135. Will Ospreay vs Zack Sabre Jr (NJPW New Japan Cup 2022)

There was one NJPW Meltzer-rated 5* match I hadn’t seen from 2022…Yet another Will Ospreay match, his bout against Zack Sabre Jr at the New Japan Cup tournament. Would it fall short of 5* perfection, as I feel most Ospreay matches do? Or would Sabre Jr temper William’s excesses?

On paper, these two wrestlers are polar opposites. You have Ospreay, one of the flashiest wrestlers working today, a man of amazing athletic and high-flying ability…but he’s a man who favours spectacle over story-telling logic and selling. Sabre Jr, on the other hand, is one of the most technically gifted wrestlers working today, a man of ten thousand holds…a man in the vein of old-school British wrestlers (with a contemporary twist, of course). I’ve never seen these two clash before, so I wondered how this clash of styles would play out…

And, in a world of wrestling where high-spots and death-defying moves reign supreme, this ground-based technical showcase was a breath of fresh air. Perhaps I am not used to Sabre Jr’s matches, but this offered something different, something more low-key, something simple yet vastly complicated. Ospreay’s worst excesses were countered (in many ways) by Sabre Jr’s technical wrestling; rather than out-perform his opponent, Ospreay jad to out-wrestle Sabre Jr, a nigh-on impossible task.

But Ospreay proved no slouch on the mat. He answered counter with counter, reversal with counter-reversal, just as smoothly and effortlessly as he flies off the ropes and runs around the ring. Sabre Jr worked on Ospreay’s leg (and, later on, his arm), and William sold his leg injury with aplomb. He even slipped during a springboard attempt, clutching his leg in agony after falling to the mat. Of course, at one point he executed an Oscutter on the outside without any selling of his leg…but on the whole, this was the most consistent selling I’ve ever seen from Ospreay.

Also, unlike these other forty minute epics, this barely scraped the twenty minute mark…and left me wanting more. A double-edged sword, that one. I appreciate they didn’t drag proceedings out, but at the same time, I reckon they would have benefited from five more minutes. The controversial/confusing ending didn’t help matters either, leaving the door open for a potential rematch. But a cleaner and more cogent finish would have been better.

For me, this just fell short of the 5* mark. It offered a different flavour of NJPW match that’s on offer (although the prequisite striking section was included). The worst excesses of Ospreay were countered by Sabre Jr’s mat work, forcing Ospreay to work on Zack’s level. Ospreay’s selling was miles better, as well, aiding the story of the bout no end. Five more minutes and a less contrived ending would have pushed this easily into the 5* realm.

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.