“It was lots of fun,” says Zack Sabre Jr, incredibly diplomatically. “It’s always eventful. There are always some antics.”
What a great word. “Yes. Well, there are more Brits there now, plus some Americans like Sami [Callahan] – it’s kind of at the point when you’ve basically got a group of mates in a foreign country, climbing into guinea pigs’ cages…I’m trying to think of something embarrassing that Marty [Scurll] did, but I can only think of things I did…”
Sounds like a great trip, but how did the in-ring work go? “I was very pleased. It’s the second time I’ve been in 16-Carat – last year I had a fun match with Colt Cabana, and I had a lot to live up to. I was pleased with my match with Jon Ryan, who’s my trainer, and obviously I’ve wrestled him before but it was great to wrestle him in the show too. wXw really upped everything thing year – we were in the biggest hall in the arena, we had pyro, a big entranceway, and it was just great to see that.
“I ended up going out to Tommy End, but it was just fantastic to have two European wrestlers working together on such a big stage – there were lots of kicks, and there was a bit of fistpumping too.” He pauses. “And crowdsurfing. Apologies to anyone there who got bum and sweat in their faces. But it was a great weekend.”
The fistpumping isn’t something you normally associate with ZSJ – his LDRS partner, Marty Scurll, on the other hand, is the kind of extrovert who revels in that kind of stuff. Would it be fair to say that when they were initially paired together, it was because he wasn’t entirely happy with the showmanship side of pro wrestling, and working with Scurll and gaining more experience has helped to bring that out?
“Yes, I think that would be a fair summary,” he admits. “I’ve always styled myself and the way I wrestle deliberately – that’s how i want to be perceived. But professional wrestling is entertainment at its core, and yes, I’ve gained confidence working with Marty. We were initially seen as the entertainer and a guy who wrestled but perhaps didn’t interact as much as you might want. Now, though, I’m infinitely more confident, and my trips to the US and to Japan have helped with that too. It’s a neverending evolution of how I feel as a wrestler.”
Of course, he and Scurll are facing each other in Progress’s debut show on March 25th. That must be weird, facing a close friend who you work alongside the rest of the time. “No, it’s very natural. Marty and I are completely different in so many ways, and we end up meeting in the middle. We’re both traditional British school as far as mat work goes, though, and when you team with someone for so long, there’s not so much a conscious effort.”
The Progress show is now his focus for the month. “I’ve been to gigs there and always thought what a cool venue it is. I’ve got friends in bands who haven’t played there, so there’ll be no holding back. Plus I know how much effort the Progress boys are putting in.”
Jim Smallman told me earlier in the week that they’ll be encouraging the wrestlers to adopt a strong ROH/Japan style at the show, pretty much allowing the likes of ZSJ free rein. “That’s so appreciated. But that is the beauty of indy wrestling, being able to adapt. If I’m working somewhere where the audience is more family-focused, I might not come down so hard, but I still wrestle my way regardless.”
Yes, speaking of which – what was with that heel promo at ICW? It was a heck of a surprise. He laughs. “I’ve only been up there once, that one time, but I will be there again. They’ve just created their own niche within a niche – they’re all casuals, everyone is there to have fun. It’s actually one of my favourite atmospheres to wrestle in; there’s so much noise and it’s just a barrage of drunken crazy Scots. I’m sure I’ll have more chats with my Scottish friends in the future!”
They might throw haggis at you. He considers. “Actually, they might.”
Also, what was with your accent in that promo? It was rather…BBC English, shall we say? He laughs again. “I do that all around America too! Like, <puts on odd high-pitched voice> ‘Ooh, I’m the prince!’ You’ve basically got the choice of speaking like a member of the aristocracy or speaking like something out of Oliver Twist and asking for gruel. It’s more fun being faux royalty.”
I’d been told not to ask about it, but I can’t resist – that match with KENTA, one of the most brutal, hard-hitting things I have seen. What was that like? “It was phenomenal. KENTA is one of the toughest guys I’ve ever been in the ring with.”
I confess that I find it hard to rewatch, having seen it once and just thinking, “Wow, Zack’s getting the hell kicked out of him.”
He pauses, and then sounds slightly concerned. “Well, it’s OK, there’s nothing to worry about. Spoiler alert – I don’t get hurt! Guys like KENTA just want to show who is most dominant, and it’s such an honour to be on the show and to be put against guys like that.
“Actually, I try not to think about it too much, and it flies by. You just think I want to be on these shows, and when you get the chance, you could get overwhelmed but there’s so much to concentrate on it’s just nice! I’ve never actually had an injury, and I put that down to the quality of my opponents. But your entire body aches after that sort of weekend. I won’t go to the gym on a Monday morning after that.”