ChocoPro 1 & 2 Live Thoughts

March 28 & April 1, 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.

There was a ton of immediate buzz and anticipation for the first event with the pre-announced participation of Minoru Suzuki!

ChocoPro 1

Baliyan Akki is helping with translation of Sakura’s opening remarks and Antonio Honda is behind the camera. There’s another angle being filmed from the side, which becomes an extremely fortuitous choice.  

1) Emi Sakura vs Rin Rin 

This immediately set the tone for ChocoPro as something fun and a bit unique, even compared to the shows Gatoh Move normally runs at Ichigaya. Sakura was playing quasi-heel, and little things like seeing booing in the YouTube comments for her dastardly actions made watching live particularly amusing. Good start to the show that saw a determined Rin Rin come up a bit short and lose to the Gatoh/Choco founder. 

2) Mitsuru Konno & Lulu Pencil vs Sayaka & Yuna Mizumori

This was incredible. They kept it extremely fast paced and frantic to adjust for the lack of crowd and it came across really well. There were cool, creative double teams in abundance and I laughed out loud a few times in the ways Mitsuru used poor Lulu as a weapon. Want to see them team again. However things still aren’t quite going Lulu’s way and she ends up being pinned by Mizumori to give Yuna & Sayaka the victory.

3) Baliyan Akki vs Minoru Suzuki 

What a fantastic opportunity for Akki and it’s so surreal (and awesome) to see Suzuki in Ichigaya. Akki had the homefield advantage as the rest of the roster was out and soundly on his side. Their cheering and Honda’s running commentary really made the atmosphere energetic (and I’m sure the small venue enhanced the effect. 

They hit the hell out of each other, and this was a great match with awesome back and forth as Akki held his own against the imposing outsider. Highlights included a gorgeous splash by Akki from the windowsill and Minoru confronting (ok, so kind of terrorizing) the defiant Gatoh roster. 

During the match the live feed cut out, then it happened again as soon as Suzuki won and mere notes of his music started. As such the replay up now, using footage from the previously mentioned second camera angle, has all the music silenced out. 

That small technical hiccup aside, which isn’t an issue with the replay anyway, this was simply great.

Originally planned for the next day, ChocoPro’s second effort would be delayed just a little bit due to weather. In the meantime there was a watch party of the first event with Mei (who missed the first show due to commitments to wrestle at Sendai Girls), Akki, and Sakura, as well as broadcast of footage from Mei and Lulu’s trip to London for Pro-Wrestling Eve. Each was preceded by watching Mei cook dinner (yes, really) which was highly amusing with Emi and Akki goofing around a bit and providing commentary (and the food looked delicious too 😉 ).

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 2

Smaller crew this time around, with the participating wrestlers handling all the camera, refereeing, etc duties in turns. Akki once again translates Skura’s opening comments in a much appreciated touch, with Sakura tormenting him a bit by asking who was cuter between her and her opponent for today. The pre-show group exercise squats are done to the sound of Honda singing “Don’t Stop Me Now.”

1) Yuna Mizumori vs Antonio Honda 

No music this time, so Yuna and Honda both sing their own entrances. Akki’s behind the camera (in place of Honda) and providing running commentary and Sakura is ref.

This was pretty standard Honda ridiculousness, which again fits with the nature of what ChocoPro is trying to accomplish. I was generally amused, and bigger fans of his style of comedy will get even more out of this. He did a particularly funny sequence playing around making faces with an immobilized Yuna’s hair (although he wasn’t breaking at the count of 4 so I’m glad Emi stopped counting at all because her having to artificially pause so she wouldn’t have to DQ him was annoying) and the banana stuff was inspired. Solid action between the nonsense too. Despite being in trouble late Honda persevered to win with a rollup.

2) An-Chamu vs Emi Sakura 

Honda’s back behind the camera and Mei’s reffing.

Again, it’s nice to see An back regularly. Lots of posing from the gravure model to taunt Sakura and a bit of responding in kind here and there. Good match that kept picking up as it went leading to Sakura winning with La Magistral.

3) Ryo Mizunami & Mei Suruga vs Mitsuru Konno & Baliyan Akki

I can’t properly explain how happy I am to see Mizunami in Gatoh Move, and she of course fits right in. This was full speed ahead from the get-go, and a great main event. Mei and Akki taking advantage of having the windows in to try to crush each other is on cool, innovative example of how much thought is always being given to how to capitalize on the exact conditions of any given show.

Everyone was spot on here. Awesome to see Mitsuru continuing to evolve her sweet submission holds, as mentioned Mei and Akki were brining the creativity, and Mizunami barreling through everyone was a delight.

I correctly suspected I would have to see Mitsuru take the loss here, but the match was excellent and seeds were sown afterwards for her to use the loss as motivation for a singles match against Mizunami. YES PLEASE.

Akki translated after the show thoughts from Mitsuru and Miznami, and the latter’s miming of Akki’s translations was riot.

Things wrap up with a one-day rock-paper-scissors tournament. Sakura wins and throughly enjoys the piece of chocolate that is her prize. 🙂

——-

It’s amazing the atmosphere they created for the no crowd shows, enhanced by Honda’s energetic running commentary, cheering from the other wrestlers, and the wrestlers being aware of and playing to the camera without breaking the feeling that they were trying to win a match. Wonderfully done. As I said above I really enjoy and appreciate what ChocoPro is trying to do, and I can’t wait for more.

Replays of ChocoPro 1 (parts 1 and 2) and ChocoPro 2 are up on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel.

Merry Joshi Christmas 2019: Gatoh Move 12/22/19 Live Thoughts

December 22, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

This was the go home Ichigaya show leading into Gatoh Move’s last big show of the year tonight at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring.

As I’ve mentioned before, in a wonderful move to grow their visibility Gatoh Move has been uploading a significant number of matches with English play-by-play on their YouTube channel. two of the three matches I’ll be discussing here are impressively already up, and in such cases I’ll add a hyperlink to it in the match title.

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

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

1) Cho-un Shiryu vs Sayuri vs Sayaka

Sayuri & Sayaka will be teaming tonight to face fellow rookies Chie Koishikawa & Tokiko Kirihara, but here it was everyone for themselves in a 3-way also featuring regular visiting wrestler Cho-un.

This had amusing overtones, with the rookies insisting on working together to start but still largely unable to withstand Cho-un’s vast experience and strength advantage. And what momentum they were able to generate evaporated when they started getting in each others’s way and wanting the individual victory. Eventually Cho-un was able to pin both of his opponents simultaneously for an emphatic win after a double diving stomp.

With Sayuri & Sayaka going in to a battle with two other largely unestablished rookies the double pin bothers me less than it normally would, illustrating a bit of how far they all have to go. Cho-un’s enough of a force that it made sense, they did get to show some fire on the way, and this was a solid little 3-way that packed a fair amount of story into a short, energetic six minutes.

2) Calamari Drunken Kings (Chris Brookes & Masahiro Takanashi) vs Emi Sakura & Lulu Pencil

Clash of two teams both in action tonight against other opponents.

The structure of this one was particularly fantastic. Lulu was thrilled to be teaming with her teacher and had herself introduced as “Emi Sakura’s student” and vice versa to Emi’s barely maintained patience. But as the match progressed Emi encouraged the struggling Lulu, and whenever she was tagged in herself she was in full bore no-nonsense mode. Her first exchange with Chris had her going for a lockup and Chris LEVELING her with a big boot instead, and the war was most definitely on from there.

Another highlight saw Sakura pick up Lulu (in full pencil pose/mode) over her shoulder and charge Chris, who sold the hit like he’d been impaled by an actual spear. And of course Takanashi was his usual masterful self throughout as well.

End here saw Chris attempting to apply an arm bar when poor Lulu, already immobilized by Chris’ legs and unable to withstand it, tapped out to give CDK the win. A confused (or perhaps just sadistic) Chris continued to pull the arm a bit as Takanashi tried to explain they’d already won and to please let Lulu go.

This was great. Strong win for CDK (even considering Lulu’s weaknesses), and there was just enough to make one hopefully that Lulu might defy the odds and win with her mentor tonight.

During the post-show roundtable Chris said this victory (his first in Ichigaya) taught him that CDK’s previous troubles in 6-person tag matches were all Rin Rin’s fault. I feel he got lucky that the statement went by so fast Rin Rin and a good portion of the audience didn’t register it enough to be properly outraged.

3) Mitsuru & Rin Rin vs Mei Suruga & Saki

In addition to having the two wrestlers facing in tonight’s main event across from each other, their partners here were one half of the reigning tag team champions and one half of the team that will be challenging them in tonight’s semi-main respectively.

Rin Rin continues to be impressive beyond her experience level, and was great here showing no fear against Saki before their title match. The interactions of Mitsuru and Mei were also a great preview for tonight as well as a solid anchor for this match to build around.

It all escalated wonderfully and was naturally paced to the point where I didn’t feel the time limit draw coming at all. Nicely done and a really strong lead in to tonight.

For one final awesome bit of fun, after Gatoh’s traditional post-show song Chris spoke up and suggested to Sakura that with a number of foreigners in the audience and the proximity to Christmas they should also do an English song, then led wrestlers and fans alike in singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

This was as usual a total blast, and I thought a particularly strong show all around. There really isn’t anything else quite like Gatoh Move and I can’t recommend checking it out live if at all possible.

Gatoh Move 12/7 and 12/14/19 Live Thoughts

December 7 & 14, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

As I’ve mentioned before, in a wonderful move to grow their visibility Gatoh Move has been uploading a significant number of matches with English play-by-play on their YouTube channel. Some of the matches I’ll be discussing here are impressively already up, and in such cases I’ll add a hyperlink to it in the match title (also, the 6-person tag from 12/7 is up on DDT’s subscription service).

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).

12/7/19

1) Lulu Pencil vs Yasu Urano

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

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

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

This was different and silly in a way that enhanced the story told, and a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. Lulu’s gimmick of being a pro-wrestler who’s too weak and awkward to be pro-wrestler is rather genius in the way it’s being executed, and makes her a natural and easy to cheer for underdog. Perhaps most importantly, the comedy and weirdness of her matches still relate to the idea of her trying to win, and it all compliments a wisely chosen remaining card consisting of more competitive/serious matches.

2) Cho-un Shiryu vs Chris Panzer

Chris is his home promotion PWR (Phillipine Wrestling Revolution)’s Champion, and this is his first appearance in Gatoh Move.

Once they got going Cho-un heeled it up to provide the match’s backbone, and they had a really good, fast paced and hard hitting encounter. Chris prevailed in a strong Gatoh debut. Would love to see him back sometime.

3) Calamari Druken Kings (Chris Brookes & Masahiro Takanashi) & Rin Rin vs Mei Suruga, Saki, & Sayaka  

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

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

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

Side note: I need to see MUCH more of Rin Rin & CDK as a trio.

12/14/19

1) Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi vs Tokiko Kirihara & Sayaka

This was incredibly fun, with lots of the little cool little touches Gatoh Move does so well to elevate each match and fully drawn the audience in.

Sayaka & Tokiko kind of kept outsmarting Sakura & Takanashi at times to stay in the match until the veterans’ experience got the better of them. Again, the rookies played their part really well and put on performances beyond their limited experience. Strong opener.

2) Lulu Pencil vs Taro Yamada

Lulu’s freelance writer name is Yamada, so it was explained that a battle of Yamadas (in a building where the landlord’s name was also Yamada). Everyone was encouraged to constantly chant for Yamada.

Every match Lulu gets a few more small successes and moral victories. When she’s eventually able to put it all together, perform more moves than not without hurting herself, and pick up a win the crowd is going to erupt. Until then this was another fun little chapter in one of the most unique and relatable acts in wrestling.

Taro’s taking/selling of Lulu’s rollup into the wall was particular impactful and got a huge pop as it felt like a real advantage for everyone’s favorite underdog writer. As is becoming a theme in this write up all the little details were really well done here.

3) Hagane Shinno & Mitsuru Konno vs Mei Suruga & Yuna Mizomori 

Yuna had handed out a few denden daikos in celebration of Tawara! 2’s DVD release and encouraged their use to cheer her during the match. Mitsuru looked offended by their their mere existence, which was a great bit of character work.

Hagane’s another Gatoh mainstay guest that really knows how to make the most of the environment. There were so many great counter variations and near falls in this one, really building the drama and captivating the crowd. This was an incredible little tag team match and a real testament to the skill of all involved and the potential of the Ichigaya environment.

With Mei vs Mitsuru main eventing the impending show at Shin-kiba, Mei’s pinfall victory over Mitsuru here gives her all the momentum.

Gatoh Move has a really good grasp of how to vary things enough to keep it all interesting while always capturing the aspects that draw people to their shows in the first place. These were two excellent efforts, and the general quality and enjoyment level of seeing Gatoh live never ceases to amaze me.

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!