Big Japan 5/11, HEAT UP 5/19, & Wrestle-1 6/2/19 Quick Thoughts

May 11 & 19 and June 2, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Interestingly, in following certain joshi promotions and athletes I ended up going to three different men’s promotions for the first time this past spring.

In each case it was a last second decision and I was unfamiliar with most of the company’s roster, so it was interesting to see how things would go as a fan of wrestling yet with no specific frame of reference for the companies and wrestlers.

As such (and to try out a new format) I’m not going to try to do full match by match for these shows. I’ll talk in some depth about the joshi match that lead me to the show, and give general impressions and highlights for the rest.

On to the wrestling:

Big Japan Pro-Wrestling (BJW) 5/11/19

1- Ryuichi Kawakami vs Yuichi Taniguchi
2- Desukamo & Edogawa Rizin vs Kazuki Hashimoto & Yuki Ishikawa
3- Akira Hyodo & Takuho Kato vs Kazumi Kikuta & Kosuke Sato
4- Riho & Mitsuru Konno vs Emi Sakura & Mei Suruga
5- Barbed Wire Board Death Six Man Tag: Drew Parker, Josh Crane & Ryuji Ito vs Masaya Takahashi, Takayuki Ueki & Toshiyuki Sakuda
6- Yasufumi Nakanoue, Yuko Miyamoto & Yuya Aoki vs Abdullah Kobayashi, Kankuro Hoshino & Yoshihisa Uto
7- Daisuke Sekimoto, Takuya Nomura & Yuji Okabayashi vs Daichi Kakimoto, Hideyoshi Kamitani & Ryota Hama

In addition to the Gatoh Move tag team match on this show I’ll discuss momentarily, I was draw to this event by the related pre-show  DareJyo showcase, which was really unique and a treat to attend.

Gatoh Move and DareJyo’s founder/head Emi Sakura teamed with Mei Suruga to take on Riho and Mitsuru Konno in a fantastic tag team encounter. This was all kinds of fun, with a great pace. excellent build, and awesome double teams. They really made the most of the appearance, and the show’s already 100% worth coming to the show for this alone.

Otherwise the only wrestler I was previously familiar with was Hama, from his appearances in Ice Ribbon.

To be honest BJW had a high hurdle to clear as their style isn’t really my thing (although I can and do appreciate a well done deathmatch), and I can’t say they were entirely successful in that regard. The deathmatch, a 6 man tag in the middle of the show, didn’t have much structure and a pure spotfest wasn’t going to draw me in much as an introduction to new wrestlers. Even in the context of “being good for what it was” I found the pacing and execution off.

On the plus side, the effort was there throughout the night and nothing was actively bad. The highlight for me was the main event, where Daisuke Sekimoto specifically stood out in a great showing.

So outside of the joshi stuff this was fine but largely unmemorable. Fans of the style and promotion will have gotten much more out of it than I did, and I certainly don’t regret checking them out. But there’s a ton of great wrestling vying for my attention when I’m in Japan, and overall this didn’t strike me as a promotion I’d choose to attend over other options.

HEAT UP 5/19/19

1- Hiroshi Watanabe & KAMIKAZE vs Mega Star Man & Prince Kawasaki
2- Emi Sakura & Mei Suruga vs Mitsuru Konno & Yuna Mizumori
3- Akira Jo & Kenichiro Arai vs Baliyan Akki & Tetsuhiro Kuroda
4- Hiroshi Yamato, Mineo Fujita & Yusaku Ito vs Keizo Matsuda, Yu Iizuka & Yuji Kito
5- Fuminori Abe vs Hiroshi Watanabe
6- HEAT UP Universal Tag Team Championship: TAMURA & Tatsumi Fujinami (c) vs Daisuke Kanehira & Joji Otani

A week later Gatoh Move once again brought me to a new men’s company, with Emi Sakura again teaming with Mei Suruga to face Mitsuru & a partner, this time Yuna Mizumori. I love how different this felt from the previous while still retaining the core spirit of what Gatoh’s all about. Emi & Mei once again proved victorious in another energetic tag match.

I had more familiarity with the wrestlers this time, knowing Akki & Tamura from Gatoh Move, Arai from Wave, etc. This was a good show that I got into, with some big highlights. Seeing Tatsumi Fujinami live was incredible, and that main event was certainly a hard hitting affair.

The personalities involved in the 6-man were striking, and the match excellent. Of the new-to-me wrestlers I left with the strongest impression of them, particularly the trio of Yamato, Fujita & Ito, and wanting to see them all again.

Wrestle-1 6/2/19

1- Ryuji Hijikata & Shota Nakagawa vs Ganseki Tanaka & Ryuki Honda
2- El Hijo del Pantera & MAZADA vs Kenichiro Arai & Yusuke Kodama
3- Reika Saiki vs Takako Inoue
4- WRESTLE-1 Grand Prix 2019 First Round: Kuma Arashi vs Pegaso Iluminar
5- WRESTLE-1 Grand Prix 2019 First Round: Daiki Inaba vs Masayuki Kono
6- Ten Man Tag: Alejandro, Andy Wu, Jun Tonsho, Kaz Hayashi & Shuji Kondo vs Strong Hearts (CIMA, El Lindaman, Seiki Yoshioka & T-Hawk) & Issei Onizuka
7- WRESTLE-1 Grand Prix 2019 First Round: Shotaro Ashino vs Seigo Tachibana
8- WRESTLE-1 Grand Prix 2019 First Round: Koji Doi vs Manabu Soya

W-1’s Reika Saiki (who is sadly out with a broken jaw for the time being) is a favorite of mine. During this trip she announced she’d be leaving Tokyo Joshi Pro, presumably to concentrate on her home promotion. W-1 brought in a series of legends for Reika to face, and I came to this show to see her wrestle Takako Inoue (in a rare, great opportunity to see her as well).

Solid match that went as expected, with some hard hitting back and forth and Reika taking it to Takako before coming up a bit short.

I was familiar with Cima and some of his Strong Hearts compatriots from DG-USA, and that was really it. It was cool to see Cima again, particularly doing such a different character, and their match was frantic and chaotic in a thoroughly enjoyable way.

The Wrestle-1 Grand Prix opening round matches had the advantage of having something specific on the line (which really does make a difference), but even beyond that I was surprised at how easy it was to get caught up in them without knowing the participants. That the matches throughout the show featured a nice variety of styles, pacing, etc also helped.

The semi-main was particularly incredible. I went from having no knowledge or investment in either man to DESPERATELY wanting Tachibana to win by the end. Just top notch work from both wrestlers to tell a compelling story in the ring with excellent action and psychology that transcended language and familiarity. One of the best matches I saw this trip, and a standout on a strong show.

For me this was the best of the men’s shows, and I definitely left it actively wanting to go back to W-1 in the future.

Gatoh Move 4/27/19 Live Thoughts/DVD Review

April 27, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Due to a tight train schedule and being out in Sendai for Sendai’s Girls’ show earlier in the day I missed half of this show live. What I did see was incredible, and I’m looking forward to catching up on what I missed (and revisiting the matches I saw) with this DVD.

1- Leon vs Mei Suruga

Side note: It always brings a smile to my face to see Mei joyfully coming out wearing Aoi Kizuki’s wings.

Nice opportunity for Gatoh’s rising star against a visiting veteran. Even better, this felt more like an encounter of equals than a typical “rookie vs vet” match, which is another indication of great things ahead for Mei. Her energy and creativity in the ring always adds a little extra spark to her matches.

This featured nice back and forth chain wrestling interspersed with high octane offense that made for a good, face paced opener that really picked up towards the end. Leon defeated Mei with the frog splash.

2- Baliyan Akki vs Asuka

This is of course the formerly of WAVE Asuka (and not the former Kana who now wrestles for WWE). Big matchup for Akki.

Highlights included a great sequence of back and forth dodges going outside the ring and back early on and a section where they forearmed and elbowed the HELL out of each other. In general this excelled during rapid back and forth, with the rhythm feeling a bit off during the sections where Asuka was on extended offense. Solid and well paced overall though, and it didn’t feel like they were going for the time limit draw until it happened.

The first glimpse of a strong night of intergender wrestling from Gatoh Move.

3- Mitsuru vs Sawasdee Kamen

The superhero team had issues of late going into this and the former partners squared off to settle their issues here. The setup also furthered the ongoing undercurrents of Mitsuru’s frustration and desire to prove herself.

They went right at each other, with Sawasdee actually being the initial aggressor during his introduction. This featured some really nice counters speaking to their familiarity as teammates.

It was also the shortest match of the show at about five and a half minutes, and I wish they had gotten a little more time. They made good use of what they had and this was decent, but it did kind of feel like a longer, better match on fast forward.

Mitsuru got a decent amount of offense, and looked like her partner’s equal even in defeat. Second match of the night to end with a frog splash of only two matches so far with finishes, which was a little odd.

Sawasdee helped Mitsuru up after the match, and they fully reconciled at the end of the show.

4- Emi Sakura & Kaori Yoneyama vs Cho-un Shiryu & TAMURA

I love Yone coming out in a matching Sakura outfit when they team. The crowd was behind the men to start, feeding off of Sakura and Yone’s somewhat natural heel tendencies. This set up a really interesting match long story as things unfolded.

Things built to a long section in the middle of Cho-un and Tamura targeting Sakura’s bad back and repeatedly knocking her off the apron with cheap shots. It both switched the crowd’s allegiance and made two 20+ year veterans seem like major underdogs without feeling cheap or sexist. I can’t stress enough how exceptional Gatoh Move is at intergender wrestling, and that skill and deft touch was on full display here.

This match is where I came in live, and the crowd was electric for the ending stretch, leading up to Sakura and Yone hitting consecutive moonsaults from the same turnbuckle for a big win. Great stuff.

5- Yuna Mizumori vs Mizuki

The semi-main event featured one half of Gatoh’s reigning tag champions against one half of Tokyo Joshi Pro’s reigning tag champs in singles competition. Really awesome to see Yuna getting some big singles match spotlights, and she had another vs Hiroyo Matsumoto days later.

Yuna decides early to poke fun at Mizuki’s “Mizupyon” nickname and declares herself “Mizumoripyon,” complete with bunny poses and other taunts to Mizuki’s rapidly increasing annoyance. It provided a nice start to the match and a backbone story to center the match on.

Yuna’s been adding really cool, off the wall stuff to her arsenal and combined with Mizuki’s natural athletic ability and attention to little touches that enhance her matches this was great fun.

There was a tangible sense of desperation and escalation at the end, leading to Mizuki hitting a GORGEOUS Cutie Special variation on her larger opponent for the win.

6- Riho vs Masahiro Takanashi

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the biggest criticism I have of a show is that one of the matches deserved more time, it’s a sign things went quite well. Simply fantastic from top to bottom with a variety of great matchups, styles, and of course talent. One of my favorite shows of this trip.

Gatoh Move 2.0: The Future

In the aftermath of Riho, Gatoh Move’s ace since their inception, going freelance the company is refocusing a bit. The “Japan Tour” numbering has now finished and the August 28th show will relaunch things simply as Gatoh Move #1 (subtitled Gatoh Move Juice 100%).

In addition, things have evolved to the point where it is even more of a new beginning for the company. The core roster size will be DOUBLED, with six trainees debuting to join Gatoh’s remaining five wrestlers. Gatoh Move #1 will be a show made up entirely of debut matches:

  1. Emi Sakura vs Rin Rin
  2. Mitsuru Konno vs Sayuri
  3. Mei Suruga vs Tokiko Kirihara
  4. Yuna Mizumori vs Lulu Pencil
  5. Sayaka Obihiro vs Chie Koishikawa
  6. Emi Sakura, Yuna Mizumori, & Mei Suruga vs Sayaka Obihiro, Mitsuru Konno, & Sayaka

(Edit 9/3/2019: Gatoh Move has shared all six debut matches from the show discussed above on their YouTube channel! So I have updated the listed card above with links to the matches)

In anticipation for this event, profiles of all eleven wrestlers have recently been shared on the company’s Twitter account. Presented here (and in Gatoh Move 2.0: The Present) is an attempted translation of those profiles. I am not fluent in Japanese and these translations were done with heavy reliance on translation software and a LOT of help and clarification from my friend Kaori (who I can’t thank enough).

So I apologize for any awkwardness or inaccuracies but hope I’ve captured the essence and that this is somewhat useful as an English intro to the wrestlers of Gatoh Move.

This time we’ll be looking at the six debuting trainees (all of which started through Gatoh Move’s informal training program DareJyo) :

Tokiko Kirihara

  • Birthplace: Ibaraki Prefecture, who loves natto
  • Birthday: November 4
  • Debut: August 28, 2019
  • Height: 5’5″
  • Weight: 128 lbs
  • Professional Skill: Cobra twist
  • Favorite Food: Red bean paste (Koshian person)
  • Most Charming Feature: Making myself up to look younger
  • Self Introduction: 44 years old and still evolving!
  • Hobby: Going for walks
  • Special Skill: Quick change of clothes
  • Common Saying: Okay, okay
  • Personality: Don’t think deeply
  • Motto: Reflection, but without regret.
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    44 years old seems to be the oldest debut in joshi prowrestling history. Please watch a mature lady’s aggressive fight!

Twitter: KiraRi_1104

Sayaka

  • Birthplace: Kanagawa
  • Birthday: November 8
  • Debut: August 28, 2019
  • Height: 5’3″
  • Weight: 117 lbs
  • Professional Skill: Drop kick
  • Favorite Food: Pickled plum
  • Most Charming Feature: Dimples
  • Self Introduction: I will do my best. Thank you for your support and devotion!
  • Hobby: Cosplay, gaming
  • Special Skill: Working without a day off
  • Common Saying: ~っすね! [This is the casual way of saying honorific language.]
  • Personality: Sloppy [doesn’t pay attention to detail]
  • Motto: Fortune is unpredictable and changeable.
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    Please watch my dropkick!

Twitter: kukku118

Sayuri

  • Birthplace: Chiba Prefecture
  • Birthday: August 3
  • Debut: August 28, 2019
  • Height: 5’0″
  • Weight: 95 lbs
  • Professional Skill: Sayuri Gatame
  • Favorite Food: Meat
  • Most Charming Feature: Dignified eyebrows
  • Self Introduction: Usually bearish, during matches bullish
  • Hobby: Solo karaoke
  • Special Skill: System development (previous job)
  • Common Saying: Oh no!
  • Personality: Negative but competitive (I don’t like losing)
  • Motto: One chance in a lifetime.
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    Desperately struggling towards the professional world.

Twitter: sayuri83sayuri

Rin Rin

  • Birthplace: Kanagawa Prefecture that looks like an animal
  • Birthday: November 21
  • Debut: August 28, 2019
  • Professional Skill: sickle firming, cross arm-lock hold
  • Favorite Food: sebon star, Twinkies, educational confectionery, pigeon sable (I will use a container as a weapon someday), oblate (Anpan man gumi), avocado, soy-milk skin, MacDonald’s French fries, all fruit
  • Most Charming Feature: Useless long eyelashes
  • Self Introduction: Forget as soon as you sleep
  • Hobby: Communicating with the Universe, helping insects
  • Special Skill: Guitar, making dried fish, sing a song of Takasu Clinic and Shiromoto Clinic
  • Common Saying: Half price sale yet?
  • Personality: Insects and weeds
  • Motto: Even a worm will turn.
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    Rampage

Twitter: minyo_yutori

Chie Koishikawa

  • Birthplace: Shizuoka, a country of tea and oranges
  • Birthday: July 29
  • Debut: August 28, 2019
  • Height: 5’4″
  • Weight: 104 lbs
  • Professional Skill: Nothing so far
  • Favorite Food: Simmered squid and radish, all sweets
  • Most Charming Feature: Bangs
  • Self Introduction: I’m doing well today!
  • Hobby: Reading comic books, making sweets
  • Special Skill: Fencing
  • Common Saying: I see
  • Personality: Duality
  • Motto: Eating is living
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    All the matches are debut matches. I also have a debut match.

Twitter: chie_gtmv

Lulu Pencil

  • Birthplace: West of Tokyo
  • Birthday: July 30
  • Debut: August 28, 2019
  • Height: 5’4″
  • Weight: 101 lbs
  • Special Skill: Body press
  • Favorite Food: Gummy bear!
  • Most Charming Feature: Thick eyelids!!
  • Self Introduction: Read “#プロレス始めました” on Twitter!
  • Hobby: Movies and games!
  • Special Skill: Favorable interpretation
  • Common Saying: I see!
  • Personality: Positive!
  • Motto: Bet on vain effort
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    Even if someone kicks the crap out of me or my joints are locked, I will rise again and again. So please watch over me.

Twitter: lulupencil_gtmv

For a sneak peek, check out Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel for some of their trainee exhibition matches. Best of luck to all six in their official. debuts! Can’t wait to see what the future has in store for them.

Gatoh Move 2.0: The Present

In the aftermath of Riho, Gatoh Move’s ace since their inception, going freelance the company is refocusing a bit. The “Japan Tour” numbering has now finished and the August 28th show will relaunch things simply as Gatoh Move #1 (subtitled Gatoh Move Juice 100%).

In addition, things have evolved to the point where it is even more of a new beginning for the company. The core roster size will be DOUBLED, with six trainees debuting to join Gatoh’s remaining five wrestlers. Gatoh Move #1 will be a show made up entirely of debut matches:

  1. Emi Sakura vs Rin Rin
  2. Mitsuru Konno vs Sayuri
  3. Mei Suruga vs Tokiko Kirihara
  4. Yuna Mizumori vs Lulu Pencil
  5. Sayaka Obihiro vs Chie Koishikawa
  6. Emi Sakura, Yuna Mizumori, & Mei Suruga vs Sayaka Obihiro, Mitsuru Konno, & Sayaka

(Edit 9/3/2019: Gatoh Move has shared all six debut matches from the show discussed above on their YouTube channel! So I have updated the listed card above with links to the matches)

In anticipation for this event, profiles of all eleven wrestlers have recently been shared on the company’s Twitter account. Presented here is an attempted translation of those profiles. I am not fluent in Japanese and these translations were done with heavy reliance on translation software and a LOT of help and clarification from my friend Kaori (who I can’t thank enough).

So I apologize for any awkwardness or inaccuracies but hope I’ve captured the essence and that this is somewhat useful as an English intro to the wrestlers of Gatoh Move.

First up is the current Gatoh Move roster, itself already a deep and impressive mix of styles, personalities, and experience levels:

Emi Sakura

  • Birthplace: Chiba Prefecture, Mother Farm
  • Birthday: October 4
  • Debut: August 17, 1995 (25th year)
  • Height: 5’1″
  • Weight: 165 lbs
  • Professional Skill: 70kg Emi Sakura!
  • Favorite Food: Shokupan Bread
  • Most Charming Feature: Mouth mole
  • Self Introduction: Trying to survive.
  • Hobby: QUEEN
  • Special Skill: Making decisions in 2 seconds
  • Common Saying: Get along
  • Personality: Forgetful
  • Motto: As soon as you think of something, do it.
  • Thoughts on 8/28: The show may not go an hour…

Twitter: sakuraemi

Sayaka Obihiro

  • Birthplace: Your own humanity is tested in Hokkaido
  • Birthday: September 2
  • Debut: April 29, 2010 (10th year)
  • Height: 5’2″
  • Weight: 132 lbs
  • Professional Skill: Throat Thrust
  • Favorite Food: Sushi
  • Most Charming Feature: Husky voice (not from alcohol burn)
  • Self Introduction: Recently, wrestling for me has been a racewalk, not a sprint, but still full power. I will do my best!
  • Hobby: Menu planning by looking at supermarket flyers
  • Special Skill: Making a decent meal
  • Common Saying: What does that mean?
  • Personality: Ignition, extinguishing
  • Motto: Always rise after a fall.
  • Thoughts on 8/28: Show my back. [Obi wishes to lead/teach by example.]

Twitter: obi_gtmv

Mitsuru Konno

  • Birthplace: Tokyo, where there is nothing that doesn’t exist
  • Birthday: May 10
  • Debut: October 4, 2016 (3rd year)
  • Height: 5’4″
  • Weight: 128 lbs
  • Professional Skill: World Volleyball, Foreign Thunder, Brain Buster Hold
  • Favorite Food: Draft beer! Draft beer!
  • Most Charming Feature: Munchy mouth
  • Self Introduction: Entrust chores, miscellaneous duties, and backstage to Mitsuru !!
  • Hobby: Drinking
  • Special Skill: Cooking, handicraft
  • Common Saying: Damn it!
  • Personality: Diligent bad girl
  • Motto: Try to take every opportunity
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    Is this an important debut?
    Noisy! Listen!
    I will kick everyone together!

Twitter: Mitsuru_gtmv

Yuna Mizumori

  • Birthplace: Tropical star (Kumamoto)
  • Birthday: August 2
  • Debut: February 2, 2018 (2nd year)
  • Height: 5’4″
  • Weight: 165 lbs
  • Professional Skill: Tropical ☆ Yahoo
  • Favorite Food: Pineapple
  • Most Charming Feature: Dimples
  • Self Introduction: Tropical ~ Yahoo!
    If I say papaya mango, yell coconut!
  • Hobby: Karaoke
  • Special Skill: Shiatsu
  • Common Saying: I ’m getting excited! [Dragon Ball / Son Goku’s dialogue]
  • Personality: Everybody’s friend
  • Motto: There is not a bit of regret in my entire life!
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    フレッシュな新人たちを、差し引いて一番ジューシーな汗をかいている ? !
    [I’m leaving this one alone lol]

Twitter: Mizum0ri

Mei Suruga

  • Birthplace: Quietly beautiful Kyoto
  • Birthday: May 30
  • Debut: May 27, 2018 (2nd year)
  • Height: 4’10”
  • Weight: 110 lbs
  • Professional Skill: Propeller clutch, Hōkiboshi [comet]
  • Favorite Food: Any kind of apple
  • Most Charming Feature: Narrow eyes like Heian beauty
  • Self Introduction: I want to increase my followers!
  • Hobby: Imagination
  • Special Skill: Realize imagination with 72% success rate
  • Common Saying: Wahahaha (I’ll keep it in my heart. “Why is it!”)
  • Personality: Live at my own pace
  • Motto: You can’t fight if you’re hungry
  • Thoughts on 8/28:
    Who shall I hit with the dropkick !!
    Mei has become a senior!
    I will do my best like a senior!

Twitter: Mei_gtmv

Still to come (hopefully), the rookies!

Gatoh Move 4/28/19 Live Thoughts

April 28, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

This show was in an interesting spot being the day after one Itabashi Greenhall show for Gatoh Move and three days before another (thoughts on both to come).

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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).

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1) Mitsuru Konno vs Saki 

This contest provided a fun contrast, as Mitsuru was developing a more serious attitude while Saki was having a bit of fun at her expense, turning every move into a Namashite in honor of her partner in the impending Go Go Green Curry Cup Akki. They had great chemistry, and fought all around building maintaining a high intensity level. It was also a very different match from the one they would have a month later going into Mitsuru & Sawasdee Kamen challenging for Saki & Yuna’s tag titles. Strong opener, with Saki picking up the expected win. It’s a slow build, but Mitsuru’s eventually going start racking up unexpected victories and it’ll be glorious.

2) Baliyan Akki vs Yuna Mizumori 

Speaking of Saki’s two regular tag partners in Gatoh Move, they faced each other in singles action here. This had some really cool, creative sequences and it’s awesome to see Akki’s progression as he starts having more singles intergender matches. He picked up the win against Gatoh Move’s resident lovable wrecking ball.

3) Emi Sakura,  Masahiro Takanashi & Riho vs Ryuichi Sekine, Antonio Honda, & Mei Suruga

Lots of comedy. Lots of chaos. Lots of fun. 😉 Honda pinned Sakura to give his team the win over Gatoh’s top veterans in yet another great 6-person tag at Ichigaya Chocolate Square.

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During the post show roundtable the brackets were determined for Gatoh’s annual Go Go Green Curry Cup mixed tag tournament, which everyone on this show would be involved in.

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Gatoh Move keychains!

Not a lot else to say this time around. A solid, well worked, highly entertaining show from top to bottom.

Last Song for You: Riho’s “Graduation” from Gatoh Move

Later today (7/2/19) Riho, Gatoh Move’s ace, will have her final match with the company. She will be “graduating” (the term used in Japan when someone leaves a company to move on, whether it’s for retirement or a case like this) to go freelance.

 

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Prior to my first trip to Japan at the end of 2015, I was primarily only had seen Joshi wrestlers that had come stateside for Shimmer. So, as I mentioned in my look back on Kotori’s career when she retired, I was largely unfamiliar with the professional wrestling company Gatoh Move and their wrestlers when I attended my first show of theirs on 12/22/15.

On that show freelancers Hikaru Shida and Makoto, who I knew from Shimmer, were on opposite sides from each other in a tag match paired with Gatoh Move roster members Kotori and Riho respectively.  It was quite good, and in particular Riho stood out with skills and instincts that seemed beyond what her 18 years of age would have implied.

 

 

And with good reason. “Young” in Joshi doesn’t necessarily correlate to experience, and Riho was in fact the most senior competitor in that match with nearly 10 years as a wrestler, incredibly starting at the age of just 9 years old. She grew and honed her craft under the training and tutelage of the incredible Emi Sakura, first in Ice Ribbon then following her mentor when Sakura split with the company in 2012 and started Gatoh Move.

 

 

So in my initial exposure to Riho, she was already an accomplished, polished veteran. And boy did it show. Particularly later that trip when I got a chance to see Gatoh Move in their home environment. The 12/22/15 show had been a “traditional” wrestling show with a traditional wrestling ring. The reason I specify is that Gatoh Move’s home venue, Ichigaya Chocolate Square, is 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.

It’s such a unique environment, that not only provides something special for the audience but also forces the wrestlers to push themselves and adapt to the unusual constraints. And Riho is an absolute master of it. Her athleticism, creativity, and precision always combined in fantastic fashion as she bounced around the confined space, often utilizing not only the windowsill but also her opponents and partners as platforms to launch herself off of in lieu of ropes and turnbuckles.

 

 

As such, some of the most memorable moments of Riho in Ichigaya for me came from Gatoh’s incredible 6-person tag matches, including  Riho, Kotori, & Aasa vs Emi, Obi, & Mitsuru on 12/31/16, a similar variation two years later of  Riho teaming with Emi & Obi against Mitsuru, Mei Suruga, & Yuna Mizumori in a special “Old Gatoh Move” vs “New Gatoh Move”  match on 12/31/18  (which is up on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel!!!), and a fantastic match from just  last month  of Riho, Baliyan Akki, & An-Chamu vs Emi, Masahiro Takanashi, & Mei (also up on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel!!!).

 

 

At the risk of getting overly cliched, Riho has the presence of a star. The audience reactions when she appeared at other promotions, such as in a pair of great tag team title challenges in back to back years in Tokyo Joshi Pro’s biggest events, was always incredible.

 

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Riho’s greatest strength may be her ability to make whatever story she’s telling in the ring accessible and convincing. She’s believable as a threat, even against far larger opponents and in the many intergender matches she’s had. A particular favorite of mine was her no-rope match against Yaso Urano at Basara’s 12/28/17 show.

 

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This Spring I was extremely lucky to be able to attend some of Riho’s last matches in Gatoh Move, and there have certainly been a lot of high notes to go out on. At the beginning of May she faced DDT wrestler and regular Gatoh Move guest Masahiro Takanashi in an incredible encounter that’s one of my top matches of the year thus far. A few days later she won Gatoh’s annual Go Go Green Curry Cup (a mixed tag team tournament).

 

 

And just a month out from her final match, in her second to last “traditional” show for Gatoh, she successfully defended her Super-Asia Championship against rising star Mei Suruga in a wonderful match, after which she relinquished the title.

Tonight Riho will wrestle her trainer Emi Sakura one-on-one in her final Gatoh Move match. I can’t think of a more fitting farewell.

 

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Riho has already given fans a little glimpse of what’s to come after Gatoh Move, as she’s had a pair of good outings with AEW. She’s implied in a recent interview that she doesn’t intend to sign anywhere full time just yet, so it’ll be interesting to see if/where she wrestles in Japan in addition to continuing with AEW in the states (as of now nothing else has been announced/scheduled). It will also be interesting to watch Gatoh Move change and adapt after her departure.

I look forward to the continued success of both.

 

Gatoh Move 5/30, 6/1/19 Live Thoughts

May 30 and June 1, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Tonight Gatoh Move has a big show at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring. In her last month with Gatoh Move before going to AEW, Riho defends her Super Asia Championship in the main event on her birthday.

Special note: Gatoh Move continues to increase accessibility with the sharing of matches online with English commentary at an incredible turnaround. Five of the six matches I discuss here are ALREADY up on their YouTube channel.

 

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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).

 

5/30/19

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1) Masahiro Takanashi & An-Chamu vs Saki & Baliyan Akki

An came out in Sakura’s old costume again, which continues to amuse me to no end. This was just pure fun. An continues to get better and better the more she works with the incredible talent in Gatoh, Takanashi is a master, and their opponents are really gelling as a team and are solid every time out. Good start.

 

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2) Mitsuru Konno vs Yuna Mizmori

Important match for Mitsuru as she tackles one half of the reigning tag team champions she’ll be challenging tonight. Both kept the intensity high here, and added a lot of careful touches to elevate things. There was a particularly great sequence where Mitsuru set up the deathlock but Yuna kept scurrying her body sideways so Mitsuru missed her head while folding backwards. Mitsuru eventually head faked then zoomed right in on the moving Yuna to complete the hold. It’s the little details.

Mitsuru pushed Yuna to a time limit draw. Really good lead in to their impending tag title battle, and during the roundtable it was announced Mitsuru would get to wrestle Yuna’s partner in a singles match on 6/1.

 

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3) Riho & Emi Sakura vs Mei Suruga & Antonio Honda

Just back from their US debuts, Emi Sakura & Riho came out sporting AEW t-shirts with Emi complaining about the crowd size and dismissively calling her OWN promotion a “local indie.” She knows just how to present things like this, and the sheer absurdity of it (while being delivered deadpan) was pitch perfect.

Fun back and forth match, with Riho and Mei interacting a bit before their big title match. Honda eventually defeated Sakura to vindicate… well, Gatoh Move (lol) and potentially give Mei a little bit of an edge going into tonight.

 

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Many birthdays and a wrestling anniversary to celebrate.

 

As usual lately, Gatoh Move is really clicking and this show was a breeze and a joy to watch.

 

6/1/19

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1) Cho-un vs Tetsuya Izuchi

Two of the members of the Heat Up vs Gatoh Move 6-man tag tonight faced off in singles action to open this show. Technically sound if a bit slow, with Cho-un picking up the win and momentum.

They got heated during the roundtable (with Emi involved too), and while I couldn’t follow what was the said the atmosphere and reactions of those around them was pretty easy to read.

 

2) Mitsuru Konno vs Saki

After drawing with one half of the reigning tag team champions two days prior, Mitsuru got a singles opportunity against the other as she faced Saki going into her title shot (with partner Sawasdee Kamen).

This was a really hard hitting contest, with a desperate Mitsuru pushing herself as much as possible but Saki getting the expected win. The frustration is building in Mitsuru, and honestly I kind of feel like it’s the right time to have her shake it all off and pull out a huge victory tonight. We’ll see.

 

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3) Riho, An-Chamu, & Baliyan Akki vs Masahiro Takanashi, Emi Sakura, & Mei Suruga

Incredible main event, interweaving numerous stories in a fast pace, frantic battle with numerous creative double and triple team from all (particularly from Akki’s smaller teammates using him as a base).

At one point the small An tried to help push Akki into a run for momentum, and he didn’t budge. They amusingly started to argue in English (“What are you doing?” “How weak are you?”) then got back on the same page and got the better of Sakura when she tried to take advantage of their bickering. Later Riho tried Emi’s own “We Will Rock You” splash on her. The whole match was peppered with great little things like those.

In a little bit of a surprise after a relentless final onslaught Mei loses clean to Riho going into Tues, wiping out any momentum she had and stacking the deck majorly against her. This was the PERFECT build to tonight’s main, and let several other wrestlers shine as well. Incredible work.

 

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Absolutely everything on this show was set up to build to Tuesday, with to great effect. These two shows were both highly satisfying on their own while progressing the larger pictures for their participants. Really great stuff.