Hurrah, ladies and gents! We are back with another installment of The Characters of NJPW! Now, before the profile goes on, here’s a reminder about the main goal of these articles:
This series will try to give newcomers to New Japan, as well as people curious towards its product, a feel as for how each of their wrestlers operate, what their motivations are, how their story drives them to be who they are, and how their actions inside and outside of the squared circle further their personas. Although this will contain historical data and a brief description of each wrestler’s past, its main goal is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to a performer’s history and achievements. Rather, we intend focus on two main topics: Character and in-ring work, to see how each wrestler on NJPW sets themselves apart from the rest of the roster, and what makes them truly unique and worth investing. If you want to check the previous seven installments, which talked about Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kenny Omega, Tetsuya Naito, Katsuyori Shibata, Kota Ibushi and Minoru Suzuki, you can do so by clicking on their names. Now, let’s get this thing going.
In any form of sport or entertainment endeavor, sometimes a person comes along where you don’t necessarily think they have what it takes to even perform that activity at a professional level, only for them to show you that not only they can, but they are going to be one of the best at it, too. Such is their natural talent and drive to be at the very top that they transform what they have in not only something useful, but an asset. Today we look at the case of a lad that was overlooked many times, only to persevere through sheer talent and knowledge. He bet on himself, traveled the world and collected accolades everywhere he’s been, while also becoming a bit of a prick in the process. I’m talking about the Technical Wizard, Zack Sabre Jr.
Zack Sabre Jr.
Introduction: Okay, check this with me: last we saw Zack Sabre Jr. in Japan before NJPW, he was toiling away, not given opportunities to shine in a fledgling Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Junior Heavyweight division. Sure, he was a 2-time Jr. Tag Team Champion there, but besides a learning experience, he wasn’t extracting much else from his time. So he took a risk. He left for the unknown environment that is the independent scene. And he made a name, fast. Zack Sabre Jr took a look at the scope around the world and knew he could make an impact. He became one of Europe’s biggest names, and a sought-after talent around the globe, as his technique wowed spectators and brought plenty of results.
So when he came back to Japan, no longer would the NOAH Jr. stigma hold him down. He competed in WWE. He thrived in companies at the US, Europe and Mexico. Now, he was a heavyweight, and would prove he could succeed there just as he could anywhere else. He would take the British Heavyweight title back home from Katsuyori Shibata in his debut, to place alongside his Evolve and PWG Heavyweight Championships, aligning himself with Suzuki-gun in the process. Then, Zacky Three Belts would prove to be quite the asset to the stable, having a very good G1 Climax tournament, with victories over the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tomohiro Ishii, Bad Luck Fale and Togi Makabe, all while acclimating himself to the company. Sabre Jr. is done proving himself to others. All he has to do now is to get what he wants.
Character: When he aligned himself with Suzuki-gun, people didn’t understand that decision. Why would he choose them? They don’t fit his personality at all! To ask yourself that is to overlook Zack Sabre Jr.’s biggest traits. He spent all that time in NOAH for a reason. This is a smart, smart fellow, who knows that for him to succeed, he has to be the most knowledgeable wrestler around. He also knows a valuable source of learning when he sees one. So, when he left the Emerald Ring, it was because he felt the World had more to teach him, too. Actual experience, so when he would face the best, he would do so prepared. Armed with new skills to match his solid technical base, and a subdued, charming humor charisma, Sabre Jr. would come to NJPW ready to endear himself to its fanbase.
But when you’re wise and an opportunity to work with a man with vast technical wrestling knowledge in his crew appears, you take it and learn what you can from it. From the way he portrays himself, you can see that The Technical Wizard is a calm individual, one that assess each and every situation thoroughly to devise his next plan of action. He did so masterfully at his debut, aligning himself with Suzuki-gun to ensure his victory and make a name in his first night by beating one of the best NJPW has to offer. He would then have a stellar G1 before challenging and failing to beat Tanahashi for the Intercontinental Championship. And then, cracks would start to show.
Of course, an intelligent man always walks a fine line between confidence and arrogance. And whether that or the alliance with the certified bad dudes started to have an effect on him, Sabre Jr. started to show a more edgy side to his competitive nature. In interviews, he would start to belittle his opponents, saying that he would stretch them and beat them easy. Maybe his hubris will be his weakness. Or maybe, how to channel the aggressive side of himself is what he wanted all along. But if history is a correct indicative of the future, Zack Sabre Jr. will accomplish whatever results he seeks, until he deems it is time to ultimately move on to the next journey.
In-ring work: The Technical Wizard wears his influences on his sleeve, but blends them into a style all his own. He has a solid background in traditional British catch wrestling, with an extensive catalog of holds and escapes from said holds. As such, it is hard not to be enthralled by his artistry, as he weaves his way out of complex situations into advantageous ones, setting traps and expertly executing them to capitalize on any small error or weakness. He also uses his Japanese influence to employ numerous hard strikes, as well as a penchant for intensity he adapted from his time in the new-school independent scene in US and Europe.
Zack Sabre Jr.’s repertoire is one of the most extensive there is. He works around a lack of weight and muscle mass, so as to avoid lifting dudes up and down unless it’s absolutely necessary to carry on his offense or to surprise an opponent. Instead, he prefers to use counters and his own reach advantage to design his moveset. The European Clutch traps opponents in a pinning predicament, while his vast array of submissions that he can catch you anywhere with, especially his Double Armbars from the back mounted and octopus hold positions, or his Jim Breaks Special elevated wrist lock, will torture an opponent into tapping out or passing out in agony. If all that doesn’t work, he will target you with forearm strikes, European uppercuts and numerous kicks, especially a Penalty Kick that can put anyone out.
He uses an opponent’s own leverage against him in most occasions to maintain control of a match, but can have trouble with opponents focused or poised enough to withstand his torturous holds enough to take advantage and dictate their own pace to the match, something he has some struggles to adapt to. Still, Sabre Jr. is a wrestler you have to be prepared for at all times, as any second unfocused against him is a potential loss in your results column. His technical gifts allow him to stay alive in situations in which he seemingly has no business winning, and to turn take over in a hurry. This is the combination of strenghts that keep Zack’s inexorable march leading his journey to happiness, each year surely better than the last one.
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