At the Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling co-branded G1 Supercard, we had Zack Sabre, Jr. defend the RevPro Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship. His challenger was none other than the Ace himself, Hiroshi Tanahashi. The match began with Taka Michinoku leading the crowd in the customary introduction of his charge. He and many of the 16,000 plus in attendance declared that it was Zack Sabre, Jr. time. When asked about the result of the match, the answer was much more divided. The Suzuki-gun spokesman, however, was resolute in his opinion that ZSJ would be retaining the title.
Zack Sabre, Jr. won the championship for the third time in his career back at Wrestle Kingdom 13 from Tomohiro Ishii. He’s since had three successful defenses prior to this one. They were over Shingehiro Irie and James Mason. Zack did lose to PAC, but it was via disqualification, so the title did not change hands. Going into this match, Sabre and Tanahashi have met in some way on 11 different occasions. Four of them were in singles competition. Once for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, once in the G1 Climax and twice in the New Japan Cup. Most recently, Tanahashi defeated ZSJ in the quarter-final of the 2019 New Japan Cup. ZSJ defeated Tanahashi in the finals of the 2018 New Japan Cup, where he became the first British winner of that tournament. Prior to this match, the record was 2 for each match making this the rubber match.
After Taka’s long-winded speech, things were finally able to get underway. Zack Sabre, Jr. began by taunting his legendary opponent. Things quickly turned over to what everyone came to see, pure wrestling. Zack chose on this night, Tanahashi’s arm with which to create his masterpiece. The Ace would be able to shake Zack early in the contest. We did get to see the signature air guitar, sling blades and a twist and shout from Tanahashi. However, each time Tanahashi would gain some momentum Zack would attack the arm once again. The elder wrestler is stronger than ZSJ in terms of power as well as physically larger. When it comes to technical prowess, few can touch the lanky Brit. Due to the continued attack on Tanahashi’s left arm, he couldn’t even perform his signature skin the cat on the ropes.
A variety of holds would be implemented by ZSJ through in the attack on the arm of the Ace. The tried and true armbar would make several appearances in the match. Other holds Sabre would employ are the cobra twist, the European Clutch, and the Napalm Death. While ZSJ’s focus was the arm, Tanahashi’s would be the long legs of the champion. Tanahashi would employ dragon screw leg whips and a Texas Cloverleaf in his efforts. While Zack did feel some effect of Tanahashi’s attacks, it would prove to be Sabre’s that were more effective. ZSJ’s offense was also more sustained throughout the match, as he was able to keep Tanahashi from building any continuous momentum.
The Madison Square Garden crowd was almost unanimously behind Hiroshi Tanahashi. There were pockets of loud ZSJ fans though throughout the arena. In the end, Taka Michinoku’s prediction did indeed come true. Zack was able to make the 20-year veteran Tanahashi tap out to the Napalm Death. This was after fifteen grueling minutes of a no-frills and grinding offense. With this win, it would be ZSJ’s fourth successful title defense. Zack would also be the only wrestler on the G1 Supercard to retain the title he walked in with. Every other championship on the card changed hands.