131. Zack Sabre Jr vs Shingo Takagi (NJPW New Japan Cup 2022)

So here it is…the last on Meltzer’s list of NJPW’s 5* rated matches! I haven’t managed to watch any AEW/ROH 5* matches, but I can watch WWE/NJPW ones!!! The clash between Zack Sabre Jr. and Shingo Takagi at New Japan Cup 2022 was the last one to strike off my list. And, unfortunately, I thought it was just an average match, not a patch on Sabre Jr’s earlier clash against Will Ospreay at the same event.

Although I haven’t seen many of his bouts, I’ve really enjoyed the Takagi matches that I’ve seen up to this point. Here, though, he seemed out of his depth. And perhaps that was the story of the bout: the technically superior Sabre Jr. outwrestled Shingo at almost every point. But it descended into something of a stretched out squash match, with Takagi only able to gain the upper hand on a handful of occasions. He didn’t alter his in-ring game to turn the tables on his opponent, either. He merely attempted power move after power move, without any greater psychology behind his actions.

From what I’ve seen of Takagi, he is adaptable, matching Ospreay for fast and furious action, or matching Ishii for heavy striking and power moves. But here, he didn’t even attempt to adapt to Sabre Jr’s ring style. Perhaps I was missing something behind the story of the bout. But even if I was missing something, I can’t imagine this being a 5* match by any stretch of the imagination.

I can’t even class it as a 4* match. For me, it was a perfectly average bout, showcasing Sabre Jr’s greatness while making Takagi look like an amateur. It even bored me a little during the middle stretch. To reiterate a point I’ve made before on this blog, the ‘clapping only’ crowd in Japan can hinder my enjoyment of a bout. But even with a raucous crowd, I’d still fail to engage with this average bout.

Hammy’s Rating: *** (out of 5)

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