Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr – NJPW G1 Climax 27 Day 3

Kota Ibushi vs Zack Sabre Jr

G1 Climax Block A Match

07/21/2017

Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

(reviewed 07/22/2017) On paper, this screams of being a match I’d hate. In reality, I kinda loved it! I’m usually not so much a fan of “you do a move, I do a move” matches unless they’re particularly nutty (see: Dragon Gate, most of the Dragon Lee/Kamaitachi matches, etc.), and while this isn’t particularly nutty, it is moderately nutty and has enough of a narrative that I could sink my teeth in. ZSJ, svelte newcomer with a mean streak and the knowledge of how to put that to good use takes on Ibushi, never-say-die shoto who has recently (kayfabe) come back from injury. They’re relatively on the same level at the moment and both really need a win here after eating losses on the first day of the tournament. Ibushi tries to play Zack’s game and hangs with him on the mat, even getting better of him with a straight jacket spot. He can’t handle it when Zack turns up the heat, though, making for a great spot where ZSJ responds to getting his snapmare reversed with the best ankle neck crank thing he’s ever done in his life. What’s more, Ibushi quickly learns that his opponent is no slouch in the strike department himself, forcing him to turn up the heat with his kicks and slaps as well. With this narrative, the usually monotonous “you hit me, I hit you” exchanges feel fresh again. What’s more, these two tone down many of their usual problems, with Zack remaining as pointed and vicious as always, and with Ibushi avoiding his more anime-influenced sequences. There are still small issues, like some selling that feels a little over-the-top in the context of the move and pace of the match (though, I should not, it’s far, far less egregious here than it is in other matches) and some of Zack’s transitions, but these are minor complaints in what is otherwise an airtight match. Speaking of which, this only runs about 15 minutes long, and it sure didn’t feel that short. That feels like the greatest compliment I can give, really; this match packs within it more intrigue and entertainment than its size implies.

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