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.

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.