Zack Sabre Jr., who is widely considered to be the best technical wrestler in the world, caused a decent number of eyebrows to raise when he lost the EVOLVE Championship on Thursday to Matt Riddle, a title he had held for 404 days. The head scratching and speculation continued when Sabre dropped his second championship in two days as Tomohiro Ishii ended the Technical Wizard’s 396 day reign (second longest of all-time) as Rev Pro British Heavyweight Champion.
Heartbroken to have to say goodbye to @zacksabrejr, but we’re unbelievably proud to have had such a great champion and wrestler be part of the WWNLive family. Thanks for everything, Zack. Come back anytime. pic.twitter.com/9aVJi2VKE3
— EVOLVE Wrestling (@WWNEVOLVE) April 7, 2018
This marks the first time since 2016 that Sabre, who was named the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Bryan Danielson Award for Best Technical Wrestler for a fourth consecutive year in 2017, hasn’t held a major title, leading some to suggest that he could be WWE-bound. After all, Sabre did compete in the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic in 2016 as a free agent. With an announcement that WWE was bringing back King of the Ring as a UK-exclusive tournament, Sabre to WWE would have made a lot of sense.
Those speculations were shot down however as JJ Williams of the Observer, announced that Zack Sabre Jr. had signed a new full-time deal with New Japan Pro Wrestling, citing that to be his number one priority and providing an explanation as to why the rising star saw his two lengthy title reigns come to an end during Wrestlemania week.
ZSJ has signed a full time NJPW contract so that's his number one priority at this time.
— JJ Williams (@JJWilliamsWON) April 7, 2018
This is a great move for Sabre, who has been making a name for himself as a member of the Suzuki-Gun staple for the past year-plus. Alongside Minoru Suzuki, Sabre has had opportunities to work in front of larger crowds and to truly finesse himself as an all-around performer. Always a remarkable technical wrestler, Sabre has developed into someone capable of cutting a great heel promo and uses his work in the ring to support this. As a heel, Sabre is one of the best in the business right now as he is incredibly suited to that role.
Zack Sabre Jr.’s breakout moment came as a shock to many as the Brit became the first gaijin (non-Japanese wrestler) since Giant Bernard (WWE’s Albert/NXT’s Matt Bloom) in 2005, to win the New Japan Cup. As the first-ever European to win the prestigious cup, Sabre defeated Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, SANADA, and Hiroshi Tanahashi. That is an absolute who’s who of some of the top NJPW guys right now and Sabre beat them all, showing a larger audience everything that Progress and EVOLVE fans have already known.
He may have passed me awhile ago… but don't tell him I said that
— Daniel Bryan (@WWEDanielBryan) August 13, 2017
For fans of New Japan, this wasn’t entirely Sabre’s coming out party either as he had an impressive debut in the G1 Climax in 2017. Sabre secured 10 points and finished tied for third in his block, picking up wins over Ishii, Togi Makabe, and IWGP Intercontinental Champion, Hiroshi Tanahashi. This led to Sabre getting a title match for Tanahashi’s belt, and despite falling short, it was another great showcase for the young Brit, who became the first from his country to challenge for the belt since William Regal in 1995.
When looking at New Japan’s plans for international expansion, Zack Sabre Jr. could very well be one of the faces of the ever-evolving brand. He’s young, he’s talented, and he represents an emerging and red-hot British market, where New Japan is headed for Strong Style Evolved: United Kingdom this summer.
Plus, he is arguably the best technical wrestler on the planet and someone like that is destined to do well in New Japan as Sabre has already proven he can. For Sabre’s career, sticking with New Japan will allow him to fulfill the international personal goals he had when deciding not to sign full-time with WWE after the Cruiserweight Classic. It could also provide the opportunity for the 31-year-old to achieve heights no one from Britain has ever before.
New Japan says it’ll begin it’s British expansion in 4 months too. They'll host 2 shows in England. The company crowned its first english New Japan Cup Champion a week prior to the announcement. #NJPW (Photo Credit: NJPW) pic.twitter.com/0pECSKLblE
— Matador Student News (@matanewscast) March 28, 2018
Sabre had a 4.75 Dave Meltzer rated match when he challenged Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Sakura Genesis 2018, a match he earned by winning the New Japan Cup. The Technical Wizard may not be ready to dethrone Okada yet but with his new full-time commitment to New Japan and the push he is likely to receive, its not out of the realm of possibility to one day see Zack Sabre Jr. as the first-British born IWGP Heavyweight Champion.