Last Monday, myself and a few others here on the blog watched a professional wrestling show. And you should watch it too.
I’d like to tell you about it.
Let’s watch some wrestling, shall we?
I try not to get too high-minded about what we watch here on the BoD (Toru Yano’s existence alone disproves that notion), but there is a certain real beauty, at least in my mind, to pro wrestling. It skirts the dividing line of theater and sports, sometimes leaning far towards one or the other, yet that duality, that notion that it may be one of the single last true bastions of defense for the fading concept of theater in the round, that makes me smile quite a lot.
And yeah, there’s certainly something that I love about criticism of the arts; I like the thought process of it, the idea that two people can observe something and see such radically different things in it. To debate, to analyze, to let it truly AFFECT you in some manner, whether it be for the light-hearted tomfoolery (got that word into a blog post, finally!) or a mat classic that engages our most primal sense of stomach-fluttering fandom with it’s intensity, that feels REAL to me. To come here, to lay it all out with each other and agree and disagree and revel in loving this thing that, for so many, seems like nothing more than bad actors in the midst of a playfight.
On Monday, September 5th, New Japan held a show in the Korakeun Hall. It was not a classic show. It didn’t break any new ground, didn’t have any classic matches, in general was just a stop on the Burning Spirit tour that will eventually lead to bigger shows down the road. But there was a key difference on this particular day, and that was that for the first time in literally years, the fans in Japan were allowed to cheer and boo. To let forth with their voices and finally unleash what had been forcefully pent up for so long, these fans sold out the show.
And it was one of the most delightful, wonderful shows I’ve seen in a long, long time. So with the wrestling world breathlessly awaiting whatever crisis is next to befall it, I decided that I wanted to talk about a show that….well, I wanted to talk about a show that did the thing I love most about watching wrestling.
It made me smile.
Let’s go. No match ratings, let’s just go.
Burning Spirit Tour – New Japan Pro Wrestling, Korakuen Hall, September 5th, 2022
You may think, as a wrestling fan, that there isn’t a perfect way to start a show, that the nuances and differences between specific events and companies mean that there isn’t an objective best way to begin a professionl wrestling program; but you would be objectively wrong, as this event demonstrated that the best way to start a show is a COKED-UP HIROMU TAKAHASHI RUNNING TO THE RING AND CUTTING A CRAZY FUCKING PROMO ABOUT WHAT THE CROWD CAN DO TONIGHT.
So, yeah, that happens and we’re off to a good start.
Hiromu runs around the ring some more and even though I couldn’t understand a single word the little muppet said, I was ready to die for him after he was done. And we waste no time before…..
BAD DUDE TITO VS MINORU SUZUKI
I mean, come on. They clearly booked this show for me.
Anyhow, Bad Dude Tito comes out and awaits his fate, and that fate is two years’ worth of ‘Kaze Ni Nare’!! shouted by the crowd as The King makes his entrance. Suzuki has a smile on his face a mile wide, like this moment meant something truly special for him or that he feasted on the tenderly cooked limbs of small children before coming to the ring. You know, one of the two. It’s just as heartwarming and terrifying as it sounds.
Bad Dude Tito attempts to use his bad dudeness to full effect and wrestle Suzuki, so Murder Grandpa obliges and they grapple on the mat for funsies. Suzuki ends up on the apron and he armbars Tito there, then brings him out where Tito sends Suzuki to the barricade. Tito with the open-handed strikes, so Suzuki puts him in a front facelock and decides to destroy Tito’s shoulder because…..well, he wants to win the match. Also, the tears of Bad Dude Tito will sustain his lifeforce for another generation due to the inherent power they contain.
Back in and Suzuki goes for a Penalty Kick, but gets caught by Suzuki and Tito bowls him over with a shoulder as the crowd chants Tito’s name! Yeah! Blue Thunder Bomb gets two for Tito! Gutwrench Powerbomb by Tito gets two! Tito with strikes, but this proves to be an error as Suzuki does not believe in Badness, Dudeness, or Titoness. One choke and Gotch-Style Piledriver later, and Tito is helped from the ring after Suzuki pins him. (Minoru Suzuki over Bad Dude Tito, pinfall, 8:44)
Suzuki attempts to yank the ref’s shoulder out of his socket as a souvenir after the match because he CAN.
House of Torture (SHO, Dick Togo, Yujiro Takahashi, EVIL) vs CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOH, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI)
Oh, just listen to the beautiful sound of the Japanese crowd booing the SHIT out of the House of Torture as they drag a dog cage down to the ring. And this is SUSTAINED heat, so rather unfortunately on that front, the HoT appears to be over enough to at least pretend to be top heels. But on the other hand, the crowd is having a great time jeering their each and every move. Meanwhile, all the babyfaces come out with anti-HoT shirts on, which is just the HoT logo with a giant line drawn through it, Ghostbusters style. Somewhere, Bullet Club Hunter Yoshi Tatsu nods in silent approval at this sage design choice.
HoT attacks before the bell and everyone heads outside. Back in and we start the match proper, and Goto tags in YOH, who gets a pop. YOH! Gets a pop! This crowd is the greatest. Anyway, YOH’s Hot Topic hair fires away on EVIL, but SHO gets a knee from the apron, allowing EVIL to toss YOH and everyone heads back out to the floor because, you know. Yujiro is in the match and the less he’s in the ring, the better.
YOH gets the hell beat out of him for awhile as the HoT heat section doesn’t bother me as much as it should with the crowd carrying this match. YOH finally hits SHO with a dropkick and it’s HOT TAG YOSHI-HASHI. Really can’t believe I’m typing those words in the year of our Lord 2022, but hey, YOSHI has earned it over the last year and change. Speaking of guys who haven’t earned it, Yujiro comes in to slowly stink up the joint for a bit.
But that doesn’t last long, as Togo comes in and now we get the tag that everyone wanted as Toru Yano gets officially tagged into the match and the crowd goes batshit for him. Togo takes an inverted atmoic drop and sells it like someone shocked his nuts with an electric wire. The HoT comes in and everyone pairs off until we get Togo and Yano alone in the ring. In a finish no one saw coming, Yano hits a low blow with the ref’s back turned and rolls up Togo for the pin. (CHAOS over House of Torture, pinfall, 9:15)
Hey, that didn’t suck (as much)! Post-match, HoT leaves everyone laying and they want the 6-man tag belts, which they’ll get a shot at on the 18th.
Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Bad Luck Fale, Hikuleo) vs United Empire (Great O-Khan, Jeff Cobb, Lord Gideon Grey)
Holy fuck, I cannot imagine a worse trios team than that Bullet Club team. Even Tony Khan, with his recent experience with Trios teams, cannot imagine a worse trios team than that Bullet Club trios team.
Bullet Club attacks before bell and we end up with a 3 on 1 vs Grey. But Fale gets pulled out by GOK and Grey makes a go of it with Chase for a bit. The rest of UE comes in and we now get a 3 on 1 vs Owens, as GOK sits on Chase in the corner while I think about how little talent Owens has on the apron while my mind wanders a bit. Bullet Club ends up regaining the advantage and here’s a tag to Hikuleo, who gets more than a few ‘ahhhs’ as he steps over the top rope.
Beatdown commences including a tag to Fale, so a beatdown to my brain as well. Back to Hikuleo, and he doesn’t totally embarrass himself, which is an important step. GOK in with chops for everyone! He somehow avoids a charging (Ha, who am I kidding?) Fale and we’re back to Hikuleo vs GOK now. They do some back and forth that kind of sucks and we end up with a double down.
Grey with a blind tag in and the crowd digs it! He charges, gets powerslammed and chokeslammed by Hikuleo for the pin immediately. Yep. (Bullet Club over United Empire, pinfall, 9:50)
Nothing to see here.
Master Wato, Ryusuke Taguchi, & The DKC vs United Empire (Francesco Akira, TJP, Aaron Henare)
The G-1 definitely does something for me every year, and that is that it makes the return of the Juniors after some time off a very welcome sight. Yes, even TJP. He has bitching music.
Akira and Wato kick us off and the crowd is still jacked. For Wato! Now THAT’S a dedicated crowd right there. Tag to the DKC and they dig him too. Watch Strong for awhile, crowd. You’ll dissipate that feeling rather quickly. Regardless, he runs wild on TJP and tags in Taguchi. TJP tries to escape like Taguchi has a COVID vaccine in his tights, and finally does to tag in Akira as the United Empire takes over.
More beatings in the corner from TJP on Taguchi and the crowd loves it. Crowd pretty much loves everything as Taguchi is taking a shitkicking and they’re just cheering it on. Finally, Taguchi manages to hit Akira with the ass attack of doom and it’s hot tag Wato! Wato, who is dangerously close to putting his shit together FINALLY in NJPW, does some nice stuff with Akira for a bit and the match breaks down with everyone running in.
Wato with the tag to DKC as Henare gets the tag on his side. DKC starts throwing kicks and yelling ‘Hi-ya!’ with each one and the Japanese commentators play along, saying it with him. Ha! Stereo planchas by Wato and Taguchi hit the tag champs on the outside as DKC chops Henare down for two. Submission attempt by DKC is countered into a spinning powerbomb by Henare, followed by a HUGE spear to get the pin for Aaron. (United Empire over Taguchi, Wato, and the DKC, pinfall, 10:56)
Post-match, Taguchi and Wato want da belts, UE wants to keep da belts. Circle of life.
It’s also here that I realize that Jay White is going to have to come up with a new taunt for the Japanese crowd, since now they CAN chant the other wrestlers’ names in certain places.
KUSHIDA/JADO vs Bullet Club (GEDO/Taiji Ishimori)
KUSHIDA!!!!!!! Rick Fact – KUSHIDA’s NJPW theme music has been the main ringtone on my phone for the last 3 years. And let us not neglect the weirdest babyface that somehow works in New Japan, former scumbag JADO who now is borrowing and posing with KUSHIDA’s glasses before the match. Don’t get me wrong, he still sucks, but he sucks in a tremendously fun way now.
Bookerman and Ishimori are out next and JADO wants him a piece of GEDO, but the crowd wants KUSHIDA to start, so the babyfaces give them what they want. They go to the mat and work, they get up and work, and it’s all awesome and I can already see the ****+ Junior Title match they’re going to have when the time comes. Ishimori works a different dynamic then he does with Hiromu to a certain extent, doing more grappling and he’s great at it.
Tag to GEDO and the crowd DEMANDS JADO. JADO chops GEDO from pillar to post as the crowd “WOOOOOOS!” the entire way before chanting JADO’s name as GEDO screams in agony and curses. Man, we are in the upside-down, aren’t we? Everyone heads out to the floor so the heels can cheat like bastards as the crowd boos.
We do, however, get back in the ring for some heat on JADO now. This involves a lot of choking and eye raking and dramatic selling, which, you know. It’s alright. I mean, JADO sucks so it can’t be much more, but GEDO does do a competent fistdrop for two. Finally, JADO starts JADOing up on GEDO and makes the big comeback with a shoulder! Not exactly the Hulkster out there, but it does the job and it’s tags on both sides.
KUSHIDA and Ishimori go nuts on each other again until GEDO tries to interfere in that and ends up with Ishimori’s face in his balls. Yeah, it happened. Bloody Cross by Taiji and both guys are down as the crowd chants for KUSHIDA now. Tag to GEDO and it’s breaking loose in Korakuen as everyone comes in, and somewhere in that KUSHIDA gets a Hammerlock suplex with a bridge to pin GEDO. (KUSHIDA/JADO over Bullet Club, pinfall, 10:03)
Post-match, Ishimori taunts KUSHIDA with the Junior belt.
Bullet Club (El Phantasmo/KENTA) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi/BUSHI)
Before the match, ELP reveals his brand new ‘ELP is my Daddy’ shirt in the LIJ font. Because, as has been established, ELP is, in fact, Shingo’s daddy. He attempts to give it to Takagi as a gift, but Shingo has no interest in this fine article of clothing.
ELP and Shingo kick us off and ELP clowns to start as the crowd is fresh from intermission and very into this one. Shingo comes back by sending ELP into the lights off a, shall we say, biiiiiigggg back bodydrop, tag to BUSHI. BUSHI threatens to do offensive moves to ELP, so Bullet Club cheats and KENTA kicks BUSHI to the floor.
Back in and the Bullet Club team cuts the ring in half and beats on BUSHI, as KENTA uses his book to show the power of reading by smashing BUSHI in the head with it several times. Eh, it’s a slim volume, he’ll be fine. KENTA with a boston crab on BUSHI. Shingo tries to break it up, but KENTA no-sells all of his shots and BUSHI is forced to make the ropes.
Back to ELP for a devastating titty twister. BUSHI comes back with a ‘rana, and it’s hot tag Shingo. He wallops the hell out of ELP to the delight of the crowd, tosses KENTA and sentons ELP for two. They do some really good back-and-forth before Shingo tags in BUSHI. BUSHI makes a go of it against both Bullet Club guys, but the writing is clearly on the wall here. Shingo comes back in to take out ELP, but gets run into an exposed buckle and superkicked. Doomsday Device by the heels is followed by the CR2 from ELP and we’re done. (Bullet Club over LIJ, pinfall, 11:56)
Post-match, ELP steals a fan’s hat and tosses it into the crowd, but still too sweets them anyway.
Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr, Taichi, El Desperado) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito)
YES! YES! YES! Suffice to say, this match fucking rules. I’m just gonna gush about it for several paragraphs anyway, so let’s just put that on front street. Hiromu is STILL absolutely jacked as though he’s just been running around on a sugar high backstage for the entire show. Actually, that seems like a decent bet to be true. Naito blinks a few times with a little smile as he comes out and I daresay that the head Ingobernable might be a slight bit emotional as the crowd chants his name.
Hell, even Taichi is smiling! Naito wants to start with ZSJ and I’m not gonna lie, if we get the Dangerous Tekkers in World Tag League to mix it up with Naito/SANADA again, I will watch the HELL out of that match. Taichi decides to start instead and we ring the bell as the crowd is ready to GO. Naito goes after Zack anyway and Taichi chokes him out as a result, so ZSJ comes in while the ref is warning him and takes him over in a leg scissors to be a dick.
Desperado in next and he takes a turn with Naito, and talk about a match I wanna see. SANADA does a little cheating from the apron and Hiromu runs in as the whole match breaks down about a minute in, which is fine with me. Despy is your creepy lucha heel in peril as SANADA comes in to beat on him for a bit. Now Hiromu, and we certainly know what these two can do in a ring together.
Desperado finally makes a comeback with a spinebuster, and we’ve got tags to ZSJ and Naito on both sides. They run a sprint for a bit as we remember their G-1 match with Naito getting a flash pin. No such ending here as ZSJ puts him in a leglock and does a spot where SANADA comes in and ZSJ stands and challenges him to try to get him to break the hold, so SANADA slaps him in the chest and ZSJ goes down like he’s been shot. Hee! I love how Zack’s arrogant bullshit where he thinks that because he can outwrestle a guy he can also stand up to their best strike comes through. It always works and is a tremendous spot. ZSJ thinks so little of this, though, that he stands up, keeps Naito in the leglock, and then puts SANADA in an Octopus at the same time!
Back to more tying of Naito in knots now, but Naito makes the ropes. So ZSJ stomps on his knee for his insolence, and they do a pinfall reversal sequence. SANADA in with ZSJ and they do a rolling series of snapmares and ZSJ slaps on an Octopus that SANADA hiptosses out of. Taichi in. He and SANADA throw down in a manly titty pop battle amongst the strikes and kicks as Hiromu comes flying across the ring to knock down El Desperado off the apron.
Everyone comes flying in and hits moves on each other now until we get Taichi and SANADA again and Taichi gets the Sumo throw to a GIANT reaction. Taichi goes to pull off the pants, but SANADA comes up from behind and straightjackets him with his fingers hooked in! Roll up with the trapped hands, 1, 2, 3! (LIJ over Suzuki-Gun, pinfall, 11:45)
The sight of Taichi with his pants half-off barely realizing what happened? Tremendous. Also, that sentence taken out of context could be dirty.
The Mighty Don’t Kneel (JONAH, Shane Haste) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada
Oh man. I mean, MAN. Tanahashi comes out and there are TEARS in his eyes as the crowd goes nuts for him. There might be a few very manly ones in mine as well. This man is just the greatest babyface basically ever. Okada’s got a bit of it too as he implores the crowd to let him hear it while he walks around the ring. Crowd chants for Okada, chants for Tanahashi, chants for JONAH, they chant for SHANE! This crowd rules.
Okada and JONAH look to start, and the crowd is TORN, chanting for both guys at once! Okada tries shoulderblocks and doesn’t move JONAH an inch, as they are doing every single thing right to make JONAH an absolute monster that Okada still can’t figure out how to solve. Tag to Shane and the crowd wants the Ace, so Okada tags him in and here comes Tanahashi.
Shane makes the most of it, doing a really fun bit with Tana as we get our first bit of air guitar from the Ace after a crossbody. Tag to JONAH, who just murders Tana on the floor with a headbutt. From there, the heels murder Tanahashi for awhile as the heat grows with each passing kick that the Ace winces from. JONAH even mocks the air guitar, the bastard. Tana tries a comeback and JONAH destroys him with a headbutt. But JONAH tries to follow that with a splash and Tanahashi moves, hot tag Okada!
Okada in now and he runs wild on JONAH, but tries a slam and JONAH falls on him for two. Okada gets an uppercut and the Money Clip, but JONAH escapes and Shane is in now. He gets over a bit with some giant cannonballs in the corner, but runs into an Okada dropkick and now it’s hot tag Tanahashi! Slingblade by the Ace, then the somersault senton off the ropes for two.
JONAH comes in and we get a TMDK double team, including a double splash, but Okada makes the save! Crowd is screaming for Tana as heel miscommunication leads to Shane hitting a kick on JONAH by accident, then a double suplex by Okada and Tanahashi on JONAH. That leaves us with Shane and Tanahashi in the ring, and Shane gives it a go with a belly-to-back suplex. But Tana escapes a DVD and hits a Slingblade, goes up, Aces High! Up again, High Fly Flow!! (Hiroshi Tanahashi/Kazuchika Okada over TMDK, pinfall, 16:17)
Post-match, JONAH and Okada have some words and JONAH gives them a double bird before leaving. Tanahashi gets the mic as the crowd chants his name and the man is simply overcome. You don’t need to understand his words to feel what he’s saying, truly. It comes across in a wave of beautiful emotion. He finishes and the crowd chants for Okada, and the Rainmaker gives a slightly embarrassed smile, but takes the mic regardless to say his piece. He finishes and hands the mic back to Tanahashi, because really, who else could it be to bring this rodeo to a close? Who else but the man? The Ace? The heart and soul of New Japan? He salutes the crowd and sends them home, and if you watch the backstage comments, you will see the Ace openly weeping as he finally couldn’t hold it in any longer. What a true gift to professional wrestling this man is.
And we’re done.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I really, really, really fucking love professional wrestling.
This show is free on NJPWworld, if you want to watch it. You should do so.
As always, thanks for reading this thing I wrote,
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