During my first several trips to Japan, starting at the end of 2015, Gatoh Move became (and remains) one of my favorite promotions. It’s a wonderfully engaging experience built around a core roster of diverse wrestlers all fully embracing their own uniqueness.
And that’s been true throughout all the changes and transformations the company and roster has endured. Wrestlers that were there when I started watching like Kotori and Gatoh’s former ace Riho have retired and moved on to other opportunities (with occasional reappearances) respectively. In the wake of Riho leaving the company doubled in size with the debuts of Gatoh Move’s fourth generation. I’ve experienced the entire careers of Aasa Maika and Mitsuru Konno.
So it’s perhaps a little odd to realize that for me a certain wrestler has become such a core part of what Gatoh Move is today that her imminent departure might have the greatest impact of any change thus far.
In spring of 2018 I was lucky enough to catch Gatoh’s annual Go Go Green Curry Koppun Cup mixed tag tourney show. In the (non-tournament) opening contest I’d get my only look that trip at their new rookie, as just two months into her career Yuna Mizumori faced visiting reigning Pure-J Champion Hanako Nakamori.
Yuna immediately impressed as a great addition to the Gatoh roster. She had such an exuberant personality that was already apparent and integrated in her rapidly developing wrestling style. Her particular blend of speed and power was already on display and to this day remains striking and distinctive. I couldn’t wait to see more of her in the future after her strong showing against another company’s top competitor so early in her career.
The tone set by that first impression would continue when I was back later in the year, particularly in a very special elimination match on SEAdLINNNG’s 12/28/18 show.
It was Gatoh Move’s Emi Sakura, Yuna, & fellow rookie Mei Suruga against freelancer Sae, the reigning Regina di Wave champion Ryo Mizunami, & SEAdLINNG’s own champion (and founder) Nanae Takahashi.
The match was a blast, and seemed headed to a perfectly acceptable formula finish of Gatoh’s powerhouse rookie putting up a good fight in defeat against overwhelming experience and odds.
Instead Yuna, still within her first year of wrestling, overcame a 2-on-1 disadvantage to eliminate BOTH of the opposing reigning champions to secure the win for Gatoh Move (an achievement that would earn her a title shot at Nanae a couple months later).
As I wrote at the time: “Yuna is a wrecking ball in the ring in the best possible way, and her digging deep and powering her way through the odds was captivating, as well as totally believable.”
Yuna became an absolute favorite of mine and was always a treat to see. She was put in important positions and given big opportunities to show what she could do and always delivered. Yuna & her TropiKawild partner Saki would hold and defend the Asia Dream Tag Team Championships for nearly a year during their second reign starting in March of 2019.
During Gatoh’s Golden Week shows that year she semi-main evented in great singles contests against TJPW’s Mizuki and visiting freelancer Hiroyo Matsumoto.
A couple of other matches of hers that stick out (among the many I was lucky enough to see live) that I particularly loved include her participation in a special “Old Gatoh Move” vs “New Gatoh Move” variation on the the annual Gatoh roster 6-woman tag match they ran (available here), and a hard hitting battle she had against Yasu Urano.
The previously mentioned TropiKawild tag team title reigns meant that when Yuna hit her second wrestling anniversary she had been a reigning tag team champion for nearly half of her career. Between that, some of the things I’ve mentioned above, and other opportunities Yuna had a truly special start to her wrestling career.
Yet the dichotomy of Yuna being extremely strong and successful but still often seeming and feeling like the underdog would be a recurring theme and lead to some incredibly compelling stories and rivalries.
One place this is vividly apparent is in early ChocoPro.
ChocoPro is Gatoh Move’s twin promotion and arose out of Emi Sakura’s desire to do something specifically tailored to streaming when Covid hit and prevented them from continuing shows as normal in their small home base venue.
Yuna’s struggles, feelings, and insecurities explored and enflamed by her trainer, boss, and occasional partner Emi Sakura would be a driving force for the early seasons of ChocoPro. Yuna participated in the first ever intergender “ironman” match on ChocoPro 11 against Minoru Fujita (an incredible match itself well worth watching).
Sakura tore Yuna apart emotionally in an interview leading up to the match with Fujita, kicking off what I still believe is one of the greatest stories and feuds I’ve ever seen in wrestling (see The Ballad of Yuna and the Oni for full details).
One last thing that certainly has to be mentioned is Yuna’s camaraderie and rivalry with the only other member of her generation of Gatoh Move, Mei Suruga.
Mei debuted almost exactly three months after Yuna and the interplay between the two has always been interesting. Yuna has achieved more faster in traditionally measured ways and has been more successful overall in their singles encounters. She’s held the tag titles twice to Mei’s once, won them earlier on in her career, and holds a 6-3 victory advantage in their singles encounters.
But Mei has more unusual or intangible edges. She holds singles victories over high profile opponents like Hikaru Shida and Emi Sakura herself, she’s wrestled internationally, and her victories over Yuna came when it mattered most. She won a number one contendership tournament by beating Yuna in the finals and is up 2-1 when they faced each other in tag team title matches.
This is best encapsulated in Yuna’s comments after she defeated Mei in a fantastic 30-minute “ironman” match and wondered why she still felt like she lost.
The mutual respect, parallel yet wildly different careers they’ve had and the rivalry that goes with it, and captivating chemistry they have together all built to an absolutely phenomenal encounter they had headlining Gatoh Move’s 10th Anniversary show. As the last singles match they’ll have against one another in the foreseeable future, they went out on a hell of a high note.
In a few short hours Yuna will wrestle Emi Sakura 1-on-1 one last time in her final match before “graduating” from Gatoh Move (the term used in Japan when someone leaves a company to move on, whether it’s for retirement or a case like this). Can Yuna finally topple the Oni as she bids Gatoh farewell?
I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything Yuna has meant to Gatoh Move and ChocoPro. She’s an amazing performer and though it seems like she’s been around forever her career is incredibly still under 5 years old. While her absence will be noticeable I wish her all the best and look forward to seeing what’s next for her in wrestling elsewhere.
Tropical thanks for everything.