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Views from the Hawke’s Nest: Best of Sabu in NJPW

April 12, 2016 | Posted by TJ Hawke
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Views from the Hawke’s Nest: Best of Sabu in NJPW  

January 4, 1995
Sabu & Masahiro Chono vs. Junji Hirata & Tatsumi Fujinami
This match started out incredibly hot with Sabu flying all over the place and some intense brawling from the other guys. They quickly settled down into a regular tag match though, and the match lost everything that made it fun and unique during this time.

Thankfully, Sabu lost patience with this eventually. He just randomly brought in a bunch of plunder and made an overly complicated setup that led to a botched legdrop through a table. Long live the king!
Anyway, Sabu ended up hitting Hirata with a chair which allowed Chono to pin him after a boot to the face. This was #VeryOk. (**¼)



January 19, 1995
Sabu & Masahiro Chono vs. Michiyoshi Ohara & Shiro Koshinaka
This was an energetic brawl where both teams were working with a sense of urgency and purpose. You did not need context to get invested in this match. You just needed to witness how much each team clearly cared about winning. (I’m pretty sure the issue between the teams was about Ohara and Sabu decided who got to keep purple pants going forward.)

Also, because it’s Sabu, plunder was inserted late into the match for no reason but my amusement. This time the table did not break on a slingshot legdrop. Long live the king!

Ohara and Koshinaka ended up enduring this period of strife though and later made a huge comeback. However, while Sabu and Koshinaka brawled into the crowd, Chono finished Ohara with a big boot. This was fun! (***½)



March 13, 1995
Sabu & Masahiro Chono & Hiro Saito & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hiroshi Hase & Junji Hirata & Riki Choshu & Shinya Hashimoto
This was a ⅔ falls match.

The intensity, physicality, and sense of urgency in this match makes it so apparent how much standards and quality has dropped in Japan overall since the nineties. That’s not to say that there is not great stuff now, but everything about this match was just…intense. There is no other word for it. You felt like you were truly watching a contest of physical skill with two sides determined who were superior.

You may be thinking that in this intense battle with seven NJPW stars, that Sabu would resist the urge to be Sabu in the final minutes. Oh, you would be wrong. You would be VERY wrong. Sabu just randomly starts bringing out tables and chairs and then does the most spectacular botch ever right before Tenzan wins the match with a moonsault on Hirata. This was peak Sabu. Long live the king! (***½)



May 3, 1995
Sabu vs. Koji Kanemoto(c) [IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship]
The story of this match was initially very sound and genuinely interesting. Sabu was throwing everything he had at Kanemoto early on and got some of his tame shit in. Kanemoto fought back grounded Sabu. This was not particularly interesting, but it made sense at least. Sabu then came back with some typical Sabu botches and nonsense. It was hilarious. Kanemoto kind of then got into it with the ref which gave Sabu the opportunity to win the match/title with an Arabian Press Moonsault. This was a very mixed bag. There was too much fun though to hate on it. (***)



June 14, 1995
Sabu(c) vs. Koji Kanemoto [IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship]
This just felt like a collection of things happening instead of any coherent story being told. That may sound common for Sabu, but his matches in NJPW that I have seen have largely avoided that typical pitfall. There were some cool moments in this one for sure, and there were also a handful of Sabu moments to make it funny. They would not be enough though for me to recommend seeking it out. Kanemoto won with a moonsault, and he looked eternally grateful to not have to work with Sabu anymore. (**½)



June 12, 1995
Sabu(c) vs. Black Tiger [IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship]
This was tragically JIP. I hate clipped matches, and it’s always going to probably prevent me from diving head-first into eighties footage. This seemed a little clunky and disjointed, but I genuinely always have trouble getting invested in matches where I can’t see the beginning. Sabu reined in some of his more botch-y tendencies which was very disappointed. He did win the match on an exceptionally weak Arabian Press Moonsault though. (n/a)


September 21, 1995
Sabu & Masahiro Chono vs. Keiji Mutoh & Jushin Liger
This was a clunky and disjointed mess, but it was very easy to watch and an enjoyable brawl to experience. Sabu really offered something unique to NJPW to break up the monotony that naturally comes from having a certain style. It basically makes every match he has in the company entertaining in spite of itself. Muta won here with a moonsault on Sabu. (***)


September 23, 1995
Sabu vs. Jushin Liger
This was a near disaster in some ways, as they could not get on the same page for their lives here. When it was not awkward and uninspired, it was downright terrible in regards to the botching. You could see how frustrated Liger was being in there with Sabu. From an entertainment perspective, this was amazing. From a wrestling perspective, it was embarrassing. Split the difference and call it…(**¾)



September 25, 1995
Sabu, Black Cat, & Hiro Saito vs. Akira Nogami, El Samurai, & Gran Hamada
This was one of those tag matches that just goes on and on without any clearly defined structure of story. That gets tedious for me pretty quickly, and this was not the exception despite the diversity in talent in the ring. Black Cat won the match after a Muscle Buster on Samurai. (**¼)


November 23, 1995
Sabu vs. Gran Hamada [UWA Junior Heavyweight Championship]
This was solid. The matchup itself was unique and got some points for that. The story of the match was also very logical and well-worked. Hamada grounded Sabu with his technical skill. Sabu fought back with high spots. Sabu then won with an Arabian Press Moonsault. There was nothing terribly exciting about this one (intentionally or unintentionally), but I enjoyed it. (***)


December 11, 1995
Sabu & Hiro Saito vs. Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko
This one started out hot, and it seemed like we were settling into a cool match. Benoit and Malenko were working with a sense of purpose and were methodically picking apart the other team. The match’s momentum just slowly petered out though, and they never regained the energy they had in the beginning. By the time Saito finished Malenko with a Togo Senton, I lost all interest. With Sabu, it either needs to be truly excellent or a trainwreck. There is no room for this average nonsense. (**½)


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The final score: review Good
The 411
Watching Sabu in NJPW was genuinely one of the most enjoyable wrestling viewing experiences for me in recent memory. Each match would be super serious at first, and then at the very last second...Sabu would introduce plunder and both something spectacularly. I genuinely got excited during each match for the botches. I finally get Sabu, and it took marathonning some matches of his in NJPW. I encourage you all to do the same thing!

article topics :

NJPW, Sabu, TJ Hawke