It is an exciting time to be a pro wrestling fan. New Japan Pro Wrestling will start the 2019 wrestling calendar with their biggest event, Wrestle Kingdom 13. This extravaganza has become widely popular with fans across the globe since New Japan began to expand their market.
As a Fale Dojo staff member, which of course includes world-class and award-winning trainers, I am proud of the collective talent from NZ that compete for New Japan. I’m proud of the affiliation between Fale Dojo and NJPW, and I’m proud of what the Dojo is contributing to the wrestling profession. As a New Zealander of Pacific heritage, I’m proud because of all the wrestling promotions in the world, there are three New Zealanders on the New Japan roster who significantly reflect our country’s multicultural identity, Toa Henare (Maori), Jay White (European) and Bad Luck Fale (Tongan, Pasifika).
I’m excited to see the notorious “Switchblade”, a future World Champion, take on his arch-nemesis, the heroic Kazuchika Okada. I also can’t wait to see my fellow islanders, the Guerrilla’s of Destiny, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, the sons of King Haku, defend their IWGP Tag Team belts against Sanada and Evil, and the Young Bucks. The “Underboss”, the godfather of the Bullet Club is bound to make his imposing presence felt during the matches that involve his BC brothers.
There is one other match that I’m anticipating, and that’s the RevPro British Heavyweight Championship match between the champion, Tomohiro Ishii, the striker and the challenger, Zack Sabre Jr, the grappler.
Both wrestlers have been very articulate in the way they’ve combatted each other. There have been instances where Ishii has been born vulnerable to Sabre’s grappling style. This is quite a unique occurrence as Ishii has often thrashed many opponents with his masterful strikes. I enjoy seeing this clash of cultures and ideologies being displayed in the ring. This could be very similar to the kind of pure wrestling that Verne Gagne fought hard to preserve in the 1980s.
During one of their matches, NJPW English-speaking commentator, Rocky Romero made a great analogy which referred to Sabre Jr’s wrestling ability. “You can’t be playing checkers when this guy is playing chess”. Romero’s reference reflected the contrasting mindsets between Ishii and Sabre, insinuating that Ishii’s style was straightforward and simple as checkers. It doesn’t require as much thought as chess for example which is complicated and requires a lot of forward thinking. Romero’s comment sums up how Sabre has grounded Ishii during their contests. However, ZSJ hasn’t always emerged as the victor.
Although Ishii has been often tied up in a number of Sabre’s holds, the “Stone Pitbull” has demonstrated his fighting spirit by enduring many a grappling hold just so he could get close enough to hit the often cocky Englishman with a devastating strike. This has resulted in Ishii earning some notable wins over Sabre Jr.
ZSJ is regarded as the best technical wrestler in the world. In his matches with Ishii, Zack’s height has been seen as an advantage over Ishii’s stocky build. There has been a recurring theme where Sabre applies his submission holds on Ishii in the middle of the ring which means that Ishii has the arduous task of moving towards and touching the rope so that the hold could be released. But Zack must put in a great deal of effort to apply and maintain the holds.
An advantage that Ishii holds over Sabre is his maturity. While wrestling each other, Ishii challenged Sabre using his own forte of repertoire moves and counters. This upset ZSJ to the point where he needed the calming presence of his cornerman, Taka Michinoku to calm him down. Sabre has panicked when Ishii has taken a move from Sabre’s repertoire. Zack’s behaviour shows that he is rarely tested, unlike the experienced Ishii.
I’m looking forward to seeing how this match will unfold. Ishii vs. Sabre has really grasped my interest based on how meticulous their matches have been, exploring ways on how to combat the human body and the contrast in styles between the two performers. ‘The Striker vs. the Grappler’ will surely add a vital layer of intrigue to the already exciting card. The overall WK line up is top-notch and with New Japan, the focus is always on the quality of performance in the ring. This match will no doubt contribute to and promote the company’s philosophy regarding in-ring performance. The RevPro Heavyweight Championship (from the Revolution Pro Wrestling company based in England) will add an important and different element that will keep the viewers captivated from bell to bell.