We’re off to Yokohama for the start of the Burning Spirit tour… and the debut of a familiar face in New Japan.

Quick Results
The DKC submitted Kosei Fujita in 6:45 (**¾)
Yujiro Takahashi, EVIL, SHO & Dick Togo pinned Ryohei Oiwa, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & YOH in 9:44 (**¾)
Master Wato, Ryusuke Taguchi & Jado pinned Gideon Grey, TJP & Francesco Akira in 9:18 (***¼)
Aaron Henare, Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb submitted Gedo, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens in 7:58 (**¾)
Hikuleo, Taiji Ishimori & KENTA pinned Tomoaki Honma, KUSHIDA & Togi Makabe in 9:15 (**¾)
El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi pinned BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito & SANADA in 11:04 (***)
JONAH, Bad Dude Tito & Shane Haste pinned Toru Yano, Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi in 14:24 (***¼)

Don’t get too used to these – I’m not fully going back to New Japan coverage… For the first show after the G1 Climax (not counting that TV special), we’re coming from the Yokohama Budokan for the start of this tour, which’ll be highlighted (at least early on) by the return of vocal crowds at Korakuen Hall next week.

Kosei Fujita vs. The DKC
The DKC was replacing Alex Coughlin, who was originally announced for the tour despite not having recovered from injury…

DKC eschews the headband early as he went to ground with Fujita in the opening stages, scrambling for a hold as the pair end in the ropes. The pair trade forearms until a back elbow gets DKC a one-count, while a chinlock ended in the ropes. A snapmare and a kick to the back gets DKC a two-count, before he took Fujita to the corner.

Fujita’s thrown into the opposite buckles as a leaping back elbow squashed him ahead of a snap suplex for a two-count. Eventually, Fujita made a comeback, landing a couple of dropkicks, before he looked to roll DKC into a Boston crab. Once rolled over, DKC’s forced to hand-walk into the ropes, but Fujita pulls him away as second time was the charm for DKC, who crawled under the ropes to force the break.

Kicks from Fujita keep DKC down, but DKC comes back with some DKC chops, then his take on an anaconda vise to force the submission. A pretty decent opening match, with DKC freshening up the pool of Young Lions somewhat. **¾

House of Torture (EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, SHO & Dick Togo) vs. Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, YOH & Ryohei Oiwa
Something tells me Oiwa is taking a fall here as we preview a NEVER trios title match later in the tour. Goto, YOSHI-HASHI and YOH were all out in House of Torture shirts with a crossed circle “sprayed” onto them. They’re the new Right To Censor?

Those meanies didn’t even get a shirt for Oiwa, so… do I have to cheer the House of Torture now? Mind you, they did get one for Makoto Abe, whose recent life at ringside has seen him get obliterated by EVIL time and time again.

The House of Torture had enough though, and jump start proceedings. SHO chokes out YOH with the “House of Torture Busters” towel, but YOH threws his way free… only to get his eyes raked. A drop toe hold and low dropkick has YOH back in it, before Yujiro’s attempt to make a save left him getting triple-teamed.

Dick Togo tries to join in, but YOH makes him poke his own eyes before SHO and YOH went to pull on each others’ hair. It led to YOH being thrown into a suspiciously-exposed corner, while Yujiro tagged in to slow things down a little. Things pick up again with EVIL and Goto, but EVIL’s going to the eyes… before YOSHI-HASHI ran in to help charge him down.

Goto hiptossed YOSHI-HASHI onto EVIL, before everyone piles onto Dick Togo and EVIL. Of course, the referee won’t count the pin, and after the ring cleared, Yujiro’s back to boot Goto by the ropes. A second boot’s blocked as Goto returned with a clothesline, while Oiwa tagged in to land a dropkick and a shoulder block for a two-count.

A gutwrench suplex from Oiwa’s blocked, before Yujiro got ganged up on in the corner by the rest of CHAOS, softening him up for that gutwrench suplex. The rest of House of Torture break up the cover, but Oiwa’s quickly back with a Boston crab… which Togo broke up with an eye rake. From there, Yujiro went for a reverse DDT, but it’s countered with an inside cradle, before a lariat took Oiwa down for a near-fall. Seconds later though, Yujiro lands a Pimp Juice, and so the prophecy was foretold as Oiwa went down for the count. **¾

Ryusuke Taguchi, Master Wato & Jado vs. United Empire (TJP, Francesco Akira & Gideon Grey)
Well, this is a bloody weird sight. Those backstage promos of Will Ospreay during the G1 teased a new member of the United Empire, and I think everyone was caught out by it being Gideon Grey. You love to see it, and all that…

TJP and Akira jump Wato and Taguchi to start, leading to them isolating Wato in the early stages. Taguchi makes a save with a hip attack, before he and Wato cornered Akira and TJP with charges into the corner… leading to a pair of low dropkicks after they’d been rolled out. Jado’s in as Akira’s triple-teamed, eventually taking a Taguchi leaping arse before Jado chopped the Italian into the corner.

Gideon gets involved, holding Jado’s legs in the corner as Akira’s thrown into Jado with a dropkick… and with TJP and Akira planchaing onto Wato and Taguchi, Gideon takes his shot at Jado with some stomps. A front facelock held Jado down long enough for Akira and TJP to return.

TJP rolls Jado into a Sharpshooter, but switches it up into a Deathlock as he snapped back for a Muta lock too, which Taguchi stomped apart. Gideon holds Jado’s ankle by the ropes as Akira threw some more stomps, then a missile dropkick off the middle rope for a near-fall. Jado fires back though, as he Hulked up on Akira, leading to a shoulder tackle before Taguchi came in to hit a hip attack and the Three Amigos… ending it with a regular and reverse DDT instead.

A Bummer-Ye’s measured up, but TJP hits a step-up ‘rana off of Akira’s back before Gideon Grey tagged in. He drops Wato with a clothesline, but Wato comes right back with a bulldog and a German suplex as the ring filled… then cleared. Baseball slides knock TJP and Akira into the rails, as Gideon was left on his lonesome as he blocked a Recientemente… then punched out Wato.

Taguchi’s in to give Gideon a hip attack, but he loses his focus when Gideon wasn’t getting up in time for a Bummer-Ye. Declaring “I’m so smart” ended badly when Gideon got kicked in the head by Wato and Taguchi, before a double-team wheelbarrow Flatliner ended up putting the United Empire’s mastermind away. No bias or anything, but I appreciated Gideon sneaking in a few bits of character work on his debut, even if the booking means that he’s likely going to be feasting on falls (as well as curry bowls) during this tour… ***¼

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens & Gedo) vs. United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Great O-Khan & Aaron Henare)
Henare and Owens start us off, going from waistlock, to headlock takedown and a side headlock.

Owens slaps Henare’s head a few times as he mocked the now-clean-shaven Henare… who blasted him down in response. Cobb comes in to surf on Owens’ back, but Fale wanders in to make a save, allowing Owens back in with an eye rake on the ropes to Cobb.

Fale rakes Cobb’s eyes in the corner, while Gedo joined in as Henare accidentally distracted the referee in the corner. O-Khan tagged in and connected with a throat thrust to Fale, but Chase quickly runs in and got cornered with a clothesline. Fale charges into his own man by mistake, then took some Mongolian chops before he took a seat on Fale.

Gedo’s in to hit Mongolian chops of his own, but he and O-Khan block the other’s before Gedo raked the eyes. Henare’s back, but misses a knee in the corner as Owens and Fale double-teamed him, allowing Gedo to pick up a near-fall. Henare catches a thrust kick, then punched Gedo in the gut, before the Ultima forced the submission. **¾

KUSHIDA, Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori, KENTA & Hikuleo)
I can’t help but visualise the dogs on surfboards meme when I hear KUSHIDA’s theme these days. For the trivia buffs out there, this was Hikuleo’s first match in Japan since May 2019, following a brief excursion in Rev Pro (which then turned into a run in the US during the pandemic…)

Hikuleo starts with Honma, resisting shoulder tackles before taking down Honma with one of his own. KENTA tags in to take pot shots at Honma in the corner, before a snapmare and a kick to the back found its mark. Honma comes back with a shoulder tackle, then made the tag to KUSHIDA… who wanted Ishimori, and got him.

KUSHIDA jumps Ishimori, but saw his hiptoss/dropkick combo stopped by a simple poke to the eye. A second crack at the hiptoss/dropkick ends with Ishimori rolling to the outside, before KENTA blindsided KUSHIDA from behind as the Bullet Club cleared the ring and took over. Ishimori works over KUSHIDA’s arm, before Hikuleo came in to throw KUSHIDA into Ishimori’s boot.

A cravat keeps KUSHIDA down, as did a neck twist, before KENTA came in to help double-team… until KUSHIDA’s handspring double back elbow took them both down. Togi Makabe gets the tag in, scoring with a powerslam before he had KENTA in the corner for mounted punches. KENTA blocks the Northern Lights suplex, raking the eye before he ran into a clothesline for a near-fall.

KENTA finds a way back in with a DDT, before he got hold of his book and tried to use it as a weapon. Another clothesline took care of it, sending the tome flying into the air, as tags bring us back to Hikuleo and Honma. The latter’s chucked into the corner with Snake Eyes, then dumped with a big ol’ clothesline as Makakbe and KUSHIDA needed to make the save.

Hikuleo’s triple-teamed en route to a Kokeshi, but it’s not enough for the win as Hikuleo shrugged it off, then hit a powerslam and a chokeslam for the win. Like a lot of the card, this was decent but super short as we’ve covered five of seven matches (plus an interval) in just 90 minutes… **¾

Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI)
Right now it sure feels like both units here are at a loose end…

SANADA and Taichi start us off, but Taichi tags in Kanemaru so he could do some pec popping… which turned into an attempt to cheapshot SANADA, leading to the pair trading armdrags ahead of a stand-off. Kanemaru low bridges SANADA to the outside, allowing Desperado to run him into the rails.

Back inside, Kanemaru and co boot choke SANDA before Taichi came in for some more orthodox choking. Zack Sabre Jr’s in to stretch SANADA, tying him up in a Cobra Twist that SANADA broke via the ropes. Kanemaru and Desperado pick over SANADA next, but he escaped with a low dropkick, then a regular one, before tagging out to Naito, who instantly took Kanemaru to the corner for a Combinacion Cabron.

Hiromu adds a clothesline and a low dropkick after he tagged in, getting a two-count out of it, before Kanemaru’s low dropkick shut off Hiromu. Desperado’s in to clear the apron so he could focus on Hiromu, but a Dragon screw got Hiromu free to tag in BUSHI. THe two masked men go at it, but Desperado’s Numero Dos forces a break as we crossed the ten minute mark for the first time in any match today.

Naito’s back to help out BUSHI, with the double-team leading to a low dropkick for a near-fall as ZSJ came in to break it up. A rewind enziguiri from BUSHI’s next, then a Fisherman screw neck breaker for a near-fall, only for Desperado to snatch the win out of nothing with El Es Claro. A perfectly fine, if not throwaway outing as we wait for something meaningful to appear on the horizons here. ***

TMDK (JONAH, Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Toru Yano
We’re building up to JONAH vs. Okada down the line, after JONAH was Okada’s lone loss in the G1 this year…

We eventually get going with JONAH backing Okada into the ropes for a clean break. Okada can’t find a way through, but managed to escape in the corner after Bad Dude Tito had tagged in… so Toru Yano begs for a tag, and gets it. He removed a corner pad, then threw it to Tito, before an Irish whip took Yano into the exposed corner. He’s pulled outside as Haste and JONAH threw Yano into the guard rails, before Yano was isolated in the ring, with JONAH’s chinlock ending in the ropes right as Haste was declaring there’d be no escape.

JONAH throws Yano into a clothesline from Tito, whose senton atomico into the ring was joined by one from Haste, as TMDK were controlling proceedings here. Elbows from Tito keep Yano down, as did chops, before a legdrop from JONAH drew in Tanahashi to break a cover.

Haste is back to keep on Yano with kicks and uppercuts, before he got too carried away with mocking Tanahashi… leading him to missing a flip senton out of the corner. Tanahashi comes in to show him how it’s done, throwing some forearms before a low dropkick knocked JONAH off the apron. The slam and flip senton followed from Tanahashi, before Haste damn near took his head off with a leaping dropkick.

Tito’s back to light up Tanahashi in the corner, leading to a lariat for a two-count. Okada gets the tag in, cornering Tito for a leaping back elbow before a DDT was escaped and countered with a Tito enziguiri. JONAH looks to capitalise with a corner clothesline and a slam on Okada, before a diving cannonball almost got the win right there. Okada tries to return the bodyslam, but to no avail, as he had more luck with a leaping dropkick.

Yano tags in, but he too cannot bodyslam JONAH, so he hooks himself in the ropes, then bopped JONAH in the head. Bad idea. JONAH charges into the exposed corner, and almost loses to a Yano schoolboy, before he got slammed as TMDK swarmed the ring. Yano can’t avoid a bunch of corner attacks, nor a body attack from JONAH that nearly ended things, and with Haste and Tito taking care of Okada and Tanahashi on the outside… JONAH nearly loses to a roll-up.

JONAH blocks a Yano low blow, then had to deal with another roll-up as he kicked out of it… then waffled Yano with a clothesline. A trip up top led to a swift Torpedo, squashing Yano… and that was that. A fun sprint to close this one out, with poor Yano taking a beating. ***¼

The Burning Spirit tour continues in Aichi tomorrow on a non-televised show… then it’s off to Korakuen Hall on Monday September 5 for a show that’ll be streamed, with some cheering too. After that, we’ve a couple of VOD-only shows (including one with Great O-Khan taking on Yuji Nagata in the latter’s anniversary match), before the tour closes out with live streams on September 18 in Beppu, September 23 in Kagawa, and September 25 in Kobe.

A somewhat run-of-the-mill card got the Burning Spirit tour underway – with not much to grab the attention so far. All eyes will be on Monday’s Korakuen show as we get a taste of the past – and hopefully the future – with cheering crowds returning.