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Thursday, June 09, 2022

2022 Ongoing MOTY List: Takanashi vs. Shiryu

9. Masahiro Takanashi vs. Chon Shiryu Choco Pro 1/22

SR: I'll start by talking about the problems with this match. It was a bit silly, a bit too long, and there was some sloppiness mostly caused by them wrestling on this pillow mat where you probably don't have good footing. Aside from all that, it was a really good match and another case for Takanashi being the one good big match worker in Japan. Starts with some nice grappling, but they soon move to the meat of the match. Takanashi's vicious matwork vs. Shiryu's awesome Jackie Chan moves. Shiryu really knew how to bounce around that little room and those windows. The back roll handspring through the window was just awesome and so were all the diving kicks and stomps. Takanashi's style is a mix of sadistic Fuchi leg stretches and innovative stuff that works like using the stool on the leg. As I said there is some sloppiness and the match goes a bit long, but they both sold their butts off, built really well to some big spots and kept me enthralled in the match the whole way, there was never a moment where I said "fuck this" which is quite rare for 2022 wrestling.

PAS: I thought this was completely awesome, it had a very Yard Call vibe. You have this oddball setting, a padded mat in what looked like a day care center or elementary school, but two guys who are committed to using that odd setting in awesome, creative and sensible ways. Takanashi is a vicious fuck, just driving Shiryu's knees into walls, windowsills and even a sink, and then putting on these sick cranking holds and leglocks. Meanwhile Shiryu is jumping around this room like Iko Uwasis, leaping in and out of windows, putting on a choke using a support beam, hitting a code red into a wall. This was a match with ten things that made me gasp and nothing which made me groan, can't ask much more than that.

ER: This match feels like the best possible evolution of mine and my high school friends' specific backyard wrestling style, a style which was developed after two very important Life Events: 1) All of us watching Fully Loaded '98 and flipping out for the Hart Dungeon match, and 2) My friend Steve and I discovering a back room in our school's gymnasium where they were keeping old wrestling mats and other junk. Originally our school gym was designed to have several classrooms in the outer perimeters of the building, but many of those rooms just got turned into junk storage. The day we found the unlocked room with mats and too many props was the day we founded the RWF (Redwood Wrestling Federation, with Redwood being our school's name), with our style peaking when we also found out where the school stored the high jump crash pad. That's what lead to us doing nothing but dangerous highflying off the gym stage, ladders, basketball hoops, and hand railings. It also implausibly lead to our "club" getting our picture in the yearbook. I don't remember ever officially registering our club, because it would have been very difficult to explain "oh yeah we found this unlocked room behind the gym with a bunch of junk in it, and we started hitting each other with all of the junk, and then when the room was locked we found a way to keep breaking into that room. No, to our knowledge nobody in any kind of authority position knows that we do this. Yes, we also broke into the room with all clothing donations to look for vintage running shorts."

Shiryu and Takanashi are much more innovative and clever than a bunch of 16 year olds doing WWF finishers on old wrestling mats, but the inspirations are undeniable. It's set in a pre-school classroom with kids' achievement diplomas on the wall (and a banner with the AEW logo featured on it. Is AEW a Choco Pro satellite affiliate??), and it's nothing but prop comedy used to inflict actual pain. Takanashi has some of the wickedest knee work in wrestling, stretching Shiryu's knee joints with submissions and then battering them about the room: He hits a front suplex onto a countertop, runs him knee first into walls, drops him knee first onto windowsills, and at one point just picks him up and drives those knees into the mat. He makes incredible use of a child size table, smacking it into Shiryu's knee and using the table to lock in a figure 4 type submission (think Greg Valentine adjusting his shin guard, but instead using a small table). Shiryu has his own cool repertoire, immediately winning me over when he does a fistdrop to Takanashi's back (then claims it was a palmdrop to the ref), but is soon doing wild things like a slick back roll handspring through an open window and locking on a triangle choke while dangling from an I-beam (which gets reversed into a dragon screw). Shiryu has cool offense that he can pull out unexpectedly, and also works in several spots involving the windowsills, even selling his painfully worked over knees by not being able to complete some moves after jumping to the windowsills. A lot of this should not have worked, but instead managed to be an excellent mix of "modern Japanese wrestling" and "two brothers pushing together their beds to use them as a wrestling ring".

MD: I've only dabbled a bit in ChocoPro during the pandemic, as opposed to watching it religiously or anything. My general image of it, if you were to have one image seared onto your brain, would be Suruga running across a wall like I did in the back stairways of my high school twenty-five years ago. When you think about it, though, so many of the norms and tropes in pro wrestling have to do with the inherent possibilities of the environment. The ropes came first. The way to use them came second. The turnbuckles came first. Figuring out how to climb them or use them as a weapon came second. Here, they have a room. There's a beam, a window, a wall. This match felt like the culmination of being in that room for a couple of years and having matches where they added one bit of experimentation after another, with this finally putting it all together. What made it all work was the commitment from all parties, both wrestlers, the announcer, Brooks shouting advice to his partner, the rest of the watchers verbally reacting, Suruga as one of the top comedic physical presences of our time willing to do anything necessary as ref. You're going to look for strings twice as much as usual when you're watching a match in an unusual environment. It just takes you out of your comfort zone. Here though, you could hardly see them at all.

And, of course, the work would have been good anywhere in the world. It was enhanced by the use of the environment and bringing together all of those imaginative elements, and yes, it would have fallen apart if they didn't act like they were completely believing every moment (nothing was really taken for a lark, even when they used Suruga as a platform). Things were sold, both physically and emotionally. The first third of the match, after the feeling out chain wrestling, was Shiryu targeting Takanashi's back to high effect. Maybe his selling could have lingered a bit more (which is my other criticism as after the long and very well done legwork that makes up the meat of the match, the finishing stretch sort of shrugged it off for big shots and a bigger playground dive), but the transition was great. All of the dragon screws were great but I liked the first one the best as it was all about Shiryu needing to use his environment (hanging from the rafters here to get more height) and Takanashi taking advantage of that extra bit of danger. What made all of this work so well was that they were concerned not about tearing down tropes and norms, not in being deconstructive for the sake of it or to open up creative shortcuts in hitting big spots (no reason to name names here), but in using the building blocks of pro wrestling as a base to use their environment to create something new and meaningful.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link doesn't work

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Emi Sakura owns Choco Pro so that's why there's an AEW logo there probably

2:32 PM  
Blogger EricR said...

Link should work now, sorry about that.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of Baliyan Akki's title defenses are worth checking out if you're not into the usual Gatoh Move style

7:29 AM  
Anonymous Curt said...

I have a great memory of us middle school boys finding a similar storage room and going buck wild with the dives. I put a body-size pad down and decided to do a frog splash onto it. That was the first and last time I did that. The pain can stay on the screen or in a venue, please and thank you...

1:49 PM  

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