NJPW Hyper Battle Report: Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

NJPW Hyper Battle Report: Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

By: Mark Buckeldee

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Hyper Battle ’22. Since 2013, New Japan usually has a big Tokyo show at Ryogoku Kokugikan in April. These were called Sakura Genesis or Invasion Attack. This year they chose Hyper Battle, a name that New Japan had last used in 2004. As is traditional in modern New Japan, it was the first stacked New Japan show since the Tokyo Dome with six title matches on the card.

The show was held in Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, with an announced attendance of 4,755 fans, which is almost 300 more than the 2021 Sakura Genesis show and New Japan’s largest non-Tokyo Dome attendance since the Pandemic started. In a more interesting sign, this sounded like the hottest New Japan crowd of the pandemic era with a lot of audible crowd reactions up and down the card. Although I am not sure if that is a sign of increased crowd investment or a sign of the audience thinking that COVID restrictions are winding down.

1 Jado, Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Gedo, Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale – An okay match lacking hate with a lot of time spent on Jado & Gedo.

2 Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito vs Aaron Henare & Will Ospreay – A good undercard tag where Henare got time to shine.

3 IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Championship: Master Wato & Ryosuke Taguchi (c) vs El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori – Some good action, lots of antics and more gay panic spots than I expected.

4 KOPW 2022 Championship: Toru Yano (c) vs Taichi – A fun match based around ring outs, my favourite KOPW match – RECOMMENDED

5 NEVER Championship: EVIL (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi – A good EVIL match thanks to Takahashi’s energy and strategy.

6 IWGP Heavyweight Tag Championship: YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto (c) vs Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb – A very good tag match between two teams who have grown a lot in the last year.

7 IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado (c) vs SHO – A struggle early on and lots of cheap tactics but a great, tenacious display from Desperado in a very good match.

8 IWGP Heavyweight: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr – Both Okada and Sabre Jr step up weaker parts of their game in a great match full of technical work and counters – RECOMMENDED

Jado, Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Gedo, Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale

After the Bullet Club turned on Tonga, Loa & Jado, they found themselves in the orbit of Tanahashi in their quest for vengeance.

The Bullet Club isolated Jado after an insipid walk and brawl. Tonga showed fire against Fale and the Guerrillas of Destiny took Fale down with a double suplex. Tanahashi and Owens fought until it came down to Jado & Gedo. The faces combined to attack Gedo before Jado got a near fall with the Green Killer. Gedo tried to use brass knuckles, but Jado countered with the Crossface of Jado, and Gedo tapped out when his partners were unable to make the save.

After the match, Tanahashi gave the GOD the Lion Mark shirt, and the GOD formally joined Sekigun, the loose association of unaligned faces in New Japan.

Jado submitted Gedo via Crossface of Jado (10:28)

The crowd cared a lot about this match, and it achieved its goals. Aside from this feeling slow and pedestrian at times, I had two main issues with this match. Firstly, the majority of the match was between Jado & Gedo who are clearly showing their years. Secondly, there was a very distinct lack of hate. The GOD showed fire but there was no wild anger, no cheap digs, no sense of unrestrained emotion. This is a key problem with New Japan turns and feuds, as shown previously with SHO vs YOH. 

Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito vs Aaron Henare & Will Ospreay

Takagi fought against Henare and Ospreay before tagging in Naito, who used his speed against Ospreay. Takagi and Ospreay showed their chemistry with a flurry of energetic counters. Ospreay took out Naito with a surprise flip dive that drew a big gasp from the crowd while Henare got a near fall with the Lanzarse. Naito took Ospreay down with a Spinebuster, but Henare Clotheslined both of his opponents. Henare kicked out of a Pumping Bomber before Takagi made Ospreay watch as he pinned Henare with the Made in Japan.

After the match, Takagi asked Ospreay for a title shot for Ospreay’s RPW British Heavyweight Title.

Shingo Takagi pinned Aaron Henare via Made in Japan (9:23)

This was a good undercard match. Henare showed his growth here and he looked good against Takagi. Ospreay was good and Takagi was his usual, polished self. It was nothing special but a very enjoyable undercard tag. 

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Championship: Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori

The Champions fought off the challengers using speed and combination attacks. Well, until Wato’s head was rammed into Taguchi’s buttocks and the Bullet Club gained control with mockery and back rakes. Taguchi eventually tagged in Wato, who did well until Phantasmo caught him in mid-air with a dropkick. Bullet Club kept using their “ironic” offense, including setting up some gay panic spots that made me think I was watching a PG Pheromones match. If you do not know what that means, then you are lucky.

Wato eventually fought back, and Taguchi got the hot tag, running wild with hip attacks. A diving double stomp earned Wato a nearfall before Phantasmo and Ishimori fought back with double teams. Wato kicked out of a spinning torture rack neckbreaker and Phantasmo hit the Thunder kiss ’76, only for Taguchi to make the save. Taguchi came back in and exchanged a series of pinning combinations with Phantasmo before Phantasmo accidentally pulled down Taguchi’s trunks and Taguchi sat down on Phantasmo’s face to steal the win.

Ryusuke Taguchi pinned El Phantasmo via sunset flip cutback (15:13) 

This was a fun match, but I would only go so far to call it decent. The pace felt slow, Phantasmo and Ishimori’s antics can be irritating and there were a lot of gay panic comedy spots that felt out of place. I can see a lot of people not enjoying this one.  

KOPW 2022 Championship, Ring out match: Toru Yano (c) vs Taichi

The ring ropes were removed after the entrances while the wrestlers waited. The match could be won via ring out, which played into the Sumo elements that Taichi has adopted in the last few months. They focused on ring outs a lot in the early going. Yano tried to use the referee and instead the referee went flying out of the ring and into the guardrail. There was a long sumo-inspired fight for control before Taichi managed to use a Sumo throw and sent Yano out of the ring to win the KOPW 2022. After the match, Taichi called out Shingo Takagi.

Taichi defeated Toru Yano via ring out (4:18)

I loved this match. It will not be for everyone, but I love matches that play around with logic and rules. They did a wonderful job of working to the logic of the match and teasing the drama, as well as playing up to Taichi’s sumo elements. This was my favorite KOPW match in New Japan, although I would have preferred if they had removed the ropes during the entrances to save a little time. Then again, I loved this match when Akito and Antonio Honda did in in DDT in 2015.

Pre-Intermission announcement

New Japan announced that the G1 Climax was returning to the summer as they announced the G1 Climax dates. So New Japan has now reset all of its tournaments back to the original times of the year before the pandemic. The details can be found at POSTWrestling.com.

Post Intermission announcement

SANADA addressed the crowd, stating that he was relinquishing the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship due to his fractured orbital bone, as he had no idea when he would be ready to return. SANADA wanted to give the title to Hiroshi Tanahashi, who was the previous Champion. Will Ospreay, who cause the injury in question, came out and demanded the US Heavyweight title. Hiroshi Tanahashi appeared, told Ospreay to shut up and a match was made between Tanahashi and Ospreay for the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship at Wrestling Dontaku on May 1st.

NEVER Championship: EVIL (c) vs Hiromu Takahashi

Takahashi wore black tights with EVIL written on them, getting into the head of his opponent. EVIL immediately went to grab some chairs from under the ring, but Takahashi stopped it. Takahashi did a great job of stopping EVIL from using his usual tricks. Unfortunately, after hitting two running dropkicks off the apron Takahashi ran into an EVIL Lariat and EVIL used his usual tricks to gain control.

The crowd got behind Takahashi, who fought back with a head scissors in the ropes and a running dropkick. Dick Togo tried to stop the sunset flip powerbomb, so Takahashi powerbombed EVIL onto Togo. EVIL avoided a running dropkick by putting one of the ring crew in the way. Darkness Falls earned EVIL a two count. Togo cut off a Takahashi come back and distracted the referee when Takahashi rolled up EVIL. After a ref bump, both Togo and EVIL stomped away on Takahashi. Takahashi hit the EVIL on Togo and then got nearfalls with the Time Bomb and the Victory Royale. EVIL hit a low blow, but Takahashi hit one of his own. They traded EVIL’s, and Takahashi got a nearfall with a roll-up. EVIL desperately threw Takahashi into an exposed turnbuckle. Takahashi ignored the pain but ran straight into an EVIL, giving EVIL the victory.

After the match Tama Tonga approached EVIL, only to be attacked by Yujiro Takahashi from behind. Tanga Loa made the save and the GOD stood tall. On the microphone, Tama Tonga said that it was time for payback.

EVIL pinned Hiromu Takahashi via EVIL (15:47)

This was a good match, especially by EVIL’s standards. The story was that Takahashi knew EVIL’s tricks, knew how to counter them and he was not afraid to use EVIL’s tactics against him. Sadly, Takahashi’s energy and determination were his downfall as he ran straight into the EVIL. At times this was great, with Takahashi knowing how to get the best out of the EVIL formula. The “turnabout is fair play” spots were very cathartic. When EVIL was in control the match dragged and the finish was deflating as it felt like the right time to have Takahashi as NEVER Openweight Champion. A very good EVIL match, but not great.

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Championship: YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto (c) vs Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb

O-Khan entered the ring with a certificate that he received from the Police for saving a 10-year-old girl from a drunken 61-year-old man at a train station. O-Khan asked for a handshake, but the Champions anticipated the sneak attack that followed. They quickly used a series of double teams before the United Empire isolated YOSHI-HASHI. Goto got tagged in and fought off both opponents. A GTR earned Goto a two count before Cobb made the save with a Lariat. O-Khan and Goto traded forearms before O-Khan hit an Ippon Zeoi and tagged in Cobb, who got a nearfall with a running backdrop suplex.

Goto tagged in YOSHI-HASHI, who targeted Cobb’s knee to keep him off balance. O-Khan came in and the Empire used a double team of their own, with a standing Moonsault earning Cobb a nearfall. The match broke down, ending with YOSHI-HASHI hitting a Lariat on O-Khan before getting caught with Cobb’s swinging back suplex for a nearfall. YOSHI-HASHI bravely fought back and hit a Canadian Destroyer on Cobb to set up the Shouto, only for O-Khan to break up the pin. YOSHI-HASHI took out O-Khan with a Superkick, but Cobb escaped multiple moves before YOSHI-HASHI locked in a kneebar. O-Khan made the save and hit a Wrist Clutch Eliminator on YOSHI-HASHI. Goto was taken out with a fireman’s carry cutter and O-Khan threw YOSHI-HASHI into the Tour of the Islands to a big reaction from the crowd as United Empire won the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.

Jeff Cobb pinned YOSHI-HASHI via Tour of the Islands (16:05) 

This was a very good match full of double teams and determination. While the match occasionally felt a little aimless it was full of good action, inventive double teams and the crowd was engaged and happy to see O-Khan and Cobb get the victory. The New Japan tag team division has been a weak point for New Japan for almost two decades at this point, but the YOSHI-HASHI and Goto run felt like a step in the right direction. This felt like another step in that direction. O-Khan and Cobb have developed good chemistry and double team combinations and it feels like an effective use of these two before they get more singles opportunities.

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado (c) vs SHO

SHO jumped Desperado during the Champion’s entrance. After a long attack on the outside, Desperado fought back and repeatedly stomped away at SHO in the ring, only for SHO to counter a tope with a chair shot. SHO continued his attack on the outside, including a nasty spot where Desperado went flying off the apron and landed ribs first onto the guard rail. SHO used a Kimura, but Desperado reached the ropes. Desperado tried to fight back with chops and hit a Tope con Hilo so hard that he hit the guard rail again.

The Guitarra del Angel earned Desperado a two count, as did a Frog splash. SHO surprised Desperado with a rear waist lock into a cross arm breaker, but Desperado reached the ropes. Desperado kept fighting back against SHO, refusing to back down. SHO invited Desperado to punch him in the face, only to grab the hand and further attack the arm. Desperado fought back with a Spinebuster and a pump handle powerbomb. SHO avoided the Pinche Loco, pushed Desperado into the referee, and hit a low blow. He went to hit Desperado with a spanner but got caught with the Jig n Tonic. Desperado threw the spanner away, but SHO countered the Pinche Loco into an arm trapped piledriver for a nearfall. SHO immediately followed it up with the Snake Bite, but the crowd got behind Desperado as he eventually reached the ropes. Desperado escaped the Shock Arrow, punched SHO in the face, and screamed in pain before again punching SHO in the face and hitting the Pinche Loco to win the match.

After the match Taiji Ishimori came out to challenge for the title. When they talked on the microphone the power cut out and Francesco Akira appeared. Akira is an Italian wrestler who stayed in Japan with All Japan during the Pandemic, winning the All-Japan Jr. Heavyweight title. He revealed a United Empire shirt, meaning that he was the mysterious Bruciare, and declared that he would see Desperado at the BOSJ.

El Desperado pinned SHO via Pinche Loco (20:33) 

This started off frustratingly with SHO using a lot of his EVIL-lite tendencies in the opening 5-10 minutes. However, the longer the match went the better it became. The match centered on Desperado taking punishment and overcoming the odds. While the finishing stretch included ref bumps and foreign object drama, Desperado was a strong emotional center, and the crowd was firmly behind him. It helped that he took some gnarly bumps. It was not perfect, and I know that the House of Torture style turns many people away, but Desperado did a great job as a fighting Champion. The finishing stretch with Desperado’s punches was simple but great. Your mileage will vary depending on your tolerance level of EVIL’s current style, but the match was much better than I expected, and Desperado deserves a lot of credit for that.  

IWGP Heavyweight: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr

After some early grappling, Sabre Jr avoided the Senton Atomico and locked in a Cross Armbreaker that sent Okada over the top rope and onto the floor, where Sabre Jr continued to use the hold. Sabre Jr focussed on the arm with intensity and aggression. Okada fought back with his speed, running forearms, and a DDT. The Champion then targeted Sabre Jr’s arm with submissions, only for Sabre Jr to come back with one of his own. Sabre Jr tetchily kicked away at Okada, leading to a forearm exchange before Sabre Jr went back to the arm. The Brit countered Okada’s reverse neckbreaker into a modified Octopus Stretch before Okada managed to hit the neckbreaker to free himself.

Sabre Jr blocked a Tombstone attempt and they both fought over a Cobra Stretch. While Sabre Jr succeeded, Okada escaped with a hip toss and kept looking for the Money Clip, before walking into a Manjigatame from Sabre Jr. Okada somehow escaped and locked in a Manjigatame of his own, forcing Sabre Jr to reach the ropes. Sabre Jr anticipated Okada’s offense and used a running Triangle choke while Okada was flat on the mat after missing a dropkick.

An attempt to powerbomb his way out of the triangle choke failed, so Okada had to kick his way out. After hitting a dropkick to the head of the grounded Okada, Sabre Jr got overconfident and ran into a dropkick, only to counter a Rainmaker into Cross arm breaker. Sabre Jr transitioned that into a double armbar to the crowd’s delight. Okada eventually got his foot on the ropes and the Champion rested on the outside. Sabre Jr followed him and kicked away at Okada before a Penalty kick was countered into a Tombstone Piledriver on the floor around the 20-minute mark.

When they returned to the ring Okada hit a top rope Missile Dropkick, a spinning Tombstone, and a Discus Lariat before Sabre Jr countered the Rainmaker with the Zack Driver out of nowhere for a nearfall. The crowd was loud as they clapped while both men lay prone. They sold the accumulated damage as they traded European Uppercuts, with Sabre Jr gaining the upper hand, and Okada’s arm took more and more damage. Okada kicked out of a Penalty kick at one and Sabre Jr came close with the European Clutch and another Penalty kick before locking in an armbar for a nearfall. Okada nearly stole the win during a pinning sequence and managed to outthink Sabre Jr, hitting a dropkick. Sabre Jr again countered the Rainmaker, this time using a Sleeper hold but Okada threw Sabre Jr off. After an utterly frantic counter exchange, Okada hit the sit-out Tombstone and then the Rainmaker to win the match.

After the match, Okada called out Naito to get revenge on losing to him during the New Japan Cup.

Kazuchika Okada pinned Zack Sabre Jr via Rainmaker (28:25) 

This was a great match, with some fascinating changes in style from both men. Okada used a lot more grappling than normal, and he did a great job of selling the arm damage although it did not stop him from using his usual moves. Sabre Jr felt more of an even match in terms of size, winning more of the strike exchanges than he normally would. It was great to see them fight over Inoki’s trademark holds, like the Manjigatame and the Cobra Twist, and the counters often felt fresh and unexpected. The finishing stretch was slower than we often get in these big Okada matches, as there were lengthy periods of selling exertion and damage interspersed with bursts of energy and desperation. The final finishing stretch was fantastic, and a lot of that was because it nearly went wrong. It was rougher, less smooth than usual and that roughness made it feel like a struggle that built and built until Okada hit the sit-out Tombstone.

I am not sure if I prefer this to their previous matches. I really liked this a lot, but I can see why people would prefer the Takagi match from January 4th or the Ospreay match from January 5th. The finishing stretch did feel a little off at times thanks to the exertion, but there were some great near falls, and the crowd was very hot for the COVID era.

Show summary 

This was a strong show top to bottom by current New Japan standards, although I do not think it holds up well compared to pre-2020 New Japan. While the presence of two House of Torture matches was not ideal, both Hiromu Takahashi and Desperado were good enough to get the crowd behind them and channel the formula in different but entertaining ways. The main event was strong and felt fresher than a lot of Okada title matches this year. A lot of the other matches either told their story well or were actually good and honestly, Taichi vs Yano was the best KOPW match so far.  

I expected some good matches on this show. I did not expect the crowd to be so hot. It was still a clap crowd, but they were louder, more up for it and multiple matches featured loud audible gasps and reactions. It was the hottest New Japan crowd in the clap crowd era, and it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year plays out for New Japan.

I was half expecting the BOSJ lineup to be announced on this show, but that will probably take place at Wrestling Dontaku now. Instead, we got confirmation that the G1 Climax was going back to its usual spot. In many ways, 2022 has felt like New Japan trying to help you forget the last 2 years and return to the pre-Pandemic days. While this card and the results did not fully achieve that, I think that New Japan is aware that they need to work to get the fans back. The signing of Francesco Akira is a great move, as he is a very good wrestler and adds much-needed variety to a stale Jr Heavyweight division.

About Mark Buckeldee 61 Articles
Hailing from Oxfordshire in the UK, Mark Buckeldee writes show reports for POST Wrestling.