ChocoPro Wrestling: Rock, Paper, Suplex
June 7, 2021 5:13 PM   Subscribe

Professional wrestling, to most American viewers, is a big-budget, mass-market, massively-muscled-lunkheads kind of product. The connoisseur, however, may opt to check out a rather different kind of wrasslin' experience... such as one that doesn't need ropes, or an elevated ring, or a live audience, or much of anything beyond a strong spirit, an emptied-out dentist's waiting room, and a dream.

Emi Sakura may be familiar to western fans from her work with All Elite Wrestling (AEW), but she has had a long (20+ years) and storied career in Japanese women's wrestling, and not just as a performer. She has trained upwards of fifty wrestlers and founded several promotions, including:

* Ice Ribbon (a joshi promotion in its 16th year, featuring both adult wrestlers and some as young as nine),
* Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling, originally based in Bangkok, Thailand but migrating to Ichigawa Chocolate Square over time, and...
* Choco Pro Wrestling, Gatoh's sister promotion, sharing Ichigawa Chocolate Square and currently active.

Ichigawa Chocolate Square is precisely what it looks like -- a dentist's office's waiting room, with sliding windows that open up into an alleyway, and mats laid down in the center. The edge of the mats serves as the phantom ring rope for breaking submission holds; the windows are common perches for (relatively) high-flying moves. Gatoh Move shows have rows of chairs set up for a small audience; ChocoPro does not, and thus managed to remain active during times of COVID, generally broadcasting two one-hour shows per week to a worldwide audience.

The shows are... unusual, to say the least; they've been described as being designed for a Western audience. All action is done directly to the camera. Shows start with sing-alongs, warm-up squat exercises, and other creative mayhem; shows end with a Janken (Rock-Scissors-Paper) tournament between all present, with a piece of chocolate going to the ultimate winner.

"NO PAY WALL" is one of Choco's credos; they put all shows up for free on their YouTube channel, and have an assortment of ways that friends of the show can financially support it via donations. (The wrestlers will point out and read off sponsors' names on the wall during the show, though said names sometimes get used as makeshift weapons as well.)

As for the wrestling, itself? The promotion does an excellent job of mixing seasoned veterans in with up-and-coming young talents, with fast-paced and necessarily-creative action. Matches are frequently inter-gender, and double-teams are not only legal but something of your civic duty as a participant. Wrestlers who are not in a match double as referees, some more suited to that task than others. Storytelling is important, and reasonably English-friendly; the saga of tiny Lulu Pencil, freelance writer turned wrestler with noodle arms and a gigantic fighting spirit, struggling for the respect of History's Greatest Monster, Chris Brookes is an excellent starting point.

125 shows in and still going strong, the ChocoPro phenomenon continues to entertain. Do check it out.
posted by delfin (3 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Posts like this are why I keep coming here. This is amazing.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:07 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]

I assumed, based on the name, that there would be chocobos. Trying not to be too disappointed. This is still pretty rad, though.
posted by xedrik at 11:36 AM on June 8

Not that this post received a riproaring response, but for those interested, the Season 7 Finale will be aired live in about two and a half hours.
posted by delfin at 3:21 PM on June 12

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