Okada has grown on me over the past year or so, but I still can’t get over how the profile photo that NJPW uses in the match promotion cards make it look like he’s pushing out a fart.
ZSJ has the most incredible heeling physical charisma. When Okada isn’t making his Rock impersonation faces, he has these fantastic expressions that so infectiously pull you in; but then shortly after he lets his guard down, he quickly pivots back into some contorted fart face with an awkward attempt at an eyebrow raise.
The announcers set the stage by pointing out these two are 1-1 against each other.
ZSJ quickly goes for submission attempts, which is such a great way to quickly establish him as a legitimate threat, given their physical differences. I know some people can’t get over ZSJ’s comparative scrawniness, so I think even though it’s unfortunate, it’s nice when the threat he presents can be established early.
And do they ever do that — ZSJ almost catches Okada early with both submission holds and submission holds turned into pin attempts. Sabre just chips away at people; it’s amazing to watch. One of my favorite things he does when his opponent is down is to just toy with them, kicking them while they’re squirming around on the mat. It’s totally unnecessary and not even damaging, but such a punk thing to do that mostly just communicates what kind of guy you’re up against.
Okada gains a little momentum and goes for a Blackjack, but Sabre reverses it into a Guillotine. Okada goes for the Rainmaker relatively early, with the announcers declaring he’s on his way to going 2-0. Then he lands the Tombstone, but Sabre reverses a Rainmaker attempt and turns it into an incredible Octopus.
In college at parties I used to drunkenly convince other drunk people to let me apply Figure Four Leg-Locks and the Walls of Jericho. I hope that college kids these days are applying Zack Sabre Jr. holds at parties, but in fairness they might be too complicated to pull off after a few drinks. I’m only about 75% drunk now and I can’t figure out how he pulled off these contortions, and that’s just looking at the TV.
Okada uses his power to regain the momentum again, but just as quickly Sabre uses his speed and squirminess to apply submissions converted to pinning positions out of nowhere. And Sabre turns another Rainmaker attempt into another Flying Octopus. This is nuts!
But Okada hits two Rainmakers in a row, and that ends that. Okada is now at four points, and ZSJ has none. That was a fun match, but I felt like it actually could’ve gone quite a bit longer. The crispness and speed of ZSJ’s comebacks never quite diminished, so the finish felt a little premature. Still, absolutely worth watching.