For the past five years or so, Pro-Wrestling Guerilla has been a hotbed for the biggest indy wrestling shows in North America. They’ve basically overtaken Ring of Honor as the top destination for pro wrestlers looking to make a name for themselves in the United States. And their reputation has spread far and wide thanks to a multitude of wrestlers wrestling for them on their biggest shows. The list of wrestlers to have wrestled on at least one big PWG show is impressive. Guys like AJ Styles, Kenny Omega, Claudio Castagnoli, Tyler Black, Kevin Steen, Adam Cole, Drew Galloway/McIntyre, Ricochet, Tommaso Ciampa and Will Ospreay have all performed on big PWG shows.
The match we’re looking at today is another case of big stars wrestling on a PWG show to get their names out there. It featured two of Europe’s top wrestlers competing in singles competition in a match that, apparently, was so good that it was considered to be one of the best matches to ever take place. Looking back now, let’s see how accurate that is. Today we look back at the singles match between WALTER and Zack Sabre Jr. from PWG All Star Weekend 13.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
Pro-Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) hosts some big annual shows that act as ‘best of’ shows that bring as many top stars from around the world together in one place. That show is called All Star Weekend, and on the 2017 edition, it included a singles match between two of Europe’s best wrestlers. On one side was Zack Sabre, Jr., who is basically Daniel Bryan with his technical proficiency raised to eleven. ZSJ is a small and scrawny little man who, if you can believe it, looks less threatening than Bryan. But ZSJ is deceptively dangerous because he’s skilled at using technical counters and locking his opponents in punishing submission holds. On the other side is WALTER, who is very much ZSJ’s polar opposite. WALTER is a monstrous hoss, a mountain of a man that hits incredibly hard and can take a ton of punishment like it’s nothing. He likes to take his time in the ring, but when he hits his opponent, he puts all of his strength behind him.
So who would win: the quick and deceptive technician or the slow and monstrous brute?
This match originally took place on October 21st, 2017.
The crowd is already quite loud as the match begins and is split evenly between both wrestlers. ZSJ goes for an early take-down but WALTER throws him away. Another tie-up ends with WALTER throwing ZSJ around a second time. After another take-down and another stand-off, the half the crowd chants ‘f**k you Sabre’ so ZSJ flips them off. ZSJ goes for a headlock but WALTER powers out and judo arm throws him with great force. They do the Greco-Roman knuckle lock and at first WALTER out-powers ZSJ quickly. But ZSJ fights back with stiff kicks to WALTER’s calf and gets WALTER to go down. They trade bridges while still locked together and this time WALTER gets on top of ZSJ. But somehow, ZSJ bridges up, holding himself – and WALTER – up by his neck. Damn, that must take incredible strength.
ZSJ fights out of the knuckle lock, ducks a chop and lands a flurry of palm strikes, to which WALTER responds with a single chop that drops ZSJ instantly. WALTER lands one more big chop, followed by a pair of big scoop slams and a running seated senton, all for a two-count. ZSJ lands some uppercuts and applies a deep headlock. WALTER sends him into the ropes and neither man moves off a shoulder tackle. WALTER absorbs a kick and drops ZSJ with another shoulder tackle that sends ZSJ out of the ring. At ringside, WALTER hits more devastating chops that sends ZSJ careening into the fan’s chairs. This goes on for a bit as WALTER drags ZSJ around the ringside area until ZSJ catches WALTER’s arm and stomps on it against the apron.
ZSJ gets some huge kicks in on WALTER as WALTER lands another massive chop. He bends WALTER’s hand and stomps on it, but that only halts WALTER momentarily as he chops ZSJ some more. WALTER gorilla presses ZSJ into the ring and starts choking ZSJ in a corner with his foot, but ZSJ counters into a heel hook. WALTER escapes and lands an elbow and taunts ZSJ to fight him. ZSJ lands some mocking shoulder checks so WALTER chops him down once again. ZSJ comes back over and over, eating one big chop after another. Each one sends him flying down to the mat but he spring back up. Finally, he erupts in a fury of leg kicks and counters WALTER with a leg trip into an ankle lock. WALTER reaches the ropes so ZSJ stomps hard onto his head and kicks the arm he used to reach the ropes.
The fans chant for both guys equally as ZSJ responds to a chop with an arm wrench to one arm and a stomp to the other. ZSJ gets some revenge in by mocking and taunting WALTER, which only makes the big man even angrier. ZSJ gets too cocky with some kicks as WALTER chops his chest into oblivion. WALTER unleashes a ton of stomps on ZSJ’s head as the crowd erupts in cheers for him. Suddenly ZSJ gets up and lands a big boot of his own. WALTER counters into a sleeper hold. ZSJ reaches the ropes, so WALTER breaks his hold and lands a big German suplex followed by a butterfly suplex for a two-count.
WALTER deadlifts ZSJ but ZSJ counters into a judo toss out of nowhere. ZSJ charges but walks into a big boot. WALTER goes for a lariat but ZSJ counters into a Nakamura-style flying armbar, only for WALTER to reach the ropes. WALTER cannot use his arms so he makes full use of his legs by hitting a charging ZSJ with a huge shotgun dropkick. Big boot by WALTER followed by a German suplex and a lariat. One, two, no, ZSJ kicks out.
Both of WALTER’s arms hurt but he still musters enough strength to land a chop, yet he still winces in pain as it lands. WALTER goes for a sitout piledriver but ZSJ counters into an octopus hold. but WALTER powers out of that and tries again, only for ZSJ to escape once more. WALTER runs into a big boot and ZSJ goes for a diving uppercut but WALTER catches him and reapplies the sleeper. Wait, no, ZSJ escapes and counters into a European clutch for two. WALTER lands a lariat and goes fir a boot, but ZSJ blocks and lands more running kicks of his own. ZSJ charges but WALTER literally boots him out of the air and both men go down.
Both wrestlers get up slowly and ZSJ slaps WALTER and WALTER lands a chop. ZSJ goes down but WALTERs still clutching his wrist due to ZSJ’s earlier work on his arm. ZSJ goads WALTER into chopping him again and blocks one chop and kicks WALTER’s other hand. ZSJ follows with some clever transitions into an armbar but WALTER fights out, only to be caught in a triangle armbar hold. But not for long. Powerbomb by WALTER. Then he goes for another one. ZSJ counters into a guillotine choke. WALTER counters into a butterfly suplex. Folding powerbomb. ZSJ kicks out again. Sleeper hold by WALTER. ZSJ tries breaking WALTER’s fingers, then escapes the hold and Pélé kicks WALTER’s hand. He kicks WALTER’s hand on a lariat and slaps the top of WALTER’s head as hard as possible. WALTER clutches both hands as ZSJ unloads a ton of stiff slaps to WALTER’s face. WALTER can take no more and delivers another brutal chop but can’t capitalize right away due to the damage to his hands. ZSJ escapes a sleeper and jumps onto WALTER’s back with his own but WALTER tosses him away. ZSJ grapples into a bridging pin but WALTER counters that into another sleeper hold. ZSJ taps almost instantly. WALTER wins.
Winner after 20:04: WALTER
You can watch the match at the following link. It won’t let us embed it: https://www.bilibili.com/video/av19146763/
This was nowhere near 5-stars, not even close. It was a good match, but I’ve seen better matches from both WALTER and ZSJ. Maybe Meltzer praised it so much because it was in front of a PWG crowd and they’re notorious for being extremely loud and over-reacting to stuff. But I didn’t see the spectacle or the depth that would make this a historically-epic match.
They followed WALTER’s typical match formula which told a David vs. Goliath story but with a few twists. WALTER was very much the hero here as the crowd booed ZSJ mercilessly here. ZSJ knew he was hated so he wrestled like a heel. Except he didn’t wrestle in a way that played to his own strengths; instead, he tried to wrestle like WALTER against WALTER, which was a surefire recipe for disaster. There was no way ZSJ would be able to land all his usual lightning-fast counters, complex holds and punishing submission holds against a man that looks like he weighs twice as much as him. So ZSJ tried to match WALTER strike-for-strike in a tough guy contest and lost big time. And because ZSJ left his comfort zone, the match ended up being completely one-sided and devoid of any real tension. WALTER winning became inevitable pretty quick which made the match feel less like a genuinely exciting contest and more like an exercise in patience. Sure, ZSJ did a great job attacking WALTER’s hands to weaken his biggest offensive weapons. But that was merely a stalling tactic and didn’t open any paths to victory for ZSJ. And that stalling was worsened by lots of dead moments of long stare-downs and taunting sequences that came across as overacted and silly, despite both wrestlers’ best efforts to make them look realistic.
That said, this match did have some great moments. ZSJ bridged out of a pin with WALTER on top of him which showed how inhumanly strong his neck muscles must be. And Zack also did an amazing job of selling WALTER’s chops while trying his best to look defiant and gritty. But most of all, this match was a great display of why WALTER is awesome. WALTER is not a ‘performer’, a ‘daredevil’, or even an ‘athlete’, but a competitor. WALTER doesn’t give a damn about looking good – be it in the ring or with his own appearance – when he wrestles. He only cares about winning and it shows in his matches. In that sense he’s like Brock Lesnar: he doesn’t care about dazzling people with flashy moves or over-the-top sequences and instead remains focused on demolishing his opponents. There’s a simple elegance to WALTER’s wrestling style; he hits straightforward moves like a lariat, a sleeper hold and chops, yet he uses all of them with brutal efficiency. They’re not flashy or exciting by any means, but they work, and that’s what’s most important for WALTER.
And that’s exactly how WALTER obliterated ZSJ here. There was little-to-nothing ZSJ could do to weaken WALTER in any way so WALTER had plenty of time to wear ZSJ down with unrelenting chops and high-impact bombs. And instead of booing that simplicity in an age of over-complication and exaggeration, the PWG crowd cheered WALTER on the top of their lungs. Clearly he has found a niche in today’s wrestling world that really makes him a top draw.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Although the match had some strong moments, it’s by and large disappointing given the two wrestlers involved. ZSJ is arguably the most proficient in-ring technician in the world today and WALTER is basically an Austrian Stan Hansen. On paper, a singles encounter between them should be monumentally epic. But that wasn’t the case here. Maybe it was a lack of proper chemistry, uncertainty on what to do, or one or both wrestlers being uncomfortable in leaving their comfort zones. Either way, this match, while solid, isn’t anywhere near that epic 5-star level that it was originally rated.
Luckily for us, after this match, WALTER made his way to WWE and has achieved great success on WWE’s NXT UK brand. Since his debut, he has already had at least two absolutely terrific matches which showed just why his name carries so much weight. I’ve already reviewed two of them, and both of them are significantly better than this one.
Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.