Baliyan Akki vs Konosuke Takeshita

The seal of approval. Credit: DDT

One of my favourite happy/sad feelings is being stood in a music venue, watching a band I’ve seen play to ten people in a pub, ingratiate themselves to an audience a hundred times that size. Even as someone who has played little to no part in their success, it’s a moment that fills you with pride, as you watch something you’ve been a part of break out of its bubble. However, there is also a small, selfish part of yourself, that feels sad. Sad that the thing you love is about to become bigger and more successful than ever before and you’ll never again see them in those tiny venues, feet from the stage as they play directly to you. It’s a feeling similar to the one I got watching Baliyan Akki take on Konosuke Takeshita.

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Farewell, Mitsuru

Mitsuru finding great pleasure in her bleeding hand after slapping Mei across the face.

When Gatoh Move announced that Mitsuru Konno was retiring, it was both a blow and somehow entirely unsurprising. The storyline that defined Mitsuru’s 2020 and pushed her to the MVP award in ChocoPro’s second season was built around her bizarre relationship with wrestling. On more than one occasion, she’d expressed that it wasn’t fun for her, and that what kept her going was the need to figure out what exactly it was that made the likes of Mei Suruga fall wildly in love with it.

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Lulu Pencil’s Hat

Before the storm. Credit: ChocoPro

Wrestling titles are weird. You don’t need to work to make a football league or an Olympic gold medal feel important. In a pre-determined sport, however, a title only has as much value as the people competing for it give it. It means that in some companies, they are mere props, McGuffins to build stories around, but with no real value. In others, they are everything, the backbone of what they do and the conduits to incredible moments. That feeling you get when you watch your favourite scratch and claw their way to the top, finally winning the big one, well, there are few things like it. Rarely, though, and I do accept that it’s uncommon, those titles are hats.

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Tokiko Kirihara: ChocoPro’s Success Story

Don’t mess. Credit: ChocoPro

ChocoPro might not have been around long, but it can already lay claim to a success story or two. Both Yunamon and Mitsuru have benefited from long arcs that have seen them grapple with who they are as a wrestler (while season three has hinted at a similar role for Mei). Meanwhile, Emi ‘Oni’ Sakura stirs the pot, looking on as the likes of Lulu Pencil grow in confidence, finding themselves in the ring. Nearly everyone involved has had something for fans to grasp hold of, and yet, ChocoPro’s greatest success story is none of that. Instead, it’s been the growth of one Tokiko Kirihara, known to fans as Otoki.

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Emi Sakura: The Perfect Wrestler

‘You hate me? That’s okay.’ Credit: ChocoPro

Emi Sakura has been wrestling for twenty-five years. That’s longer than some of modern-day joshi’s biggest stars have been alive and covers a period where the scene has changed in countless ways. In that time, Emi has been an erratic constant. Despite having worked for some of the biggest companies and alongside the biggest stars, Sakura-san has ultimately ploughed her own path, doing things in a way that only she could.

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Wrestler Mixtape: Lulu Pencil

Credit: ChocoPro

The second person to have the dubious honour of taking a spot in my wrestling mixtape series debuted nearly a year ago. However, it’s safe to say that over the last 11 and a bit months, Lulu Pencil has made a hell of an impression, proving that freelance writers and wrestlers are basically the same thing…

Despite the limited options (Lulu hasn’t had that many matches), I’ve decided not to include the obvious (so, no Honda) and instead pick out a few other Lulu efforts. Enjoy!

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I Believe In Lulu Pencil

Credit: ChocoPro

Lulu Pencil probably shouldn’t be a wrestler. All those people who claim they could snap Kenny Omega over one knee would be telling the truth if they made the same claim about The Pencil. Her long, skinny frame does not look like it should be involved in physical sport, appearing much more suited to the world of a freelance writer, the job she does when she’s not prowling the mats of Ichigaya. However, Lulu Pencil is a wrestler, and an inspiring one at that.

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Wrestler Mixtape: Kaori Yoneyama

All the belts.

I love mixtapes. Unfortunately, they’re not really a thing any more, making it a love I rarely get to explore. So, in an attempt to scratch that itch, I’ve decided to introduce a new feature to Ramblings About, Wrestling Mixtape. Now and then, I’m going to pick a random wrestler, grab three of their matches off YouTube and have a (spoiler free) ramble about them (I appreciate a mixtape with one band on it would be rather limited, but shush).

To kick it off, I’ve gone with one of my low-key favourites, Kaori Yoneyama. It’s a doubly good choice because there happens to be a wealth of material to choose from. Let’s have a look, shall we?

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Yunamon vs Emi Sakura: Last Woman Standing

Yunamon vs Emi Sakura is the story that ChocoPro has been built around. Yes, there have been divergences, the occasional scurry down another alley, but time after time it’s come back to those two. Emi Sakura believes that two years into her career, Yunamon doesn’t know who she is. That’s she trapped somewhere between an idol and a wrestler, more interested in seeking fan approval than greatness. Unsurprisingly, that’s an opinion that Yunamon took to heart, driving her crazy as she sought to prove herself to the person who trained her. It felt like the only place it could be settled was on Chocolate Square’s mat, and while Sakura initially ducked and dodged Yunamon’s challenges, she finally gave the Tropical Girl what she wanted. It was Oni vs Pineapple in a Last Woman Standing.

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Thank You, ChocoPro

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world is a bit of a shit show at the moment. As if the global pandemic isn’t enough, we still find ourselves having to fight battles against racism and sexual abuse. It’s a situation that has taken a chunk out of everyone, with those who have only suffered excessive bleeding feeling like the lucky ones. However your last few months have looked, it’s probably safe to say you’re not going to forget them any time soon.

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