards, intending to continue on her way to Sakura, and even committed the unforgivable sin of stealing Mei’s chocolate after the latter won the post show janken tournament.

However the war with Akki had helped center Yuna a little. Afterwards he expressed that he was glad he could help Yuna as an outlet for it all, even if he had to be the target. By this point Sakura had also toned down the needling of Yuna and even apologized during one of the streams.

So when Yuna & Akki worked things out and ended up tagging on the next show, shades of the old, happier Yuna started reappearing. She still had the edge that had been forming though, and was still desperate to prove herself. They fought to a draw with Antonio Honda & Fujita, and in the main event Mei had an incredibly impressive showing in a draw against Asuka.

The strong performances of both Yuna and Mei led to Sakura granting their desire for a match, and Sakura’s annoyance with the numerous draws made her declare it would be a special match type and there must be a winner.

Thus another one match show was set for ChocoPro 17: Yuna vs Mei in an ironman match. If tied at the end of a half hour, the match would continue under sudden death rules, first fall to a finish. Sakura had ChocoTalk interviews with both before the match, and they were of a more genial nature than the original one with Yuna.

ChocoPro has been a constant repetition of raising the bar and then exceeding it, and these two wrestlers with just barely two years experience each tore the house down in a phenomenal back and forth encounter that would end up winning fan voted best match of the season. Yuna managed to secure the advantage just as time ran out with them tied 3-3 and pinned Mei in the first few seconds of overtime for the win.

“Why do I still feel like I lost?”

It was a huge victory for Yuna, but it wasn’t enough. Something was still gnawing at her, which made Mei (who actually lost) irate and led to tension all around.

But things lightened a bit with the next ChocoPro show, which was a double birthday bash for Akki & Mei. The Best Birthday Bros teamed up in the main event to defeat Yuna & Fujita. Things seemed a bit back to normal as far as Yuna’s emotional state, it was revealed that Fujita was done with ChocoPro (as he had a title match coming up), and Mitsuru Konno made a surprise return after being out for the majority of the season to declare she was healthy and ready to come back.

The season length was not preplanned. However with the above developments all in one show it felt in some ways like the end of a chapter in the story of ChocoPro, and it was decided show 19 would start “season 2.” Yuna’s heart, journey, and of course top-notch wrestling won her fan voted MVP of the season. She never got her match with Sakura, but it still seemed like the story might be wrapped up for the moment none the less.

Except of course it wasn’t, and that couldn’t have been more clear from the start of season 2.

In the very first show Sakura made Yuna team with her to take on Akki & Tokiko Kirihara. After a successful outing, in outcome if not from a reconciliation perspective, Sakura would continue to make a reluctant and grumpy Yuna partner with her. She even twisted the knife by stealing Yuna’s chocolate after her janken tournament win, delighting in her “partner’s” distress.

They defeated Best Bros (Akki & Mei) after a tough fight more due to Sakura blind tagging herself in at an opportune moment to seize the glory for herself than being particularly good partners. For “fun” Sakura made a rematch for the very next show, and the volatile team of her and Yuna finally fell in defeat as Sakura got rolled up onto her partner to cause Yuna’s loss.

By this point Yuna had more than enough of Sakura’s games, and demanded to finally get her one-on-one match with her antagonistic boss. Sakura stalled and taunted Yuna a bit, but then agreed under the condition that Yuna prove her desire by focusing only on that match and thus would not appear on ChocoPro until their match, set for the end of June.

On a ChocoPro stream shortly thereafter Sakura revealed that Yuna was too fired up and might have had an advantage if they fought right away, so she delayed the match to remove that edge. Scheming oni will scheme.

In Yuna’s absense, Sakura has been taunting her at every opportunity. She sings Yuna’s entrance song to start her matches and uses Yuna’s signature moves constantly. All the while the pineapple girl watches from the sidelines, posting angry comments in the chat, doing streams herself about being free during the shows to wrestle if Sakura would let her, and sharing training videos of her preparations to vanquish her tormentor.

At ChocoPro 25 Sakura stated she wanted a winning streak going into her match with Yuna and decided Sayuri was the weakest on the roster so booked herself against the rookie (for the second time in a week). That match is well worth checking out both for an example of how much Sakura has been determined to push Yunamon’s buttons, as well as a great performance by a fiery Sayuri determined to play spoiler.

Speaking of playing spoiler, there is one more show before the fated showdown. Sakura will face Mitsuru Konno in the main event of ChocoPro 27, and there are questions about what it will do to Yuna’s quest for recognition and redemption if another key rising star defeats Sakura first.

Also, Yuna will have another ChocoTalk before the big match, although with Akki handling the interview this time to avoid things getting heated as they would if Sakura did the interview again.

This has been building for over 15 shows and nearly two months of daily content. Will Yuna finally cast this tremendous weight off her shoulders and defeat her trainer/tormentor? Will she be satisfied if she does?

Or will the almighty oni’s experience and bag of tricks prove too much for the emotional upstart? And if so, what depths of desperation will it drive poor Yunamon to?

We’ll find out in just a couple of days, and either way it’ll be a hell of a show.


The Story Thus Far

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

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

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


Everything they are doing goes up for free under Sakura’s “No Pay Wall” initiative, so if you do enjoy and are able / would like to support please see their patreon, join as a member of their YouTube channel, and/or donate directly via their PayPal. Also check out their brand new merchandise store with international shipping!

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.

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.

ChocoPro 7 Live Stream Thoughts

April 25, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro 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. 

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.

Big singles match in the main event topping a strong card all around.

ChocoPro 7

As usual Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Yuna and Mei split referee duties.

1) Mei Suruga vs Antonio Honda

Rematch from ChocoPro 4, and we’re “warned” with such a small roster we’ll potentially be seeing lot of rematches. Totally fine with me, and it’ll be interesting to see how they keep things fresh from match to match..

Honda won that prior encounter, although Mei has a victory over him in Gatoh Move in their 500 Count match. In a bit of a surprise we don’t have normal apple-themed Mei, but Lettuce Mei the Vegetable Girl in a light green costume.

Standard in-every-match Honda spots to start, but nice variety later with a lot of gags and spots revolving around Mei’s cape including a bull fighting bit, Honda putting it on as a skirt and pantomiming Marilyn Monroe, and the cape taking the place of the banana peel in Honda’s recurring unfortunate experiences slipping out of the windowsill. Yuna proves to be a very passive referee largely letting them do whatever they want with minimal token protests.

In the end Honda reverses a rollup for another victory to keep his undefeated streak intact. This was fine, with some nice variations among the usual Honda formula.

2) Yuna Mizumori vs Baliyan Akki

Yuna gets in the window behind Akki as he makes his pre-match comments and nails a dropkick from there for a hot open. From there they’re just throwing themselves at each other with high speed, high impact moves and it’s fantastic.

There were a lot of great little touches throughout. At one point Akki does his wall hang into a body press when Yuna tries the Papaya, Mango, Coconut headbutt in a great counter, then tries his own variation (Katsu! Pineapple! Curry!) to about as much success as Yuna had. Later Yuna tries to make him Yahho but he forces her into a Namaste pose instead.

The counters and pace got crazy towards the end, and Akki ties Yuna up completely and she has to submit to what Honda dubs the Namaste clutch. Excellent match.

Like Yuna Mei’s proving to be a rather overly-tolerant and uninvolved ref, but their reactions to what’s happening around them more than makes up for it. 😉

3) Emi Sakura vs Ryo Muznami 

First time singles match between two Joshi wrestlers who have worked in AEW. Sakura has an AEW logo in the corner of the ChocoPro banner and is generally trying to do everything she can to promote them while she can’t travel over to wrestle here in the US.

I’m a long time fan of Mizunami from seeing her in Shimmer and her Avid Rival tag team with the retired Misaki Ohata so was extremely excited when she started wrestling for Gtoh Move and ChocoPro. She fits in so well and the potential for great matchups like this one is limitless.

This was an absolute treat as two masters fought tooth and nail. Elevating things even further were several close ups and extreme camera angles, epitomized by knocking Honda over at one point and brawling directly above the camera.

I was cringing at their chop exchange, and poor Sakura had visible welts around her neck post match. Such is the price of victory however, as Emi wins with La Magistral in a bit of a surprise.

Post-show sees the newly named AEW Dark Chocolate Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament! Honda powers through this one with mind games and in the finals he avenges his loss last time to Yuna when she tells the truth about what she’ll throw and Honda wins the chocolate. For insult to injury, Honda teases giving it to Yuna then eats it. An annoyed Emi (who Honda beat in the semis) declares it’s no longer allowed to announce what you’ll throw in future tournaments. Janken is so intense.

ChocoPro 8 is announced for April 29 back at their normal times. It’ll be a celebration of Obi’s 10th Anniversary and she’ll face Honda in the main event.

——-

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.

Another great offering from ChocoPro. The main event in particular is must-see.

ChocoPro 6 Live Thoughts

April 20, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

OBI’S BACK!!!

Choco Pro is a new effort from Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura and DDT’s Antonio Honda to bring live wrestling from Ichigaya’s unique environment 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.

Before going further I’d like to spotlight an incredible fan made video by CheeZeFX that really highlights all the fantastic aspects of Gatoh Move and ChocoPro I keep rambling on about. Check it out here!

ChocoPro 6

As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Sakura usually referees, except her own matches when someone else on the card steps in.

1) Sayaka Obihiro vs Antonio Honda

Really great to see Obi wrestle again after being out injured for six months, and fitting that she returns against an old rival of sorts in Antonio Honda.

Although I have to admit I am personally at a bit of a loss when it comes to Honda’s ChocoPro singles matches. 75% or so of every one of them is all the same spots and jokes with minor variations. I understand all the reasons for it. Building humor based on subverting expectations requires a degree of repetitiveness to establish the expectations in the first place. It just doesn’t have much impact or interest for me when most of the bits involved are nonsensical and disjointed. Most of it feels like being silly for sillinesses sake with nothing connecting it all, and I tire of it quickly.

Some of the little things he does are inspired, and there are always a few high points in each match I really enjoy. Here they included things like Honda exclaiming “I’m ruined!” when Obi blocks his T-strike only to calmly strike her with his other hand and their dueling Gongitsunes in slow motion. His opponents’ reactions to his antics can also be a treat, and whenever the action actually picks up it tends to be great.

But it’s really not enough to keep me engaged while waiting through the majority of the match for these moments. I often talk about how ChocoPro has something for everyone, but the flip side is that some things won’t be to any individual person’s tastes, and show by show it’s becoming clear Honda’s current formula is not for me.

So instead of rehashing the same things I don’t care for every time I wanted to mention this in context and going forward I’ll focus more about how these matches relate to each other. One match one this type should generally be enough to judge how much you’ll enjoy the others. If something significant changes in the approach then I’ll likewise adjust how I talk about the matches.

This one was pretty standard, and Honda eventually wins with a rollup to continue to be undefeated in ChocoPro.

Afterwards a frustrated Obi demands a rematch, and after some convincing Sakura agrees to it whenever Obi comes next.

2) Yuna Mizumori vs Tokiko Kirihara

This is Tokiko’s first match in ChocoPro, and she starts off with quite the memorable moment by attacking during Yuna’s Tropical Yahho pose and slamming Yuna into the camera in a fantastic visual. Again it’s things like truly this creatively taking advantage of the no audience format that makes ChocoPro particularly unique and special.

This was a really solid, exciting and enjoyable match that was the perfect pace and length given the participants. Tokiko looked sharp, and Yuna’s totally been on fire lately. Yuna hits her wall launch splash to win a hard fought, fun contest.

3) Baliyan Akki vs Mei Suruga 

Interesting framing here as they push the idea of this being a battle between two possibilities for face/ace of ChocoPro. I understand given how central both are, the main events they been in, etc. On the other hand it’s a bit odd angle to take as Akki came into this without a single win in ChocoPro. However the match itself makes quite the case that these two are in fact prime choices for that distinction.

This was an incredible, fast paced main event with a lot of creativity. The theme of one-upmanship was prevalent throughout and done so well.

Things like Akki doing Mei’s off the windowsill armdrag and Mei countering with a cartwheel, only to have Akki respond in kind when Mei hit the armdrag herself were pitch perfect.

Akki used some wonderfully inventive, really painful looking submissions. Mei responded by trying a Figure 4, which she couldn’t quite lock in due to the disparity in length of their legs. Referee Sakura “helped” Mei apply it by pulling her leg into position over Akki’s, but Akki’s leg are so long Mei screams in pain herself as this is done so Emi undoes it and Mei goes on with her variation.

Later on in one of the funniest moments I’ve seen Mei tries to do Akki’s counter across the wall grabbing at opposite windowsills but she’s too small so she splats against the wall and then the floor and gets SO ANGRY. Then Akki “helps” put her into position and ends up stranding her on the wall as she can barely reach and can’t get down once put there. So he takes the opportunity to taunt her by doing her own face in hands pose behind her back.

These are just a few of the awesome moments in this excellent match. Definitely one of the (many) highlights of ChocoPro so far.

In the end Akki gets the better of an extended rollup and reversal sequence for his first non-janken win in ChocoPro.

Afterwards it’s time for A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney 4!

These are a really fun way to wrap up. Sakura’s participating so there’s one bye in round 1, which goes to Yuna. Both Akki and Honda again defeat their opponents from earlier in the show and Sakura continues to deny Tokiko her first ChocoPro win leading to Yuna vs Honda and Akki vs Emi in the semis.

Yuna amusingly beats Honda when Honda’s mindgames backfire as he truthfully tells her what he’s going to throw and she simply counters.

Sakura, clearly with the advantage after not wrestling this time around continues her roll and makes short work of both Akki and Yuna to win her second Chocolate Bit of Happiness tournament. The AEW superstar glefully enjoys her chocolate as Akki asks the gods why they would do this.

Post show they have ChocoTalk with Emi and Obi talking about their past internet wrestling experience with 19 O’Clock Wrestling.

——-

As I like to reiterate I’m really grateful for Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro to be doing so much to provide good natured content aimed connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed and appreciated. 

Another top notch effort and show in a series of them. Watch the replay of here.  ChocoPro is just plain fun.

In another greatly appreciated gesture ChocoPro 7 will be on at a special time to be a little more accessible to foreign viewers: April 24th 9pm EDT (April 25th 10am Japan time). This is in addition to all the watch parties and other fantastic content they provide every day at 8pm Japan time. Visit Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel to check it all out.

ChocoPro 5 Live Thoughts

April 14, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro 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. 

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.

Another big dream match for Akki in the main event as Masato Tanaka makes his ChocoPro debut.

ChocoPro 5

As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Sakura usually referees, except her own matches when someone else on the card steps in.

New banner with the ChocoPro logo in the background. Sakura explains it’s pink to represent strawberry chocolate, and with it being paper instead of cloth there will presumably be less in match shenanigans involving it than the prior one.

The replay is not up yet so no screen caps for this review.

1) Emi Sakura vs Antonio Honda

Usual opening sequence of Honda’s matches here where they trade hammerlocks so Honda can pretend to say “give up” and say things like “give apple pie” instead. I have to admit it’s one of my least favorite things he does and I’m glad it was kept to one instance here.

Honda keeps pretending to attack with various items, doing silly pantomimes, then often hits Sakura with them anyway in the confusion. No DQ for things like volleyball spiking a basketball into his opponent, which I can’t say is the best reflection on Mei’s refereeing skills.

Late in the match Emi does the We Will Rock you lead in to her signature splash, but Honda sings the song in English to interrupt her charge. He tries to get her to continue it, but she tries to deflect by humming then switching songs. As he grows more insistent she tearfully admits she can’t speak English (in English of course). Honda points out Queen has a song in Japanese and they sing together. However Honda savagely uses their handshake to attack Emi’s arm and proceeds into a cross armbreaker for the submission victory.

I can’t really evaluate this as a wrestling match, but I enjoyed it overall as a character piece. And bigger fans of Honda’s style and signature bits will get even more out of it than I did.

2) Yuna Mizumori vs Mei Suruga

Like Yuna vs Mitsuru from ChocoPro 3 this is one of the matches that would normally be more rare. These two haven’t faced in each other in singles competition in over a year. Let the fierce battle of apple vs pineapple begin.

This is honestly mush more my speed than the opener. High energy, fast paced wrestling with the humorous antics and pauses for posing blended into the action and largely delivered in the form of taunting the other wrestler.

At one point Mei hilariously tries her version of Yuna’s “Papaya! Mango! Coconut!” cheer (“Karage! Tonkatsu! Katsu curry!”) which backfires spectacularly as she realizes she was just making Yuna angry. Mei hides behind cameraman Honda and they chase each other around the camera in a cool moment unique too ChocoPro and its environment.

Later Mei closes the window on Yuna’s hair resulting in a humorous bit as Emi tries to shush Yuna’s screams so as not to disturb the neighbors while Yuna protests about being trapped.

Mei’s been breaking out her take on cattle mutilation lately, and here Yuna does a stunning handstand counter then falling onto Mei to break it. It was one of a series of excellent counters and move variations throughout the match. It all leads up to Yuna doing her wall run splash to Mei’s back for the win.

Really great stuff.

3) Baliyan Akki vs Masato Tanaka 

This is Tanaka’s first non-ring match, which is presented as perhaps evening out his general experience edge over Akki. Indeed Tanaka needs to adjust to the environment, as he doesn’t quite understand why he has to break his holds when Akki grabs the edge of the mat at first.

The confusion doesn’t last long however, and the veteran shortly establishes an extended assault on Akki. There’s a serious, intense atmosphere to this match that’s absolutely captivating.

Tanaka adapts further and takes the action “outside the ring” so to speak by ramming Akki into the table against the wall. He then attacks Akki with a chair. Mei shouting “referee” in protest is pretty amusing considering what she let Honda get away with. Sakura considers it all for a moment and audibly decides it’s ok for Tanaka to use the chair.

I think from now I’ll just proceed under the assumption that all ChocoPro matches are relaxed rules. And to be fair, Tanaka involving tables and chairs in his matches isn’t exactly a surprise.

The carnage continues, as Tanaka sets up a pile of chairs but Akki reverses a powerbomb attempt into a back drop onto them. However Akki then gets DDT’d on them for a close 2

They go into a HEAVY forearm exchange, which Akki eventually gains advantage of with a variety of fast strikes. The pace keeps picking up the longer this goes. Akki opens the windows and later takes advantage of it for a wall grab counter into a Frankensteiner off the windowsill.

He later reverses a powerbomb into a brainbuster across the knee, and the following Namaste splash gets 2. Akki perhaps unwisely grabs a chair for a second one, and eats the chair as Tanaka moves out of the way. Tanaka puts a chair on Akki and goes to the window with another for an assisted elbow drop… for 2! He gets a table but Akki dropkicks it into him and goes into a series of rollups for several close near falls.

However Tanaka counters into a powerbomb counter for 2, then presses the advantage leading to the Sliding D for the win. This was fantastic.

Post-show sees A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney 3 take place!

Emi gives herself the first round match with Tanaka, Mei and Akki get the first round byes (since there are only six participants), leaving Yuna vs Honda to round out the bracket.

Poor Yuna has no luck in these tourneys, and Akki’s redemption quest ends early as Honda wins two in row to go to the finals.

Tanaka gets into it and beats Emi in the first round. A trepidatious Mei ties him, then WINS!

Riding unbeatable momentum after upsetting Tanaka, Mei defeats Honda to claim the whole tournament. This is her first win but second piece of prize chocolate after being given Chris’s last show.

Then Sakura and Tanaka sit down for a half hour of ChocoTalk. Mostly untranslated so I couldn’t follow what they were discussing, but still awesome that they do this type of thing.

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As I like to reiterate I’m really grateful for Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro to be doing so much to provide good natured content aimed connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed. 

These shows generally contain something for everyone, and it was epitomized here. The opener was full-on story and emotion based humor, the second match a masterful technical sprint, and the main event an incredible brawl. Add it all together with them fully embracing the things they can do only under the no audience format and I really can’t recommend ChocoPro enough.

ChocoPro 4 Live Thoughts

April 10, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Choco Pro 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. 

The shows are streamed live from Ichigaya Chocolate Square with no crowd. As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring.

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.

Two matches on tap instead of the usual three, presumably due to less wrestlers being available. Still to be something special in store to be sure.

ChocoPro 4

As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation, as well as sharing camera duties with Honda. Sakura usually referees, except her own matches when someone else on the card steps in.

Amusing pre-show remarks from Sakura revolving around her cheat meal (which was live-streamed) the day prior. There’s been something from ChocoPro every day, be it a live show like this, a watch party of things ranging from these shows to Wrestlemania to ProWrestling Eve streams and so on, or live chat premiers of previously unreleased matches, etc. The variety of offerings is great and it’s nice to have something to consistently look forward to.

1)  Mei Suruga vs Antonio Honda

This is a rematch of the phenomenally absurd 500 count match from Gatoh Move’s 500th show.

Mei and Honda team regularly, and Mei seems a little trepidatious squaring off. On the other hand Honda does his normal taunts and psychs out Mei when she offers their tag team pose. Extra five minutes to the normal time limit, giving this 15 minutes.

As usual for Honda’s matches, this was a mix of ridiculousness and action. It worked particularly well here with some unique variations, really good pacing, and the tension created by Mei’s incredible reactions.

They went all in on both aspects of the match. One particularly fantastic highlight saw them chop the absolute hell out of each other right after an extended sequence of exchanging increasingly exaggerated versions of Mei’s kawaii chin in hands pose to see who was prettier. Another saw Antone charge with the pointed end of a small sign from a flower bouquet resulting in Mei dropping to the mat in a panic to play dead only to have Honda pull the strike anyway to show the sign to the camera. Again, Mei’s reactions elevated this to pure art.

Honda eventually trapped the much smaller Mei in an anaconda vice variation she can’t escape and gets the submission victory. An emotional version of their tag team pose followed after the dust settled.

2) Emi Sakura & Chris Brookes vs Yuna Mizumori & Baliyan Akki 

Referee/announcer/time keeper Mei introduced Chris as her best friend. I’m not entirely sure that’s the most appropriate way to indicate impartiality.

This was so engrossing, as the ChocoPro/Gatoh Move crew continue to really push the levels of imagination of what can be accomplished within the framework of a wrestling match and the unique environment they perform in. There was so much creativity in this, both in new ideas and perhaps more importantly subtle twists on established norms.

I’m not going to try to recap in detail, but the way everything was integrated into the high octane offense was really well done. The sequence involving Emi being too short to do the double boot with Chris was great, as was the variety of uses of the ChocoPro banner later on. The super precise timing on lot of Akki & Yuna’s double teams and counters was INCREDIBLE, and everyone was generally just firing on all cylinders.

Also, special mention to Akki’s fantstic dropkick and him nailing it on Chris’ full height early on. Yuna also forcibly taught Chris to do her pose early on, (which would come back to haunt her 😉 ).

In the end Yuna gives up to Chris’s octopus stretch and Chris’s winning streak against Akki continues.

Special game in place of A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney during the post show where players have to try and match one of the players either doing Yuna’s normal Tropical pose or crossing their arms instead. It was really amusing.

Mei and Yuna went out first as a result of Chris’s choice and neither is happy. Emi’s also out, but intentionally as she made her own unique pose and thus had no chance of matching and surviving the round.

For the third time in a row Akki made the finals … and for the third time in a row lost. Chris isn’t into chocolate, so gifted his prize to his new best friend. When this explodes it’s going to be big.

Singing of the usual ending song while everybody washes their hands closed things out.

ChocoPro 5 is announced for April 14th, and the main event is Akki vs Masato Tanaka! This reminds me of when Wrestle-1 kept brining in legends for Reika Saiki to face as it’s becoming dream mach after dream match for Akki and it’s wonderful.

As I said before I’m really grateful for Sakura and the rest of Gatoh Move/ChocoPro to be doing so much to provide good natured content aimed connecting people in this time of isolation and bringing smiles to everyones faces. It’s much needed. 

ChocoPro shows are just straight up fun, and this one was no exception. They’re embracing the difficulties of the current global situation and specifically doing things they couldn’t under normal circumstances. It’s refreshing and the commitment and energy applied to the execution continually makes for a captivating show.

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Watch the replay of ChocoPro 4 on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel.