The last year is a hard one to reflect upon. On the one hand, it feels like nothing has happened, and yet, at the same time, everything has. The world has twisted and turned, changing in ways that will reverberate for a long old time. In the middle of all that, we’ve all had to find things that keep us going. The stuff that makes getting through each day that little bit easier. For me, that’s been ChocoPro.
Which is hardly a shocking revelation. Whether it’s featuring their matches in my monthly round-up, dissecting the epic tale of Lulu Pencil’s hat or simply giving thanks, I’ve never been quiet in expressing my feelings towards the Gatoh Move off-shoot. However, with their first anniversary and 100th show approaching, it felt like a good time to step back and do it all again. Apologies in advance, but this will contain a lot of me.
Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this last year has sucked. I’m one of the lucky ones. No-one close to me has died, and while I’ve lost nearly all my income, I’m in a position to survive that. My main issue has been loneliness. I’ve spent this entire thing by myself and it’s now been over a year since I saw my family or friends. I’m so starved of human contact that I’m genuinely worried I’ve forgotten how to do it. How do you spend an evening with people? How does one converse with other human beings? I was socially awkward before this thing! What am I going to be like now?
And that’s where ChocoPro comes in. In a year where I’ve lacked real world relationships, they’ve become the perfect parasocial replacement. I will sit and watch an AEW show I don’t give a damn about, purely for the pleasure of having Mei, Akki and Emi in the corner, nattering away. Lulu and Sayaka playing Minecraft while chatting in Japanese? Perfect, that’s my morning viewing sorted out. I could count on two hands the number of live streams I have missed in the last year, as they’ve become a source of comfort when very little else is able to provide it. The consistency of their schedule and the joyous way they approach 99% of things make them the perfect pretend friends to have when you’re feeling down.
On top of that, ChocoPro has opened up an online wrestling community for me that I’ve never really been a part of. I have one close friend who likes wrestling but not with the same rabid passion I do, so it’s always been a somewhat solitary passion. Part of the reason I started writing about it was as an outlet for my thoughts, and while I’ve gone to a handful of Britwres shows over the years, it’s nearly always been solo. Even when I went to Tokyo, it was on my lonesome, and while I interacted with others, I never pushed myself into becoming part of a group. A combination of anxiety, social awkwardness and comfort in my own company keeping me alone. ChocoPro’s primarily online nature has helped change that, though. Suddenly, I’ve quietly started chatting with people who think about this stuff the same way I do and who I can imagine sitting down for a pint with someday in the future.
Then there is the actual wrestling, which I will argue to the day I die is some of the best around. The gang of weirdo geniuses that make up the roster don’t only use the unique environment of Chocolate Square to their advantage but have adapted to streaming no-fan shows better than anyone. They have tweaked the way they work, changing their style to suit the circumstances, and created a year’s worth of beautiful moments. Whether it be Mitsuru’s rampage through the roster, Lulu morphing from a wrestler who makes me laugh to a genuine hero of mine or Chie’s recent step-up, they have provided the kind of stories that stick with you. Stuff that ten years from now, I will still look back on with a smile on my face.
I don’t know what the last twelve months would have looked like without ChocoPro. Maybe I’d have got into some obscure music genre, discovered a love of Bollywood or done something productive with all the time it would have freed up, but we’ll never know. Instead, I had ChocoPro, and I’m thankful that I did. Happy birthday to them, and fingers crossed that we get many more.
Thanks to their No Pay Wall initiative, all Gatoh Move and ChocoPro content is available for free on Gatoh Move’s YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2HtPsU4U7TNSv2mSbPkj0w