HOUSE OF TORTURE: It’s Not Rule-Breaking, It’s Called Being A Family.

The tried and true in pro wrestling when it comes to villainous factions within the sport is underhand tactics, being someone you aren’t, and not caring about anyone other than yourself. To bring it to a grander scale in terms of heel factions, there’s often a power struggle between guys always wanting to be the alpha. With the rest of the members being assigned a role, and sorta having to fall into line if that’s what the leader wants. There are many heel factions going against this age-old standard who subtly have begun to redefine the idea of what a heel faction is and should be. The biggest example of that is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s HOUSE OF TORTURE (HoT).

HOUSE OF TORTURE was founded by EVIL along with Yujiro Takahashi, Dick Togo, and SHO on September 4, 2021 at Wrestle Grand Slam in MetLife Dome-Night 1. EVIL had joined the heel unit known as BULLET CLUB a year prior, but that faction was founded by foreigners for foreigners. There was already a vision of what a BULLET CLUB member needed to be and, at the time, there was already a leader by the name of Jay White. EVIL had turned against his former faction Los Ingobernables De Japon in order stand out from behind Tetsuya Naito and as a main eventer on his own. Capturing the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships in the process. While his EVIL’s run wasn’t long, just holding those belts was the validation he needed to confirm the path he choose was the right one for him. In order for that double title win, and the New Japan Cup win prior to happen he needed the help of two men. Yujiro Takahashi was the first Japanese member of the BULLET CLUB, and while the group helped him early on, in years past another big injury stunted his career trajectory, and he had been nothing more than a lower man in the BULLET CLUB in recent years. He always desired more, and due to a worldwide pandemic and some scheming from EVIL he got new life. Helping EVIL beat Kazuchika Okada, and putting him right in the sights of the golden boy of NJPW. Dick Togo is a world traveled junior heavyweight wrestling legend who became EVIL’s main source of support. His manager that accompanied him into battle each and every night. Those three guys were already under the BULLET CLUB banner when this formation happened. Fighting alongside each other throughout the rest of 2020, and into 2021 up until this point. It was time for an expansion. They sought out someone who was the model for criteria when they did search for new members. Someone who was frustrated, desired more, and most importantly someone who needed to show more of his true self.

SHO at the time was a member of CHAOS and beloved junior tag team ROPPONGI 3K. He began getting frustrated with his partner YOH who had been slowed down by injury quite a bit. So he turned his back on YOH, and started a new journey alone where he’d be welcomed into the new HOUSE OF TORTURE. Since then he’s gone from being quiet and composed to being charismatic, and outspoken. Other than EVIL he’s become the main mouthpiece for the group where he’s not one to shy away from dragging the state of the New Japan junior division, or the crowd in attendance.

As for EVIL and Yujiro? SHO joining the newly minted HOUSE OF TORTURE meant a chance to seek revenge against CHAOS. The trio of YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii, and Hirooki Goto at the time were the most winningest NEVER 6-Man Tag Champion team. Yujiro, Togo, and EVIL had failed to take the belts from the trio, but EVIL did manage to defeat Tomohiro Ishii in singles action. Adding a frustrated former CHAOS member who also failed to beat the trio alongside Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano proved to be the key to success. SHO, Yujiro, and EVIL defeated YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, and Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER belts. Just like that all three men got their revenge, and Yujiro? The first man to start aiding EVIL got his first championship in five full years, and not only that. His stock kept rising as he and EVIL went to the finals of the 2021 WORLD TAG LEAGUE, and despite failing the two found themselves challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles not too long after. A belt that Yujiro had always been looking for a path back to. In the 2022 G1 Yujiro with some assistance from SHO almost found himself in the semi-finals which is a massive step up from his one win return campaign in 2020.

image credit: @pkdx

EVIL kept himself busy as well, as on top of the NEVER 6-man championship runs and the IWGP tag title pursuit he was also the NEVER Openweight singles champion as well. Arguably his biggest successful year came in 2023, as he barely lost in a singles setting. Almost reaching the final four of the New Japan Cup, before actually making the final four of the illustrious G1 Climax. Beating former tag partner and IWGP World Heavyweight Champion SANADA to make it there. Up until that point, SANADA was undefeated in tournament action, and after the tournament concluded he set his sights on the World Heavyweight Championship. While he didn’t emerge from the war with the title he gained something arguably more important.

It was open house, and they finally welcomed new members. The first being Yoshinobu Kanemaru, the junior legend who in the wake of the Suzuki-Gun disbandment became a cornerstone of the babyface unit JUST 5 GUYZ. Fans took a liking to Kanemaru in this group, but Kanemaru himself felt out of place. He turned against his friends to join HoT where he quickly noted what J5G was trying to do, and what he was trying to do were vastly different. The man known as the ‘Heel Master’ simply wanted to move forward in his pro wrestling life as his true self even if that meant seeking new scenery. Then came HoT’s big get during the 2023 WORLD TAG LEAGUE tour.

Ren Narita was set up to fail by New Japan from the beginning, as he was an exact copy and paste of his mentor Katsuyori Shibata. He came back from excursion, and formed the faction STRONG STYLE with Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado where he feuded with HoT, and won his first belt from them. However, things went downhill for Ren as NJPW continued to set him up for failure. Firstly dubbing him, Shota Umino, and Yota Tsuji the ‘Reiwa Three Musketeers.’ Labeling them with something that has had two other incarnations that impacted New Japan greatly when they have yet to prove they were deserving of that title. A lot of pressure for them, especially for someone like Ren who was trapped into this image where he had to be Shibata lite.

STRONGSTYLE feuded with his rival Shota Umino, Yuji Nagata, and Master Wato. At the conclusion of their best of seven series it was decided that they would all become allies. This would include Narita becoming tag partners with his rival, Shota Umino.They had a successful tournament until they were eliminated from contention just before the final night of block action for them. They final match would be against EVIL and Yujiro Takahashi on December 6, 2023. Ren refused to tag in, and it soon became clear what was happening. As EVIL and Yujiro picked up the win, and a mauling of Shota Umino ensued. Ren Narita accepted the HOUSE OF TORTURE shirt, and in the backstage comments he explained to Shota that it was always going to lead to this. With the rest of HOUSE OF TORTURE surrounding him he proclaimed proudly “This is the true Ren Narita.”

Where most heels in wrestling spin their wheels lies within the cheating aspect. Especially with the ways they tend to cheat it’s often rinse and repeat, but also when most heels cheat it’s for personal glory. HOUSE OF TORTURE are the kings of underhanded tactics, but cheating is one of the qualities that makes them most like a family. The unit finds more and more creative ways to bend the rules especially as they have expanded their ranks. However, what deserves the spotlight is the symbolism of their cheating. Even if some members aren’t scheduled to appear on the show, if you face one member you have to face them all. There’s no days off for the HOUSE OF TORTURE, and the reason for that is they don’t want anyone to be left behind. All of them weren’t satisfied with the positions they were in prior to entering HoT, and many of them felt they were being left behind as times changed. Under this banner none of the members will allow the other members to fail. Everyone in the group often tries harder to win matches they aren’t in compared to ones they are in. Just for the fact they know when the roles are reversed, the other members will bring that very same energy to assist them. They’ve stated their goal is for HOUSE OF TORTURE to take all the gold in NJPW. Perhaps a philosophy borrowed by EVIL from the man he turned on, because for HoT it’s not a win if they can’t accomplish it together.

image credit: @njpw1972