Join the Pencil Army: The Essential Lulu Pencil

There’s a good possibility you’ve heard the name Lulu Pencil in the past few months. From her recent appearances on AEW Dark (serving her royal highness Emi Sakura), to her recent Pro Wrestling Illustrated cover celebrating her #500 spot (an alternate cover, sure, but they don’t do that for everyone).

The PWI 500 is something of a kayfabe list, but her placement is an achievement nevertheless. In her mention, the publication referred to her “bleak” win/loss record, in a recent live stream, ChocoPro’s Baliyan Akki said even that was too kind. Lulu Pencil doesn’t have a win/loss record. She has a loss record. So what’s all the fuss about?

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Let’s talk about her mentor/partner Emi Sakura. She’s a joshi wrestling legend, best known in the U.S. for her appearances in both crown and Freddie Mercury cosplay in AEW. But her resume is a long one, with appearances in FMW, JWP, IWA Japan, AJW, Michinoku Pro, BJW, DDT, Wrestle-1, Stardom, LLPW. She founded both Ice Ribbon and Gatoh Move. She’s wrestled in the US, the UK, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and in 2009 won the Tokyo Sports Women’s Grand Prize. Her famous students include AEW Champions Riho and Hikaru Shida. She’s legit.

But more importantly, Emi Sakura is an artist first. Her belief is that anyone can be a professional wrestler, which is why she began Darejyo, an intro-to-wrestling class and program open to any women curious about wrestling.

Shuka Yamada was a freelance writer in her early 30’s in Tokyo. She attended Darejyo classes and felt empowered, quickly falling in love with the art. Writing for IGN Japan, she even traced to New Jersey to cover WrestleMania.

Now, I say this as a completely unathletic, uncoordinated person. But she didn’t, as Dusty would say, “look like the athlete of the day supposed to look.” She’s very tall and lanky, a little stiff, and appears to be easily breakable. Like a pencil.

Proud of her career as a freelance writer, she adopted the name Lulu Pencil, and created a uniform of pink hat, pink overalls, and um, big pencil. She quickly took towards the comedic style of wrestling, and became a regular in Gatoh Move, making her pro debut on July 6th, 2019 in a losing effort to Yuna Mizumori. What’s most impressive about this match is how fully formed her character is, but a better starting point for Lulu is this match from her first trip to the UK…


My personal introduction to Lulu Pencil was this match from Pro Wrestling EVE, a women’s promotion that puts on star-studded shows at the Resistance Gallery in London. It’s very punk rock and feminist, if you can’t tell by the Audre Lorde quote on the wall. (Unfortunately, it’s not devoid of the standard britwres controversies including #SpeakingOut criticism and a possibly TERF-y co-founder who resigned in 2020.)

Still, the atmosphere was perfect for a star-making night for Lulu. Her weird roars and an undeniable-but-weird charisma are welcomed with a huge ovation. Her opponent, the brutally likeable wrestling prodigy Mei Suruga, was an opponent sympathetic to Lulu’s shortcomings in the ring.

Beginning with some high pitched screams that caused Mei to corpse a little, Mei simply outwrestled Lulu for the first few minutes of the match. Then Lulu’s assault began…

After tripping Mei (a profoundly difficult task for the weak), Lulu tried to go OLD SCHOOL, but got VERY SCARED, grabbing hold of a pipe. The fans chant “please don’t die” as she shifts down to the second rope, only to drop and hurt her own knee. Mei begins to lose her patience, and starts to tire herself out setting up Lulu for moves only for Lulu to drop from exhaustion.

Lulu then gets her first bit of successful offense, by SCARING HER OPPONENT, and then gets into a Gladiators-esque kick-fight while hanging from an exposed pipe. Gatoh Move’s Baliyan Akki, who served as the referee for the match, pulls Lulu off which drops Mei and gives our hero the advantage.

Lulu’s offense is heavily, um, point-based. Like a pencil. Her second-rope Pencil Splash, hampered a bit by landing on her feet before dropping is ineffective. Another point-based roll attempt to trip up Mei fails, and Mei simply covers the exhausted Lulu for the win.

This match is a masterpiece. It’s got great comedic spots, tells a very simple story with two rookie wrestlers and it’s just really nice. They both got over big with the London crowd. According to Akki, Emi demanded before leaving Japan that she had shirts produced to sell, and she totally sold out after the show. I certainly became a big fan from this match.

Light Side of the Ring: ChocoPro (feat. Mei Suruga & Baliyan Akki)

Gatoh Move’s pandemic-era project is the delightfully fun ChocoPro, an interactive livestream from Ichigaya Chocolate Square covered in more detail . With no pay wall and Patreon funding, the show has been a unique showcase of Emi’s fourth generation of rookies, with a variety of guests, ranging from Aja Kong to Minoru Suzuki. Every show includes a game of janken (rocks, paper, scissors) for the prize of a single piece of chocolate. Lulu Pencil’s star began to rise with the weekly storytelling of ChocoPro, aided by bilingual commentary.

ChocoProLIVE! #63 “I Quit Match” {Pencil Army VS Chris Brooks & Yunamon}

05.25.21 – ChocoPro #120 – Ichigaya Chocolate Square, Tokyo, Japan

Chris Brookes, an English wrestler who made waves in companies like RevPro and PROGRESS before signing to DDT, became an unlikely ChocoPro regular. While he seems nice enough in real life, in ChocoPro, he’s suuuuuch a prick (this is a compliment). While most guests participate (or tolerate) some of the more kawaii elements of ChocoPro, the towering Brookes stands in stark contrast to it. And the writer moonlighting as a wrestler, the bully found a perfect target.

In a rare in-ring match with Brookes, Lulu put up her signature pink hat, and despite a Necro Butcher-style bar fight in chairs, she unsurprisingly lost. But the loss seemed to really affect the bubbly Lulu. Sakura, who took on the “Emi Pencil” moniker in support, offered alternatives (a blue hat, a ribbon), but it was clear this was a matter of respect.

Emi pulled a Skaaland and threw in the towel for an unrelenting Lulu in a tag team “I Quit” match, which also included Lulu rival Yuna Mizumori, which earned Lulu’s hat back as Lulu did not quit. This was followed up by a six-person tag. Deathmatch legend Minoru Fujita, who wrestled Lulu in a “ChocoPro deathmatch” gained some respect for Lulu as a former underachiever himself. The three formed the PENCIL ARMY(!), and took on Brooks and Mizumori, joined by the badass (other) ASUKA, also known as VENY.

This match is a perfect encapsulation of the ChocoPro style. Fast paced, occasionally comedic wrestling, with a heavy emphasis on storytelling and window-based high spots. But the stakes are high with this one.

When it comes down to Lulu and Brookes, Lulu takes a real, believeable ass-kicking. Mei Suruga, standing in as referee, even loses her composure when Brookes slaps Lulu across the face. But the Pencil Army fights back. Lulu hits a legit Pencil Splash! Could this be Lulu’s first win?

As Lulu is locked in the octopus stretch, she refuses to quit yet again, but Brookes kicks her in the neck and spine repeatedly. It’s hard to watch. Mei reluctantly counts three. An eerie silence falls over the room as Brooks cuts a promo on Emi and Fujita on the ground, calling them broken down, has-been losers, before drawing his attention to a beaten-down Lulu:

“Don’t take this as motivation, Lulu. Don’t be inspired and fired up. That’s a mistake. Take this as a lesson, okay? You don’t belong here. You’re not a professional wrestler. You’re a writer, and that’s all you’re ever gonna be.”


07.22.21 – ChocoPro #137 – Ichigaya Chocolate Square, Tokyo, Japan

There’s some magic to Ichiaya Chocolate Square, with all the credit to the performers involved. The room looks like a preschool classroom with laminated posters of the names and logos of their patrons on the bright blue walls. But somehow, they can capture a “big fight feel” better than most WWE main events.

If you had only seen that first Lulu Pencil match, it would seem like a joke that she’d be in a 30-minute iron man match. But Lulu Pencil is no joke. And this match proves it.

Brookes was up to his typical Brookes prick shit, heckling during the introductions. He’s not just over-confident…he’s above this. They do a little test of strength early in the match, with Brookes bending Lulu’s spine over his knee as Akki yells, “PENCILS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BEND THAT WAY!”

Chris Brookes toyed with Lulu Pencil, daring referee Mei to stop the match. At one point, Lulu attempted to slide down a table, only to be caught by Brookes and suplexed onto it. She’s bashed against the wall and gets the sponsors’ wall decorations shoved into her mouth. Brookes picks up multiple falls.

Brookes then teases Lulu by breaking pencils in her face, so she stabbed him in the knee. At one point, the match moved into the alleyway outside, and Lulu used the security shutters and droped them onto Brookes, getting an upper hand. Lulu even locked on his signature octopus stretch. At one point she body slamed him onto two chairs.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Lulu got Brookes locked in an octopus hold, which he attempted to reverse with a tilt-a-whirl slam. But Lulu’s slender frame slipped out, allowing her to him up…1…2…3! Lulu Pencil pined Chris Brookes.

Then, the bell rang. Brookes was still up 3-1, so Chris is in the books as the winner. When he sits down to remove his wrist tape, we might expect some more shit talking, but instead he picked up an ice pack that fell off of Lulu’s head and hugged her close. To even her biggest doubters, she has proven that she is a professional wrestler.

Then, because it’s ChocoPro, he goes “janken time,” cuing a rock, paper, scissors tournament.

lulu pencil on Twitter

Shortly after, Lulu Pencil announced an excursion to America, where she has made multiple appearances as Emi’s pocket watch-timing servant, even on All Out. She’s also been documenting their adjustment to American life on Twitter, which is so much fun to watch. For longtime (relatively speaking) fans, seeing Lulu Pencil and CM Punk hanging out is genuinely inspiring. After all, I too, am a freelance writer.

Time will tell if Lulu’s story will continue in AEW, or if we’ll see her step into the ring. Lately, Emi has added Mei Suruga to the act as The Killer Queens.

Time will tell if Lulu’s story will continue in AEW, or if we’ll see her step into the ring. Even in the fairy tale world of pro wrestling, sometimes a true underdog steps into the spotlight. And as Lulu exposes herself to the wrestling world outside of the Chocolate Square, her growing skills will only get sharper. Like a pencil.

P.S. I recently got to interview my favorite wrestler, along with the legendary Emi Sakura on my show Wrestling Club with Darren & Brett, on the non-profit radio station, WFMU. I was a little too excited but you would be too if you got to do the “Pencil Army” thing: