Guess what, folks? I was smart this month. Rather than waiting for the 31st to hurriedly throw this together, I wrote it as we went. How fucking sensible is that? You may no3 call me a grown-up. There was plenty to write about too, as we’ve got a bit of deathmatch, a load of nonsense and even some straight-ahead wrestling, what will they think of next?
Tam Nakano vs Giulia, Yokohoma Cinderella (3/10/20), Stardom
Tam and Giulia’s feud started back when everyone was locked up, the two sniping at each other through social media. It was a fun diversion, and when Stardom returned they had eyes only for each other, the pent up frustration of Twitter arguments unleashed. Unfortunately, they were also brawling in bikinis and wrestling a match that was so bloated with epic tropes that the fire sizzled out.
Thankfully, Tam and Giulia made up for that failed first attempt (if not the awful bikini brawl) on their third try, as they finally ditched the nonsense and beat the shit out of each other. This was straightforward wrestling done well, two people who do not get along going all out to cause pain. Every strike had that little bit of spice behind it, while the risks they took went up the deeper they got into the action.
And while Giulia would get the win, the Tam we got in the final minutes is the one I love. A wrestler who seems driven purely by emotion, her body broken, but her heart not quite ready to follow. Eventually, even that gave out, but at least Tam and Giulia gave us the match they’d been teasing for the past seven months.
Mei Suruga vs Ryo Mizunami, ChocoPro 53 (4/10/20), ChocoProLIVE!
It’s no secret that Mei Suruga is a fan of Tom & Jerry. She’s regularly worn a Tom & Jerry t-shirt on live streams, and its influence has come out in her wrestling before. Never has it been more evident than in this match, though.
Granted the freedom of a Falls Count Anywhere stipulation, Mei and Aniki allowed themselves to go full slapstick. Whether it was invisible fights in the toilet, the only hint of what was happening being Emi counting falls, or Mei mocking Aniki from a small gap, cocky in her assertion that she couldn’t get in. An assertion that, unsurprisingly, turned out to be incorrect. It was so deep in those influences that if you turned it black and white and put a jaunty piano theme over the top, I don’t think anyone would question you if you claimed it was an old black and white silent comedy. The kind of cinema that influenced those classic cartoons.
In Mei and Aniki, you had the perfect people to play their roles. Mei is the wee-pest, running around the place, coming up with all kinds of devious plans (she even set-up a rope for Aniki to trip over). Mizunami, meanwhile, knows that if she can get her hands on Mei, it’s over. She chops the shit out of her at times, even driving her head into a sign outside Ichigaya. Unfortunately, like poor Tom often discovered, getting your hands on a wee-pest is easier said than done. There is a reason Mei is regularly referred to as a genius wrestler. Although, one does question her decision to put her helmet on when riding her bike all of three feet for an assisted Lariat. Then again, safety first.
ChocoPro making me smile is nothing new, but this might have been their most enjoyable experiment yet. They let Mei Suruga loose, giving her the chance to go even deeper into her influences, pulling them out and morphing them to fit wrestling. I loved it, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you fix that now.
Minoru Fujita and Rina Yamashita vs Jun Kasai and Masashi Takeda, FREEDOMS 11th Anniversary (4/10/20), FREEDOMS
As someone who will dip their toe into deathmatch half a dozen times a year, the thing that I find fascinating about it is the sense of one-upmanship. It doesn’t feel like it’s enough to beat your opponent, you have to prove you’re crazier than them. Minoru Fujita showed that within the opening minutes of this match, the first shattered pane of glass inspiring him to remove his t-shirt before DDTing Takeda and Kasai into the shards.
What made this stand out, though, was that while you had all of that usual dick-swinging, you also had Rina Yamashita, and this was her attempt to prove she could match their crazy. She was in that ring with three mental motherfuckers, and she kept pace with them every step of the way. Whether it was bumping into the glass or having Takeda and Kasai sawing at her head, she was ready, willing and able, giving out as good as she got.
And that’s not something entirely new for Rina. She’s dabbled in hardcore her entire career, but it was a step-up. Takeda and Kasai are perhaps the most-celebrated deathmatch wrestlers on the planet right now while Fujita is the coolest man on it, so to hang with them is a hell of a feat. Her opponents seemed to agree too, paying tribute to her post-match before lifting her to her feet. Of course, this being deathmatch they didn’t stay there long, all four throwing themselves back into the glass one more time. You gotta respect it.
Sareee vs Miyuki Takase, AgZ Act 47 (5/10/20), Actwres girl’Z
In her surprise run through the joshi scene, Sareee is expertly performing the role of Sareee, turning up in promotions, kicking people stupidly hard and dropping them on their head. It’s simple stuff, but she happens to be one of the best in the world at doing it, so we’re not about to complain. That’s particularly true when you’re putting her across from the ultimate mini-hoss, Miyuki Takase.
Honestly, there isn’t a huge amount to say about this. They beat each other up, every strike looking like it would have knocked me into next week. It made Takase look fantastic, the home stretch seeing her kick out time after time as she was dumped on the back of her head. Looking like a badass in defeat takes talent, but she pulled it off with style.
The slight downer is that I’ve no doubt that this was merely a taste of what they could do. A lengthy program between Takase and Sareee would surely only see them get better and better, but one match is all we’ll get. Although, as I’ve said before, if someone does want to convince Sareee that WWE isn’t the place for her, I certainly won’t complain.
Yuuki Mashiro vs Suzu Suzuki, P’s Party 58 (14/10/20), Ice Ribbon
I took some time off Twitter this month, which was very good for my mental health, but meant that I was distressingly late to discovering that Yuuki had declared herself the Gacha King and made herself a belt. As the keeper of Ice Ribbon’s gacha flame, it is well-deserved, as she’s used her recent absence from the ring to bless us all. It also gave her a chance to flip the tables on Suzu, as after her previous attempts to challenge for the big belt were rejected, she now had the opportunity to offer Suzu a title shot. Incredibly, the lass who wants to wrestle aliens was uninterested in Yuuki’s homemade effort. How rude.
It all plays into the fascination I have for Yuuki as I try to unpick what kind of wrestler she is. At first glance, I saw her in the Lulu Pencil mould, frail and a bit useless, but that’s not actually true. She’s awkward, yes, but she’s not holding back in-ring. What Yuuki has is an unearned confidence. From the strange way that she walks to the ring to the theatrics before every crossbody, she’s rather pleased with themselves. Her talent comes in giving off that air while remaining endearing, something that she undeniably is. It’s not Lulu she should be compared to, but Miki Tanaka, the Marvelous rookie who used to sing her own theme and had that same air of arrogant uselessness
The match itself was a whole load of fun, Suzu proving to be the perfect foil to Yuuki as she put her through her paces. In the aftermath, Mashiro tried to reward the victor with a go on the gacha machine only for it to break, taking the money, but failing to provide the prize. If she is to prove herself worthy of the title that she has bestowed upon herself, she should probably look into getting that fixed.
Chris Brookes and Tokiko Kirihara vs The Pencil Army (Emi Pencil and Lulu Pencil), ChocoPro 55 (17/10/20), ChocoProLIVE!
Lulu Pencil wants her hat back. Having lost it to Chris Brookes at the first ChocoPro ring show, Emi Pencil had been desperately trying to find a suitable replacement. At ChocoPro 55, she’d presented Lulu with a blue hat, one that matched her own, and they proudly marched to the ring sporting them. That’s not Lulu’s hat, though, and Chris knew it, taunting her till she threw it to the ground and leapt into the fray.
What followed was half wrestling match, half heartless bullying. At one point, poor Lulu was in the middle of Brookes and Otoki as they threw the hat over her, her arms desperately flailing as she tried to grab it. Then, when she did get her hands on it, she was rewarded with two boots to either side of the head, making sure that she dropped it pretty quickly. The blue cap wasn’t enough for Lulu Pencil, but the battle to get her pink one back wasn’t going particularly well either.
It all made for a wonderful match. Brookes is brilliant at wandering into ChocoPro and playing the prick, taunting those around him. Lulu, meanwhile, truly sells the idea that this hat is an integral part of her identity. She put it on the line when Brookes refused to give her a title shot, but now it has become her title. The thing she is going to chase for as long as it takes. I’m not sure how many wrestlers could convince me they would do anything to get their hat back, but Lulu is one of them.
Mayu Iwatani vs Takumi Iroha, Goddesses of Stardom Tag League (18/10/20), Stardom
I wrote about this one at excessive length already, so go read that for the extended version.
If you’re happy to keep it short, this was the rematch to one of the year’s most celebrated joshi matches. Having been beaten down by Takumi and decisively beaten, Mayu came back stronger in round two. She still couldn’t match the Marvelous Ace in power or kicks, but she’s Mayu fricking Iwatani, so she had a plan or two up her sleeve. It made for a match that I’m sure would be brilliant if viewed by itself, but which excels as a companion piece to the original. The only downside is that Takumi has since picked up an injury that will keep her out for at least ten months, so any momentum she picked up from stepping into Stardom will have to take a backseat till she’s better. Fingers crossed that’s as soon as it can be!
Risa Sera Ironwoman Deathmatch, Risa Sera 5th Produced Show ~ Extreme Nuclear Battle (24/10/20), Ice Ribbon
If you were to focus on this match purely as a feat of endurance by Risa Sera, then it would extraordinary. Wrestling for an hour is bad enough, doing it in a style that requires you to be beaten with and thrown on all manner of paraphernalia is going to take it out of anyone. There was no rolling out of the ring to take a break, it was her show, so she was front and centre for every minute of it.
While the number of wrestlers who could do that is small, the number who could do it and remain entertaining throughout is tiny. It might even be Sera sitting on that throne alone. How do you even begin to sit down and put something like this together? To decide what should happen where? Crafting it feels like an impossible challenge, never mind acting it out.
And I can’t sit here and tell you it was beautiful wrestling. If you’re looking for that, you’ve come to the wrong place. It was a spectacle, something designed to give Sera a playground in which to enact her deathmatch ideas. You very rarely feel like a wrestling match is built to define one of its participants, but I suspect that’s the case here. This mash-up of violent nonsense is a wee glimpse into what’s going on in Risa Sera’s head.
It climaxed perfectly, the final minutes seeing Sera battle desperately to stay alive against Yuko Miyamoto, somehow continuing at a time when everything must have been hurting. There are very few things that can be compared to this, and that alone makes it worthy of your attention.
Tsukushi vs Honori Hana, P’s Party 59 (28/10/20), Ice Ribbon
A feud that had bubbled away in a couple of tags came to a head in this match, Skoosh and Hana having to be pulled apart before the bell even rang. These two do not like each other, and they were quite happy for that to be known.
It led to an exhibition of how brilliant Skoosh is at playing the wee bellend. Honori is bigger and stronger than her, but it was Tsukushi who was doing the bullying, laying into her with stiff elbows and slapping her across the face. There is a subsection of wrestling fans who are obsessed with the height of performers, suggesting that small joshi wrestlers aren’t realistic as threats, but I’d dare them to watch Skoosh throw elbows to a downed Hana and claim they don’t look like they hurt.
Which isn’t to suggest Hana was merely there for Skoosh to bully, the lass had come through in SEAd, so she can take a stiff strike. She made sure to give Tsukushi back as good as she got, delivering a few slaps of her own in retaliation. While she would fall to the veteran, this was a perfect example of what makes P’s Party so great. They throw together short, bite-sized feuds that let wrestlers build to these ten-minute blow-offs where they can go all out. Hana might have lost this time, but you can bet that one day she’ll be able to stand up to that Skoosh and put her in her place.
Halloween Battle Royal, ChocoPro 59 (28/10/20), ChocoProLIVE!
It is no secret that I am a lover of nonsense. The weirder and sillier a wrestling match gets, the more I tend to love it and, fuck me, this match had a whole lot of silly. Whether it was Chie spending long portions crouched down in a ball, committing to her shrimp costume, or Lulu being eliminated by eating Mei’s poison apple, the ChocoPro roster devoted themselves to the ancient art of nonsense.
There was more to this than mere goofs, though. It also served as a showcase as to how far ChocoPro’s presentation has come. The way they use the camera is quietly ingenious, from Mei and Sayuri stumbling over Shrimp Chie as the shot panned to the right, to Lulu popping up from underneath, timing it to contrast perfectly with a serious Samurai Akki staring down the lens. ChocoPro has created this fascinating wrestling bubble where not only are we unaware of what’s happening off-camera, but the wrestlers are too, so they don’t spot their opponents positioning themselves. There is nothing particularly complex about that idea, and even WWE has played with it over the years, people appearing seemingly out of nowhere for the audience at home, but no-one is doing it like ChocoPro. You’ll often see people complain they can’t watch shows from Ichigaya because they look low-rent, which is always a sign they’ve never watched one. For all that Emi’s crew might lack multiple cameras, flashy graphics and a ring, the way they work with what they have is incredible.
And even if you couldn’t give a flying fuck about all that, I can’t imagine not enjoying this match. The thing that has always attracted me to Gatoh Move is the dysfunctional family dynamic. Ichigaya is populated with the best kind of weirdos, and this was their chance to get dressed up and have a blast. Few things will put a smile on my face quicker.
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Always like to see these lists to see what others are enjoying. Usually I’m in agreement with about 50% of your picks. This month is slimmer than the norm, with only 3 I might rank on my list.