Down a nondescript alley in Ichigaya is a Chocolate Square. Nope, this isn’t the start to some weird Charlie and the Chocolate Factory rip-off, but it might be something just as magical.
For this particular square is an old dentist’s waiting room, although it would no longer be suited for that purpose. The windows have been ripped out and the floor largely covered by the kind of matt you might have once flopped onto in your school gym. Around the outside of said matt are some small stools with just a big enough gap between them and the wall for a single person to stand. In here, weirdly, there’s a tiny wrestling revolution going on.
And most people will probably know by now that I’m talking about Gatoh Move. Thanks to their genius decision to post daily matches on YouTube for free, they’re a company that has got a lot of attention recently. Throw in alumni Riho’s success in AEW and her fight against Emi Sakura (the founder of Gatoh Move) at Full Gear, and this beautiful little corner of wrestling has more eyes on it than ever before. Fans around the world have embraced acts like Lulu Pencil and been charmed by this unique corner of Tokyo.
With all of that in mind, I kicked off my year by going to Gatoh Move’s first show of 2020 and perching myself on one of those tiny stools (it was surprisingly comfortable, although whether it would have remained so if the show had been longer, I’m not sure). Over the next hour or so, I went from being charmed to falling a little bit in love, for there is something beautiful and exciting about that place and the atmosphere that Emi Sakura is fostering.
It’s an atmosphere that revolves around inclusion. From the second you step through that door Emi makes you feel at home, going around the room and asking where everyone is from before leading some of her trainees in a song and dance. We were given hand warmers to battle the cold January air and before the post-show conversation (all the wrestlers get a chance to speak although I can’t claim to know what they said) we were handed hot tea. Then, when it was finished, every wrestler came round and shook every fan’s hand. It’s hard not to be inclusive when the venue is that small and there is no ring (fans even play the role of ropes, pushing wrestlers back into the action), but they’re going above and beyond to make it the case.
All of which is great, but at the end of the day, it’s also a wrestling company, and these wrestlers (most of whom are incredibly young in their careers) are good. Very good. And a good that is unique to their environment.
On the whole, Wrestling is, and always has been, a ring-based sport. Companies have experimented with different things, DDT most famously, but everyone always comes back to four (or six in Mexico) sides and three ropes. Gatoh Move has none of that. Chocolate Square reminds me of being a kid and dragging mattresses onto my bedroom floor at sleepovers before grappling with my friends. Except, unlike my mates and I, these people know what they are doing, and are unlikely to break their parent’s bed performing a suplex. True story.
When I say they know what they’re doing, I mean it too because you can’t fuck up in that environment. Our opening match on New Year’s Day was Mei Suruga vs Sayaka with Sayaka kicking things off by charging across the matt to hit a vicious Dropkick. It would have looked awesome in any ring, but it was even more impressive when you realise that if they’d been slightly out of position one or both of them would have wiped out the front row and probably most of the second too. In his match with Lulu Pencil, Baliyan Akki leapt up, spreading his legs to have one foot on both window sills before flying backwards. Unfortunately, the shape of the room meant he also left a dent in the roof, which is rather lower than the one you might find at Korakuen Hall. These are things that (accidental or not) couldn’t happen anywhere else and are shaping what this company is becoming.
I could ramble on forever about the various bits and pieces that happened at this show whether it be the genius of Lulu Pencil or Antonio Honda belting out Queen with Aoi Kizuki before being presented with a birthday cake. However, I’m going to stop rambling and instead pressure you all to discover this for yourself. Sure, you probably can’t all get to Tokyo, but guess what? You don’t have to. In the last few days Gatoh Move announced their new streaming service and have even included a week’s free trial. As usual, I’ll shove the link below, and I urge you all to give it a go. I certainly suspect this won’t be the last time that I write about them.
Watch and support Gatoh Move at: https://gatohmovex.pivotshare.com/