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.

——-

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.

——-

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

ChocoPro 3 Live Thoughts

April 7, 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.

The card was announced the afternoon of the show, and looked quite interesting to say the least…

ChocoPro 3

As usual Baliyan Akki is helping with translation of Sakura’s opening remarks and Antonio Honda is behind the camera.

Sakura explains that matches that might be held off of in Gatoh Move for special cases will be done in ChocoPro without hesitation because they don’t know how long ChocoPro will last… and also they don’t have many wrestlers. I love her frankness. So dream matches galore.  

1)  Lulu Pencil vs Antonio Honda

Akki takes over camera and Sakura is ref.

The opening sequence where they trade hammerlocks and alternately dramatically start to say “give up” and say things like “give and take” and do Abraham Lincoln impressions instead might be an immediate indication if this particular match and style is for you.

Everything is over the top and ridiculous here. Honda does a Rambo impression and other silliness using the bands of Lulu’s suspenders, then brutally flicks her forehead to firmly establish control.

Honda teases a chair shot and instead sets it down, sits in it, and eats a banana as Lulu acts horrified and Akki calls it like Mankind vs Undertaker. Once Honda is done playing with the banana peel he once again sets it conspicuously on the window sill. Then he attacks Lulu with a bag of green vegetables. Lulu manages so sustained offense but going to the window for the Pencil Splash allows Honda to get the legs up and take over again.

Honda tries the windup for the Dusty elbow and they go back and forth, but when they’re both doing it and Honda is distracted with his own dancing Lulu disappears under the ChocoPro banner. Honda gets lonely and scared because her thinks she’s become a nobody like in the Ghibli film Spirited Away (no, I’m not making any of this up). She sneaks behind him and sings as a ghost. She applies a sleeper and Honda’s arm goes down twice before he powers up and tries the fox strike. Lulu knocks it away towards Emi, who pushes it towards Mei, who bumps it volleyball style to Mitsuru, who sets it to Lulu, who spikes it back on Honda himself. This is perhaps the oddest paragraph I’ve ever had to write reviewing a wrestling show, and I’ve watched everything from hot dog eating contest matches to UFO deathmatches.

Lulu goes to the window and this time it’s her who slips on the banana peel Honda tries to capatalize with a stretch which Lulu reverses into one of her own… but it’s Lulu so Honda simply stands up to counter and Lulu ends up tangled around him. Honda closes his hands together to apply pressure and Lulu has to tap.

There were some really cool moments in this and I appreciate them (and Akki) going full in on the concept. Some of Honda’s stuff gets on my nerves personally but I found it fun overall and it was extremely good for what it was.

Honda resumes camera duties afterwards.

2) Mitsuru Konno vs Yuna Mizumori

I always really enjoy when these two get to face off. This is one of the matches Sakura was talking about as being rare normally, so was really excited to see it on the card.

Yuna starts in a fun mood but Mitsuru takes exception to Yuna’s saying she’ll win and is all business. Her intensity quickly catches on with Yuna and they lay into each other.

This was full throttle all the way and they absolutely battled at an impressive pace and energy level for every last second of the ten minute time limit. There was some great use of the lack of crowd format, like Mitsuru directing Honda over to the side for a proper view of her posing submission, a super closeup of poor Yuna’s face later in another hold, and Yuna using the wrestlers on the sidelines for running momentum in places of ropes.

One great sequence saw Yuna struggle to complete the bridge out of a pin spot, fail to quite stand all the way up… and fall back onto Mitsuru for a fortuitous consequence.

They were both still going strong when time expired on them, leaving the match a draw. I want a rematch ASAP.

I absolutely loved this match. Well worth going out of your way to see.

3) Emi Sakura & Baliyan Akki vs Apple Calamari (Mei Suruga & Chris Brookes) 

Mei & Chris is a hilariously awesome first time team here, as they’ve been constantly sniping at each other online and whenever they cross paths in Gatoh Move. So naturally Sakura pairs them up and puts herself opposite lol. 😉

Yuna takes over for Sakura as referee.

Chris says he came because he thought Masa would be there, and instead this.

Emi starts a Sakura chant among… well Mitsuru and Lulu. Mei tries to convince them to cheer for her instead, and when that doesn’t work attacks Sakura, which is probably more effective anyway.

Mei messes with Chris here and there. Early on she lets go of her opponent too soon while holding for a strike so Chris misses. When Honda & Emi have Chris immobilized and drag Mei on top for the pyramid pose she very quick gets over her surprise and goes along with it. Later Mei asks Chris to get in the window then goes into her rollup instead of holding Sakura in place for a strike. And so on. All it naturally folded into the match and executed without any loss of momentum or tension regarding two teams trying to win.

One really great part about Gatoh Move and ChocoPro in general is how seamlessly they can integrate story like that into matches without sacrificing pacing or action. This was on full display. Other examples include Mei panicking when getting on Chris’ shoulders for a double team because he’s so tall and has threatened to put her through the ceiling in the past, and Emi stoping for a moment to mock Mei’s height, Chris responding in kind, then Emi revealing she suckered them in just to elbow them both. It was all so well done.

The action was of course also top notch throughout, including really great spots with Emi and Akki grabbing Mei out of the air at points and a sweet doubleteam with Akki dropkicking Chris against the wall with Emi simultaneously splashing Mei at his feet.

Late in the match Chris repays Mei’s earlier antics by asking her to get in the window, then pushing her outside and closing it. I’m dying of laughter as Mei can be seen pressed against the window in the background trying to get in while Chris goes back to attack Akki.

The bickering pays off however when Akki goes to the other window for a splash and Mei is able to foil him from outside.

Mei & Chris keep pressing their advantage, leading to Mei going for the propeller clutch on Akki. Chris floats over into a jackknife for the double pin AND THEY WIN! Simply amazing.

During a post show chat with Chris and Akki, Akki says he’s been beating by Chris twice but is getting close and will win eventually. Chris says he’ll never get that close. Nice, good natured rivalry building.

Akki then turns to the team of Mei & Chris, and reveals a rumor that Chris actually requested the match. Chris claims maybe he and Mei got off on wrong foot and could get long better. Then presents Mei a gift… of a basketball, because he saw on her social media that she plays. Mei’s relly excited. Hmm, I was expecting a joke gift. Oh wait, they’re playing basketball with Chris as basket. Yep, there’s Mei hitting Chris in the face with the basketball. But they still seem ok. We’ll see how long it lasts.

We finish with A Chocolate Bit of Happiness Rock-Paper-Scissors Tourney 2! LULU WINS HER FIRST SINGLES MATCH EVER! Such as it is anyway. 😉 Then goes on to win the tournament!!! And devours her prize chocolate in short order. To the victor goes the spoils.

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. 

This was another really fun show in general, but also continues to show what makes ChocoPro unique even compared to Gatoh Move. They are really embracing the no audience format and the unique characteristics and advantages it offers. Creative window spots, running commentary from whoever’s behind the camera, and being unafraid to use dramatic close ups, etc all really enhance the experience. Bravo.

——-

Watch the replay of ChocoPro 3 on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel.

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.