Zack Sabre Jr | The Best Technical Wrestler In The World Today

Technical wrestling is a style of wrestling that requires dedication to learning the art of wrestling holds. As said by a technical master in his own right, William Regal,

“A great technical wrestler is somebody who dedicates his time and energy to learning every nuance of why a hold hurts and how to apply it correctly to get the most benefit out of it…

It’s somebody that is never happy with the knowledge that they have and is always trying to come up with better ways to execute a hold.”

zack sabre jr
[Photo: WrestleZone]
With that in mind, if there’s one name that springs to mind when this style of wrestling is mentioned in the 21st century, then that name is Zack Sabre Jr’s British wrestling, and the image of technical wrestling owes a lot to Zack Sabre Jr.

As a star of both scenes on multiple continents, he is a multi-time winner of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Technical Wrestler award and deserves a spotlight for his achievements in the field.

Zack Sabre Jr | A Background

Zack Sabre Jr. hails from the Isle of Sheppey, an island not too far southeast of London that is only connected to the rest of Britain by a pair of bridges. Little is known about his upbringing, though it’s clear that wrestling had a big impact on the man from a young age.

At just fourteen years old, Sabre Jr. began training at the NWA UK Hammerlock training school under the tutelage of Andre “Sledgehammer” Baker and Jon Ryan.

The young Brit then made his debut for NWA UK Hammerlock in 2004 under the name Zack Sabre Jr., it being his ring name as opposed to his birth name.

It’s unknown why he chose to go with this name or who the original Zack Sabre is supposed to be, but it’s a name that stands out in a crowd and has since become synonymous with success.

Zack Sabre Jr. Shares The Smallest Crowd He Ever Wrestled In Front Of -
[Photo: eWrestlingNews]

Made in Europe

After quickly rising through the ranks in NWA UK and capturing the NWA United Kingdom Junior Heavyweight Title, Zack Sabre Jr. made his way to Germany, where he competed for German Promotion wXw.

The promotion has given platforms to many future stars of the industry, including Claudio Castagnoli, Malakai/Aleister Black (Tommy End), and Gunther (Walter). Zack Sabre Jr. first appeared in wXw in 2006, his first match being a Tables, Ladders, Chairs, And 10,000 Thumbtacks match at the promotion’s European King of the Deathmatches event in Colchester.

When he returned for the start of his main wXw run in 2008 and picked up his first win against wXw stalwart Rico Bushido, Sabre Jr. decided to make the promotion his second home and one he would appear for near enough each month for a decade.

His run with wXw saw him participate in some of the promotion’s most prestigious tournaments and events, including on multiple occasions the 16 Carat Gold tournament, where well-known names from across the globe come to Germany to compete.

Eventually, the Technical Wizard won the tournament in 2016, having won wXw’s similarly structured tournament for younger performers, Ambition, three years prior. This accolade only added to his already impressive wXw gold haul, with the wXw Tag Titles and wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship already on his résumé.

The circumstances that brought about Sabre Jr’s wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship reign changed the makeup of wXw’s title hierarchy, with Sabre Jr. making history in the process. Zack Sabre Jr. claimed the wXw World Lightweight Championship from Tommy End in 2010 at wXw Back To The Roots IX.

He then went on to beat Steve Douglas at wXw Dead End X in the same year, with both his World Lightweight Championship and Douglas’ World Heavyweight Championship on the line, thus creating the wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship.

Even with his success elsewhere, Zack Sabre Jr. started in the UK and maintained appearances for multiple UK independent promotions throughout and beyond his development phase.

RevPro’s British Heavyweight Championship has been around Sabre Jr’s waist multiple times, and he’s had success in both IPW:UK and Progress Wrestling in his rise to the top.

[Photo: Pinterest]

Star in Japan

It wasn’t long after he made history in 2011 that promotions in the east came knocking. In 2011, during their European tour, the Japanese promotion founded by the legendary Mitsuharu Misawa, Pro Wrestling NOAH, brought Sabre Jr. aboard. The promotion even had a joint event with wXw in that year, Genesis in Germany, which saw Zack Sabre Jr. defeat a young Taiji Ishimori.

Success in NOAH was not immediate for Sabre Jr., losses as part of NOAH’s annual Junior Heavyweight & Junior Heavyweight Tag Leagues.

It wasn’t until Great Voyage 2013, when Sabre Jr. picked up his first title after he and “Rat Boy” Yoshinari Ogawa defeated the team of Tiger Mask and Jushin Thunder Liger to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles which the pair would go on to win again in 2014.

Ogawa, along with NOAH icon Naomichi Marufuji, were crucial to Zack Sabre Jr’s development and rise during his time with NOAH. When Sabre Jr. returned to the promotion in 2023, he spoke about Ogawa, the master to his student with Tokyo Sports and said,

“It goes without saying that Mr. Ogawa is not only one of the greatest wrestlers of all time but also one of the greatest professional wrestling minds who continues to be relevant and inspirational for generations. I learned a lot by playing sports and traveling around Japan (with Ogawa).”

Pro Wrestling NOAH would only be the beginning of the Technical Wizard in Japan. He and Katsuyori Shibata feuded over the RevPro British Heavyweight Title first at Global Wars 2016 in London and then at the New Japan Pro Wrestling 45th Anniversary Show in Tokyo, Japan, a year later.

There, he would defeat Shibata with the help of one of New Japan’s most prominent factions – Suzuki-Gun. This alliance with Minoru Suzuki’s group would kickstart Sabre Jr’s New Japan career, facing Hirooki Goto for the NEVER Openweight Title at Sakura Genesis a month later.

Sabre Jr. stayed with Suzuki-Gun until Minoru Suzuki disbanded the stable in 2022. His time with Suzuki-Gun saw him make a number of G1 Climax appearances and win a plethora of championships, including multiple New Japan Cup wins, and IWGP Tag Team Championship reigns as Dangerous Tekkers with Taichi.

Following the end of Suzuki-Gun, Zack Sabre Jr. once again made title history, this time becoming the inaugural New Japan Pro Wrestling World Television Champion at Wrestle Kingdom 17 after beating Ren Narita.

Zack Sabre Jr. becomes inaugural NJPW World TV Champion at Wrestle Kingdom  17, joins TMDK
[Photo: POST Wrestling]
This led to Sabre Jr. becoming a member of TMDK (The Mighty Don’t Kneel) with Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste, the second faction that Sabre Jr. has been a part of in New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Zack Sabre Jr vs. America

Despite wrestling for a number of years in the US for promotions such as PWG (Pro Wrestling Guerrilla), Evolve, Ring of Honor, and even having a landmark match, for both him and technical wrestling, against Bryan Danielson at AEW Wrestledream, Zack Sabre Jr. has never been one to shy away from the occasional jab at Americans. He once stated that “showing technical wrestling to Americans is like reading Shakespeare to a dog!”

Though he has won gold in various promotions in the US, Sabre Jr. made one of the most controversial decisions in his career in 2016 during WWE’s Cruiserweight Classic. The Cruiserweight Classic showcased stars from the Cruiserweight division in WWE as well as those from outside of WWE who fell into that weight class.

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Noam Dar - Quarterfinal Match: Cruiserweight Classic,  Sept. 7, 2016 - YouTube
[Photo: YouTube]
Zack Sabre Jr was just one of the stars to join up with WWE for the tournament, along with Japanese star Kota Ibushi. Both he and Ibushi reached the semi-finals of the competition, but both lost their respective semi-final matches.

The alleged reason for their losses was due to the pair choosing to sign contracts for New Japan instead of signing with the WWE. Sabre Jr. later confirmed this on the night that Suzuki-Gun disbanded when he said,

“Six years ago, I had the choice between WWE and New Japan. I chose New Japan because Minoru Suzuki invited me into Suzuki-gun. It’s more than a team, it’s family.

Today isn’t just the end of Suzuki-gun; today’s the end of Dangerous Tekkers.”

A day after a match he had against Kota Ibushi, Sabre Jr. posted this:

We’ll never know what would’ve happened if Zack Sabre Jr., Kota Ibushi or both signed for WWE that year. It’s hard to imagine either of the New Japan stars showing up week in week out on Raw or Smackdown but we were once just a pair of signatures away from seeing just that.

Behind the Scenes

The ins and outs of Zack Sabre Jr’s personal life aren’t in the public eye, yet there are a few things that he appears to be proud of or otherwise happy to share with the world.

The first is that Zack Sabre Jr. is a vegan, something he has in common with fellow technical aficionado Bryan Danielson. Sabre Jr. adopted the vegan lifestyle in 2015, having little interest in consuming meat already prior to the change.

He cites animal welfare concerns and health benefits as the primary reasons for making the change, but it doesn’t stop at food for him either – all of Zack Sabre Jr’s ring gear is leather-free and vegan.

He has also been featured in an ad campaign by animal rights organization PETA, where he claims to be “powered by plants.”

The second is his disdain of the UK Conservative Party, one of the biggest political parties in the UK. Zack Sabre Jr. is a proud socialist and supporter of the Labour Party, putting his beliefs in direct opposition with those of the Conservative Party.

On a number of occasions, Sabre Jr. has made clear his dislike of the party, particularly former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

During the early days of Johnson’s tenure, Zack Sabre Jr. found himself on the wrong end of a number of results during that year’s G1 Climax and eventually lost his British Heavyweight Championship, which are just two of the many things he blames Boris Johnson for.

Sabre Jr. also used his entrance at Wrestle Kingdom 17 to send a message to Conservate Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after the Royal College of Nursing in the UK went on strike. He said, “Rishi Sunak, pay nurses d***head, pay nurses a living wage!”

Zack Sabre Jr. Wants Match With AEW Champion - WrestleTalk
[Photo: WrestleTalk]

The Many Moves of Zack Sabre Jr

Most wrestlers are known for having one or two moves that they will finish opponents with each match, and as time passed, Zack Sabre Jr. took to primarily using a cross armbreaker, a variation on the Michinoku Driver called the Zack Driver, and a double underhook brainbuster called the Sabre Driver.

As fun to watch as these great moves are, there are a number of other moves with far more unique and amusing names that Sabre Jr. has adopted throughout his career, each owing to something undeniably British that someone outside of Britain may not quite understand:

  • Barry From Eastenders (owed to a character from the British soap opera Eastenders. Barry died after falling off of a cliff).
  • Orienteering With Napalm Death (owed to comedian Stewart Lee who once went orienteering with the band).
  • Sunday Rail Engineering Works Replacement Bus Service (British trains break down more easily than most would like).
  • Tesco Meal Deal (a British staple in on-the-go food).
  • You Can’t Play Conkers in England (some schools see the game as dangerous).
  • Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness (the title of a track by former British rock band Youthmovies).

When he’s not looking to put away his opponent, he utilizes an array of holds and quick strikes that work on his opponent’s limbs and wear them down over time, making each one look as vicious as can be in the process.

These sequences may not be the physically attractive, but they generate a reaction from the crowd nonetheless as they respect Sabre Jr’s ability to make each bit of the sequence work, flow correctly, and look as though it causes more pain for his opponents than it should.

What the Pros Say

After their match at Wrestledream, Bryan Danielson cut a promo full of passion and praise for his opponent.

Zack Sabre Jr. wants Bryan Danielson rematch in England or Japan - WON/F4W  - WWE news, Pro Wrestling News, WWE Results, AEW News, AEW results
[Photo: WON/F4W]

“You know that’s the kind of match I’ve wanted my entire career,”

– Bryan Danielson.

“In Seattle, in front of my hometown fans. I’ve never in my entire career gotten to wrestle like that in front of these people. I’m so grateful and happy that I was able to do that against a person as good as Zack.

But I’m also a little bit upset, if I’m going to be honest, because I came into this match thinking by the end of this match, we would find out definitely who the best technical wrestler in the world was.

And we leave that match, and somehow, even though I won, I don’t feel like I’m the best technical wrestler in the world. I can barely move my hand, and for me to beat Zack Sabre Jr.

I had to knock him the f**k out. So now I’m starting to think that maybe he is the best technical wrestler in the world. Maybe he is.”

Kurt Angle had high praise for Zack Sabre Jr. on his podcast, The Kurt Angle Show, stating that

“that kid blew my mind. One of the most talented wrestlers I ever got in the ring with. You know what? He’s not a big kid. He’s probably 185, 190 pounds. Incredibly athletic, a really good in-ring worker, too.”

WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin concurred on an episode of his podcast when he said that

“I’m a big fan of Zack Sabre Jr., he’s a good damn worker.”

Will Ospreay vs. Zack Sabre Jr. Set For NJPW Royal Quest III
[Photo: WrestleZone]
Will Ospreay spoke to the Metro prior to his match against Zack Sabre Jr. at Royal Quest III in London, saying that,

“I’ve always looked up to him in a weird way, we’ve had this incredibly friendly rivalry that’s stretched across England, America, and Japan, and it’s scary to say that he’s gotten even better.”

The two put on a spectacle, with Ospreay coming out on top.

The Legacy of the Submission Master

Zack Sabre Jr. will go down in history as one of the best technical wrestlers of all time. Each and every match he competes in, no matter the setting, the rules, or the style expected.

Sabre Jr. always offers those watching a mat wrestling display of the highest caliber and a show of the holds that make it look that much more ruthless.

Understandably, not every wrestler can match Sabre Jr. on the mat. Though, this doesn’t mean that Sabre Jr. is restricted entirely to the technical style of wrestling.

Some of Sabre Jr’s best matches contain little to no time spent on his back or wrenching a submission hold, making him one of the most versatile wrestlers of his era.

When all is said and done, Zack Sabre Jr. will be remembered as a modern throwback to some of wrestling’s oldest traditions combined with the fast-paced excitement of 21st-century pro wrestling.