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Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (NJPW G1 Climax 07/17/17)

hiroshi tanahashi zack sabre jr

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#1 ShittyLittleBoots

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 04:49 AM

This was my most awaited match of the whole tournament & it sure did not disappoint. You got a man who is known for his ways to punish an opponents arm vs. a man who has a banged up arm. Couldn't ask for a much better dynamic there. And they worked that dynamic super well - Tanahashi was one step ahead in the early exchanges, but once Zack started to target that arm, things started to go downhill for the Ace. Zack's work over that arm was fantastic as always & Tana sold it excellently. Loved how Tana countered that brutal arm work of Zack's by going after his leg - just like with Zack's arm work, Tana's leg work was fantastic as always. Zack's selling of it was good, too. The rest of the match is about Tanahashi trying his hardest to put Zack away, but you just get the feeling that he can't do it because of how destroyed that arm of his is. Fantastic storytelling. I hope this sets up a big re-match for the IC title, because I feel like these 2 have an even better match in them - and that is saying something because this, their first match against each other, was absolutely outstanding. ****1/2

#2 soup23

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 08:10 AM

Opening was really engaging with ZSJ like a cat chasing the canary and looking for any opening to the injured arm. He goes after the leg, he works over the other arm for a bit but he keeps his patience. This changes when Tana gets a bit of offense in and goes for the elbow drop. ZSJ pounces with the cross armbreaker and even reverses things to prevent Tana from reaching the ropes right away. After that ZSJ works over the arm for a few minutes in great fashion like you knew he would. Tana is forced to up his game and responds by tackling the leg of Zack. From there, we get a great dynamic of both guys being wounded in an area and trying to capitalize on the opponent while not making themselves susceptible to damage. Tana kicking out of ZSJ pin bridge comb was a nice nearfall. High Fly Flows feel like Tana has the match in hand but Zack catches him once again and like the previous time, he ties him up in a pretzel with extra cranking on the injured arm to secure the submission in a great moment. The bits of Desperado interplay were disappointing but this wasn't full blown Suzuki Gun shenanigans and Zack was finally able to have the NJ match he has been capable of. **** 

#3 superkix

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 10:51 AM

Zack Sabre Jr. is a guy I've ridden the fence on for a while now since coming to New Japan but I thought this was his best singles performance. His destruction of Tanahashi's arm was consistent and aggressive, and the dueling limbwork was really well done, with some clever counters and reversals from both guys. Sabre came off as such a little prick in this match, with his shitty kicks and just leaning on Tanahashi while he's on the ropes. Once Tanahashi starts in on the leg, I thought Zack's selling was good. I liked him trying to pry Tanahashi's fingers apart on the cloverleaf hold and him smartly moving the leg out of the way when Tanahashi tries dropkicking it, stomping the arm and then immediately selling the leg afterwards. Tanahashi manages a neat counter to one of Zack's kicks, delivering an inverted dragon screw. I bit onto the European clutch nearfall and I thought the finish did an excellent job of establishing Sabre as a legitimate threat, with him removing the protective sleeve/tape and really cranking in the hold, manipulating the joints at various sections of the arm and forcing Tanahashi to give up. Really good stuff from both guys. 

#4 SmartMark15

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Posted 17 July 2017 - 11:46 PM

I thought that was absolutely awesome. This is the best I've seen Sabre on offense honing in on a single body part. This arm injury though hell in reality has done wonders for Tanahashi's performances. Here's a guy whose matches I (for the most part) just could not stand for a long time and now he's putting on great sympathetic babyface performances. Might just have to reevaluate my thoughts on his past work because this was a very convincing performance out of him. The aggression on the finish legitimately made me wince and want Tanahashi to end the match for his own good. 



#5 bradhindsight

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 06:14 AM

This one is flagged for a re-watch from me. Great matchup on paper and kayfabe-wise with the injury, which I thought the announcers did a great job of calling. Takes a couple minutes before we move into the targeted arm stuff, there were some disconnects where they weren't on the same page. Some repeated sequences (like the arm twisting with the gut punches), never felt like Tanahashi did enough to ZSJ here knee-wise (also kind of a complaint to his Naito match tbh). Tanahashi's selling is fine - and they build to a couple good counters late to play off early in the match. Strong finish and dramatics too. Never got into the final gear for me, but an exceptional match ***1/2

#6 bradhindsight

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 06:14 AM

From Ioan review at PTBN:




Sabre controlled on the mat, wriggling free of Tanahashi’s attempts at reversals, then briefly worked the leg. Tanahashi looked to get some offence going, but Sabre soon reversed an elbow drop into an armbar, then targeted Tanahashi’s damaged right arm, wrenching it aggressively before nailing it with an overhead kick. Uppercuts and more arm-wringers led an Octopus Hold, with the right arm extended to breaking point, but Tanahashi powered into a Dragon Screw and landed a low dropkick. A grounded Dragon Screw briefly set up the Cloverleaf, but Sabre scrambled free and a roll-up earned two. Two arm-trapped stomps and uppercuts landed, but another overhead kick was reversed to a Dragon Screw and spinning neckbreaker by Tanahashi. European Clutch from Sabre – two-count only! Sling Blade from Tanahashi! The High Fly Flow crossbody connected, but El Desperado distracted Tanahashi long enough that the High Fly Flow proper hit the knees and Sabre quickly transitioned to the hammerlocked armbar! He folded the arm, bent the wrist and Tanahashi submitted! Wow. A huge win for Sabre Jr. in his G1 debut and it was his kind of match, as he controlled the pace and style of combat. Tanahashi barely got anything going and, as you would expect, Sabre Jr. went for his injured right arm to great effect. Might not be to everyone’s taste, but I dug this. ****

#7 Maciej

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Posted 18 July 2017 - 06:12 PM

There might be a little disconnect early one; something seems a little disjointed in some rope running for example, but yeah, this was very fun. I too like Breaking-Down Old Ace Tanahashi as much as any previous iteration; his crafty dragon screws and sling blades work better for me as the majority of his offense than they did for him as a pure ace, and they play off the arm sympathy wonderfully. I'm pretty excited to see Sabre against a bunch of new opponents in this thing. ***3/4

#8 gingears

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Posted 20 July 2017 - 07:25 PM

I cannot wait for the eventual rematch! I have always been sort of lukewarm on Zack Sabre Jr. but he was really great as the ruthless Suzuki disciple. The injury and the loss put Tanahashi in jeopardy and I am hoping it will add an extra level of drama to the rest of his matches. My only real knock against this one was how little the crowd seemed to get into it but this was not the time for the hero to make the big comeback. I am so looking forward to when it finally does come though.

#9 C.S.

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 12:19 AM

In the Match Reviews Trade thread, AstroBoy assigned me Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tanahashi from NJPW G1 Climax on 07/17/17.


He admitted to digging into my posting history, where I've been very vocal about my dislike of Zack Sabre Jr. based on what I saw of him in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. :)


If this match was given to me with the intention of changing my mind about ZSJ, it mostly succeeded.


First, the things I still don't like about ZSJ: His offense still looks way too "light" at times, and he's clearly still very young and green in places. At this point, all he does is wrestle - there's very little in the way of character work, facial expressions, or crowd interactions.


With that said, I walked away from the match thinking he's one of the most creative wrestlers I've ever seen. His submission game is masterful to watch. Not everything looked impactful, but when he was bending Tanahashi's fingers, etc., you better believe I was wincing. He's doing things in ways no one else is, and I have to tip my hat to him for that. It's great fun to watch all of the different locks and traps he devises. One particular spot I liked was Sabre turning a Tanahashi legdrop into a submission.


With a few more years of experience and seasoning, ZSJ has the potential to become something really special. Some would argue he's already there, and in some ways, that's true. But he's still very young yet and still needs seasoning in certain areas.


For example, Tanahashi had an injured arm, which Zack didn't really focus on too much until the end (or least he didn't make that focus obvious to me). Still, I'm glad it at least played a role in the finish. ZSJ removing Tanahashi's arm cast and unwrapping his bandages was a nice touch.


I went into this match completely cold, knowing very little about ZSJ outside of what I saw in the CWC, and even less about Tanahashi other than the raves I've read online. I had no idea where this was situated in the G1 Climax, what title Tanahashi was holding, or if ZSJ walked away with said title because he won. None of that really matters though.


I was expecting to be blown away by Tanahashi, and...well, I wasn't. The fans seemed quite taken with him, but he came across to me like Terry Taylor wearing a colorful costume. No matter what Taylor wore, he was still going to be one of the least interesting and least charismatic wrestlers on the card (outside of his Taylor Made Man run with Alexandra York and tag team with Greg Valentine - those ruled!). Tanahashi struck me the same way.


I don't know if it was a clash of styles, or Tanahashi purposely slowing down and looking weak to sell his injury (or if it was a legit injury), but he didn't really show me much. This was The Zack Sabre Jr. Show all the way, to my surprise.


Now that I've said all of that, I'm sure I've opened myself up to being assigned a Tanahashi match in the next round. :P

(Note: I purposely avoided reading any of the posts above this one ahead of time because I didn't want my own initial impressions and opinions influenced in any way.)

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