We don’t talk enough about Zack Sabre Jr. being the best wrestler on the planet.
Not the best technical wrestler, or best vegan wrestler, or best wrestler to most likely become Prime Minister of the UK.
The best wrestler.
It’s criminal that it took almost six years under the New Japan banner before he won his first singles title. Not that his accolades were lacking; a two-time New Japan Cup winner and three-time IWGP Tag Team Champion (RIP Dangerous Tekkers, always in our hearts).
ZSJ finally getting his first singles title by becoming the inaugural NJPW World TV Champion at Wrestle Kingdom 17 was long overdue and the windy man is ardently making up for lost time.
When the NJPW World TV Championship was first announced a collective groan was heard. The last thing New Japan seemed to need was another title after slaughtering their two most beloved titles and introducing the KOPW trophy
which is now a title belt but you’re not actually champion until the end of the year and nobody is actually a fan of the gimmick including current champion Shingo Takagi.
Although it was met with uncertainty, the NJPW World TV Championship did offer a blank canvas with a welcomed premise: a strict 15 minute time-limit in all defences with a focus on quicker action and spotlighting younger talent. Whilst the 15 minute time-limit intrigued, especially in the wake of never-ending pandemic matches, the entrants in the tournament to crown the first champion didn’t do much to sway opinions; a distinct lack of “younger” talent.
But, the tournament delivered and whispers of hope could be heard. Ren Narita battered Tomohiro Ishii in a brutal opening bout and David Finlay impressed in his second-round match against ZSJ. The two favourites when the brackets were first announced met in Tokyo Dome at Wrestle Kingdom 17 where Ren Narita suffered at the hands of Sabre’s submission supremacy.
The era of Sabreism had finally begun.
Zack Sabre Jr. now had the opportunity to mould this new title as he saw fit and New Japan couldn’t have possibly picked a better man to bring significance to the title. In the short time he’s been champion he has already brought meaning to the title, immediately bringing life to the blank canvas that is the NJPW World TV Championship, and the championship in turn offers meaning and an extra spotlight to all of ZSJ’s matches.
Fans can feel exhausted from the long main-event epics that NJPW often provide, it can be a daunting task to prepare yourself for a big match with no guarantees of excellency. Whereas this title offers the opposite, we’re guaranteed short matches and with the strap around Sabre’s waist they’re irrefutable bangers.
Zack Sabre Jr. is the complete package. He is seemingly incapable of having a bad match, his antics even capable of making a vapid EVIL the most entertaining he has been since forming House of Torture.
If you want a 5 star classic, ZSJ can do that. If you want comedy, ZSJ can do that. If you want character, if you want promo, if you want multi-language promos, if you want to make a group interesting, ZSJ can do that.
It’s not just that he can do these things but it’s the level he does them at. He can do just about anything and everything you could want from a wrestler and he can do it equally as good if not better than every wrestler in the endless “best in the world” debate.
This was the case in his first defence against Tomohiro Ishii. ZSJ stepped up to play Ishii’s song, an expected symphony of blunt forearms, chops and lariats, but more importantly he forced a different side out of Ishii; a pitbull armed with surprising submissions and tricky pinning combinations.
Zack’s not not naïve to how the title was introduced, a way to spotlight younger talent. And so, in charged the Wild Rhino Clark Connors. At Battle in the Valley Zack defended his title for the second time and in the process gave Connors arguably the best match of his career so far: the match stood out on a card that boasted Mercedes Moné vs KAIRI and Kazuchika Okada vs Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Waiting in the wings post-match was another young talent from the LA Dojo, Kevin Knight now primed to take his shot at gold. When and where that match takes place remains to be seen, but it’s almost guaranteed that it will be the biggest match of Knight’s promising career so far. He likely won’t leave the ring with the gold, but there’s every chance he leaves with the best match of his career on his résumé.
At the first Ring of Honor tapings under the new regime, fans were spoiled with a NJPW World TV Championship defence that saw Sabre securing his third defence against another future prospect in Blake Christian. Styles make matches and both men dazzled when high-flying met submission mastery; Christian’s Forbury Flop effortlessly caught in a cravat, such a simple move used so uniquely.
In the New Japan Cup, Zack did more for Shota Umino than anybody else has since his return from excursion match against Will Ospreay. Following a rocky few showings for Umino he garnered a collection of doubters, was he really capable of filling the shoes of Tanahashi? Enter Zack Sabre Jr., breathing life and confidence into the young Umino in another sure-fire hit of a match. ZSJ simply does not miss.
He’d had three matches against three different breed of wrestler across two continents in less than a two month span for the NJPW World TV Championship and a fourth that saw him elevate another future prospect. The case can be made that they were the match of the night on each occasion and everybody left the match better for it. Nobody leaves a ZSJ match looking worse than they came in.
Let Zack Sabre Jr. elevate everybody around him. Let him show his tekkers across the world. Let Zack Sabre Jr. be the champion for a long time. Let the man cook.